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Who is right in Question Time row?

08:58 UK time, Friday, 28 May 2010

Downing Street refused to allow a government minister to appear on the Question Time programme unless Tony Blair's former adviser Alastair Campbell was removed, the BBC has said. What is your reaction?

The Question Time editor said the request to replace Mr Campbell with a shadow minister was refused as a point of "fundamental principle". No 10 said it questioned his appearance instead of an opposition front bencher.

No representatives from the coalition government participated in the show but Tory backbencher John Redwood, former Lib Dem MP Susan Kramer, journalist Piers Morgan and Daily Mail columnist Max Hastings did appear.

Was it right for Alastair Campbell to appear? Was the coalition government right to complain? How should panellists be chosen for Question Time?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.


Page 1 of 10

  • Comment number 1.

    I think the BBC needs to justify why it invites so many non-politicians to a politics show. It has become more than the number of politicans it invites.

    The coalition government needs to justify why it deems it acceptable to attempt to control the media.

  • Comment number 2.

    It is only a television programme and if the government does not want to put on a minister why should it? I am glad that government ministers have better things to do than be heckled by a failed spin doctor - why was he on anyway? All he does is speak like a party political broadcast (despite being no more than a PR/media man) and wind people up (as his baiting of Sky's Adam Boulton during the election proved). He is yesterday's man. To dress this up as a press freedom issue is silly.

  • Comment number 3.

    Both sides are right in my view - the Government is perfectly entitled to have submitted their request (we still live in a fairly free country) and the BBC is likewise entitled to say yes or no. The more important question is the spin off for the government - what kind of a message does this kind of request send out to the electorate and also is it a foretaste of how it will deal with the media in future ? In my view the media have been the real king-makers in the past and maybe this is just an attempt by the new government to make some kind of a stance against the effective power brokers in our polticical system - the media.

  • Comment number 4.

    I am in full agreement with the Government not to put up a Minister when the Labour Party is yet once again using un-elected representatives.

    In my opinion ever since the BBC lost their D-G over criticism of the then Labour Government; Alistair Campbell (who was intimately involved in the affair) has been allowed free reign by the BBC to express opinions that go unchallenged.

    I note that today, once agin Campbell is making the rounds on the BBC to further add his comments.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm a bit torn. I'm with the government in the respect that it should have been a shadow minister rather than an unelected party rep so it was an error on the part of the BBC. That said, the BBC are supposed to be neutral and independent so it was right of them not to acquiesce to the government's request.

    I think overall I agree with the government.

  • Comment number 6.

    I believe Question Time has the right to ask anyone who has an interest in politics, whatever their political standpoint, and as long as each show has a broad political spectrum onto the show. Even if this means you get some guests with rightwing or leftwing views. Of-course, these people also have the right to refuse to appear.

  • Comment number 7.

    I don't think the government - any government - has the right to dictate who appears on a programme. The BBC was right to stand its ground. Alistair Campbell was an articulate exponent of the Labour view. What's the objection? By refusing to take part the new government appeared churlish and made their talk of "new politics" seem somewhat hollow.

  • Comment number 8.

    I don't really care and it sounded like an awful line up, I'm glad I missed it this week. I think Number 10 should be allowed to request whatever terms they like and it's up to Question Time to decide whether or not to meet them. Nobody is under any obligation, it's only Question Time!

  • Comment number 9.

    I actually agree with the government on this one.

    Alistair Campbell is a professional propagandist and not a professional politician. He will inevitably attempt to spin Labour successes into superhuman triumphs, but will never be accountable for their failures. It creates for an "asymmetric" debate.

    He is welcome to appear on QT, but as a private individual, not Labour representative.

  • Comment number 10.

    The new 'accountable' govt too scared to debate with someone who actually might hold them to account? 'New Politics' sucks!

  • Comment number 11.

    There's probably more to this than meets the eye as he was a key player in the coalition negotiations.

  • Comment number 12.

