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Question Time, 27 May 2010

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Gavin Allen | 21:00 UK time, Thursday, 27 May 2010

In his speech, The Trouble with Trust, the BBC director-general Mark Thompson called for greater transparency in the BBC's dealings with political parties:

"There are steps we should take to make our own dealings with politicians and other public figures more open to scrutiny. When A refuses to debate with B or sets other conditions before an interview or debate, there's often a case for letting the public know - for example, via the Editors' Blog..."

So here goes. This week, for the first time in my three years as executive editor of Question Time, we were told by Downing Street that a cabinet minister would only appear on the programme if another member of the panel was replaced. According to No 10, a senior member of the cabinet was available to do Question Time but only if Alastair Campbell was replaced by a member of the shadow cabinet.

Very obviously, we refused and as a result no minister appeared, meaning that the government was not represented on the country's most-watched political programme in Queen's Speech week - one of the most important moments in the Parliamentary calendar.

No 10 stated that the objection to Alastair Campbell was that he was not an elected Labour representative or a front-bencher. Not only is Alastair Campbell one of the most senior and influential figures in the Labour movement - an architect of New Labour - but Labour ministers regularly appeared on Question Time panels when the then opposition was represented either by someone outside of the front bench or by an unelected panellist - sometimes even a prospective Parliamentary candidate. It is not an argument or an objection that bears scrutiny.

It is a fundamental principle of our independence that politicians cannot dictate who sits on the panel. It is for Question Time, not for political parties, to make judgements about impartiality and to determine who is invited to appear in the interests of the audience. Parties are free of course to accept or reject those invitations, but they do not have a right of veto over other panellists. Licence fee payers rightly insist that the BBC must be free from political interference.

Gavin Allen is executive editor, Question Time.

Comments

Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    How extraordinary! What can their real reason have been?

    Whatever it was, well done and well said, Mr Allen.

    More of this openness and transparency (assuming that there is no ulterior story at the BBC's end, of course), please!

  • Comment number 3.

    And any prospective panelist also has the right to refuse to join the panel. I'm surprised Campbell isn't on his own

  • Comment number 4.

    Campbell is as you say unelected and an unofficial spokesman for the Labour Party. Why is such a person given the freedom to appear on the show. If he's so determined to pursue his political beliefs why doesen't he stand for parliament?

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.


    why does any political party think it can dictate who appears on what programme? fair enough they can decide who they put up but not who the other side is. this is playground politics.and as such I need to say to the geniuses in Conservative/Lib Dem HQ nah nah nee nah nah grow up!

  • Comment number 7.

    In one of the most important QTs of the year, could the Labour Party not find a shadow minister to discuss the Queen's Speech? Are they mischief making? Or are they still in hoc to Campbell and his attempts to publicise his latest venture?

  • Comment number 8.

    Are the Conservatives really ducking out of Question Time because they don't want to go up against Alistair Campbell? Surely they've figured out a way of countering him by now.

  • Comment number 9.

    vstrad

    Wouldn't a shadow cabinet member be "irrevocably associated with the now passe New Labour" as you put it?

    Maybe have no Labour associated members:
    Mel Phillips, Littlejohn, John Gaunt and two members of the Government every week.

  • Comment number 10.

    The Government should not pick the BBC Panel. Its a disgrace that they have tried to do so. Campbell's status is irrelevant if Labour have proposed him to represent them, although I can understand why the Con Dems are reluctant to debate issues with him - he is rather good at it.

  • Comment number 11.

    Well done! It would have been the start of a very slippery slope if you had gone along with the request to replace Alastair Campbell.

    I expect he was tickled that the Tories caused such a fuss about him.

  • Comment number 12.

    well it is good advert for the programme as i want to watch how it is explained to us humble viewers

  • Comment number 13.

    Well done for refusing to change. I guess whoever they had available was not considered smart enough to compete with Mr Campbell in Televisual terms. Of course they should have realised that everyone is beginning to see through Alastair Campbell and his sophistry these days so it would probably have been worth turning up.

  • Comment number 14.

    Perhaps Adam Boulton would have appeared ?

  • Comment number 15.

    Seriously, what possible good (and sufficiently weighty) reason could their be for refusing to be on a panel with Alastair Campbell?

