Saturday 20 January 2018


Becca. Not from Hereford

It's not news that Question Time audiences are like gardens - i.e. they tend to contain plants - but it remains a fascinating feature of the programme that political parties of all stripes are stilling trying to stack its audiences in their favour, bussing in loyal activists from across the kingdom. 

The next step happens if and only if 'the plant' is called to speak. Then 'the plant' quickly gets 'outed' on Twitter for being a political insider and not just an ordinary member of the public. 

The viewing public, of course, remains blissfully unaware that they've been duped.

(Or do they? Won't many viewers suspect that these people might not be quite what they seem?) 

This last edition of Question Time from the strongly Conservative seat of Hereford featured a young woman denouncing the Conservatives over the NHS, to rowdy applause from swathes of the audience. 

It turns out that she's called Rebecca Shirazi, a Labour Party candidate for Camden council and a party activist in Tulip Siddiq's Hampstead and Kilburn constituency.

Why was she in faraway Hereford that evening? (Hmm. Not so tricky, that one!)

What can Question Time do, if anything, to stop this kind of thing happening? 

Does it matter? Should they even try? Isn't it part of a vibrant democracy that political parties will try to rig audiences on the country's main TV political debate show? 

1 comment:

  1. The BBC has £4 billion in its pocket. I think it could spare some small change to commission a survey company to produce a balanced audience. This could include say 20% of people that political parties could put forward from local constituencies on the basis of the popular vote in that area. It probably does help to have a few political activists to move the debate along. The other 80% could be gathered together by the survey company and designed to accurately reflect age, education, class, and demographics in the area.

    Incidentally there is a built in bias because so many QTs come from cities or large towns.


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