Question Time


Back in December I wrote to complain about lack of Liberal Democrat representation when Jo Swinson MP was removed from the panel. It was also the last time that Melanie Philips appeared on the Question Time Panel. She seems at present to have a better appearance than the 63 elected representatives of the UK’s third largest party.

At the time you responded with comments from Executive Editor Gavin Allen:

“We have to keep a constant editorial eye out for the best possible panel and this can of course mean last-minute alterations. To ensure the widest range of political views are heard there are occasions across the series when nationalists or minority parties are invited onto the panel.”

This week the right leaning journalist Ms Philips was backing up former Tory Chair Teresa May. Then on the left we had Lord Faulkner and Claire Short, along with former Labour MP George Galloway.

Along with the Chilcot inquiry (when only Galloway join the Lib Dems on anti-war marches) this week we had euthanasia (you had a very conservative panel and while it didn’t come up electoral reform from the death bed of New Labour was a potential topic.

How can the Question Time team and Mr Allen stand by his previous ascertation, when we are weeks away from a General Election being called?

Last time I wrote to you I expected a considered response and was left under the impression that action would be taken so that such blatant bias on the panel would not happen as evidently as it did tonight. I am greatly let down.

I will be forwarding my previous correspondence with this to OFCOM.

Yours very disappointedly

Stephen Glenn

>Back in December I wrote to complain about lack of Liberal Democrat representation when Jo Swinson MP was removed from the panel. It was also the last time that Melanie Philips appeared on the Question Time Panel. She seems at present to have a better appearance than the 63 elected representatives of the UK’s third largest party.

At the time you responded with comments from Executive Editor Gavin Allen:

“We have to keep a constant editorial eye out for the best possible panel and this can of course mean last-minute alterations. To ensure the widest range of political views are heard there are occasions across the series when nationalists or minority parties are invited onto the panel.”

This week the right leaning journalist Ms Philips was backing up former Tory Chair Teresa May. Then on the left we had Lord Faulkner and Claire Short, along with former Labour MP George Galloway.

Along with the Chilcot inquiry (when only Galloway join the Lib Dems on anti-war marches) this week we had euthanasia (you had a very conservative panel and while it didn’t come up electoral reform from the death bed of New Labour was a potential topic.

How can the Question Time team and Mr Allen stand by his previous ascertation, when we are weeks away from a General Election being called?

Last time I wrote to you I expected a considered response and was left under the impression that action would be taken so that such blatant bias on the panel would not happen as evidently as it did tonight. I am greatly let down.

I will be forwarding my previous correspondence with this to OFCOM.

Yours very disappointedly

Stephen Glenn

I see Mark Thompson has beaten me to it posting about the BBC’s response to the complaints about the recent removal at the last minute of Jo Swinson from a Question Time panel in Edinburgh. However, that befits a man who shares his name with the Director General. Like Mark I’d raised the issue that the Lib Dems were the most differing opinion on the war of Iraq a big story of that week, on top of that I mentioned a couple of the more Scottish-centric issues that also popped up that week, I’m not sure if Mark mentioned those in his complaint, but I did.

Yet we both got the same response.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding ‘Question Time’.

We forwarded concerns on this issue to ‘Question Time’ Executive Editor Gavin Allen who explained that we constantly monitor the balance of the panel and that in light of their national electoral strength, the level of representation for the Liberal Democrats on the programme remains very strong.

He added that on this occasion the panel was rearranged to reflect a change in the prominence of some of the issues due to be discussed on the programme and in order to facilitate debate by having representatives willing to question the central political consensus on these issues, of which the Liberal Democrats are a part.

He also added that:

“It was regrettable – but necessary – that the decision to replace Jo Swinson was taken relatively late, but we have to keep a constant editorial eye out for the best possible panel and this can of course mean last-minute alterations. To ensure the widest range of political views are heard there are occasions across the series when nationalists or minority parties are invited onto the panel”.