    - that he's not an elected representative
    - that he's not a front-bencher
    - that he's "irrevocably associated with the now passe new Labour" (!!)
    - that he's someone who shouldn't be given the freedom to appear on the show

    None of these constitutes a good (enough) reason to refuse.

    Can anyone offer any defence of this Con-Dem move?

  • Comment number 16.

    Excellent. Methinks it is also payback for the pro Labour position of the BBC over the last decade. An impartial BBC - now that is an oxymoron.

  • Comment number 17.

    This statement is sub-A'Level Politics essay.
    C- could do better.

  • Comment number 18.

    Its interesting that both of the coalition parties had no problem appearing with the BNP Leader yet they object to appearing with Campbell. What does this say about them?

  • Comment number 19.

    Re. #8 Thomas Metcalf

    As the saying goes, never argue with an idiot. It can only reflect badly on you

  • Comment number 20.

    I trust that the BBC will take due account of this decision and implement it consistenly throughout the BC's operations.

    Since (by this ruling) the BBC has now officially stated that they treat individuals who are neither MPs or Lords as official Labour party spokesmen, then they need to such individuals' participation on BBC programs in their balancing of political parties appearances on BC media.

    Specifically, the BBC has to acknowledge that any appearance of a Union official (where the Union formally supports the Labour party) needs to be treated identically to the appearance of a Labour MP or Lord.

  • Comment number 21.

    Campbell is a huge name from the (old) New Labour Party and a sitting target for the Tories - so why are they running scared? Perhaps because they do not have anyone politically astute enough to parry with him. A little worrying for the strength of the new government and their backbone for any impending fights to come.

  • Comment number 22.

    I fully support this stance. The coalition have promised full and open government and that's what we should expect from the BBC too.

  • Comment number 23.

    'One of the most important moments of the political calendar' Yes it is and that is exactly why anyone represnting the opposition Labour Party should be an elected member of that party.
    It begs the question that now Labour is in opposition why is there not one of its Shadow Cabinet not willing or able to appear on QT?

  • Comment number 24.

    Comical Ali Campbell and Piers Morgan? One worked for ZanuLiebour and the other did a totally biased interview with Gordon Brown. If you're going down the comedy route, Gavin, I'm less than suprised that the Tory Govt. refused to participate.

    And as Philip at #7 said, why isn't there a member of the Shadow Cabinet? Did they also refuse to appear?

  • Comment number 25.

    "It is a fundamental principle of our independence that politicians cannot dictate who sits on the panel." That may be so, but in this case your interpretation is just pompous rubbish. You weren't dictated to, you were given a choice: a member of parliament, or a Burnley supporter with no obvious responsibility. Your argument that it happened the other way round before just reflects that you have in the past rejected balance for crowd pleasing

  • Comment number 26.

    Haven't started too well this Government, in their quest to stop the petty state interference, here's another example already.

    Still, makes a change from having had two of them for the last couple of weeks.

    Will this means Shami Chakribati steps in again for her 3rd appearance in 4 shows?

  • Comment number 27.

    Good for you Alastair - obviously Government has a dose of stage fright, having watched your great performance with Big Adam Bolton!!

  • Comment number 28.

    So, you're excuse that the BBC's premier political discussion show has NO government ministers, and in fact only 1 out of 5 panel members is a serving MP, is because you thought it was more "balanced" to have a discredited former alcoholic spin doctor?

    Incredible!

  • Comment number 29.

    I agree with your stand, Gavin, but I'd also sound a note of caution. I hope you understand that politicians are particularly wary of the media these days.

    It may be a little unfair that such an august vehicle as QT is tarred with the same brush that is so sullied by certain other organs of the media, but I think you'll find that most politicians nowadays feel they are under attack from all directions, and fear anything they (wrongly) percieve as a media trap.

    The current government faces an awesome challenge at present. They are probably more than usually jittery at this point in time. May I suggest that you would honour yourself by making an effort to recover some of that lost trust? The current government needs to be held to account, but it does not need to be done abrasively.

    There is a danger that if, in future, government ministers don't appear on QT, the issues will end up being debated elsewhere (e.g. the internet) which doesn't have the breadth of audience that BBC1 does. This would not just be bad for QT, but for the people who will end up excluded from future political debate.

