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Robust argument

James Stephenson | 14:42 UK time, Friday, 12 October 2007

We have had a number of complaints about the views Kelvin Mackenzie expressed on Question Time last night concerning Scotland. He is a high profile former editor of a tabloid newspaper - and current Sun columnist - with strong opinions to match.

questiontimelogo_new2007.jpgQuestion Time considers Kelvin Mackenzie to be a suitable panellist since the programme is committed to including a wide range of views and perspectives.

His views are controversial - but robust argument is what the debate on Question Time is about. There is no question of the BBC or Question Time endorsing the views of any panellist who appears on the programme. Scotland was not the subject of the question asked and his view was robustly rejected both by other panellists and members of the audience. David Dimbleby pointed out that his Sun column is not even carried in the Scottish edition of the paper.

The programme is pre-recorded earlier in the evening, but is only edited to deal with legal or technical issues. His views did not fall into that category and it would not therefore have been appropriate to edit them out.


  • 1.
  • At 08:09 PM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • Mark Cooper wrote:

I would hardly call Mr MacKenzie's comments racist, and he is perfectly correct when he asks "how many Scots are hoping that England will beat Estonia". It seems that in Scotland racism is only tolerated (even encouraged) if its directed against the English. The national pastime of the Scottish seems to be "blaming England for everything".

  • 2.
  • At 11:54 PM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • Graham Forrester wrote:

The wishee washee response from the editor of Question Time are a disgrace. If racist comments such as this were made about any other ethnic group then action would have been taken to stop the recording or at least offer a full public apology either during or following the program.

  • 3.
  • At 12:33 AM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Tim Fenwick wrote:

Robust, robust ?

Weak defence for a poor choice of antagonistic guest. I'd be happy not to see or hear McKenzie on the BBC, ever.

  • 4.
  • At 01:14 AM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • DaveH wrote:

MacKenzie - where does he think his ancestors came from? The guy is a rent-a-gob, but in so doing he forces some panellists to wake up a bit. If there is no-one like him, they just trot out the party line and the prog is very dull.

  • 5.
  • At 02:49 PM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

Why oh why do you continue to validate odious little men like Kelvin McKenzie and Richard Littlejohn? What a waste of a perfectly good panel seat that could have been better occupied by a credible right-winger such as Mick Hume or Ann Widdecombe.

Oh, I think I get it - by picking out the most reactionary, boo-hiss inducing pantomime villain you can find as some sort of 'representative' you're hoping to undermine the credibility of the entire right-leaning side of the political spectrum.

It appears that your strategy has backfired somewhat doesn't it?

As with Panorama it makes me desperately sad to see the continuing decline of this one-great piece of political television. Seeded audiences, carefully pre-selected questions - as with everything else the views expressed most certainly ARE representative of the BBC and its affiliates!

Carry on like this and you might as well hand over your news and current affairs budget to those who'd use it to commission more corrosive bile about fat teenagers from the likes of Endemol.

  • 6.
  • At 05:23 PM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • willpax wrote:

Good. Glad to hear that. There should be a lot of bolshy opinions on BBC tv & radio. This is Britain - we can say what we like. Will.

I think you're naive to be surprised that he would bring this up. He brought up many of the same beliefs and ideas when he was on Any Questions a few weeks ago, which at least one person connected to your programme must have listened to.

It is fine for you to be broadcasting ignorant English views, they are valid in representing how certain people in England think.

However, there must be a balance in your national broadcasting in which you also let some of your finest BBC Scotland correspondents such as Glen Campbell and Brian Taylor onto your main news bulletins to assist in explaining Scotland to the rest of the nation. Similarly you should also be seeking out good Scottish columnists regularly to feature in Question Time.

It is probable that he himself sought to air his views because he believes these are questions which you do not give enough airtime to. It would be incredibly easy for you to correct this, especially using such outlets as News 24 to carry bulletins from your regions to the whole nation. That you do not speaks volumes for the lack of imagination that dominates the BBC News agenda. Were it not for the fine blogging of Brian Taylor I would find it very hard to get up to the minute coverage of Scottish politics from London.

  • 8.
  • At 04:14 AM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • John Whyte wrote:

So, if someone was to make such a remark about an individual rather than a group, you wouldn't edit it out for legal reasons [i.e. fear of libel actions]?

A nasty little man,there to encourage what exactly?
Had he substituted Asians, Chinese or asylum seekers for Scots, what then would the BBC have done?

  • 10.
  • At 03:34 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • James wrote:

Although I found Kelvin Mackenzie's comments on Question Time thoroughly offensive and a shocking distortion of the truth, I am please that the BBC broadcasted them. Negative stereotypes based on one's nation of origin should be exposed to the daylight so they can be scrutinised and roundly rejected. This seems to me to be the way to deal with unpleasant views. Hiding them away in case they are found offensive only allows them to fester in the dark.

To address Mr Mackenzie's point, I have long found that a disproportionately high proportion of the wealth creators I meet in the south hail from north of the border. There are many Scots who occupy very senior positions in the successful financial services company where I work. I am certain that they would be able to convincingly rebut Mr Mackenzie's portrayal of them as welfare-dependant communists.