    Number 10 were right. By inviting both Campbell and Morgan the producers turned last night's QT into a freak show for the masses - why would any serious politician wish to participate in that? Generally the standard of invited panelists has been droping for a while now as has DD's ability to control the proceedings. Time for a change?

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm genuinely baffled by this. How dare the government make such a demand?
    I thought this government was supposed to be against state control.... what do they think this is then?

  • Comment number 14.

    So the government are now going to dictate who appears on Question Time. Pathetic! They are cowards who are afraid of debate!

  • Comment number 15.

    To be frank, who cares what Campbell thinks now anyway? I would guess that most viewers are glad to see the back of him and his obnoxious, bullying, aggressive style of "debating".
    Regardless of this, there should have been a Governement representative and it does look weak that they would only appear if he didn't.

  • Comment number 16.

    The Question Time team should be allowed to invite who they want. It is not for any government to dictate the scenario.

  • Comment number 17.

    The BBC are correct to say they have the right to decide who to is to appear on Question Time, but with that right goes the need to make sound decisions. It cannot be right to have a non-elected person to represent arguments of the Government Opposition (the Labour Party) and therefore the BBC should never have put themselves in the position of having to defend their right to decide who appears on Question Time. To use that agument to defend an unwise decision does nothing to enhance their reputation and indeed only makes them appear to be petty and childish. The BBC should remember that they are not independent in the way that newspapers are independent, because the electorate has no choice in whether they have to subscribe to the BBC. The BBC must therefore be whiter then white in not supporting, or appearing to suppost any particular political position or point of view.

  • Comment number 18.

    Alistair Campbell has never been elected and, in my opinion, has too much involvement in the labour party machine and is a wind up merchant. He seems to be a BBC favourite and I cannot make up my mind if that is because his abraisive behaviour makes for more interesting discussions or because the BBC has a left bias.

  • Comment number 19.

    Why is Alastair Campbell on the BBC so often anyway? He always acts as a Labour mouthpiece, but the people did not elect him to do so. Can't we just have a rest from him? Please?

  • Comment number 20.

    No one. The BBC should keep this matter private - it relates entirely to content.

    If I personally did not like sitting with a panelist I would refuse. This is not news.

  • Comment number 21.

    I never normally miss "Question Time" but last nights was one I just could not watch. Fancy having two so self opinionated people on the same discussion panel. Two of the loudest and most self seeking people in the Country. Your choice was not very good. These two attempted to dominate the programme, and therefore talked over one another, and spoilt it for me. I did a rare thing and used the discontinue button. It was outrageous.

  • Comment number 22.

    The government were right to make a stand.

    Alistair Campbell seems to get on every show going. He's like a disease. Why do the BBC seem to want to wheel these slimy spin doctors out every time, rather than find an actual Labour MP?

    Same goes for Piers Morgan. This dodgy character get his own shows and plenty of air time, simply to push the Labour agenda. His "love in" show with Gordon Brown was nothing more than an hour long Campbell / Morgan directed advertisement.

    The BBC and ITV feed these trolls, rather than cast them aside to focus on clear and represented politics.

  • Comment number 23.

    A very good decision by the new government.
    As far as I am concerned they should be busily engaged sorting out the mess made by Mr Campbell and his friends not wasting time appearing on TV discussing it with them.
    By the way BBC - this is a TV programme - drop the pomposity!

  • Comment number 24.

    I can't see the problem. Many journalists and other pundits appear on QT. I wasn't aware you had to be a politician?

  • Comment number 25.

    I was going to write to complain anyway and this gives me the opportunity to do so. I usually enjoy the programme but, last night, I felt that Campbell and Morgan, particularly Campbell, were given more than their fair share of air time. A very biased programme last night and David Dimbleby should have done more to ensure that the other three panellists had equal time to air their views.

  • Comment number 26.

    It was hypocritical of Campbell to criticise the coalition for not fielding a front-bench guest - purely because Labour didn't! Labour were too scared to even field an MP.

