I was the “woman at the back” on last Thursday’s Question Time from Winchester. On a previous occasion, I was the “woman in pink”. How Question Time has changed. These days you are obliged to supply your personal details and political affiliation in order to get a ticket. This is presumably to get audience balance, but who decides what the balance should be is not clear.
The choice of panellists also raises more questions than it answers. Apart from politicians, the BBC calls on a limited list of journalists and so-called independent thinktank representatives (lobbyists). The usual suspects, who somebody in the organisation has defined as right or left, crop up with monotonous regularity along with random celebrities who rarely make a relevant contribution.
The format has changed considerably over the years, with the chair chipping in, interrupting the panellists and too often appearing to reveal their own prejudices. Many friends and colleagues refuse to watch the programme now but those who have stuck with it won’t have been reassured by Fiona Bruce’s brief and grudging non-apology for her embarrassing demonstration of ignorance.
Meanwhile, BBC News, it is whispered, wants to shift Sarah Sands away from Today. Since she became its editor in 2017, Today has lost political clout and listeners. Sands has wit, spirit and powerful contacts. At Today, she has discovered she can’t change the presenters; that power belongs to the head of news, Fran Unsworth. You have to be BBC born and bred to dodge such quagmires.