I DESERVE a medal. As the credits rolled for Thursday night’s BBC TV Question Time, I leant back on the couch and massaged my temples having just endured, without doubt, the worst episode ever. I’d checked who was on it earlier in the day and knew that the viewers would be faced with at least three raging Leftists (not including host Fiona Bruce) and a man who represents the party formally known as Conservative. I didn’t know much about the fifth panellist, Adam Pearson. Harpenden, where this show was recorded, is supposedly a Conservative area but you’d have never thought that given the audience.
This was the show where the BBC took their gloves off and said to their detractors, ‘You want bias? We’ll give you bias!’ They gave us a Left-wing panel and audience who agreed that Trump is the devil, more reforms are what are needed every time a Muslim goes kill crazy, Boris is the devil, Tracy Brabin can run naked through the House of Commons if it improves women’s rights and, to finish, everyone loves the BBC. Aside from one or two dissenters on the phasing in of electric vehicles and a couple of women who thought Brabin dressed inappropriately in parliament, this Question Time looked more like a giant game of Whack-a-Mole or a mass Beatles tribute act – lots and lots of nodding.
It was painful, excruciating, the most torturous show I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch.
For a time, it looked like it was going to be QT vs Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary. On the question of prison reform, the Left predictably went on the attack on Conservative cuts, Rachel Shabi, Ed Davey and Stella Creasy tearing into Buckland on overcrowding in prisons and cuts to the prison service. Not one person on the panel or in the audience made mention that this was the umpteenth time the UK has been attacked by an Islamist extremist (though they did use it to decry the ‘rise of the far Right’) and that, once again, the perpetrator was being watched. Nope, for the Left, it’s about damage limitation. Multiculturalism: good; questions on multiculturalism: bad, and condemn the racists who have the gall to point out the obvious. Buckland was up against it, his detractors – practically everyone on the panel and in the audience – informing us that had it not been for cuts and lack of reform, we wouldn’t have extremists on early release attacking people in the street. Quite.
Buckland must have been relieved when the question switched because, as it turned out, he had the opportunity to look smug amongst his climate contemporaries with the government’s policy to phase out new diesel and petrol cars by 2035. Climate change, an issue which the audience and the majority of the panel could get on board with and which the government is showing its new shiny credentials on. The only panellist who couldn’t see the practicalities in electric vehicles was Adam Pearson, who questioned the amount of charging stations, as did one woman in the audience, but for the most part, there were lots of nods to buzz words such as crisis, catastrophe, etc.
Then we moved on to Trump’s impeachment and it was the usual ‘orange man bad’ syndrome we’ve seen so often on BBC programmes. It was a stitch-up, they said, the Senate decision was a farce, and Shabi, Creasy and defender of feminists, Davey, gave us their usual ‘But, but, he’s said bad stuff about women, Mexicans, Muslim women.’ This crowd were getting their money’s worth. Once again, no mention of the Democrat witch-hunt against the President and no one in the audience to point otherwise. This panel were getting an easy ride.
Then we were on to Brabin and her outfit in Parliament. The audience and viewers were told by everyone on the panel to get over it, including by Buckland who made a heartfelt speech on how Brabin’s ankle was in a cast and it was her ankle he was more worried about. Please. Creasy used her turn on the question to state vehemently how she wanted to make misogyny a hate crime and that those who’d objected to Brabin’s dress were horrible, women-hating men. The audience loved that.
In a final flourish, the BBC allowed a question on itself. Readers will know that the party in government are using the BBC less and less. After Johnson’s speech at Greenwich on Monday, he did the rounds of questions from the media, visiting the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg as a last thought. Before Johnson, the BBC was guaranteed first pick for the football team but now it is one of the last, the Billy-no-mates kicking at the grass in the hope that someone will notice it, and they don’t like it one bit. The Question Time panellists and audience got their opportunity to praise the BBC, which was obviously something the gushing Cheshire cat in the presenter’s seat really wanted to hear.
The BBC were the pride of Britain, we heard. Boris was avoiding scrutiny, we were told (ironic coming from Creasy, considering every time she’s scrutinised she hits back that she’s the victim of misogyny). By the end of the show, Bruce was in danger of losing her sole expression, the partially grinning look we see every time she’s on the screen. This couldn’t have gone better for them.
For viewers apart from me, though, I imagine there were a lot of headaches. This was the show the BBC always wanted to screen. In my opinion, they have received criticism of bias for so long that they decided to throw caution to the wind and put out a show that wasn’t even subtle in its presentation. This was the BBC as we’ve known it for years but on Thursday night they went full throttle. It was the BBC showing its true face and for viewers who have finally started to wake up to what the BBC is and does, it could have been the final nail in the coffin. To quote the TCW commenter Alan Llandrindod Wells, ‘The BBC cannot be reformed. It must be shut down’. I couldn’t agree more.