Opinion: No Lib Dem on Question Time? Keep calm and carry on

Like the predictable rising and setting of the sun, on most Thursdays, Twitter is emblazoned by Liberal Democrats decrying the political makeup of the BBC Question Time panel. The tweets follow a similar argument;

2 Tories and no Lib Dem this week, #BBCQT bias again.

UKIP/Nigel Farage on #BBCQT AGAIN! Does the BBC know the Lib Dems have 56 MPs compared to UKIP’s ZERO!

After three and a half years in government, the Liberal Democrat tweeters should accept the often unbalanced representation on Question Time which, in the grand scheme of things, is not that big a deal.

Demanding a party voice every single week will not persuade the Question Time producers to consciously pick up the telephone and call Liberal Democrat headquarters and neither should we expect them to. Many suggest, often seriously, that there is a conspiracy to mute the Liberal Democrats wherever possible. Whilst not outside the realms of possibility, this suggestion is questionable. Do people really believe that the BBC has nothing better to do than proactively exclude Liberal Democrats from their programmes?

The Liberal Democrats can and should be proud of their achievements in government, principally because so much of the 2010 manifesto has been realised. With 56 of the 359 coalition government MPs, a mere 16%, the Liberal Democrats are more than stamping their authority.

Instead of worrying about inconsequential and minor details, our energies should be channelled into promoting Liberal Democrat values. As a mature party of government, we should challenge the views and opinions of those with whom we differ. With eighteen months until the next General Election, we must show the public that we deserve our place at the helm of government.

* Paul Twigger is a former Liberal Democrat councillor in Liverpool and was the 2010 PPC in Liverpool West Derby.

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17 Comments

  • Alex Macfie 20th Oct '13 - 3:34pm

    It would also be nice if the BBC invited MEPs from parties other than UKIP to the QT panel. There should be an all-MEP Question Time during the 2014 Euro election campaign. It might help focus the campaign on the actual issues that MEPs discuss and vote on, rather than the in/out debate (which is important, but irrelevant in the context of a Euro election campaign).

  • It’s actually very difficult to see the grounds on which the Lib Dems presume they have a right to a panellist every week. On parliamentary representation and opinion poll ratings, it should be more like one a fortnight, if that. It is very difficult to justify parity of treatment with the Tories and Labour, when the Lib Dems are not even consistently the third most popular party according to the polls.

  • Steve Comer 20th Oct '13 - 4:09pm

    I think we do need to complain about the number of times Farage is on both Question Time and Any Questions. Given that UKIP and the Green Party both have elected parliamentarians and Councillors, it is right that they get airtime, but UKIP are exploiting this by promoting the Farage personality cult. Of course many of their MEPs etc. would not be very convincing, but that is their problem not the BBC’s.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Oct '13 - 4:27pm

    The under-representation of Liberal Democrats on Question Time and Any Questions is a disgrace. We should be demanding that our party makes much stronger representations instead of accepting this state of affairs. If we just accept it as Mr Twigger seems to think we should do, it will just make worse our current road to oblivion,

    The Farage cult is of course symbolic of two things that have been going on for too long: (1) turning politics into a celebrity cult and (2) the trivialisation of political issues and the right-wing populism of the BBC.

    The latter typified this weekend by the prominence given by the BBC this weeend to their stories on HS2 (part of their continuing populist anti-HS2 campaign) and the story about the fair-haired girl taken from a Roma family in Greece (the latter a story based on not very hidden racism presented as a child safeguarding issue).

    Tony

  • paul barker 20th Oct '13 - 4:31pm

    Talk of a Conspiracy against The Libdems is completely missing the point. Theres no need for any conscious decisions, The BBC is part of The Establishment (The Labour Wing) & the unconscious bias will be firmly set before BBC types even leave school. There is no way The BBC can be reformed short of a massive purge % who would do the purging ?
    I would be in favour of making a big fuss about QT, nearer The Election just to remind voters that we are a Party of Government not a Part of The Establishment.

