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Lively debate

Gavin Allen | 16:58 UK time, Friday, 16 January 2009

"Great fun tonight with the audience at each others' throats," texted Annie, from Westhill. Interesting definition of fun. It was about 15 minutes in to the Question Time recording in Leeds when I started to wonder what I'd do in the event of a riot. There isn't a box on the otherwise-comprehensive BBC compliance forms for that. I did check.

Question Time logoAfter all it's not often that David Dimbleby is forced to have a microphone removed from above an audience member because she's refusing to obey his request to stop arguing. "Don't shake your finger at me," he said calmly, dismissing her complaint that another side of the argument had been allowed to speak for longer than her.

But Annie the texter had a point. The best Question Time debates are invariably when the audience feels passionately and gets truly involved in the arguments. Climate change vs economic growth at Heathrow. Israeli self-defence vs Palestinian bloodshed. Green shoots of recovery or Brown debts of despair. It's safe to say there were a fair few cats let loose amongst the watching pigeons. And the pigeons pecked back with heartfelt heckles, some pantomime hisses, spontaneous bouts of applause - it all helped fire up the panellists and the energies fed off each other.

David DimblebyAnd when the feeding got too frenzied, there was David to firmly intervene. "You must stop when I ask you to stop," he told the impassioned finger-wagger. And the joy is that Question Time audiences invariably do. Cities being bombed, jobs being lost, runways being built - the most enraged Angry of Leeds was still happy to wait in the queue until given the nod by the chairman.

"David is enticing us to get worked up," complained James, another texter. "It rather belies the real point of fuelling good rational debate".

But to his credit David didn't. He enticed people to get involved, taking more than 20 different audience points and ensuring their questions and concerns got addressed. And the audience - in the main - respects the rules. They weren't whipped up and didn't need to be. They were naturally opinionated. It was lively and vehement, but it was still rational debate. And surely healthier democratically for people to sometimes overstep the mark than never to dare go near it in the first place.

So no riot this week. The compliance form is safe for now.

But it's Crawley in six days. Will they pick up where Leeds left off? Will they go for the throat physically and not just metaphorically? Will David pull back the microphone in time? Find out in next week's instalment.

Gavin Allen is editor of The Politics Show and executive editor of Question Time.


  • Comment number 1.

    Just imagine if it was live!

    or there was always one person on the panel trying to summarise audience input (emails, twitter etc) in real time.

  • Comment number 2.

    Question Time is a great programme that should be on earlier in the evening and for a lot longer. Its topical and not one of the programmes that is continually repeated, which in my opinion is taking the **** (A.Darling) out of the license fee payer.

  • Comment number 3.

    I been to a recording of Question Time and must admit I found it very interesting and entertaining but I did start to wonder how the BBC pick their audiences.

    As Fox News would say 'fair and balanced' but should it be, should an equal amount of people with varying opinions, minority views, each be given a chance to give their minority opinion, each opinion given equal weight but should they be?

    For instance Britain is a country of minorities, its always been but those minorities have always until now had a majority belief in common values, customs and a British way of life but that has changed. There is no longer a common thread that links us together, our leaders and media have divided us or at least provide the tools to divide us. We do not practice integration, as they do in other countries, we practise multiculturalism in other words, division in the belief that it will bring about integration, it won't.

    We now question everything, which is good but do we question too much to the point where people become confused, are people so bombarded with questions and opinions including some that in the past would have been dismissed as alien to our culture that they actually turn off, or as I suspect, are they likely to react in a extreme way i.e. lose faith in everything, government and the media especially the BBC which as the name suggests is supposed to be British but you sometimes wonder.

    Thursdays audience appeared to have been extra especially picked, but did they represent the majority minority of the British people, not a chance.

    I had visions of Question Time being broadcast at the beginning of the second world war with Nazi sympathisers in the audience being given equal airtime and us just seeing Churchill as a warmonger picking on those poor abused Germans.

    I'm sure I'm one of the decent majority minority that are sickened by the pictures from Gaza each evening but would the BBC give us a moral lead, no.

    I switched off after half an hour, if I'd wanted to watch Jerry Springsteen I would have tuned into that show in the first place.

  • Comment number 4.

    For what information on the Question Time show with David Dimbleby...It could have ended up in a rioting situation for you guys all...At least, David Dimbleby and the team was able to controlled this....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 5.


    But it's Crawley in six days. Will they pick up where Leeds left off? i hope that is only a one time episode....not to have a second episode!

