The BBC’s flagship televised political debating show, Question Time, has lost its way. The first signs of the rot arrived with the episode featuring Nick Griffin, the leader of the fascist British National Party. For some reason, still known only to the host, David Dimbleby, and his producers, Griffin was allowed to dominate the entire show. The normal format was abandoned.
Last night, the BBC invited the leader of the Kippers onto the show for the 15th time in the last five years, despite UKIP having no MPs. He has featured far more than any other party leader. Perhaps the others are chicken? Perhaps… but the fact is that the BBC has broken the terms of its Charter for public service broadcasting by disproportionately showing one particular party leader.
Last night’s show was an unmitigated disaster. The entire programme was derailed by Mr Farage. For a man who started life with the privilege of a private education at Dulwich College, he knew he had broken debating etiquette. Even at the comprehensive school I went to, we were taught that if you shouted down your opponents, you had lost the debate. Mr Farage doesn’t trouble himself with such niceties and will happily interrupt anyone and everyone, if he is allowed to.
Unfortunately, David Dimbleby, the chair of Question Time, allowed him to. Mr Farage shouted down my MP, Caroline Lucas, several times. He shouted down the rest of the panel and, for inexplicable reasons, he was allowed to shout down members of the audience too. That’s you and me. The great British public. This isn’t what we pay the licence fee for, it’s the sort of the tv that subscribers to Sky pay Rupert Murdoch for.
Responsibility must lie with Mr Dimbleby. He is clearly incapable of doing the job. If he cannot contain an unruly guest and allow everyone a fair crack of the whip, he should stand aside and let someone else have a go. The question is who? Of course, we’d all love to see the show’s original host, Robin Day, back on air but that would involve raising him from the dead. Luckily we haven’t quite developed that technology yet. And I hope we never do, otherwise we’ll have to deal with Margaret Thatcher again.
Jeremy Paxman has announced he is to leave Newsnight. Perhaps he wants to spend more time with his family? If he doesn’t, he would fit right into the BBC’s mould of white, male, middle class men presenting current affairs programming. It is definitely time for a change, so how about a complete change of personnel? We need a chair who is robust, exceptionally knowledgeable about politics, can take on anyone and represents the communities we live in, rather than the wine quaffing literati the beeb has served up for years. Dianne Abbott fits the bill perfectly. She wouldn’t let the likes of Nigel Farage run rings around her. Could she be persuaded to take the job?