  • Comment number 27.

    I fully support the BBC maintaining its independence when choosing panellists for any programme. However, I think it's a little odd that the BBC didn't invite a senior Labour MP. I also think that if Alistair Campbell is invited again he must be asked to keep quiet when other panellists are speaking - his constant interruption of his co-panellists was not only extremely rude but very distracting - I switched off early.

  • Comment number 28.

    I have always believed that the representatives of political parties should be elected members of Parliament, If unelected people are to appear then they should be in the seat normally reswrved for Z list celebrities, representatives of minority interest groups and comedians.

  • Comment number 29.

    At this important juncture, for the benefit of the wider viewing community Gavin Allen should have been seeking to stage a debate featuring cabinet and shadow opinions.
    He and the BBC, yet again, could not resist the temptation to poison the show with their left-wing propaganda.
    Did Mehdi Hasan not have the desired effect Gavin?
    Campbell was a bad choice and QT is rapidly becoming a joke.

  • Comment number 30.

    Just look at the Question Time comments page to see what people think. If Labour can not put up a Shadow Minister, the Conservatives were completely right to do likewise and not engage with the purile cynicism of Campbell. He is the embodiment and architect of all the worst aspects of the Blair/Brown regimes and has nothing original or positive to say. Pull your socks up QT!

  • Comment number 31.

    It's the BBC's show. they decide. Simple as that.

  • Comment number 32.

    Considering that a lot of people consider the BBC to be so biased towards Labour I think that this has just confirmed those peoples views. Allowing ANY spin doctor onto the show is a bad idea. He is not a politician and he is about trying to make Labour look good. But then again, he probably told the BBC he would be on and of course they would have to agree. Maybe its time to have the BBC's charter looked at again. I wouldn't mind seeing adverts on there now and stop paying the TV TAX!

  • Comment number 33.

    I just wonder who the Coalition Government think they are. They have no right to dictate to the BBC who can and cannot appear on the show. Alistair Campbell may not be an elected MP but he is a very important political figure and his views are in my opinion worth listenening to.

    This is obviously the ConDems view of a fair society - you can have whatever you like as long as they don't face any opposition or people more able than them to argue the toss. I wonder how long the marriage made in hell will last.

    If the ConDems want to be seen as the new face of politics in this country they have to understand what democracy is about. Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg are not fit to be in power if they cant't get to grips with the basics.

    This is within the first 2 weeks - what else do they think they can dish out and the public will swallow it.

    We all know what happens to dictators eventually.

  • Comment number 34.

    Downing Street is right. If Labour can't field a front-bench spokesperson (preferably elected), then why should the tories? Aside from this, Campbell's record as a manipulator of democracy (most notably re the Iraq dossier) and his behaviour re David Kelly, makes him someone I would prefer to see less on our screens, not more.
    His 'performance' last night - mainly unmoderated by Dimbleby as Campbell rudely interrupted and imposed what sounded like unevidenced bluster - proves the point.

  • Comment number 35.

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

  • Comment number 36.

    It's only a television show, for heaven's sake! What's to get excited about?

  • Comment number 37.

    No 10 were quite right. The programme turned into the "Alistair Campbell Show" ! David Dimbleby was a terrible Chairman - completely biased, making contentious comments and allowing AC & Piers Morgan to overshout the others. Its time for a new Chairman to take over who can direct a civilised discussion of the questions - not just allow point scoring. Also, please give each member of the audience a Number Card, so that they can be easily identified when they want to speak.

  • Comment number 38.

    Personally I am in favour of anything that prevents this odeous man from appearing on my television, just a shame they failed really.

    That an un-elected professional liar, sorry spin doctor, should raise such a fuss just shows the BBC for what it truly is.

  • Comment number 39.

    My understanding of Question Time is that it's a forum for the general public to ask questions of, and receive answers from our duly elected representatives. I take this to imply that there will be elected representatives from each of the major Parties, as well as a couple of "interested parties" to even up the panel and provoke discussion.