We’d like to assure you that we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Regards

BBC Complaints

I’ve highlighted a few of the issues that we of my own concern, issues that didn’t answer the issues I raised.. One of mine was that while Nicola Sturgeon was on that show there wasn’t a single other Scottish based member of the panel. I have, as I pointed out in my original complaint no qualms about the SNP appearing on Question Time. What I did raise that on a Question Time with a Scottish audience they removed the only other Scottish representation from the panel.

The prominence of the issues to be discussed. How they could know these 24 hours before the audience turned up to ask their questions is beyond be, however, I was far better at guessing these than the BBC editorial team seemed to be. Yes there was going to be the Iraq war enquiry and no the Lib Dems never have been part of the central political consensus on that issue. There were also Questions on:

  • Jim Murphy’s White paper delaying more powers to Scotland to the next Parliament
  • the SNP alcohol’s policy where the Lib Dems in Scotland do have an agreed alternative policy
  • the banks getting away with more, another area that the Lib Dems are and have been leading the political debate

So how the BBC can justify

  • a) dropping another Scot to counter Nicola Sturgeon, especially when they were already on the panel
  • or
  • b) dropping the one party that stand outs on many of the questions that were actually asked

is beyond me. I though it was meant to be “My BBC”. Yet despite the questions that were going to be asked they went for three colours of sameness in Lord Falconer, David Davis and Melanie Phillips.

As for it being regrettable but necessary to drop Jo Swinson, this is the second time this year she has been dropped at such sort notice. At least this time she hadn’t made plans to go out of her way. Edinburgh after all isn’t that far away from her East Dunbartonshire constituency. Also when have they ever dropped the Labour or Conservative politician from the panel to add diversity, or indeed ever dropped one not to be replaced by another. Indeed only last week as well as a Conservative MP we had Kirsty Allsop who is advising the Tories on housing, where is the balance in such a panel. Often the Lib Dems only have a liberal leaning celebrity to raise our points instead not as well as a politician.

>

I see Mark Thompson has beaten me to it posting about the BBC’s response to the complaints about the recent removal at the last minute of Jo Swinson from a Question Time panel in Edinburgh. However, that befits a man who shares his name with the Director General. Like Mark I’d raised the issue that the Lib Dems were the most differing opinion on the war of Iraq a big story of that week, on top of that I mentioned a couple of the more Scottish-centric issues that also popped up that week, I’m not sure if Mark mentioned those in his complaint, but I did.

Yet we both got the same response.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding ‘Question Time’.

We forwarded concerns on this issue to ‘Question Time’ Executive Editor Gavin Allen who explained that we constantly monitor the balance of the panel and that in light of their national electoral strength, the level of representation for the Liberal Democrats on the programme remains very strong.

He added that on this occasion the panel was rearranged to reflect a change in the prominence of some of the issues due to be discussed on the programme and in order to facilitate debate by having representatives willing to question the central political consensus on these issues, of which the Liberal Democrats are a part.

He also added that:

“It was regrettable – but necessary – that the decision to replace Jo Swinson was taken relatively late, but we have to keep a constant editorial eye out for the best possible panel and this can of course mean last-minute alterations. To ensure the widest range of political views are heard there are occasions across the series when nationalists or minority parties are invited onto the panel”.

We’d like to assure you that we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Regards

BBC Complaints

I’ve highlighted a few of the issues that we of my own concern, issues that didn’t answer the issues I raised.. One of mine was that while Nicola Sturgeon was on that show there wasn’t a single other Scottish based member of the panel. I have, as I pointed out in my original complaint no qualms about the SNP appearing on Question Time. What I did raise that on a Question Time with a Scottish audience they removed the only other Scottish representation from the panel.

The prominence of the issues to be discussed. How they could know these 24 hours before the audience turned up to ask their questions is beyond be, however, I was far better at guessing these than the BBC editorial team seemed to be. Yes there was going to be the Iraq war enquiry and no the Lib Dems never have been part of the central political consensus on that issue. There were also Questions on:

  • Jim Murphy’s White paper delaying more powers to Scotland to the next Parliament
  • the SNP alcohol’s policy where the Lib Dems in Scotland do have an agreed alternative policy
  • the banks getting away with more, another area that the Lib Dems are and have been leading the political debate

So how the BBC can justify

  • a) dropping another Scot to counter Nicola Sturgeon, especially when they were already on the panel
  • or
  • b) dropping the one party that stand outs on many of the questions that were actually asked

is beyond me. I though it was meant to be “My BBC”. Yet despite the questions that were going to be asked they went for three colours of sameness in Lord Falconer, David Davis and Melanie Phillips.

