Saturday 13 December 2014

Punch, Judy, Nigel and Ol' Russ

It's been a bit busy in recent days, so there's not been much time to watch the BBC.

I have enjoyed reading all about this week's Question Time though, and am going to relay what I can gather from what I've read. 

From the kind of blogs I read, it appears that Nigel Farage more than held his own, that Russell Brand flopped badly, that Camilla Cavendish of the Times was brilliant, that Labour's Mary Creagh was useless and that Conservative Penny Mordaunt was...well, no one said much about her, so who knows? 

The stars of the show though, apparently, were the audience who, after a question decrying 'Punch and Judy' politics, apparently started verbally laid into the panel and each other with clubs and knuckle-dusters. There was a disabled man who made Ol' Russ look like a prat and a screaming blue-haired woman who shrieked about "racist scumbags" and about 'coming to get' Nigel and who, in turn, got told to shut up by another woman (and may have got chucked out). 'A posh version of the Jeremy Kyle Show' was how some people described it.

A lot of people saw the BBC's decision to invite Russell Brand and Nigel Farage onto the same show as a blatant attempt to grab ratings by the BBC - the TV equivalent of click-bait. That seems pretty obviously true to me.

And it appears to have worked, given the huge amount of reaction there's been to it. 

The specific decision to invite Russell Brand onto the programme (for the second time) certainly didn't go down well with many people. (I rolled my eyes when I first heard about it too). What with Newsnight taking him seriously enough to give him two full-length interviews within the space of a year, plus his invite to appear on Radio 4's intellectually-respectable Start the Week, the BBC's Brand promotion exercise seems to be pretty much running in tandem with Ol' Russ's own self-Branding. 

That said, in this case, given Question Time's penchant for inviting on semi-clueless celebs at the best of times, why not re-invite Russell Brand back again? If not him, it would probably have been some other left-wing comedian, or footballer, or actor, or the Cookie Monster. 

As ever, the Left has been out in force again on social media sites moaning about Nigel Farage latest invite - his 26th appearance since 2000. 

Quite a few Twitterers complained that he's been on more than anyone else. That's only true if you count his number of appearances since 2010 (12 times), which places him above Caroline Flint (11 times) and Ken Clarke (also 11 times). Since 2000, however, he's been on as many times as Peter Hain, but fewer times than Shirley Williams (28 times) and Ken Clarke  (29 times) and Sir Menzies Campbell (29 times). 

Anyhow, I believe I debunked that line of attack some time ago (before UKIP won two parliamentary seats and won the 2014 European elections):
The second element of spin relates to his attacks on UKIP. Presumably Phil's point is that UKIP has no UK parliamentary seats (though they did get 3.1% in the 2010 general election) so UKIP's "over-representation" on the programme (13 appearances) is plain for all to see (he thinks). Well, if you look at it that way perhaps. However, UKIP is, of course, way up in the opinion polls at the moment, has a large contingent at the European parliament and might just, polls say, come first in the next European elections in 2014. So, over-represented? Actually, if you work out the percentages, UKIP only gets 2.9% of the party political spots (13 out of 451) compared to 32.3% for Labour, 30.4% for the Conservatives and (a surprisingly high) 24.2% for the Liberal Democrats. Hardly over-representation I think. 
In fact, that suggested that UKIP was very much under-represented, despite all of Nigel Farage's least up till February 2013, when I wrote that. 

The Left have also been moaning that there was a 3:2 pro-Right imbalance on the panel (Nigel Farage, Penny Mordaunt and Camilla Cavendish from the Right and Mary Creagh and Russell Brand from the Left), but it really is true that the panels are pretty much balanced out over time [last week's was a 3:2 pro-Left imbalance], so that's never seemed a particularly credible line of argument to me - whichever direction it comes from. 

This week's audience seems to have divided opinion. Some on the Right saw it as a typical left-wing audience, but most seemed pleasantly surprised by it, believing it to be a rare, decent audience. Some on the Left thought it was full of UKIP activists...

...and the hunt for activists in the Question Time audience now seems to be becoming something of a national pastime.

The blue-haired woman who attacked Nigel Farage was quickly identified as an ex(?)-SWP anti-UKIP activist called Bunny la Roche. The disabled man who attacked Russell Brand was then outed as being Robert Carver, the brother of UKIP MEP James Carver, and apparently considered standing as a UKIP candidate himself - at least according to the Daily Mirror, which shows that the MSM is getting in on the hunt too. The Daily Telegraph soon followed their lead. And then came the BBC website in fairly hot pursuit - though it quoted Mr Carver as saying that although he is a UKIP member he has never voted for the party.

The hunt is getting increasingly fierce when the MSM starts getting its talons into QT audience members, even those who may (or may not) be activists. I suppose it all started with Amy Rutland

As everyone else has had their say on this edition of Question Time, we couldn't be left out here.


  1. But I thought the producers used the utmost scrupulosity to ensure a balanced audience? We know they rig the audience when they feel like it. They say they on the QT website that they reach out to groups they feel might not be represented properly that week. We know they casually manipulate the audience makeup just with the way they screen the question submissions. We know they are at best lazy, and at worst dishonest, in their vetting.

    I hope there's an investigation, even if it's prompted by suspicion of pro-UKIP rigging.

  2. I finally saw the full episode this morning, and, well what a stitch up. Brand was brought in specifically to make personal attacks on Farage, and no mistake. I'd say I can't remember Dimbleby ever letting this happen so blatantly, but I saw the Nick Griffin gang bang so I know they do it on purpose and he's in on it. I don't think I could be as calm and decent as Farage was here.

    But the funniest thing I've heard all month (still laughing out loud at the mere though) was when Camilla Cavendish told the Brand blot on the landscape that his version of agitating and the language he used was reminiscent of the '30s. Awesome, brilliant words. If only someone had followed up on it.

  3. The application form for QT on the BBC website says it all really. In itself it is biased.


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