  • Comment number 30.

    The first time in three years, really? now there's a surprise.

    Campbell is such a heavy weight - whoever next, Maguire?

  • Comment number 31.

    Well done Cameron. Campbell is an unelected Spin merchant. We don't need to see his face on the tv any longer.

  • Comment number 32.

    Sorry but I back the government stance - why should they put up a cabinet minister against campbell - who is he? he has not been elected and only deserves to be up against an MP at best - good on you tories for highlighting how campbell's influence has waned

  • Comment number 33.

    Shame on you Mr Allen, in my opinion Mr Campbell is a much hated figure by many in the country, indeed the majority who voted for change. You should not have picked him in the first place I think if not for some kind of goal of stirring up hostilities and some kind of habit or lack of fresh thinking post election. Would'nt it be better to let Labour regroup and meanwhile pick someone more in tune with what might emerge. Why not the leading contender for labour or even the current deputy leader? Didnt we vote to clear out Campbell and Mandelson and why are the BBC so intent on rubbing them in our face even though the majority do not want it. Not even Labour want to hear about New Labour.

    Once you did, I think the govt was right to decline your invitation, good for them. On the other hand, you were of course right not to bow to pressure to remove Mr Campbell at another panelists request, if that is what they explicitly asked for. However, if they just gave Mr Campbell as the reason for their not taking part I see no problem with that. In short, in my view, BBC were out of touch, Govt responded in main part correctly, BBC was right to disregard any pressure against its independence.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    Oh, like Voderman was objected to by the Tories? We've had comedians, historians, etc on so why not AC (not everyone loves him, but since when did being adored by the nation become a requirement for the job)? Labour are off licking their wounds and don't want to play so that is up to them.

    We elected people, adults, to run this country. We did not elect a bunch of four-year olds so it is high time they behaved like adults, all of them. Should we send them off to the Early Learning Centre while we let others take over?

    Thank you for the honesty. We all so much need this.

    Please, keep going with this transparency and I do hope their statement explaining why there are no cabinet minsters is read out during the show because we can't have this transparency given to only the Internet savvy.

  • Comment number 36.

    "Impartial", but this is the first time you elect to openly publish a story on guest booking, and it gets posted to the front page of the website. And to do so under the pretence of 'transparency' is thin, considering license fee-payers enjoy no such privileges for the rest of your programming.

  • Comment number 37.

    Gavin Allen is right: Alastair Campbell is a perfectly legitimate person for the Labour party to put up to represent *them*. He isn't an MP, so he can't represent any *constituents*. But if Lab and AC both agree, he can represent the Labour Party.

    And actually, he's (for better or worse) been heavily implicated in the record of the Labour years, perhaps more so than many Lab MPs, so he's rather an apt choice at this juncture when Labour's record is so heavily under criticism.

    @ #25 & #28 - let's allow for argument's sake that Campbell really was as discredited as you suggest (how scandalous that he had alcohol problems in the late '80s - he should obviously never appear on QT again!!).

    Wouldn't that make the invitation *more* attractive, not less, to a Tory or Lib-Dem minister?

  • Comment number 38.

    Well it is now so interesting that people can now start seeing this "new politics" of "openness" in David Cameron.

    When the Tory party were in opposition there were happy to be "represented by either by someone outside of the front bench or by an unelected panellist - sometimes even a prospective Parliamentary candidate" as soon as they get into government, just as they are changing the rule from a simple majority in the House of Commons to 55%, they thought they can change BBC rules as well.

    It won't be long before the country starts seeing David Cameron the centrist that he is.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    I completely agree with the BBC's response to this situation. However I also agree with the Government's stance on it too.
    Labour should not have sent anyone other than a member of the Shadow Cabinet. After all, it's not like they have a country to run into the ground anymore!
    Conservatives are right to not send a minister, Why should they when Labour can't be bothered to send their equivalent, though perhaps the government should have sent their comment direct to Labour and simply CC'd the BBC in on it.
    Ed Balls has been allowed to get a load of TV coverage recently, either give someone else some air time or let him keep digging a hole for his leadership career, don't send an arrogant self-important pillock like Campbell!

  • Comment number 41.