    Will they go for the throat physically and not just metaphorically? [i hope not]

    Will David pull back the microphone in time? [i hope he does....]

    Find out in next week's instalment. [Spelling alert...installment]...

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 6.

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

  • Comment number 7.


    Actually what happened in Leeds is not a one off.

    I went to a recording of the show in Oxford and the audience reacted in a similar way to comments made by Caroline Flint and Douglas Murray. When I watched the show later that night a lot of the audience reaction was either cut out or muted, so much so that some of the panel members were clearly reacting to things the viewer couldn't hear and created a false impression of the audience's reaction to the panel.

    Question Time at its best allows the audience to take self important panel members down a peg or two by asking them difficult questions (something your reporters could learn from), or bringing up issues they haven't prepared for. At its worse it's Dimbleby cutting off valid comments.

  • Comment number 8.

    I must say that I'm not David Dimbleby's biggest fan, and sometimes find him a bit bumptious, smug and self-important, but this was a very good show.

    It covered very important issues in a detailed and intelligent, thought-provoking way and there should be more programmes like this on the telly.

    I guess it's 'horses for courses' with Jonathan on Radio 4 [with a slightly more urbane Gavin Esler style] and David with his more Paxo style for the hustle and bustle of Question Time.

    That said, I do think the lady 'cut off' was a tiny bit hard done by and could have been given a bit more warning, and given a minute just to finish off her point. And DD could have said 'Please..' to the staff rather than being quite so condescending !

    I repeat it was a very enjoyable show, but don't lets go down the Mrs Merton route of 'Let's have a heated debate !' as this may generate far more heat than light..

    Keep up the good work - 'You're all doing very well !'

  • Comment number 9.

    The thing that hit home this week to sum up this great country of ours was,
    we cant afford a £350000 cyber knife for deriford hospital in plymouth,
    BUT we can afford £500000 for a new logo for the Cornwall county council.

    It is the uk and maybe thats why we are the laffing stock of the western world!

    Jason plymouth

  • Comment number 10.

    "After all it's not often that David Dimbleby is forced to have a microphone removed from above an audience member because she's refusing to obey his request to stop arguing."

    It was because she dared to be pro-Israeli

  • Comment number 11.

    I find Question Time frustrating because there is insufficient time given to many of the subjects and it is not live. It could easily manage to be twice as long on most broadcasts and much more involving of the viewing audience.

    I didn't find the show from Leeds that exceptional that it needed its own blog. Sure the "remove the microphone" comment from Mr Dimbleby and "finger wagging" happened but they were in the context of a heated discussion on the panel as well as in the audience on a divisive topic.

    The BBC needs to involve audiences much more than it does in current affair programs like this especially in an age where different technologies can be merged to give airtime to as many people as you can. Mostly the attempts to do this are over controlled but, to his credit, Mr Dimbleby does try to probe his guests equally well making Question Time appear less structured than many other similar programs.

  • Comment number 12.

    I recall a Question Time many years ago, when the Tories were in government. A member of the audience had just given a particularly odious Minister both barrels, and he tutted and loudly asked Dimbleby "For heaven's sake, where do you find these people?". Tony Benn, sitting next to him was heard to mutter "I can understand the electorate wanting to change the Government but it's a bit much when the Government want to change the electorate'.

    I agree with previous posters who think that the programme should be longer. Very often people do not get enough time to develop their argument., and you can't debate everything in soundbytes. Either that or fewer subjects?

    I don't really mind that it's not live (although, yes, that can place things a bit out of context), and I'm not sure that Mr Dimbleby is the only person who should chair Question Time. In fact, if pressed, I'd have to say that I'm sure he isn't.

  • Comment number 13.

    I was staggered at how little Dimbleby dared to challenge panellist Stephen Pollard while he was making his various (IMHO) unsubstantiated claims:

    "Hamas is committed, not just in its charter, but in its recent... in every outpouring from any Hamas leader... Hamas is committed not just to a two-state solution, but to the murder of every.. Jew... in the world"

    Now I'm far from being any kind of defender of Hamas who undoubtedly have blood on their hands, but the above quote is quite simply untrue and can be rebutted with a minimal amount of effort - yet it wasn't. Very frustrating.

    I guess this is where the 'all heat no light' accusation comes in with a programme like QT. I'd much rather see measured debate and evidence-based facts than a "lively political debate" that sacrifices those things. One topic for the entire show would help. (Who knows what that would do to your viewing figures though).