    I watched the programme last night, for a while before turning over. This was actually because there was no elected representative from Labour and the Lib Dem was an ex-representative. While I dislike the man intently, there was no problem with having Piers Morgan on to bolster the Labour side. I reached this conclusion without knowing at the time that all this had taken place behind the scenes.

    My view is that it was wrong of Question Time to have allowed Alistair Campbell to take the place of an elected representative, although he could have been included AS WELL AS one. So I fully understand the coalition reaction. Who would enter into such a programme knowing that there were, in effect, two spin doctors as the opposition who have various axes to grind but none of the responsibilities that election places on them. The BBC might have been upholding a point of principle, but it has sullied its name in so doing, and I now believe it is indeed biased toward Labour (I didn't want to believe what other correspondents said about BBC not being impartial, previously). A sad day for principle.

  • Comment number 40.

    Refusing to send a representative to appear on Question Time was a bit of an own goal for this new government. If the Conservatives/Lib Dems continue with this policy of arrogance they will soon lose support of the public.

  • Comment number 41.

    It was a particularly partisan audience on this show as well. I can't say I recall Alastair Campbell being applauded quite so much anywhere else. Isn't the audience picked on the basis of their party affiliation?

  • Comment number 42.

    Yet another sign of Cameron’s lie of wishing to take control away from Government and give it back to the people. First the 5 year fixed term, then the imposed influence on the 1922 Committee, academy schooling, and the likely reversal of the fox-hunting ban, none offering debate, and now they want to control who we see on TV. So soon into their term, just how despotic could this government become?

  • Comment number 43.

    The Government is right. If the BBC wants to ensure fairness and balance then it should have made sure that an elected Labour MP was invited and not an unelected spin doctor.

    Shame on the BBC.

  • Comment number 44.

    Of course it was right to invite Campbell, and even more right to refuse the Governments request to get him uninvited. We live in a democracy and we have the right to hear the views of prominent people irrespective of whether they have been elected or not. Campbell is very close to the centre of the labour party, and has interesting views which make the programme more lively. I don't agree with many of his views but he does have the right to be heard, definitely as much as Max Hastings for example.
    Imagine if the BBC had backed down and agree to his request, the Government then would start doing it every week, and insisting that Joe Bloggs or whoever else they don't like is removed before they would allow one of their people to appear.

  • Comment number 45.

    When did a Mexican stand off do anything other than delay the inevitable.

  • Comment number 46.

    The BBC is right that the Government cannot dictate who it has on the show. But that is not what they did. They simply said that if Campbell was on the show, they would not appear, as is their right (whether you agree with their decision or not). While I am not convinced they should have declined to appear, they have a legitimate point that debating with a front-bencher from the main opposition is the least they could have expected. For all Campbell's snorts about the Government not appearing in Queen's Speech week, why would no Labour shadow minister appear either?

    Generally, I am a very strong supporter of the BBC in the face of unjustified attacks by and on behalf of the Murdochracy. In this instance, I think the BBC is getting above itself.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think the Govt were very naive in their approach.
    The BBC in it's usual Biased way was trying to pander to it's lost friends in Nulab by putting up Campbell as the "opposition" - let's face it most of the rest of the Nulab crowd are so useless they would have been toast in this debate - what they should have done was put up Clegg or even Cameron himself to expose how Campbell's stooges blair and brown have wrecked the UK.
    Instead the scored a bit of an own goal by allowing the chief spin master free rain (although Redwood did a pretty good job!).
    Still, thank goodness Campbell really doesn't matter any more, he and Nulab are consigned to the political history bin.

  • Comment number 48.

    I agree with No. 10. It seems ok for the BBC to criticise No 10 for not having a front bencher on the panel during the week of the Queen's speech but they think it is OK to have an un-elected labour spin doctor on instead of a labour frontbencher (or were the opposition also not able to comply). Last night's panel was predictable and boring and I turned over to another channel halfway through.

  • Comment number 49.

