Friday 22 November 2019

Good grief

Tonight's Question Time special on BBC One began with Jeremy Corbyn, and there were loud whoops and cheers and plenty of applause from what looked like a large minority of the audience.  

Though there were tough questions from members of the audience, he went down a storm. 

My first thoughts were to think that this partisan whooping might, somewhow, be balanced later. 

And, curiously, there was balance from a strangely large contingent of SNP supporters asking Jeremy pro-SNP questions - so much so that even Fiona Bruce raised an eyebrow. 

But then came Nicola Sturgeon herself, and she was listened to respectfully. But she didn't get the whoops and cheers that Jeremy got and was only applauded loudly after denouncing the Tories. 

Next up was poor, hapless Jo Swinson. Here my surprise really kicked in. There seemed to be about five supporters of her in the entire audience. And even they only applauded once. Otherwise it was nothing but tumbleweed. And derision. And Momentum-style questions, including a heavily-applauded attack on her for being mean to the wonderful, anti-racism-in-all-its-forms Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitism. 

And, finally, came Boris. And the trajectory from the zenith of audience enthusiasm - from wild enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn, through polite respect towards Nicola Sturgeon, to derision alternating with silence towards Jo Swinson - reached its nadir. 

Yep. Boris, greeted by some cheers, was outnumbered by jeers and heckles. And jeers and heckles comtinued with very little applause. And Fiona Bruce went into interruption and mockery overdrive. (I wish I'd done an interruption count because it was so massively more.)

I've defended Question Time many times in the past over accusations of audience bias, but this was seriously bad. Absurdly bad. BBC executive heads should roll - or at least use their mouths to properly apologise - over this. 

I think Iain Dale summed it up perfectly:
So as well as there being no Liberal Democrats, or Leavers in this Question Time audience, there appear to be bugger all Tories there either. 
I imagine Daniel Blake may make an appearance soon. 
Kudos to whichever Momentum branch that managed to pack the audience!
It certainly was one heck on an audience. Something went seriously wrong tonight, impartiality-wise. 

The 'Daniel Blake' reference there arose when the Sun's Tom Newton Dunn spotted that one of Jo Swinson's strongest critics (invited to challenge her twice) was Kate Rutter, an actress in far-left Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake

We expect that though. It's Question Time after all. And I bet Kate was far from being the only activist there tonight. In fact. I'm wondering who wasn't an activist.

Who was in this audience? And who selected this audience, and how did they select it? And why did the BBC allow it to happen?


  1. Tim Shipman, Political Editor of The Sunday Times, is passing on this from the Conservatives - and, having seen what I've seen tonight, I don't doubt it for one second:

    "Conservative source claims this was the number of
    Corbyn 11
    Sturgeon 15
    Swinson 17
    Johnson 45".

    1. As for actress Kate's appearance, here's Giles Dilnot, fresh from the BBC, standing back and looking back in:

      "Look, I personally think the “oh my god the QT audience” is too easy, and usually people just don’t like the side they think has infiltrated.

      "BUT for heavens sake this stuff just looks bad. It’s like Tory Vicar. It adds to an aura of murk that probably isn’t justified but hard to shift".

    2. I think your questions are right:

      "Who was in this audience? And who selected this audience, and how did they select it? And why did the BBC allow it to happen?"

      This is redolent of the infamous BBC Newsnight Referendum panel of 10 "ordinary voters" - who were featured numerous times and eventually declared themselves 90% in favour of Remain! Even Evan was a bit embarrassed when that "balance" emerged.

  2. One can only hope that Dominic Cummings has a cunning plan for gutting, filleting and frying the BBC till it squeals.

    1. The BBC needs to be made to squeal over this. ITV's fiasco the other day was just a fiasco. This was a disaster (for the BBC), impartiality-wise. Though I'm out for much of tomorrow, I'm tempted to spend hours re-watching this and counting. And, most of all, watching the audience shots. I froze a few of them tonight and found the front rows to be clapping Jeremy Corbyn way out of proportion to what the polls are suggesting - or any reasonable idea of audience balance would suggest.

  3. Pienaar was exceptionally biased in his QT summary for the main news. He stated as a bald fact that Jeremy Corbyn gave a clear answer to the "Where do you stand on the Brexit question". That's not how I am hearing it.

    1. I'll have to check that out. What I took from watching JC was that he said he'd be neutral in any second referendum.

      I did spot Andrew Neil slamming a Corbynista in the audience for claiming, with massive confidence, that Jezza was only following in the wake of Harold Wilson who'd also stayed neutral in the 1975 referendum on whether to stay in the EEC. Harold Wilson campaigned for Remain...which Fiona Bruce did point out to the audience member, but in such a soft-spoken, mumbling way that it had no impact.

    2. Slamming on Twitter, of course, as - alas - Andrew Neil wasn't hosting this.

    3. It wasn't just Harold Wilson as PM - it was the official policy of HM Government and no Minister was allowed to speak against it in Parliament, though they might be allowed to campaign to Leave. As I recall, the Wilson Government, like Cameron's, sent out an official leaflet to each household setting out the Government's advice to vote to Remain.

  4. Meanwhile on BBC local News in London a long item banging the drum to get the Muslim vote out.

    Vox Pops include woman in full niqab.

    Also, a mention of Operation Black Vote.

    These campaigns can only favour Labour.

    Marginal seats where BME votes could "Make a difference" were mentioned. Why? That should not be promoted as a reason to vote.

    I would say the BBC should not be meddling in this election in this way - which is to say (a) promoting identity politics (there was passing reference to the Muslim contribution to London) and (b) promoting voting by particular groups which will favour one party.

    All that is required is a reminder people that if they wish to vote they need to get in contact with their local council.

    1. And a woman from the extremist Muslim Council of Britain.

  5. ::::NEWSNIGHT WATCH::::

    Traditional Newsnight panel to discuss the QT prog - 3 Remainers plus one Remainer Chair.

    Then Bias-is-me Barnett has a go at the Conservatives for not fielding someone to go on their programme. Since when has attendance on Guardian TV Newsnight been compulsory one wonders?

    Incidentally, I don't think Corbyn's answer was clear. How can he be neutral on this? He will have negotiated the deal (in theory at least). Are we seriously supposed to think he is going to say nothing about it? How can he say nothing about it? He's PM and Prime Ministerial accountability in Parliament is central to our democracy. Or is he saying he's not going to negotiate the deal? Are we supposed to believe a "Chinese Wall" is going to be erected between Starmer's team and No 10?

    This is only the beginning of questions about this opaque and ambiguous answer in my view. It would all unravel in .

  6. I wonder why any conservative even bothers going on the BBC. The bias is so blatant it's ridiculous. The trouble is they live in their echo chambers and this type of audience bias leads them to think that Corbyn and the Labour party are significantly more popular than they actually are.

    1. I would prefer they went on and complained about the bias, refused to accept being interrupted every fifth word, and pointed out partisan comments from BBC people on twitter - citing authoritative comments from people like John Humphrys and others.

  7. I think they're afraid to call them out. They should take a look at how Farage handled a hostile BBC and audience and adopt that approach. Although far from perfect he at least was robust in fighting his position and defending himself.


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