Biased Question Time? Bring it on!

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It has to be said, the BNP has a point. The BBC did change the format of Question Time. It was almost all about the BNP’s policies, the audience was somewhat more ethnically diverse than the UK average.

Fair enough. Instead of pretending he got fair treatment, let’s be equally unfair to all the parties. Let’s have a similarly formatted show with Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Throw in Nigel Farage, Caroline Lucas and the nationalist parties for good measure.

Of one thing I am absolutely certain: while they might flounder here and there, none of them will come across as badly as Griffin did last night. Not even Brown and his evasiveness. Not even Farage (although I suspect it will be a close run thing).

It would almost certainly make for better television than Question Time normally. Seeing how our political leaders face up to adversity is frankly more of a test than a programme attempting to maintain the semblance of balance. Frankly, right now I am struggling to come up with a downside.

11 thoughts on “Biased Question Time? Bring it on!

  1. Interesting thought.

    Yes, this model could similarly be extended to the Greens and UKIP. They are single issue parties, therefore a show focussing on environmentalism of Caroline Lucas and UK isolationism of Nigel Farage would work. It may also work with the SNP and Plaid Cymru, focussing solely on nationalist issues.

    But I struggle to see how it would extend so well to the Big Three. There is no single issue that these parties primarily focus on, so it is hard to see how a consistent line of attack could be generated. Perhaps you have thoughts on this?

  2. “It has to be said, the BNP has a point. The BBC did change the format of Question Time. It was almost all about the BNP’s policies, the audience was somewhat more ethnically diverse than the UK average.”

    I don’t think they did, actually, because the format has been very flexible before. Firstly, they tend to feature most highly the most asked questions from the audience. Given the nature of this Question Time, is it surprising that it was mostly about the BNP?

    Secondly, the BBC has often tailored the make-up of the audience in response to certain issues — such as the European elections, for example, so there is precedent for that, too. In addition to this, it was in London, which unless I’m mistaken is more ethnically diverse than many parts of the UK. Certainly, it appears to be so much so for the BNP to consider it “No Longer a British City”!

    Agreed on all the rest, though I think you’re being a little harsh on Farage. Say what you like about him, but I don’t think a show could be sustained by the plerotha of racist quotes that were time and again put to Griffin yesterday.

  3. I don’t think Farage will be exposed as a racist (although I’d like to see him pressed on immigration) but I’d love to see him pressed – hard – on his EU policy which is zany, and on expenses.

  4. Duncan Stott :

    Interesting thought.

    Yes, this model could similarly be extended to the Greens and UKIP. They are single issue parties, therefore a show focussing on environmentalism of Caroline Lucas and UK isolationism of Nigel Farage would work. It may also work with the SNP and Plaid Cymru, focussing solely on nationalist issues.

    But I struggle to see how it would extend so well to the Big Three. There is no single issue that these parties primarily focus on, so it is hard to see how a consistent line of attack could be generated. Perhaps you have thoughts on this?

    The main three parties still have their core issues, whether it is civil liberties and democratic reform for the Lib Dems, Labour’s record in government or the extent of the Tories’ modernisation. It would be elementary to come up with 4-5 questions that would focus on those parties’ policies and principles.

  5. Just remembered: for the 2005 general election, Question Time had a leader’s special, which is the closest thing I can remember to your suggested format. It was just Party Leader vs audience, rather than Leader vs Panel + Audience.

    The audience asked questions based on their manifesto pledges (and with Blair on his record).

    The audience was the same for each Leader, so weren’t universally hostile to any particular person.

    It is available on the Beeb website. http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/check/player/nol/newsid_4490000/newsid_4496100?redirect=4496143.stm&news=1&nbram=1&bbwm=1&bbram=1&nbwm=1&asb=1

  6. @James Graham

    Fair enough. Most of UKIP’s policies are crazy, though — it’s a pity they’re given so much attention as a single issue party, really, some of their other ideas, like flat rate tax and education policies, are hilarious.