  • Comment number 14.

    You may have been staggered that Stephen Pollard wasn't challenged,but Baroness Tonge wasn't challenged either after claiming to have seen Israeli apache helicopters gunning down hundreds of civilians.Dates might clear up when this happened.

  • Comment number 15.

    digitalabingdonian - I agree with you on that.

    Some of the highly questionable 'facts' asserted by Pollard and Tonge (sounds like a solicitors firm) may have contributed to a "lively debate", but at what cost, I wonder?

  • Comment number 16.

    I'd like to know how there were so many people who had "Just returned from Israel". The audience seemed to be suspiciously packed with a pro-israeli lobby. David got a tast of the hysteria that goes with that lobby in the form of the lady who would not shut up but really it serves him right for stacking the audience in that way. Also, in response to comments above, it quite easy to count bodies, and would be much easier if journalists and UN staff had been allowed into Gaza. The Israeli army has a long and well documented body count list and what does it take to make the blind see - homes, blocks, streets, villages (Lebanon), people all indiscriminately destroyed, cluster bombs illegally scattered around, phosporous bombs etc etc. And a long list of documented Israeli war crimes, never fully prosecuted (like shooting children dead, bulldozing peace campaigners, assassinating journalists).

  • Comment number 17.

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

  • Comment number 18.

    Question Time in the days of Sir Robin Day when UK politics used to be more partisan than it is today used to a meaningful and inspiring programme to watch because alternative political arguments were debated.

    Now, apart from a rare flurry like this incident its usually a boring mediocraty along with its counterpart radio programme 'Any Questions' where the panelists are usually so similiar in their political ideals its hard sometimes to distinguish whose left and whose right.

    To be fair to the programme producers, if there's no difference between the mainstream political parties then this will be reflected in programmes like these and throughout the media gnerally!

    I've never really understood why party leaders are excluded from appearing on these programmes and also why it has to be the same chairmen presenting them. It should be shared among other BBC journalists.not that they'll particularly do a better job but it will prevent the programme becoming more personalised!

    Maybe the likes of Jonathan Ross, having just served his pennance could be encouraged to diversify in order to bring a bit of spark and a fresh impetus to the programme(s)!

  • Comment number 19.

    >It was because she dared to be pro-Israeli

    There's always one.

    Was that the same group of Pro Israeli's who wouldn't let the Muslim gentleman speak?

    The countless "i've just been to Israel brigade" or the rest who had more than ample time to justify murder of innocent civillians?!

  • Comment number 20.

    Reasoned debate is the first casualty of audience participation. For proof one has only to read the many BBC message boards.

    'Interactive' is nothing more than the manipulation of the information jamming the net to the benefit of an institution - in this case the BBC.

    Imv, ofcourse.

  • Comment number 21.

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

  • Comment number 22.

    Gavin, I think you are missing a trick..

    Try this pitch at the next 'commissioning editors' meeting - David Dimbleby is sent to an inner-city comprehensive to be a teacher and one of his roles is to run the daily assembly, teach some classes, and facilitate a debate on 'Making School Uniform Optional'...

    Hilarious results as he tries to 'demand respect' while the kids want him to 'earn respeck' would I'm sure ensure...

  • Comment number 23.

    About Question Time itself: can't they do any better than dig up the same tired out entirely predictable people peddling predictable points of view. Don't we have have any philosophers, historians or well-informed people who can give us some coherent theory and pertinent fact. Tony Benn was always one of the best people to have on the show because for every false statement that politicians inevitably give us, he had a memory, and could point out what was actually said and why. He has beliefs and arguments and facts to support them - a very rare species in the UK. And what about fringe leaders - why no BNP (not that I support them) but just to stir things up a bit. Question Time = audience pleasing platitude - applause and on to the next platitude. It's true waht someone here said - it's amazing what rubbish and false statements guests are allowed to get away with. Let me on there....

  • Comment number 24.

    That's a clever phrase, and I can see where you're coming from, but I think your view of history is somewhat out-of-focus. Perhaps you might want to take another look at Nazism and come up with a more rational analogy?

  • Comment number 25.

    Hand-picked speakers and a hand-picked audience chaired by an unelected nobody working for an unelected quango is not democratic.

    What would be healthier democratically would be to hear what elected MPs or even councillors have to say at public meetings or in parliament, not the BBC’s perverse version of it.

  • Comment number 26.

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

  • Comment number 27.