    I would hope that there is no hidden agenda working behind the scenes in Question Time and that the editor decides who gets an invitation to appear on the programme; whether they choose to accept or not is up to the individual.

    The only thing I would question is the role played by David Dimbleby. I thought he was there to chair the programme, I wouldn't expect him to sit there quietly,but he certainly gets too involved with answers given by the panel to the questions asked by the audiecne, to the point that he sometimes appears quite biased - surely this is not how it is supposed to be?

  • Comment number 50.

    How left wing the BBC has become ,the next host on Have I Got News For You is John Prescott. This sums up this so called impartial organsisation

  • Comment number 51.

    If you can object to him being on there because he's 'not a front bencher', then what about all the other non-politicians on there?

    It looks like they thought the 'king of spin' was going to give them too much of a hard time and get more emotive rounds of applause than them, which is sadly what the show is geared towards.

  • Comment number 52.

    Absolutely brilliant, this could be the beginning of the Murdoch onslaught, Murdoch met Cameron at No 10 [Private Eye] there could be a connection. Cameron's hench man Coulson [ prosecuted for bullying] worked for Murdoch. Well done BBC for making a good start; could be a good idea to hear what Clegg and Cable think of this - well done again !!!

  • Comment number 53.

    New goverment, new politics, terrified of Alastair Campbell, Pathetic.

  • Comment number 54.

    This was the worst Question Time I have watched. Mr Dimbleby's chairperson skills were sadly missing as he constantly let Alistair Campbell interrupt and behave as a petulant child. I know the BBC is accused of left wing bias but on last night's show it is hard not to agree with that view. Other panel members were not allocated equal time and Mr Dimbleby needs to display some neutrality as he did nothing to try and give balance to the programme.

    Sadly, the quality of Question Time is in decline and the BBC needs to look seriously at the format. Perhaps we need a new Chair person?

  • Comment number 55.

    I think the Government were correct. Mr. Campbell was not elected and so why should he represent the opposition. I think this shows just how arrogant he is and how much power he wielded in New Labour and probably still does.

    I also thought his performance was awful. He still thinks the WMD was not a lie. And his defence of New Labour's record on education was laughable. Tony Blair's son went to a selective school and then on to Harvard. Diane Abbot's son went to an independent school so did Harriet Harman's the equalities minister. This whole regime is a joke.

    New Labour should get rid of these arrogant, know it all, do it my way or else hypocrites.

  • Comment number 56.

    Of course the government should not control / seek to control who is invited / not invited onto a TV show. It is the thin end of a wedge that would end in state control of media like China or Russia. I don't particularly like Mr Campbell, remembering his bullying approach over the Iraq fiasco, but that doesn't mean the government have the right to silence him any more than he should have the right to silence anti-war opinion.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am a little concerned at the possible erosion of our democracy with this attempt by the government to influence and possibly control the BBC. This in line with other policies - eg fixed term parliament with 55% rule, setting up academies reducing our influence democratically with county councils.

  • Comment number 58.

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

  • Comment number 59.

    In this very important week in UK politics, the programme should have invited an elected member of the opposition to take part and not the grand spin master, Campbell.
    No 1 has stated that the BBC should justify why it invites so many non politicians. Most of the non politicians are well known for their political views.
    Are all the elected members of the Labour opposition too feeble to face a member of the new government in case the questions are just too awkward?
    The Question Time editor whould have used a bit of common sense.

  • Comment number 60.

    Why did the BBC roll out Alistair Campbell ? Why should an ELECTED representative appear next to this man ? of whom we are heartily sick.

    An unelected spin doctor at the heart of the problems of the last government and a large part of why people started to mis-trust politics. A loud opinionated man who will never accept any logical, reasoned or true argument that contradicts his own self-belief.

    The BBC has done itself a diservice by talking of "principle" whilst clearly inviting a labour attack Dog onto a program hoping to get a great show - the BBC are wingeing because the Government would not go along with the BBC's strategy of creating a loud argumentative controversial TV program.