    Alastair Campbell one of the most senior and influential figures in the Labour movement

    No, Alastair Campbell is a has-been. You at the BBC would be able to see that for yourselves, if only you could come to terms with the fact that Labour lost the General Election. It was silly and mischievous of you to think that he was any sort of credible counterweight to a Minister in the Coalition Government.

  • Comment number 42.

    Easy to see that there's no election in the offing......


    Remind me again, which parties refused to nominate panel members when Nick Griffin (of the BNP) was on Question Time?

    Are they really saying that Alistair Campbell is more of an affront to politics?


    I hope that normal workplace rules will apply - since the Government didn't nominate anyone this time, the invitation should be withheld for the next programme.


  • Comment number 43.

    I wonder why Alastair Campbell was invited instead of a Labour Shadow minister?
    I'm not surprised the government didn't want to put up their own minister. Why bother?
    If the debate is going to be predominantly about the Queen's speech I would expect the opposition to be represented - not an unelected spin doctor.

  • Comment number 44.

    Saves watching question time then. If balance is needed then the only counter to a minister (an elected government spokesprson) is a duly elected member of the opposition, preferably from the front bench. The BBC chose to be provocative in inviting a non-elected representtive to act in a de-facto position as a spokesperson. Far from shewing itself as some great upholder of truth and balance the truth we see is of an organisation trying to flex its muscle. Ples continue to act in this way. The licence paying public will then perhaps realise the aim of the posturing is publicity and not some noble endpoint. Now what's Sky got to offer instead?

  • Comment number 45.

    So much for the 'new politics' ...

  • Comment number 46.

    How about no frontbench politicians EVER?

    It would make QT a far, far better programme - and viewers might actually get honest opinions, rather than over-rehearsed party lines.

  • Comment number 47.

    This is taken from a section detailing information about Political programmes the BBC produces:‘Question Time Chaired by David Dimbleby, Question Time is the BBC's flagship political programme. Frontbench politicians and leading members of the opposition debate current issues in front of an invited audience. The panel also features a leading figure from the world of journalism, business or entertainment.’
    NOTE ". . . leading members of the opposition debate current issues . . ." Is Alistair Campbell a leading member of the opposition then????? mmm interesting . . . . Make your own minds up!!

  • Comment number 48.

    Got to agree with No 10.

    The BBC should now get out of bed with Nu-Labour. It is, thankfully, over.

  • Comment number 49.

    Gavin, it really is interesting how you hide behind your DG, when you get in trouble. Since you mention the panel, let's talk about the chairman, Mr. D. Dimbleby. He is one of the worst presenters and yet the BBC persists on keeping him on the rather exorbitant salary/fee. Is this because his father "invented" the BBC and bequeathed it to the country? Let me give you a suggestion on how to fix the QT...kill the TV tax and privatise the BBC. Then we'll see who cares for your programme, let alone your idiotic corporation. £800k for a DG and £1 million for Paxman...and your QT chairman wants to ask about £45 taxi expense claims of Shaun Woodward MP.

  • Comment number 50.

    Reading between the lines, this sounds more like No 10 were prepared to deliver a like for like match-up. I am very disappointed with the stance that the BBC have taken up. How can they cry foul for the government not providing a significant minister during the Queen's speech week while at the same time failing to invite someone from the front bench of the opposition. If it were up to me, I would have done both!!! In other words, invite AC and an opposition minister. Put a Liberal, a Tory an independent or two and business as usual. The BCC are grandstanding and I would even go as far as to say this sounds like the kind of spin that AC would have come up with in his day!!! You have let the public down BBC, don't forget who pays your licence fees!

  • Comment number 51.

    I agree that the Government will appear to be foolish, refusing to appear with Campbell.

    But I can understand their reasoning.

    And what does it say about your editorial decision-making that you thought Alastair Campbell was an appropriate person to invite as the (official?) Labour Party spokesperson in the first place? Maybe as a fourth or fifth panelist if someone like Boris Johnson or Lord Tebbitt was also appearing...

    Is QT now a branch of Light Entertainment, where controversy and confrontation are preferred to measured discussion? After the BNP debacle, it would appear so.

  • Comment number 52.

    thank u mr thomson for sticking to ure guns we must not be cowed by any party

  • Comment number 53.