    I certainly agree that polemic and passion is missing from our politicians these days. Often the only difference between one party and another is the name and the fact that they all squabble equally hard to claim that they thought of something first.

    Perhaps the Israel - Palestine question is one of those topics with such entrenched polarity that it comes as a shock to many such diverse opinions can be expressed. It is regrettable that topics such as money markets, health, education, transport, employment, minimum wage, tax credits, etc etc do not have equally diversely held views.

    Once people were proud to have personal opinions on everything but nowadays the argument only exists in the detail. That suggests that our politics and politicians are anaemic, empty vessels that carry nothing to nowhere in particular. QT could do with a bit of stretching out to the limits of opinion rather than its current narrow and claustrophobic atmosphere.

  • Comment number 28.

    Cardboard_Cutout #27 I think you are being unfair to politicians. There are many out there with diverse views, but we are only seeing a small minority appearing in the media.

    The politicians have got savvy to the fact that, in order to appear on the BBC they must hold BBC-friendly views, otherwise they are marginalised or ridiculed. This actually happened to a party leader many years ago - Michael Foot - when the BBC went through a period of supporting Margaret Thatcher. This continues today (but with the polarity reversed), with the likes of John Redwood (for example) being kept off our screens or openly mocked.

    If you are not BBC-friendly then you won’t be heard. If you cannot be ignored you will be marginalised As the BBC has over 50% of broadcast media and its overwhelming resources allow it to set the news agenda it is no wonder why most politicians we see, and those chosen for senior positions are BBC-friendly. Why do you think the Labour Party moved to the right a few years ago and now the Conservatives have recently moved to the left? They have met in the middle to join the Liberals in a consensus of mediocrity.

    The BBC made this statement on the BBC World Service on 12th January at around 6:15pm: “Nobody takes the right-wing seriously”.

    Another BBC statement made on 29th September 2008 on BBC Radio 4: "How people feel is to a large extent down to what people like us say and write" (Mark Easton, BBC's Home Editor).

    The politicians do not have the power to be heard if the main broadcaster does not give them a platform. They are out there, though, just as there are entertainers who the BBC would not currently employ. What we do have is a half-hour left wing lecture from “The Now Show” (I wouldn’t mind if it was funny. We used to have weekly BBC left wing lectures from Ben Elton but at least he had some talent).

    I would suggest that you look to a diverse range of sources for wider debates, including meeting debates which are happening out there all the time and, of course, in Parliament. I would also be careful to ensure that a wide diet of media is taken in as too much reliance of the BBC will give any listener or viewer a lop-sided view of the world.

  • Comment number 29.


    This notion of so-called "BBC-friendliness" comes across as a bit of a cop-out way to lay into the BBC because it's maybe not as right-wing as you (or others) would like it to be.

    I'd say it's far more likely that many (but not all) of those old divisions that ran through society in past decades have genuinely largely dried up, and the BBC is simply reflecting that.

    On economic grounds, the death of socialism and the surrender to neoliberal free market philosophy as effectively the only show in town. The rightward shift made by the Labour Party to get itself elected. The leftward shift by Cameron's Tories because love him or loathe him, they recognize the success of the centrist Blair formula. (Recall their wilderness years under the more right-leaning Hague, IDS and Howard).

    On social grounds, the less hostile and more mature attitude to anyone different to ourselves (such as race or sexuality) which has inevitably occurred over recent years due to the unavoidable widening of our circle, whether that's from easier and cheaper travel, the internet, or more diversity at home. Also the decline of conformity and of devout religious adherence.

    On foreign issues like Israel/Palestine, the willingness to show less than complete bias to Israel would be down to greater access to facts rather than just official US/UK propaganda, it would be down to the changing ethnic and religious make-up of the UK, and it would be down to the decline of conformity again where you used to just believe what your country told you to believe - which was inevitably to side with UK/US/Israel and - implicitly - against the 'savages'.

    These are all changes that have occurred throughout society as a whole, not just the BBC. Politicians - representing the people, and being part of that change themselves - will inevitably reflect that. It's not like they're saying one thing to the BBC to make themselves BBC-friendly, then another to ITV or Sky News or when they're interviewed by the press.

    Oh and John Redwood is mocked because he's strange. Simple as that. Tebbit - who holds views even further to the right - is usually held up as a well-respected elder.

  • Comment number 30.

    Leeds Question Time was refreshingly brilliant and a rare expression of the important concerns of an intelligent audience. However, I also take issue with Baroness Tonge and her over-emotional response to the Israel/Gaza issue. History has ably demonstrates that the Jewish people would be unwise to rely on the support of other nations in their efforts to repel aggressors.