    Shame on the BBC actually - and it is obvious. Shows some bias .. there's a new Government - you are NOT the opposition.

  • Comment number 61.

    It is up to the producers of any TV show to select guests according to how they wish the balance of the panel to be made up.

    It is up to each guest invited to decide if they wish to participate or not.

    It's not up to a guest to decide who else ought to participate. If they don't like the other guests, then don't go along.

    So what's the fuss all about?

  • Comment number 62.

    Totally agree with the Government on this one. Campbell is an un elected mouth box and his opinions are no longer relevant. Especially now that the new labour project has been resigned to history.

  • Comment number 63.

    The fact that this even arises is a sad indictment on the decline in quality of mainstream media and the BBC in particular. What relevance are the views of an unaccountable spin doctor. If the BBC tried to debate issues rather than spin a bit more people like the Iraq dossier manipulating Campbell wouldn't be invited in the first place.

  • Comment number 64.

    Thank goodness we have a government that is no longer in league with the BBC. Alistair Campbell is not and has never been elected, and he is allowed far too much time on air. It is about time his manipulative power is curtailed.

  • Comment number 65.

    While I agree that the BBC should choose who to ask onto their programmes, I think many people are tired of Alistair Campbell. In recent months he has a) broken down emotionally on TV b) has riled a journalist so much that the emotional explosion was a top player on Youtube. I was shocked last night when he again would not apologise over
    the Iraq war dosier. Aside from that he looks like he is nearly out of control. While this may be entertaining for some journalists and others- I would have prefered someone from the cabinet and someone from the shadow cabinet this week. I also thought that the panel was strangely put together as Piers Morgan was on with Alistair Campbell- ie 2 people know as friends of Brown and Blair rather than MPs or Cabinet members. The whole panel was badly thought out. It is up to the BBC obviously , but I would have thought that AListair Campbell is now old hat. I want to see new faces - new cabinet faces, new MPS and interesting debate - last night was like some re run from 10 years ago. In my opinion!!!!

  • Comment number 66.

    Let us not forget that Piers Morgan was sacked by the Mirror newspaper for publishing hoax photographs of the British Army abusing Iraqi prisoners.

    Anything this odious man says should be taken with a very large pinch of salt

  • Comment number 67.

    Question Time has, like the BBC, a Left-wing bias and picks it's audience. I wouldn't blame anyone for not wanting to appear on it, just to be shot down.

  • Comment number 68.

    Let's not get too hung up on 'unelected' members of the panel. The Tories often put up their chairman, Sayeeda (Baroness) Warsi who is an unelected peer, having stood once and lost comprehensively. Not only is she unelected but as a life peer is unelected for life ...

  • Comment number 69.

    It sounds as though the BBC has been put in its place at long last. Of course number 10 should decide what ministers do instead of the BBC. The government were elected after all; who voted for the BBC.

    The BBC striking an attitude about points of “fundamental principle” over this matter simply shows how far up themselves this self important organisation has become. Hopefully this is the first move in a campaign to humble not only the BBC but the entire public sector which was allowed to become too powerful and arrogant under Labour.

  • Comment number 70.

    Simple answer, the BBC.

    This government is starting to look like a dictatorship, firstly trying to take control of the 1922 committee and now trying to tell us whose words we can listen too.

  • Comment number 71.

    The BBC is yet again capitalising on a total non story. Question Time is minority viewing at best. The arrogance is incredible, if the Government does not wish to appear because it finds one of the panel objectionable good for them. It is not compulsorary that they go on just to suit the BBC. Perhaps they could have got Cheryl Cole or Katie Price instead. Grow up BBC and stop behaving like the spoiled brat you are!

  • Comment number 72.

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

  • Comment number 73.