As for it being regrettable but necessary to drop Jo Swinson, this is the second time this year she has been dropped at such sort notice. At least this time she hadn’t made plans to go out of her way. Edinburgh after all isn’t that far away from her East Dunbartonshire constituency. Also when have they ever dropped the Labour or Conservative politician from the panel to add diversity, or indeed ever dropped one not to be replaced by another. Indeed only last week as well as a Conservative MP we had Kirsty Allsop who is advising the Tories on housing, where is the balance in such a panel. Often the Lib Dems only have a liberal leaning celebrity to raise our points instead not as well as a politician.

Earlier this week Jo Swinson tweeted that she had been dropped from the BBC Question Time panel in Edinburgh less than 48 hours before it was scheduled. What we ended up getting was the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, up against Blair’s good mate Derry Falconer, David Davis of the Tories, comedian Marcus Brigstocke and Daily Fail columnist Melanie Philips. Apart from part of Lord Falconer’s education being in Scotland none of the others has much Scottish experience.

The questions were largely predictable.

  • The Iraq Inquiry – but the one party that wasn’t fooled by Blair’s dossier weren’t on the panel.
  • Jim Murphy’s White Paper – Neither Falconer nor Davis seemed to know what their parties were up to on this, and the most pro-Calman party of the three co-sponsors was not represented.
  • There was the question of the leaked emails over climate change – to be fair most of the others handled Melanie Philips quite well on this question.
  • There was a question about the bank winning their supreme court appeal – the former Lord Chancellor took the bankers side, others including David Davis did say there was more to the issue with banks. One of the audience members ended up having to bring the Lib Dem point about the banks being penalised for their own overdraft rather than the tax payers.
  • There was also the issue of the SNP’s alcohol plans. Only two of the Scottish parties that I am aware of have had a debate on these issues at full conference. Both were in the Autumn of 2008 and there were different road maps drawn up. Of course one of those parties was not represented by the dropping of Jo Swinson.

All in all it was a disgrace for the BBC to unilaterally stifle the angle of debate by omitting a Lib Dem when we already knew the areas that were going to come up for discussion. They also brought in four English based representatives unto the panel in Edinburgh. Jo Swinson once she was up in Scotland would have stayed up for constituency business so would not have been a wasted journey for a one hour show.

Also the question on Calman and indeed alcohol allowed Nicola Sturgeon free-reign to tar all the other three main parties in Scotland with the same brush, when as I’ve pointed out above on a number of occasions that is not so.

This is the second time in the last month that there has not been a Lib Dem on the Question Time panel. The BBC are already shifting into two party politics before we get to the stage where they have to be balanced before the general election. They are setting their own narrow political agenda and ignoring the fact that there is active, visible and viable difference of opinion to issues.

Were they running scared of debate, or was someone else on the panel running scared of debate? But to drop a political representative with less than 48 hours notice, especially when their party had differing views on a number of the weeks topical debates is a disgrace from the BBC. It never happens to Labour or the Conservatives. But it has happened in a city where the leaders on the council, with two MSPs, one MP and challenging for two more, is just the sort of city where Lib Dem opinion is strong.

>Earlier this week Jo Swinson tweeted that she had been dropped from the BBC Question Time panel in Edinburgh less than 48 hours before it was scheduled. What we ended up getting was the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, up against Blair’s good mate Derry Falconer, David Davis of the Tories, comedian Marcus Brigstocke and Daily Fail columnist Melanie Philips. Apart from part of Lord Falconer’s education being in Scotland none of the others has much Scottish experience.

The questions were largely predictable.