    I am shamed by the lack of a humane response to the treatment of European Jews when the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933. Indeed, the Baroness’ must have a very short memory, or perhaps her knowledge of the subject is as flawed as that on Question Time in respect of the Palestine issue. There were powerful individuals with vested interests, including British, who successfully blocked attempts to evacuate European Jews including many thousands of children trapped in the tyranny of Germany and Europe and a result of which the innocent died.

    Again, she may do well to take a long hard look at the human plight of displaced Jews who after 1948 languished and were confined for years in camps on Cyprus while the powers that be sat on their hands procrastinating over what to do them. She would do well to remember that the Israel/Gaza issue is not a simple one and that one-sided emotional outbursts such as hers do little to commend a solution.

  • Comment number 31.

    For some time I’ve been trying to appreciate the Jewish view of the Israel - Palestine conflict.

    I was hoping that Question Time might shed some light, and it did to some extent, but unfortunately one side of the audience opinion appeared incapable of conducting themselves in a civilised manner.

    Gavin, this Question Time was a very good start to this round of informed debate on this far-reaching conflict, but we desperately need more. Isn’t this a good time for a BBC documentary explaining the conflict? During Question Time a man shouted: “have you read the Bible …?” exactly how many Israelis justify their actions on the Bible? I’ve also heard “how would England feel if France started rocketing Dover” - it’s really not that simple.

  • Comment number 32.


    Me, unfair to politicians, now there is a new way to beat me up....!

    I have nowhere discounted the fact that there are PEOPLE with refreshingly different views; it is just that they are absent from our political scene as the polling figures in all elections since the rise of Thatcher suggest. And as for user friendly - I guess you forget that Tony Benn would once not get near a BBC current affairs program but his brilliant style and popularity forced its way onto our screens and speakers. Have you heard what he has to say about New Labour, Blair and the Tories lately?

    You confirm that New Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems all occupy the same ground but it didn't happen because the BBC ordained it so. It happened because the New Labour machine fresh from the Clinton think tank discovered how you get elected. Blair misled so liberally, so convincingly, and so outrageously that he had most people believing that socialism could be half acceptable provided that capitalism was there to coexist with it. But nothing was further from the truth when the "blue rinse" filtered through on the better TV sets.He even had people beleiving that the rule book stood between New Labour and nirvana. But his true politics owed more to Thatcher than it ever did to the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

    He made the Suffragettes seem like an irrelevance as he offered everything to everybody provided you just followed the "new" rule number one - capitalism and capitalists are not just okay they're people we should worship - up close and personal. Let me hear it one more time - it is okay to be obscenely rich. Just look at me now?

    So I'll not take a lecture on what being fair to politicians is. They are a willful, negligent and contemptuous bunch, self seeking all the way to their new bank balances. The rot set in a long time ago but I pity anyone who believes the BBC is to blame.

  • Comment number 33.


    It is as disingenuous to cite the plight of the Jews after the end of WW2 as justification for the establishment of Israel as it is for Baroness Tonge to over simplify the factors behind Gaza.

    The re-establishment of a territory for Jewish people had been a key target for many Jews since the turn of the 20th Century and pressure had been applied long before the horrendous and evil actions of the Nazi machine. That Palestine would be a target for the "new" state meant that someone would be displaced to make way for what was to come. That most of the Jewish evacuees had sampled life in Europe meant a clash of cultures whereby once nomadic tribes would be at the mercy of those who were keen to settle.

    Much pressure was applied by the pro-Israeli movement, cashing in on the heartfelt and genuine guilt felt by the Allies for what had happened in the many concentration camps. There was also terrorism on a large scale. Perhaps we should all have seen what was coming but we didn't and now we have a mess of staggering proportions involving a whole range of adversaries.

    The systematic changing of the ownership of territory does not work to produce stable outcomes or peaceful transitions and it is therefore OK for people to feel for the Palestinian people who come out of this worse than anyone else. In Gaza their lot is appalling and has just been made much, much worse. And the mistake they made was to have a democratic election?

  • Comment number 34.

    #16 - i thought the same thing. Having never been to Israel myself, I was staggered at how many people Question Time had found who had seemingly just stepped off the plane from Israel having spent much of their trip within the Gaza Strip.

    As for Dimbleby, brilliant as always. i thought for a second he was going to lose control, but no, he was masterful as ever.