    The Government were wrong not to send a minister on QT. If they want more dialogue with the general public, then they should take every opportunity that is offered.
    I think the coalition know that if they provided a minister, then Campbell would have torn into them, because he tells things as they are, and not the spin ministers like to put on things. That is how I want ministers to be able to do, tell it how it is.
    And as for Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer telling us on QT last night that none of the parties were honest when it came to the economy, says to me she didn't take any notice at all to the previous Chancellors policy and strategy announcments.

    If you look at what the previous Government had said over the past 18 months in relation to the economy, then all you can say is that they (Labour) were right. In fact the results that are starting to come out show that Labour's predications on how the economy was going to do and how the deficit would be tackled were not only spealt out before and during the election but they were correct on every step they took.
    It is also right that if Labour had gone with the suggestions the Tories made, we would be in more of a mess right now with higher unemployment.

    Before anyone slags off Labour, think about this. Do you think the Tories would have made the massive investment in our schools, hospitals, Police etc. etc. Do you think we would have a more fairer society. Quite clearly the answer is NO. Then ask yourself, how do I really want to live and be governed.

    There is something clearly wrong with what has happened in this election which has resulted in this coalition. Things will fall apart before the end of the year and I think it will start with Vince Cable, why? One clear answer is that he had no reason to resign as Deputy Leader of the Liberals. He has effectively in a sense, shut off his identity and beliefs in Liberal Democrats.

  • Comment number 74.

    I think the bigger question is why does Campbell have so much influence in the Labour Party? He has never stood for election and has no mandate whatsoever to voice anything other than a personal opinion. So why is he representing the Labour Party?

    The BBC has long been a mouthpiece for Labour, so well done to Number 10 for pushing back on them. Question Time is nothing without Government participation. The same cannot be said for the reverse.

  • Comment number 75.

    "16. At 09:48am on 28 May 2010, Jade wrote:

    The Question Time team should be allowed to invite who they want. It is not for any government to dictate the scenario."

    And the government, by the same token, should be allowed to decline. They were not trying to dictate the scenario. No. 10 was objecting to the fact that the Labour representative was not an elected MP.

    As someone has already said, to dress this up as the state controlling the media is ridiculous. This is Campbell whipping up a storm in a teacup and the first, I think, of many attempts by Labour to try and undermine the coalition at any point they can. It's petty, it's trivial, it's enormously hypocritical (Alistair Campbell complaining about the government trying to manipulate the media? Two words Alistair - HUTTON ENQUIRY) and it's exactly what I've come to expect from Labour over the last few years so frankly I'm not in the least bit surprised.

  • Comment number 76.

    I don't think Campbell should be on the panel - I am sick to death of him - he is old news not current - he is not a labour MP - he is not elected in anyway - he is a spin doctor - this age I hope is dead and he is not relevant in 2010.

    I did not vote Tory/LD but I have beem impressed so far.

    QT MUST move away from this Labour bias they have - it is making the programme unwatchable.

    The government I believe was correct in its decsion not top attend -

    Perhaps a boycott would be good until things change - the BBC needs to get its act together - this was very poor indeed AC should not have been invited especially now - what on earth has he got to do with the Queens speech content - he has no authority to comment ?

  • Comment number 77.

    The Government is entitled to say who it will put up and under what conditions. QT is entitled to tell them to take a hike. Are you seriously saying this has never happened before? Or does it only count as news when the Tories are in government?

    And never mind just "how should QT panellists be chosen?". What about the audiences, clapping like seals at any Labour pronouncement, who appear to have about as much relationship to the general spread of public opinion as Mr Campbell does to flower arranging?

  • Comment number 78.

    The Government was entirely within its rights to refuse to participate in a programme featuring Alastair Campbell on the panel.

    The BBC also behaved quite properly in refusing to let the Government dictate who would be on the panel to represent the Opposition.

    The end result was fine - Campbell retained quite properly by the BBC and a Government Minister replaced by John Redwood.

    I fail to see any problem here.

  • Comment number 79.

