Annoyed by BBC Question Time panel selection? Then you know what to do.

A couple of years back, I was moved to write to the BBC complaining about Question Time’s pro-Tory bias, regularly featuring Tory-supporting journalists alongside Tory MPs.

Well, that’ll learn me to be careful what you wish for. Because what do we have to look forward to on tonight’s QT panel? The following: an official Labour representative (Lord Falconer), and two former Labour MPs (Clare Short and George Galloway); and, for balance, an official Tory representative (Theresa May), and professional right-wing agitpropette (Melanie Phillips). Deep joy.

As Love and Liberty’s Alex Wilcock acerbically notes:

It’s not as if the Liberal Democrats have anything distinctive to contribute about tonight’s topics of Iraq and electoral reform. I’m sorry, what?

And as House of Twits’ Luke Richards points out:

This is not just an injustice to the Liberal Democrats, the decision to drop the Lib Dems from the panel will severely undermine the quality and value of tonight’s debate.

Luke also makes the point that it’s not the first time the BBC has pulled this trick: Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson was dumped in the week the Iraq inquiry started: apparently, as Lib Dem blogger Mark Thompson exclaimed, the BBC regards the Lib Dems as part of “the central political consensus”. Which is a bizarrely subjective judgement for a supposedy impartial broadcaster to make.

Anyway, there’s no point just getting cross by shouting at the TV screen or the Internet. Jonny Oates, the Lib Dems’ Director of Communications, has already outlined here on LDV what Lib Dems need to do when blatant media bias rears its head. So don’t get angry, get complaining (phone number and online form here).

PS: Mark Thomspon will be hosting his weekly BBC QT live chat over at his Mark Reckons blog – you can join in the conversation here.

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  • Complaint duly sent. Utterly outragous that once again we were excluded from the panel when the Iraq Inquiry was likely to be a major topic of debate.

    I think either Short or Galloway would have been acceptable but both to the exclusion of a Lib Dem is just plain biased.

  • Falconer pretends that having legal advice that something is legal is a defence. Sorry, Lord Falconer. Shirley Porter ran that argument and the House of Lords rejected it.

    Blair and Falconer knew there were no weapons of mass destruction. Blair and Falconer knew the war was illegal under international law. Next they will try to tell us that it was vital to national security to kill Dr David Kelly, and doubtless Blair will insist with a straight face (onions to the ready) that Prime Ministers do sometimes have to make terrible decisions on occasions (when they are told to by Dick Cheney), and that he sincerely believes that what he did was right. The man is nothing if not a class act.

    BTW, how much loot has Bliar bagged since leaving No 10?

  • Lorna Spenceley 5th Feb '10 - 8:31am

    I recently tried to get the BBC to reveal its methodology for allocating appearances on QT between the political parties. They refused to answer, claiming that this information was exempt from FoI legislation. The BBC uses ‘editorial independence’ as a cloak to avoid being accountable to anyone for blatant bias. Disgraceful for our national public service broadcaster.

  • David Blake 5th Feb '10 - 8:40am

    So far as QT is concerned, the BBC website is also guilty of bias.

    The panel for the programme now has five members. Details of previous programmes are available at: This gives a list of programmes with details of some participants and from this page you can click through to each one. There seems to be a policy of often leaving out the Liberal Democrat from this page.

    For recent programmes, the listings on this page have been as follows:

    Basildon – Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, Tory peer Lord Lawson and journalist Jane Moore were listed, but not Jenny Tonge or Douglas Murray.

    Milton Keynes – Liam Byrne MP, Caroline Spelman MP, Richard Madeley and Andrew Roberts were listed, but not Sarah Teather.

    Finchley – all five participants were listed, including Chris Huhne.

    Wootton Bassett – there were six participants of whom five were listed – Piers Morgan was the one to be left out on this occasion.

    I can’t see why they don’t just list all participants. If they leave someone out a decision has been made – and how is that decision made?

  • Andrew Suffield 5th Feb '10 - 9:44am

    I expect the content of that page is merely an example of incompetence, not bias. The BBC website does not receive the same level of care as their production efforts, and it frequently shows up like this. (The BBC news website often has spelling errors in their headlines when the stories are first posted – do some work, editors!)