    We could have Campbell on the panel, but with his voice dubbed by an actor. It is what happened to a dissident voice (Gerry Adams) the last time we had a Tory government. Then, as now, they are just making a laughing stock of themselves.

  • Comment number 54.

    As the Minister did not come did you have to give the audience new questions to ask.

    I may be cynical but suspect if Labour had asked you would have quietly done it.
    Now we have the internet and can see the world a little different QT looks staid and rehearsed.
    Same people a dithering Dimbleby and a BBC full of its own importance.

  • Comment number 55.

    What the BBC don't seem to understand is that Alistair Campbell doesn't speak for the Labour party. He speaks for his own personal interests. I am a party member, and would rather have even the most disgraced Labour MP appear than Alistair Campbell, at least they would have a mandate which empowers them to represent the party.

    It's about time that BBC ended its infatuation with Alistair and actually started paying attention to the elected officials of the party. I don't see Andy Coulson being asked to appear?

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    Why exactly is the Government being invited to nominate a panellist?

    I thought it was about the parties (and, with a coalition, the two are not interchangeable).

    So, NEVER AGAIN both a Conservative and a Liberal Democrat on the panel.

  • Comment number 58.

    Come off it. Perhaps a junior minister might appear against an obnoxious has-been with no official position in the Party. When was the last time a senior cabinet minister appeared under such circumstances?

  • Comment number 59.

    clearly, the cons know they can't stand the heat so have stayed out of the kitchen

  • Comment number 60.

    Funny how the BBC is standing up for a man that remorselessly attacked them and who contributed to the worst day in their history. This is a matter of courtesy about balance and a silly call by the BBC, unless the Labour Party are in such disarray they could not field a suitable muppet.

  • Comment number 61.

    Campbell should not have been on the show. He is yesterday's spin doctor, a man for whom party loyalty is a higher ideal than truth or hard facts.

    His refusal to accept Labour's time was up in the dying hours of Brown's premiership demonstrated his unsuitability to appear.

    Question Time is meant to be about current affairs, not the distortions of spin. Or was it a good day to bury bad news?

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    Whilst your being open and transparent. Can you now tell us whilst your happy to report on the devolved nations, talk to its MPs, conflate England and Britain almost daily. The BBC is almost actively hostile to English devolution (on the extremely rare occasions it even mentions it).

    Care to explain why ?

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    You didn't follow the Have I Got News For You precedent and substitute a tub of lard (or suitable equivalent) then?

  • Comment number 66.

    I don't see why the BBC should expect a cabinet minister (who are quite busy at the moment I suspect) to turn up when they already had 2 con-lib representatives on the panel. If there was to be a serious debate then I can understand why they'd expect a member of the shadow front bench to be there too, not an unelected spin doctor.

  • Comment number 67.

    Haha, No. 10 blatantly just scared of the roguish Mr Campbell! Wusses!

  • Comment number 68.

    This is just unacceptable. The government are there to provide someone on question time to listen to the people and explain their postion to the people. To not have anyone on the panel is an outrage. 2 weeks in and yet a nother disgraceful thing (just like trying to change the rules in house of commons to make a vote of no confidence of 55%!)

    And the Liberal democrats should be ashamed of their postion.

  • Comment number 69.

    21. At 9:50pm on 27 May 2010, fashbits wrote:

    "Campbell is a huge name from the (old) New Labour Party and a sitting target for the Tories - so why are they running scared?"

    But he is neither an elected nor appointed politician, Campbell could promises the world, say what he likes and Labour will be able to dis-own it all in the morning.

    "A little worrying for the strength of the new government and their backbone for any impending fights to come."

    I would say the exact opposite, it's worrying that Labour couldn't provide an elected or appointed member of parliament...

  • Comment number 70.

    I do agree with Mr.Mark Thompson that BBC maintains a greater transparency and impartiality with the political parties.

  • Comment number 71.

    Time for Mr Allen to resign, I think.

    The BBC is becoming a disgrace.

  • Comment number 72.

    I didn't know about this story, but when I heard Alistair Campbell was on I had already decided not to bother watching.

  • Comment number 73.

    I support the stance taken by No 10 on this one. The BBC should take more care to ensure that mainstream political views are represented by elected representatives accountable to the voters. Alastair Campbell is not an elected member of the Labour Party in the House of Commons or Lords.

