Sunday, 5 February 2017

Questions, questions

The 'big questions' on this morning's bad-for-your-blood-pressure edition of The Big Questions were framed as follows by Nicky Campbell:

  • This week there's been more protesting against President Trump - this time over his new immigration policies for people entering America from seven mainly Muslim nations. But Britain's moral high ground looks pretty shaky. Last week a report by the Home Affairs Select Committee slammed the quality of accommodation used to house many asylum seekers in the UK as "a disgrace" and "shameful". Filthy, vermin-infested conditions, inadequate support for vulnerable people, contractors housing far more people than they are funded for and asylum claimants being concentrated in a small number of highly deprived areas while richer towns and cities took very few. Can Britain be proud of its treatment of asylum seekers? 
  • And this year it has been the transgender cases that have been hitting the headlines. Last week, a High Court judge decided that the wife and children of a man who was now living as a woman should no longer have contact with their father in case they were excluded from their strictly orthodox Jewish community. And another woman transitioning to be a man decided to have a baby before continuing with her sex change but objected to being called a mother by the nurses. Others have faced problems when placed in male or female prisons midway through their transitioning process. And on Friday, Russell Brand declared that he wouldn't be "forcing gender" on his baby daughter, Mabel. Should we have the right to decide our own gender? Of course, the very verb is contentious. It is not a decision for some people. It is absolutely what they are, it is escaping from what they are.
  • On Friday, the MP Dan Jarvis hoped that his private member's bill would change the Government's approach to child poverty. It ran out of time, at least for now, which is unfortunate as the number of children living in poverty is already rising and predicted to rise even more. According to the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, the percentage of children living in officially declared poverty in the UK will rise from 14.9% to 18.3% in the decade 2010 to 2020. Relative child poverty, that's the number of children living in households with an income less than 60% of median earnings, will also rise over the same period from 17.5% to 25.7%. These changes would reverse all the improvements made to levels of child poverty in the previous decade. But critics say the bold figures obscure a more complex picture. Will more children be raised in poverty? 

All were put from a left-liberal standpoint. 

Of course, Nicky could have just been playing devil's advocate and simply getting the (emotional shoutfest) discussion going (though he was playing devil's advocate very badly if he was)...

...but his use of the phrase "which is unfortunate" in his third introduction was surely well beyond the bounds of strict BBC impartiality, wasn't it? 

It surely strayed into party political matters.

(Some people - namely me - might think it sounded rather to much like a party political broadcast for the previous Labour government (and Dan Jarvis)). 


If the questions were typical of the BBC, then so was the studio audience. 

At one point Kathy Gyngell told the TBQ audience, "It's very easy to virtue signal", and asked, "How many people here would take in a male economic migrant for an indefinite period?"

Nicky Campbell, seizing the moment, dramatically spun on his heels and asked the audience that very question.

Being a BBC studio audience, the majority of them raised their hands. A mere smattering of hands went up when Nicky asked them who wouldn't take such a person in.

Nicky said that showed what a compassionate audience it was.

When Kathy and Dan Hannan forced a third question on them, "And how many of you have taken in a migrant or a refugee?" only one hand went up (a pro-refugee charity worker).

Says it all really.


I know that Nicky Campbell has his fans, but I can't say that I find he makes for pleasant viewing at times. 

Or that he's even-handed. 

His treatment of Peter Saunders from the socially conservative Christian Medical Fellowship during the transgender discussion, for example,  was strikingly different to his treatment of the socially-liberal voices ranged against Mr Sanders (meaning, strikingly less respectful). Nicky's first interruption, "Please just answer the question", came literally after just second of his first answer - and, though he was then allowed to speak, Nicky's evident disdain for his views didn't seem to diminish.


  1. Maybe he can call her/him 'Abel' every other day.

  2. Would love NC to go round all our virtuous pols & luvvies - the ones who urged us to accept "refugees" - & ask just how many refugees have you housed/are currently housing & can we interview them ?

  3. Will Russell Brand also not be forcing his liberal/left views on Mabel?

  4. Questions are important. What is asked frames the debate. The way the questions are asked dictate the nature of the debate. The terms of reference lay down the content - and what is NOT tackled. Don't fall for the "devil"s advocate" meme. After the show. I'm sure Campbell would be congratulated not for the answers he solicited from his audience and guests. But the "challenging" nature of his questions. Can you remember the answers to any interview or do the questions linger on...? The interview as practiced on the media is merely a ritual dance. One partner is the hapless interviewee, the other the masterful host who controls it ALL. Sorry to be so cynical. I've been watching too much television.

  5. It's always a give-away on these phone-in when the caller says: 'As I was telling your researcher earlier'. From this we can deduce that there must have been a qualifying chat before the caller's profile can be deemed to fit.

    For example on the Brexit Leave Remain debate, the Leaver will generally have a broader, probably northern, dialect than will the Remainer - thus planting in the audience's mind the idea that Leave voters are uneducated etc. On the other hand the Remain voter will have a more cultured voice without much regional identity. A slightly rough-at-the-edges southern accent, or an overseas accent is fine because the caller can sound cultured without being identified as privileged.

    I agree with with John Bosworth, there will be no mention of the callers in the after-show debrief: 'I think we got that balance about right' will be the smug conclusion.