  7. I joined eight million others to see racism, bias, bigotry, deceipt, hypocracy and agression and I got it in abundance. But not from Nick Griffin.
    David Dimbleby provided the bias, Jack Straaw the bigotry, Lib Dems gave ushypocracy and an American provide condisention in abundance.
    Dimbleby never let Nick Griffin get a whole sentence out, his bias stnding out like a beacon. Straw delivered his obviously carefully rehearsed diatribe perfectly aided and abetted by Dimbleby. Straw then went on to ndeliver the usual Labour snide racism of referring to people as British something or other. Aren’t these people good enough to just be British like the rest of us? The carefully selcted audience provided the deceipt and the yob element outside the bigotry.
    How they could all sit there and give lip service to democracy and free speach while saying trhat Nick Greiffin wasn’t allowed these in our free (?) sopeech society.
    Like eight million others instead of seeing BNP idealogogy shown to be at odds with the rest of society Nick Griffin emerged as the better man, a better polititian and not the demon the big three political parties would have us believe. He showed himself to be tolerant, considered and prepared to admit when he was wrong. Often he was hard to hear above the throng and Dimbleby giving unwanted interpretation to the meaning of each word spoken by Nick Griffin.
    Rather than being the BBC giving un biased debate it quite clearly conspired with the Labour party to deliver a personl assassination attempt showing the BBC to be yet again a Labour Party puppet and not am impartial broadcaster.
    Many people will now be looking at the marginal parties like the BNP, UKIP and The Green Paerty as a welcome alternitive to what we have always had to suffer.

  8. “David Dimbleby provided the bias, Jack Straaw the bigotry, Lib Dems gave ushypocracy and an American provide condisention in abundance.”

    How so?

    “Dimbleby never let Nick Griffin get a whole sentence out, his bias stnding out like a beacon.”

    This is demonstrably incorrect if you actually watch the programme. Dimbleby frequently interrupted all panellists, however — it’s his job as a moderator.

    “Straw delivered his obviously carefully rehearsed diatribe perfectly aided and abetted by Dimbleby.”

    I must have missed the part where they sang in unison.

    “The carefully selcted audience provided the deceipt and the yob element outside the bigotry.”

    Stop parroting the BNP. The audience was generally reasonably representative of London — which is, contrary to what the BNP say, a very British city. As for yobbishness, how so? All I saw was people expressing opinions, normally backed up by far more fact and expressed in far more acceptable English than those from the BNP have done.

    “Nick Griffin emerged as the better man”

    Bollocks.

    “a better polititian”

    He came across as more deceitful than almost any politician previously on Question Time has done.

    “nd not the demon the big three political parties would have us believe. He showed himself to be tolerant, considered and prepared to admit when he was wrong.”

    This is laughable to anyone who has seen the programme. If you believe he came out in such a good light, why not encourage people to watch it? It’s still on the iplayer.

    “Rather than being the BBC giving un biased debate it quite clearly conspired with the Labour party”

    And the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Bonnie Greer?

  9. Conversations I have had today with a number of people who watched the programme, who aren’t particularly political, but I know not to be racist and not all these people were white either, have revealed the programme came over overwhelmingly as bringing someone onto what was supposedly a discussion programme in which he was one of five people discussing issues, but then turning that programme into a sort of show trial, in which the chair joined the rest of the panel and the audience in attack on that person, much of it of a personal abuse nature.

    Griffin ended up getting sympathy he does not deserve, and the liberal establishment ended up looking pompous, arrogant, and very ready to drop its liberalism if its assumptions get challenged.

    Although I feared this might be the case, I was really surprised at how universal this reaction was.

    The political left are showing how out of touch they are. It is they who have let the BNP prosper by turning away from developing a politics which works to inspire ordinary people particularly poorer people, and instead endlessly banging on about fringe issues. It is they who have sat down and let the financial crisis develop and the city fat cats steal our money and wreck our society because these central issue aren’t what they get worked up about – they’re too busy strking a pose on their favourite international or trendy liberal topics. It is their appalling smugness, and complete out-of-touch nature which has handled the BNP so badly, allowing it to appear to be the one party on the side of the people in the battle of the people against the political establishment.