  • The Iraq Inquiry – but the one party that wasn’t fooled by Blair’s dossier weren’t on the panel.
  • Jim Murphy’s White Paper – Neither Falconer nor Davis seemed to know what their parties were up to on this, and the most pro-Calman party of the three co-sponsors was not represented.
  • There was the question of the leaked emails over climate change – to be fair most of the others handled Melanie Philips quite well on this question.
  • There was a question about the bank winning their supreme court appeal – the former Lord Chancellor took the bankers side, others including David Davis did say there was more to the issue with banks. One of the audience members ended up having to bring the Lib Dem point about the banks being penalised for their own overdraft rather than the tax payers.
  • There was also the issue of the SNP’s alcohol plans. Only two of the Scottish parties that I am aware of have had a debate on these issues at full conference. Both were in the Autumn of 2008 and there were different road maps drawn up. Of course one of those parties was not represented by the dropping of Jo Swinson.

All in all it was a disgrace for the BBC to unilaterally stifle the angle of debate by omitting a Lib Dem when we already knew the areas that were going to come up for discussion. They also brought in four English based representatives unto the panel in Edinburgh. Jo Swinson once she was up in Scotland would have stayed up for constituency business so would not have been a wasted journey for a one hour show.

Also the question on Calman and indeed alcohol allowed Nicola Sturgeon free-reign to tar all the other three main parties in Scotland with the same brush, when as I’ve pointed out above on a number of occasions that is not so.

This is the second time in the last month that there has not been a Lib Dem on the Question Time panel. The BBC are already shifting into two party politics before we get to the stage where they have to be balanced before the general election. They are setting their own narrow political agenda and ignoring the fact that there is active, visible and viable difference of opinion to issues.

Were they running scared of debate, or was someone else on the panel running scared of debate? But to drop a political representative with less than 48 hours notice, especially when their party had differing views on a number of the weeks topical debates is a disgrace from the BBC. It never happens to Labour or the Conservatives. But it has happened in a city where the leaders on the council, with two MSPs, one MP and challenging for two more, is just the sort of city where Lib Dem opinion is strong.

>I see that Nick Griffin has said that he faced a ‘lynch mob’* last night. Strangely I didn’t see him swinging from a tree in the Blue Peter garden so I must assume he doesn’t mean literally.

He’s also complaining that the format of the show changed last night. Well I agree. It gave too much airtime to the opinions of one party, namely his. It didn’t really show him up as lacking sensible ideas outside his pet subjects, and even then he didn’t do too well on some of those. (Having been asleep at the time of airing I watched on iPlayer this morning).

He’s also complained that the show shouldn’t have been held in London. Well I’m sorry on that one but looking at the baying crowd yesterday evening, and sadly we couldn’t avoid it on the wall to wall live coverage on all the news programmes from substantial and overlong periods of time, it made most sense. Only the Metropolitan Police had the strength in numbers to allow Griffin to appear on the show in a studio of peace. If that sort of protest had erupted in some more provincial BBC studio, or worse some civic centre or theatre heaven knows what would have happened, maybe Griffin really would have been lynched, not that I’m condoning that sort of action.

Mind you to consider London as ‘no longer a British City’ as Griffin said is surely a treasonable offence. Off to Tower with him. Oops built by the Normans. Well maybe the Queen can sort it out, if she weren’t descended from German stock as is her husband ‘the Greek’. Mind you it was established by the Romans so maybe he has a point but then surely it wouldn’t have been British at all. Maybe he can find solace just to the west at the Kings Stone in Kingston, only that was for crowning the West Saxon Kings and of course they are yet more Germanic people. Clearly what he wanted was a studio audience somewhere in the North like one BNP heartland urban Yorkshire, plonk at the northern reach of the Danelaw.

One does start to wonder where the population of the UK and probably Griffin himself would have to go when all of these half bloods or less are repatriated to wherever they come from. Indeed can we really find someone of true British pedigree. Maybe he and indeed us could end up somewhere in the Empire he yearns for. The Empire that sent its Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and others to fight in two World Wars as heroes.

*Definition: lynch mob n : a mob that kills a person (usually by hanging) for some presumed offence without legal authority.

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