    Question Time is not nearly long enough - surely it could be extended to 90 minutes ? Shove it onto BBC2 if necessary, but for goodness sake, lets increase the amount of time available for serious debate.

  • Comment number 35.


    Shove it onto BBC2 if necessary, but for goodness sake, lets increase the amount of time available for serious debate.

    I'll second that.
  • Comment number 36.

    Gavin, a suggestion:

    During the US Presidential debates, a number of news organisations such as CNN provided a fact-checking service in which they scrutinized the various assertions of the candidates in order to find out whether they were true or false.

    If you really want to transform QT and bring it into the 21st century, couldn't you make excellent use of your website by offering something similar? After all, surely the internet can be put to more use than just providing another medium on which to view the programme (or that other old chestnut, letting viewers 'have their say')?

    You would be performing a really valuable service if you could get one of your researchers to analyse each show and report back on the website some of the panellists' assertions held up as fact. (I see no reason why the assertions of audience members who receive a round of applause couldn't be held to similar account).

    You wouldn't have to just focus on the assertions that turn out to be false - also mention those that, after investigation, appear to be true, or those that remain unclear.

    It would be a good counter to the charge that QT is all heat and no light - and a good opportunity to return to the roots of the show - to inform.

  • Comment number 37.

    During Question Time a man shouted, in defence of the Israeli attack, 'Have you read the Bible?'

    How sad!

    We may not have BUT we do know that we are commanded to 'Love one another, as you would love Me' and 'Thou shalt not kill'

    Both areas from MY Bible that has not obviously been covered in theirs!

    BBC report ' We can all see the battle raging' No we couldn't, we could see the offloading of ammunition by Israel but not the little children being blown to bits!

    Of course, they were just wee fighters waiting to grow up!!

    I do hope that we will see some of those responsible for this 'fish in a barrel' killing, on trial in the Hague!!

  • Comment number 38.


    If the BBC could be trusted to do this properly it is a brilliant idea, but I have a feeling that the more contentious evidence would not see the light of day.

    One blogger mentioned "BBC friendliness" as a criterion for exposure on most of our current affair screens and, in a way, I understand where that comes from. There are too many people for whom the BBC seems to have a penchant for wheeling out, whilst other "new" faces never get a look in. QT is limited by the range and coherency of its panel, like them or loathe them, and discussion must be fueled by a strong divergence of opinion on the root of an issue not on the detail of it.

    In other words a comparison that places the billions thrown at commercial banks alongside the non-rescue of an industry like coal mining, or the failure to have adequate storage for our North Sea energy, will produce strong argument whereas "how do we spend the billions to be thrown at commercial banks?" has little to commend it. But the audience select the questions we are told - I just wonder how, in practice, that works.

  • Comment number 39.

    As a regular viewer and supporter of the show, I was flabbergasted to see such a one-sided debate regarding the massacres in Gaza. The only representation of experts from the region was a journalist from the Jewish Chronicle, with no body to counter balance his perspective. Furthermore, during the debate an Asian gentleman, when trying to make a point, about the people of Gaza and their appalling situation and was unjustifiably heckled and shouted down to the point that his view could not heard.

    Dimbleby commented that the situation in Gaza was a very emotional topic, so how can the BBC justify a completely one-sided and biased approach to this sensitive matter?

    I also agree that QT should be longer and at an earlier time and when are the BBC going to sort out the interactive red button so that viewers can see the txts comments and panels heads at the same time

  • Comment number 40.

    To "Ever Hopeful" and Eileen Dubh (no.s 31 & 37) you may want to watch the programme again (may be on iPlayer): The comment, "haven't you read the Bible" was made in response to the pro-Arab chap who said that there weren't any Jews in Palestine before 1948 - the point being that the Bible shows that Jews have lived in the area for thousands of years.

    To the aptly-named "Viper Tongue" (no39) with the inclusion of Jenny (viper?) Tonge, it is hard to see how you can say that the panel was one-sided. Tonge's anti-Israel views are well known and this is clearly the only reason she was on the panel.

    (You may also recall that she was sacked from the LibDem front bench because of her comments that she would consider becoming a suicide bomber.)

    Of all Tonge's ridiculous remarks on QT, her suggestion that Stephen Pollard was in the pay of the Israeli embassy because he had some notes with him was quite appaling. David Dimbleby should have taken issue with that.

  • Comment number 41.