  • Comment number 74.

    Sorry beeb, but you forfeited impartiality a few years back, and that trust is hard to win back. Your sycophancy is irrovocably linked to Alistair Cambell, so no sympathy from me I'm afraid.

    You protest to much now when the boot is on the other foot.

  • Comment number 75.

    I fully support BBC's decision and point of view. I believe it is cowardly of the Con-LibDem gov not to send someone to counter Campbell - especially when so many new policies were announced this week - may be they are running away from debates!!! Downing street should have sent a minister who could challenge and argue to show Campbell's weakness. So next time what...an ordinary voter tries to debate a minister - the reply would be - "Oh you are not elected, you are no-one... so we would not debate with you". I am not getting a feeling of being cheated as I voted for this government. Well the government is enjoying its honeymoon period!!!

  • Comment number 76.

    Why should a Labour frontbencher - possibly getting to enjoy time with his/her families for the first time in years, without ministerial responsibilities keeping up late into the night - have to jump to the Government tune?

    Next thing you know, Call Me Dave will be insisting that at PMQs, he should only answer questions from the Leader of the Opposition, because no-one else merits his attention....

    If I happen to be in the vicinity of CMD in the future (unlikely, I know), I will bellow "Cry Baby, Cry Baby" - listen out for me on news bulletins...

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    so much for the governments transparency they cant even put some one on the panel.Are they scared of alistair cambell the comment about his kids going to the local school and his wife getting involved in the govereners makes sense thats what being a n involved parent is max hastings johnn redwood sound sensationalist and stupid.Campbell sounds intelligent and measured.why cant he be leader?

  • Comment number 79.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 80.

    I agree with Mr Allen. This is a democracy. Alistair Campbell is an excellent speaker with very sensible values and beliefs. What was Downing Street afraid of?

  • Comment number 81.

    It's not as if the BBC produce this programme anyway - it's done for them by Mentorn. The show is about controversy and opinionated, crowd-pleasing rhetoric. So it is understandable that the new government's response to being offered a seat next to an unelected member of the old political class was less than enthusiastic. Maybe it does actually mark a shift in Westminister's attitude towards the entertainment industry and we might see less fawning over this hopelessly confused section of the media. Maybe.

  • Comment number 82.

    Of course their has never been a single occasion where the previous Government 'influenced' the make-up of the panel - has there?

  • Comment number 83.

    So, the BBC decided not to have the Official Opposition represented on Question Time, to echo Mr Allen's phrase, "in Queen's Speech week - one of the most important moments in the Parliamentary calendar".

    Clearly the BBC decided, contrary to the above quote, that an edition of Question Time in Queen's Speech week is not actually that important. Otherwise it would have made sure a member of the Official Opposition, ie a person who is either an MP or a member of the House of Lords, was present on the panel.

  • Comment number 84.

    Why do people immediately jump on the BBC for being honest, truthful, frank about an event that the Government would rather not be told about?

    Come on, the Gov made the error not the BBC. Well done to the BBC standing up for being impartial!

  • Comment number 85.

    I switched off Question Time as soon as Dumbleby introduced the panel and I saw the make up of the audience. Two 'yesterday's men' sitting together is more than one can take. The Lefties at the BBC just have to realise that their masters are no longer in power - and getting a 'picked' audience to applaud the rantings of Campbell is a waste of air-time.

  • Comment number 86.

    Well done, beeb. Spot on.

  • Comment number 87.

    and labour didnt loose this election that badly why arent people saying more of this?we did not vote for lib dems or tories so stop trying to tell us that we did and the lib dem lady is so smug,how did they get this influence?please dont let us loose sight of this.Labour acheived more than the con dems will ever do.John Redwood?Ian Duncan Smith?William hague?

  • Comment number 88.


    The issue with question time is not that Downing Street had a hissy fit about their own sense of self importance.

    Question Time in its current format is holed below the waterline due to the BBCs insistence of including two government oriented panelists on the panel.

    We have to listen to a lib dem and a conservative arguing against a sole labour representative arguing the case for the opposition. It makes for an unbalanced arguement and a deeply unsatisfactory show.

  • Comment number 89.

    I can see both points of this argument and do feel that the BBC should never allow political parties to dictate who they are facing on panels, it completely undermines its position as a neutral conveyor of the parties opinions on running the country and would obviously always bias the seated government.