  • Was anybody complaining when Clegg was given equal billing with Brown and Cameron in the election debates?
    Given the LibDems are on about 10% in the polls I imagine any objective analysis would show that the LibDems are over represented in the broadcast media. There is a particular problem with QT because in those weeks when we have a Tory MP, a Lib Dem MP and a right wing journalist we effectively have a majority of the panel putting foreword a pro-government line which doesn’t make for very interesting debate. Probably more Lib Dems would be invited if they had more to contribute than simply parroting the Tory line.

  • QT seems to be long overdue an overhaul. Dimbleby is clearly over-secure in his position and increasingly embarrassing, and along with the inclusion of ‘celebs’ and (usually extreme right wing) ‘journalists’, too often gets in the way of the debate. It’s no longer essential weekly viewing for me any way.

  • I agree that LibDems have the MPs and UKIP have none, but QT is not just about who has MPs, they often have a comedian or an academic or reporter, and none of those have MPs. It is also clear that UKIP have almost twice as much support as the Liberal Democrats in the country according to most recent opinion polls.

    The Westminster MP elections were three years ago, a lot has changed since then with many LibDem supporters abandoning the party after the rash of broken promises and political about-turns since entering the coalition, and one must not forget how well UKIP did in the last local elections.

    It is not therefore unreasonable for the BBC to invite UKIP onto the panel from a political point of view.

  • A Social Liberal 21st Oct '13 - 12:29am

    Question Time is just fine. Yes, they are hacking us off by not placing a Lib Dem spokesman on the programme every week, but they are also hacking off Labour (who think it’s too right wing), the Tories (too left wing), UKIP (why aren’t we on every week) – they are even hacking me off by continuously placing idiotic speakers on there.

    So long as Question Time is hacking off everyone they are on the right track

  • Paul In Twickenham 21st Oct '13 - 6:44am

    Why does anyone even watch it? Politicians are so “on-message” and their soundbites so rehearsed and predictable that you can tell in advance what every politician is going to say in answer to every question. Let’s take the radical solution – replace all the politicians with z-list celebrities. At least their answers might provide the odd surprise and a few laughs.

  • Re Chris’s “On parliamentary representation and opinion poll ratings, it should be more like one a fortnight, if that.”
    Why use parliamentary representation and opinion poll ratings, when actual votes are : Tories 36%; Labour 29%; Lib/Dems 23%- not a lot in it!

  • Not again. I’ll just repost what I wrote last time (https://www.libdemvoice.org/an-open-letter-to-the-bbc-about-tonights-libdemfree-question-time-33787.html#comments):

    Here’s an interesting article on QT panel participation between 2008 and 2012:

    http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/is-there-bias-on-bbc-question-time.html

    The most frequent panelists:

    Vince Cable (12)
    Nigel Farage (11)
    Ken Clarke (10)
    Caroline Flint (10)
    Peter Hain (8) Caroline Lucas (8) Theresa May (8)

    Overall party slots:

    Tory: 137
    Labour: 148
    Lib Dem: 109

    I fail to see how the Lib Dems are under-represented to be honest. However, there is a bias towards men, right-wing journalists and business-people, and against union representatives. Perhaps the extra number of right-wing non-politicians is there to counter the slightly higher number of appearances by Labour members, but the overall bias is still right-wing (especially if you consider that many Labour members have shifted way to the right compared to decades ago). I’m just speculating here, but the right-wing bias is probably there because they’re afraid of appearing biased to the left given the constant accusations from the right about the un-evidenced leftie ‘bias’

  • “Why use parliamentary representation and opinion poll ratings, when actual votes are : Tories 36%; Labour 29%; Lib/Dems 23%”

    Obviously because rather a lot has changed since 2010.

    But even in those terms, the numbers quoted by Steve shows that the Lib Dems were slightly over-represented as a proportion of the three main parties in the period 2008-2012. It’s difficult to see what the grounds for complaint are.

  • Tony Greaves 21st Oct '13 - 6:45pm

    “The BBC is part of The Establishment (The Labour Wing)”

    No, the BBC is now part of the populist tabloid slurry. Daily Mail headline in the morning, BBC for the rest of the day. Or vice versa.

    Tony

  • Does it matter, who watches it anyway, and how many. I stopped two years ago and have lived happily ever after!

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