    Thanks for the info jr2009jr

    I didn't know that a British politician said that wonder why she would consider being a suicide bomber?

    All this bible talk reminders me of ten commandments wasn't there one about not coveting your neighbour's house?

  • Comment number 42.

    #41 - re. Tonge's notorious 'suicide bombing' comment.

    It was a foolish thing to say only in the sense that it should have been obvious to her that the media operates with a broad-tipped brush, and political opponents with ruthless opportunism: both are incapable and/or unwilling to draw a distinction between attempting to understand the path that might lead someone to a horrific action, and the condoning of that action.

    Unsurprisingly, she was hung, drawn and quartered, and she should have anticipated it.

    For most sensible people, it was blatantly obvious that she was not condoning suicide bombing itself; rather she was trying to put herself in the shoes of someone who (she believes) to be so desperate that they would feel they had to resort to something horrific like that. She was highlighting (correctly in my view) that it is largely a matter of circumstance: we may like to take pride in our supposedly superior moral behaviour here in the comfortable West, but who knows how 'moral' our behaviour might be if fate had led us to be born in Gaza rather than Guildford.

    Unfortunately the media-stoked desire to impulsively castigate and express outrage - not to mention the fear that anyone straying from this dominant narrative might themselves be deemed to be condoning something atrocious - was too strong for most people, including her own party. It explains a lot about why Israel can still get away with the brutality that it does, with virtual silence and implicit approval from our sanitized and passive representatives in Westminster and Fleet Street. Too many people are unwilling to distinguish understanding from condoning.

    The fact that what I've written above will be dismissed with disgust by some as "defending her" - with little qualification beyond that - only reveals the woeful level of public discourse that tends to dominate.

    I should add that I personally remain unconvinced of the claim she made on QT that Israeli helicopters were patrolling Gaza shooting civilians (though I have to concede that she was there and I wasn't). My doubt arises from what I see as her biggest weakness, the tendency of her passion to occasionally overwhelm reason. Raising the the origin of Israel in the unfocused way she did, also did her argument no favours.

  • Comment number 43.

    Dotconnect #29

    I think your post is a good illustration of how the BBC has apparently indoctrinated your thought processes. I can only suggest you go consume media from a variety of outlets and better still, look at real life evidence. This is preferable to believing what the BBC has told you to believe. As such, there is no evidence to back up anything you have stated in your post.

    I’m not sure what you mean by more mature attitude to anyone different from ourselves. However, I find the BBC’s obsession with the pigmentation of somebody’s skin to be at playground level at best and divisive at worst.

    Cardboard_cutout #28

    I guess my opinion of MPs is not as low as yours. My personal experience of my own MPs over the years has been positive. I have had some experience of other MPs, and by and large, I find that they are trying to do the right thing (whether I agree with them or not). I do find this to be at odds with the way they are portrayed in the media and can only speak as I find (not as I read, listen to and see on tv).

  • Comment number 44.

    KennethM (#43)

    I can honestly say I consume media from a diverse variety of outlets (that's precisely how I reach my conclusion about the media's broad-tipped brush). Unlike some, I make a point of regularly turning to outlets with which I know I may well disagree, if for nothing other than to test and challenge my outlook.

    I?m not sure what you mean by more mature attitude to anyone different from ourselves.

    Well this is a bit of a tangent but I'm talking about PROGRESSIVE attitudes: the very real shift to more enlightened and mature social attitudes that has occurred over time.

    From the majority white population seeing "coloureds" as inferior and primitive, deserving of slavery and segregation, to seeing them as fine-but-i-wouldnt-want-my-daughter-to-marry-one... to seeing them as equal fellow human beings merely of a different ethnic background.

    That is surely a more "mature" and enlightened attitude?

    From the majority heterosexual population seeing homosexuals as evil predatory perverts who should be arrested, to seeing them as ok-but-i-wouldnt-want-to-live-nextdoor-to-one-myself... to seeing them as equal fellow human beings merely with a different sexual orientation.

    That is surely a more "mature" and enlightened attitude?

    There are still those in society who hold views counter to the above - but they themselves are now a diminishing minority. When it comes to judging people "different to ourselves", time and again, people who resist the tide of liberalism and liberal values show themselves to be on the wrong side of history. And here's the point Kenneth - this liberal shift isn't some invention or forced behaviour from the BBC - it's reflects a very real shift in society, some reasons for which I suggested in my post.