  • I am writing to formally complain about what I see as political bias against the Liberal Democrats on Question Time (broadcast last night 4th February).

    As I’m sure the BBC are aware the Liberal Democrats voting percentage since its formation remained at above 15% of the national vote (a sizeable proportion of the population in itself) so it would seem only fair that the Liberal Democrats should receive a fair hearing on political broadcasts such as the one last night.

    However, seemingly this wasn’t to be the case… Even on the week of the Iraq enquiry (which if my memory serves me correctly was an invasion that only the Lib Dems formally opposed in parliament), so why on this week of all weeks should the supposedly neutral BBC seek to nullify the word of the party, on (mainly) an issue where the party had a clearly distinct stance from Labour and the Conservatives. It seems particularly wrong when one considers the panel as a whole:

    George Galloway- Respect MP opposed the Iraq war. However, at the same time Galloway is a former Labour MP (including under Blair’s premiership) so it would seem likely that he would have nothing unique to offer to other questions.

    Claire Short- Again a Labour affiliated MP who was in the cabinet during much of Tony Blair’s premiership so one would think that despite her opinions on the war in Iraq she once again would hold generally the same views as the other Labour panellists.

    Lord Faulkner- official Labour representative, I have no objection to Faulkner’s place on the panel asides from the fact that he is one of three Labour/former Labour politicians sat on the panel

    Theresa May- Again I have no objection to May’s inclusion on the panel, it is only right that the Conservatives get their voice hear (no more important than that of the Liberal Democrats though really)

    Melanie Phillips- I despise this woman and everything that she seemingly stands for both in her writing and her contribution to shows such as this one, her views are outdated, racist and hold no real place in modern Britain… I honestly wouldn’t give her the time of day, but again a (supposedly) impartial commentator is agreeable to have on the show (even a woman who spouts as much bile as Phillips)

    I would ask the BBC to think very clearly about its conduct in the future as, although perhaps unintentional, it is seemingly stepping into a very grey area which is potentially damaging for British democracy, and as such the general public.

    I look forward to your response and improved conduct on future BBC programming


    Dale Cox

  • Cassandrina 5th Feb '10 - 4:33pm

    Unbelievable postings.
    Everyone knows that QT, especially on radio 4, is totally biased toward this government, and the chairman is also extremely biased toward them. In addition the programme papers the walls with their activists and fellow travellers – again nothing new.
    Complaints resound and get lost in the huge bbc pit after a bureaucratic self serving email of “explanation”
    As for Tory bias 2 years ago that is a ridiculous statement to make. The Tories have not had a fair hearing or sounding in over 10 years and are subject to far more strident intervention than the LibDems, who have done even better in the last 4 months on bbc spite of their smaller influence.
    I would say the LibDems have shown in the last 3 months that they totally side with NuLabour in attacking the Conservatives on the majority of issues, so it is quite practical of the electorate to be able to foresee and fear a LabLib pact and possible “joint” government.
    Could this influence the electorate to not vote LibDem because of this pact issue, in spite of half hearted Clegg protestations?
    I don’t know, but it is a huge risk he is taking, as most Labour supporters are not in love with Brown, and would be very angry if he got in by the back door – and who would lose? The LibDems of course.

  • I have to say if all Tory spokespersons as inadequate as Teresa May last night, it might be better forthe Libdems if they are always featured on the program.

  • Libdem guru 10th Feb '10 - 1:19pm

    The PR/Comms department at Cowley Street seem very, very lax, ill-prepared and spend a lot of our money on staff who seem to do very little

  • Libdem guru 10th Feb '10 - 1:20pm

    The PR/Comms department at Cowley Street seem very, very lax, ill-prepared and spend a lot of our money on staff who seem to do very little. We need Paddy, Shirley or other big hitters on QT!

  • Libdem guru 10th Feb '10 - 2:03pm

    you really think that the other parties allow themselves to be bullied into a negative pr position? (never)

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