  • 11.
  • At 06:23 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Cameron wrote:

In response to Mark Cooper I am a proud and passionate Scot who has lived in England for over 16 years.I am NOT a racist and have many English friends.
I was supporting England against Estonia and I have put a substantial wager on the Rugby team to win against the Springboks.
Make no mistake however,if Scotland qualify for Euro 2008 I will be supporting them in preference to England.
It is not of course the first time that McKenzie and The Sun have insulted and offended the Scots.Obviously they regard Scotland as an easy target for they would not dare make such vitriolic remarks about other ethnic minorities in this great country of Hindus.Muslims or Sikhs.
Perhaps the customers in the Land of Mckenzie's fathers should follow the example of our good friends on Merseyside when it comes to buying newspapers!!

  • 12.
  • At 09:38 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • CA Taylor wrote:

MacKenzie is an exhibitionist involved in unproductive work where his words have a very short life. I doubt he will be remembered for having undertaken anything meaningful. It's not surprising that the Scottish Sun refuses to publish his articles. In Scotland, the work ethic is still strong. With a small population, we have more than our fair share of successful entrepreneurs and politicians, and our oil, fishing, and whisky distilling (just 3 examples) have contributed enormously to UK finances.

  • 13.
  • At 09:42 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Mhairi Connelly wrote:

I am being so naive that I expect better from the BBC. We all enjoy a liberal dose of free speech.Mt Father fought in WW2 to defend it. However, this rant, and that's what it, was a rant, by Mr McKenzie could easily be described as incitement to racial hatred.

Come on BBC, this is not cricket. I am pretty well convinced that if those type of comments were made by a Muslim outside a mosque about an Englishman, the old bill would have visited them by now.

Be fair, but dont defend the indefensible by saying it was "Robust" comment.

How ludicrous can you get.

  • 14.
  • At 12:44 AM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Tony Lamb wrote:

Whilest this boorish, indulged and self-indulgent Kelvin McKenzie is a perfect example of the degraded sector of journalism was it not incumbent on Mr Dimbleby to earn his money as chairman and challenge such ignorant prejudices and demand a retraction for all the obvious reasons? Perhaps also the BBC should try and bring a degree of subtlety to its attempts to produce "lively debate" and cast its net a little wider than the dreary caricatures from the "London underworld" so brilliantly portrayed by McKenzie and his ilk?

  • 15.
  • At 10:39 AM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Jim Hamilton wrote:

I, like most Scots and thinking English people was incensed by Mackenzie's total lack of sensitivity. I know that many of the lower stratum of English society (and some who should know better) actually share his views.
We have enough of our own thugs and ignoramuses here in Scotland and it was odd, though entertaining to see this tabloid lout bring down many people's perception of the tolerant English People.

The Cheltenham audience are to be congratulated in their response to such racist verbal diarrhoea.

  • 16.
  • At 11:55 AM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Timothy F Clarke wrote:

Is the BBC so incapable of finding anyone else able to put forward robust argument that they have to give airtime to this man? If his views were based on the colour of an individuals skin would you be so willing to excuse airing his views? If the BBC truly believes this man's views are excusable because he puts forward a "strong argument" then the BBC are as guilty as he is in his stupidity.

Incidentally, my eight year old niece is able to put forward "robust argument" when she wants something, she might not be right as often as she would like but given this is now the BBC's sole requirement in panellists would you be interested in having on Question Time.

  • 17.
  • At 04:50 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Amanda Macdonald wrote:

The most blatent racial abuse I've seen on TV since Jim Davidson was in his 'hey day' way back in the 70's.

That eejit should NOT have been given a platform to express his hatred of our people......SHAME ON YOU BBC!!!!!!!!!

  • 18.
  • At 02:18 PM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Stuart, London wrote:

According to your Editor McKenzie is "a suitable panellist since the programme is committed to including a wide range of views and perspectives".

On that basis then, are we to assume that Nick Griffin of the BNP would be an appropriate panelist?

  • 19.
  • At 04:14 PM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Baz wrote:

In future I trust that the BBC will not give airtime to anyone whose opinion I disagree with ie. Tony Blair, George Galloway, Alistair Campbell, David Cameron etc etc.
There should be free speech, but only if I agree with whats said.

  • 20.
  • At 05:08 PM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • G C Macnaughton wrote:

Take Mr. Mackenzie's comments and replace "Scottish" and "South-east/English" with comparable stereotypes Black/White, Muslim/Christian, Homo/Heterosexual, then it is evident that this would never have been aired. Why are Scots they only minority allowed to be denigrated in public on a TV channel? It is most likely because Scots actually do have power and influence in the UK and this disliked. Hatred towards upwardly mobile groups is common Asians, Jews and Scots; however, it does not make it acceptable. By airing Mr MacKenzie's view without a reprimand the BBC was tacitly accepting them as normal. Shame on you!