    If you want evidence of the occurrence of that natural shift, I suggest you visit the newspaper archives at the British Library and look at how, for example, the Sun newspaper reported homosexuality decades ago, and how it does so today. The Sun doesn't have to be "BBC friendly" as you put it. It just has to connect to its target readership and sell papers, and it has to correctly reflect the attitudes of the people. It's still juvenile of course, but it's not half as condemning and scaremongering as it used to be.

    All of that is a related tangent off my main point in post #29 which was that the "they have to be BBC-friendly" argument you posited is in my view something of a smokescreen. There is little if any evidence that the liberal, centrist attitudes dispayed by politicians appearing on QT or other BBC programmes are anything but their own genuinely-held beliefs.
  • Comment number 45.

    what struck me when watching last week was why had the BBC allowed the Israeli embassey to select members of the audience.

  • Comment number 46.

    Dotconnect #44 your references are solely from the media and that is weakness of your argument. I do not think that a review of newspapers through the ages provides a good enough reflection of the state of any nation.

    I do agree that UK people saw most immigrants as inferior in the past. However, I do not agree that this has changed. It has simply stopped being reflected in the media, mainly by legislation, by commercial pressures and by the diversion of 60’s baby-boomer left-wingers from politics to journalism when they were being increasingly marginalised by the media (ironically) in the 1970’s. It was they who were instrumental in moving the BBC (and other organisations) to the left and I am sure it was they who increasingly railed against the prevailing portrayal of immigrant and other minority groups. At a later point legislation strengthened this position as did the pressure from businesses as the needs to reflect their potential customer base became important (a pressure that obviously came from commercial media).

    I think you have fallen into the trap that the BBC so often does by confusing public opinion with the opinion of journalists. I believe that many minorities are still looked upon as inferior by many people in the UK. I am sure if you ask any person with brown skin, any Orthodox Jew, any Muslim, any Goth, Punk, anyone with a German or French accent, anyone who has an obvious disability, any pretty woman (or pretty man for that matter) - and the list could go on - you will find that they get the same looks and comments that they would have got 50 years ago. I am sure about this as I have seen it for myself and spoken to such people about it.

    If the media has so cleverly managed to reflect any new tolerance amongst the UK population how has it managed to reflect the nuance that the French and Germans are still fair game? Do we see people on street corners being perfectly well behaved and tolerant as every minority walks past until they hear a German or French accent, and then let loose? I think that the media lives in media world, the BBC on BBC planet and the rest of us, good, bad and ugly are still the same people living in the real world.

    My point about BBC-friendly MPs and others is really part of the same argument. Firstly I cannot take seriously your comment that politicians are putting across their genuinely held beliefs. We have cabinet government and cabinet opposition where opinions and even beliefs are collectivised. If you wanted to appear on tv and put across your personal views then you wouldn’t join a political party but become an independent instead. Even Tony Benn and Claire Short (to name two more outspoken politicians) have had to tow the party line on occasions.

    Right wing and left wing views are in as plentiful supply in the UK as are negative views about minorities. Neither of these aspects has gone away. They have simply been taken off of mainstream media. If the Conservative Party was still stuffed with John Redwood characters then you know better than most that they would soon have been dubbed the strange party by the media. This wouldn’t be at the behest the general public but by the lynch mob that is the media, headed by the dominant, bloated BBC.

    As a matter of history, the Conservatives splintered in the 1990’s into various groupings (such as the Conservative Democratic Alliance and UKIP), just as the Labour Party had done several years before. The rump that was left was the bit that was most acceptable to the media, and specifically the BBC. It was the rump that maintained the tv exposure and other media exposure with the rest apparently invisible because they were simply not invited to appear, despite the fact that many were elected politicians.

    Beyond Margaret Thatcher, the only time the BBC had any number of right wing politicians on the air was when they were trying to discredit the Conservative government over the Maastricht Treaty by trawling for dissenting voices against John Major to appear in the studios.

    This move to the centre (from left and right) has not been a gradual reflection of public opinion, which I maintain is, at heart, the same as it ever was. There was a shift to the left in the media and a realisation by certain savvy politicians that they had better board the BBC boat or be left behind along with the rest of the living dead. As we will only vote for politicians with a public profile, the UK electorate has been left with a limited choice that does not reflect its make up. This has led to voter apathy and a dangerous disconnect between politicians and real people.

    The BBC tail has not managed to wag the dog of the UK. It cannot possibly work like that. Neither is the dog wagging the tail, as I have put forward. I think that the dog will give up chasing the tail and eventually bite it clean off.


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