    However in this case I do feel that number 10 makes an excellent point, Alistair Campbell has never showed any desire to run for a parliamentary candidate nor has he ever been elected as one. This forms one of the Editors major arguments and I feel in doing so completely contradicts himself. The vast majority of people that are invited on to BBC political panels are either serving, previous or prospective MPs.

    It is members of parliament who ultimately should have the real say in the policies that governments turn from bills into acts and therefore how the country is run. At such an important time I would feel it imperative that the Labour party were properly represented by an MP who would be opposing the current governments plans in the house rather than effectively a third party with a vested interest.

    Let me also make clear that I do not feel that it should only be serving, previous or prospective MPs who are invited on to question time, some of the best interviews are with people who are not elected as often they have to be less careful with what they say and can truly speak their mind.

    Perhaps the way to proceed is to have panelists who are more evenly matched saving any possibility of being accused of bias.

  • Comment number 90.

    The Tory line here is frankly indefensible (or at least I have yet to hear anything approaching an adequate defence of it).

    Is the idea that the Tories are right to refuse a minister, in some kind of protest at the BBC for their (or Labour's) selection of AC as the Labour figure on QT?

    The reason it's so important for the govt to field a minister is to do with explaining their policies to the *audience*, to *viewers* and to the *public*.

    Even if there should have been a labour front-bencher, can it really be claimed that this kind of Tory protest is more important than explaining their legislative programme to the British public?

    What a bizarre sense of values!

  • Comment number 91.

    Far too many people are missing the point here. This is not about whether or not you think Alastair Campbell is a nice chap, but rather it is about the principle of it all. Number 10 cannot simply veto any pannelist they don't want to debate against.

    So, every time the BBC selects someone the government doesn't like, they won't field a pannelist for the debate? Does anyone actually agree with this(putting your feelings for Campbell aside!) ??.

  • Comment number 92.

    Given that it is a full moon I am surprised Alistair Campbell could make it himself.

  • Comment number 93.

    No.10 did not veto Alistair Campbell as I understand it, they merely refused to be represented on the same panel. Surely they have that right.

  • Comment number 94.

    Personally I would love to have the opportunity to discuss with Alastair Campbell Labour's record. He'd lose of course.

  • Comment number 95.

    Another irony strikes me:

    Downing Street - now led by a former PR executive - is up in arms about the political role given to a former government communications adviser!

  • Comment number 96.

    I see that John Redwood is on the Panel - a Tory MP. Susan Kramer was a senior Lib Dem MP so thats two out of five on the panel already representing the Coalition. A cabinet minster would have made it three out of 5.

    Imagine the row if that had happened just a month or so ago if three labour members were on the panel!

    The BBC choses who to invite. it has often invited non elected representatives from the varying parties yet that hasn't caused any problems before. even the tories have been represented by non elected people - did they complain then?

    It says more about the attitude of the Government Parties that they refuses to accept an invitation but that they also demand the replacement of someoneone else before they will accept.

    And the argument that Alastair Campbell is not elected will not wash either. Week in week out QT has unlected people on it and I dont think eitehr the Tory or Lib Dem parties have objected to that.

  • Comment number 97.

    Long live the back benches and they must always have their freedom of speech.The way the con dems are going none of us will be allowed an opinion as they ride roughshod over public opinion and now we have to wait 5 years to get rid of them?? I never thought piers morgan could be the voice of reason!! NO ONE WANTS THIS .If i hear the saying strong government one more time.Go Piers!

  • Comment number 98.

    AC is a spin doctor. No camouflage! He is there to distact from any adverse reaction to the labour party past or present. His motives are renumeration and extenstion of his literatery career not any true heartfelt belief in the advancement of socialist values.

  • Comment number 99.

    There are a lot of complaints here about Alastair Campbell being a spin doctor.

    Ironic really, when you consider that David Cameron's only job before politics was as a PR man, i.e. a spin doctor.

    Well done QT/Gavin Allen. Nobody should dictate who can and can't appear on the programme. Stick to your guns.

  • Comment number 100.

    of course clegg has to go he is a traitor and now a truly pathetic figure just as no one is listening to the ex lib dem.

 

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