  • 21.
  • At 07:10 PM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Ross MacBeath wrote:

We're all agreed then, oh! Except for the BBC editors. Do they really think Mackenzie's cheap schoolboy mimicking of Brown "vision" raising the 'carry on' titters from an otherwise intelligent audience is worthy of any well balanced current affairs program. - More wit less twit. Then to defend his vitriolic attack on Brown and his Scottish heritage is astonishing. It bad enough Mackenzie is able to peddle this racist filth from his column but then in the name of the BBC, give credence to these dangerous points of view, it can only bring into question the integrity of the program or perhaps those responsible for it.

  • 22.
  • At 12:11 AM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Ross MacBeath wrote:

We're all agreed then, oh! Except for the BBC editors. Do they really think Mackenzie's cheap schoolboy mimicking of Brown "vision" raising the 'carry on' titters from an otherwise intelligent audience is worthy of any well balanced current affairs program. - More wit less twit. Then to defend his vitriolic attack on Brown and his Scottish heritage is astonishing. It bad enough Mackenzie is able to peddle this racist filth from his column but for the BBC give credence to these dangerous points of view can only bring into question the integrity of the program or perhaps those responsible for it.
Let’s face it it’s not what he’s saying that makes it controversial, it’s the fact the BBC condone it.

  • 23.
  • At 11:05 AM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Nigel Silvestri wrote:

Whatever else his comments might have been, the one thing they were not were racist. The Scots are the same race as the English, Welsh, Irish etc. All these people who are complaining should validate their comments without playing the the race card.

  • 24.
  • At 12:00 AM on 19 Oct 2007,
  • Nick D.Millyard wrote:

So Kelvin said said some things some viewers didn't like or found offensive. Big deal! If all agreed with everything that was said, don't find some views offensive what's the point? Question Time is a debate where differing views and opinions are aired. Live with it!

  • 25.
  • At 01:36 PM on 19 Oct 2007,
  • Colin wrote:

Whether or not the comments are racist is not the point. The point is that the program is meant to be some kind of intelligent debate where valid and genuinely held points are made on either side. Clearly KM just wants to shock in order to generate more time in the media for himself in order to make more money, he doesn't REALLY hate Scottish people. This intelligence and balanced reason is what distinguishes QT from programs like Jermey Kyle where guests can shout whatever they want no matter how uninformed. Please don't just start inviting anyone on. There are plenty of valid reasons to dislike the way Britain is run, panellists that are so stupid they need to rely on racism to think of one are not suitable to appear.

Oh. And the comments are racist (judging a group of people based upon their heritage rather than individual merits) but not particularly offensive.

  • 26.
  • At 01:39 PM on 19 Oct 2007,
  • Colin wrote:

In addition, and ona slightly different note, I formally complained about this issue and received a copy and pasted reply straight from this blog which ignored my specific questions. At least the BBC are focusing on their recycling.

Nick,we don't all get the air time on an influential programme.
In fact in Scotland we don't get much air time at all!

  • 28.
  • At 12:16 PM on 20 Oct 2007,
  • Keith Mackman wrote:

So the Scots are a race now? Thin-skinned and chippiness are not racial characteristics, just insecurity. It should be recognised that Scottish MPs are over-represented in the Cabinet, there is no comparable percentage of English representation in the Scottish parliament (though unsurprisingly the Scottish amour-propre is not offended by either of these statistics)

Individual Scots have contributed hugely to humanity in the fields of engineering, medicine, literature, philosophy and so on. That does not exempt Scotland from critical analysis. Stop being so precious about your Scottishness (kilts are a fraud for a kick-off, know your history before you bang on about it)

Mackenzie is a tabloid journo, not the Messiah or the Fuhrer. His views will not result in the razing of Kilmarnock or plagues of locusts in Fife. Freedom of speech should mean something to the country that spawned David Hume and Adam Smith.

  • 29.
  • At 12:18 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • j williams wrote:

If you put junk on the screen of the BBC we Americans will not use you anymore. We are fed up with junk on the screen.

  • 30.
  • At 08:45 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • R Malbeath wrote:

The Government are "A Government of ALL the Talents". I can only imagine your objection is that they happen to be Scottish talents?

As far as the Scottish Parliament is concerned, I would implore as many budding English Parliamentarians to get themselves north of the border, to get elected and help us Scots rid ourselves of the idiots that bring our entire system in to disrepute.

  • 31.
  • At 12:00 PM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • Merlin BS wrote:

There is no such thing as race, is just a engineered term to allow human beings recourse in law to protect themselves and other less fortunate from abuse.
I think you underestimate the power of the spoken word while Mackenzie may not have God like aspirations others not to far above him wield far too much control over how the masses think. Interesting The Sun chooses not to use Mackenzie’s column for their Scottish editions. Wonder Why? From these posts it seems his teachings have many convinced.

  • 32.
  • At 09:16 PM on 26 Oct 2007,
  • Ross MacBeath wrote:

Wot no Scot?
QT Oxford - Sublime to the ridiculous.
If it's controversy we want to generate then lets get people with real conviction. Personally I never had any time for George Galloway but if it's someone interesting, someone with an opinion, someone who doesn’t call a spade a shovel then Galloway gets my vote. Mackenzie’s not even on the ballot paper.

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