    How difficult ought it to be in the current situation to develop a politics which captures the imagination of people who feel their needs and interests aren’t cared for, that this country in run by an alien elite, and not have this politics be fascist? So why aren’t we doing it? Why have we left the ground empty to be exploited by the likes of Griffin? Why have we given the impression that we are scared of him amd have no answer to him, so instead first we try to ban hinm altogether, then we shout him down?

  10. “have revealed the programme came over overwhelmingly as bringing someone onto what was supposedly a discussion programme in which he was one of five people discussing issues, but then turning that programme into a sort of show trial, in which the chair joined the rest of the panel and the audience in attack on that person, much of it of a personal abuse nature.”

    It’s a pity they don’t understand how Question Time works, then.

    I can see how it might come over like that, but it’s still wrong.

    “Although I feared this might be the case, I was really surprised at how universal this reaction was.”

    The YouGov poll — the one the Times ran as “22% of people would be willing to consider voting BNP” — actually indicated the number of people who disagreed with the BBC’s decision to invite him on Question Time fell slightly (though by a negligible extent). I don’t think that a reaction against the way Griffin was treated on QT is ‘universal’.

    “The political left are showing how out of touch they are. It is they who have let the BNP prosper by turning away from developing a politics which works to inspire ordinary people particularly poorer people, and instead endlessly banging on about fringe issues.”

    The “political left” is hardly homogeneous, and I’d hardly describe the Labour party in government as “politically left”, at least not in general.

    “It is they who have sat down and let the financial crisis develop and the city fat cats steal our money and wreck our society because these central issue aren’t what they get worked up about – they’re too busy strking a pose on their favourite international or trendy liberal topics.”

    Up until the credit crunch actually happened, most people were in favour of the neo-liberal consensus, and reaping the benefits of wealth creation. People have been caught out as much as politicians have been — and of course for that reason, they like to blame other people all the more.

    Where was the anger at excessive pay and bonuses during the economic boom? Anger at income inequality was vaguely present, but didn’t become a trendy political topic until people realised that the so-called wealth creaters had actually damaged the economy.

    “It is their appalling smugness, and complete out-of-touch nature which has handled the BNP so badly, allowing it to appear to be the one party on the side of the people in the battle of the people against the political establishment.”

    I don’t believe for a minute that many people voting BNP believe that. There are many smaller parties claiming to represent the people, some of them with actual union ties, some with many populist policies. Some people vote BNP because they know it pisses off the political establishment, not because of any actual belief in it “representing” their views or political ideals.

    “How difficult ought it to be in the current situation to develop a politics which captures the imagination of people who feel their needs and interests aren’t cared for, that this country in run by an alien elite, and not have this politics be fascist?”

    Ok, if you have some ideas, then share them. I don’t for a minute believe it is as easy as everyone seems to think, though I do believe that good ideas for reform exist.

    Oh, and politics is not fascist. That word is undermined as a credible word through overuse.

    “So why aren’t we doing it?”

    Because the whole nature of representative politics means a set of arrangements that deliver disincentives to actually changing the status quo. Not that I necessarily think that’s a bad thing — I think many States with too much capacity for participation go down bad roads — such as California.

    “Why have we left the ground empty to be exploited by the likes of Griffin? Why have we given the impression that we are scared of him amd have no answer to him”

    Again, that wasn’t the impression I got from last week’s QT — the panellists had plenty of answers to him. Of course, not everyone is happy with their answers — but it’s never possible to please everyone, particularly when people are living in bad times and seek to blame their situation on Someone Else.

    “so instead first we try to ban hinm altogether, then we shout him down?”

    We have not “tried to ban him”. Please do not try and give credence to BNP myths. There is plenty of precedence, in fact, for the BNP to be banned — because other, similarly extremist, groups have been banned. But we recognise that the BNP pose a bigger problem, and cannot be tackled in the same way.

    Griffin was not “shouted down” on Question Time any more than Margaret Beckett was last year at the height of the expenses scandal.

    Here’s an idea — how about we stop moaning about every way in which something might not have been perfect for a change, and actually try engaging with what opportunities we get? QT was the start of what will be a long fightback against the BNP — it’s silly to assume that it was ever going to be an easy process.

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