    The programme name, 'Question Time', matches the normally daily parliamentary 'Question Time'. The use of non-elected people on the programme, whilst perhaps at times useful or necessary due to availability, should be held to account. It is the UK public who pay for the BBC, the same UK public who vote for the government of the day. Downing Street have every right to question the lack of a shadow minister on Question Time and also the attendance of Alistair Campbell who played such a central role, unelected, in the previous government. Alistair Campbell cannot be held accountable but was clearly centrally involved in the previous government. It is not appropriate to have a government minister face off against this, when effectively, Alistair has nothing to lose and everything to gain by seeking to diminish or rebuke the sitting government.

    I am extremely disappointed that the BBC acted in this way in response to the Downing Street request. The comments made by the BBC are arrogant and disrespectful. I think the BBC needs to remember that it should remain impartial; it may believe itself to be independent but the reality is that it is the UK public who fund the corporation, and they deserve better than what has been shown this week.

  • Comment number 80.

    Lots of people are criticising the BBC for inviting Campbell but no one complains when the Tory propaganda machine appears on the panel.

    As for how Campbell had baited Adam Boulton, let's not pretend that Boulton is some impartial broadcaster. Look at his shocking breach of the rules regarding the Lib Dems in the PM debates.

    The Tories really never change. A load of rich boys supported by other rich boys. So much for Cameron's cleaning up politics.

  • Comment number 81.

    Two things occur to me about this.
    1. If it is up to the BBC to decide who they invite on the panel, why then ring up Downing street and ask their permission to invite a Government minister?
    2. Why did The BBC invite a spin doctor/mixer (has been) like Alistair Campell anyway?
    And why fill up the panel with a several more has beens?

  • Comment number 82.

    This is just the BBC trying to make the news instead of reporting it. It is a total NON-event. If you look on the ITN and SKY news webpages the "story" is not even mentioned.

  • Comment number 83.

    So much for the new politics. Like him or not, Campbell has every right to be there, and it seems childish of the conservatives to not send a minister unless labour does, and a bit sad they are trying to exert influence on an impartial broadcaster. And in fairness to labour, they never complained like this when the boot was on the other foot.

  • Comment number 84.

    Mr Campbell is the embodiment of what has been wrong with british politics for the last 13 years - Spin spin spin, as long as we get away with it, the country can rot.

    We need to see the end of this approach if we're to get any integrity back into politics.

    So why is the BBC so determined to give the man a platform for his crude misrepresentations and lies?

  • Comment number 85.


  • Comment number 86.

    1 elected representative, which was from the largest party. 4 unelected reps. 3 journalists knocking seven bells out of each other. This was entertainment not serious question time. Campbell has had more influence than is healthy for any unelected person for too long. No doubt he was trying to affect our democracy in the final hours of Brown's leadership. This was a shocking episode for the BBC. The government was entirely correct to avoid this lion's den of personal egos. It was worse then the Nick Griffin episode but this had some democratic logic to it. Perhaps the researchers were tired after a long campaign and deserve a holiday.

  • Comment number 87.

    The Government is entitled to be as petty and as pathetic as it likes.

  • Comment number 88.

    I suspect that the motivation behind the selection of Mr Campbell for the panel was the certainty that he would provide sensation, would 'give good tele' because he is a skilled, articulate and fearless debater. In his pomp he did more than most to devalue the coinage of political integrity; now that he and his fellow machinators are a busted flush one can hardly blame Downing Street for wanting to reinvigorate public discourse.

  • Comment number 89.

    It is quite amazing that in the week of the Queens speech that QT didnt invite a shadow first minister.

    I think that is the point that the government were making.

    However I do object to the fact that the BBC allowed AC to attack David Laws when he wasnt present. That seemed like collusion.

    A very poor show - the BBC cant handle AC he makes them look like "usefull idiots"!

  • Comment number 90.

    What a cheek Campbell has. Its only a TV program...its entertainment, not PMs question time in the house. From that point of view its completely irrelevant and absolutely nothing to do with democracy in this country. TV programs have assumed importance way above their station but that's more of a reflection of our society...Big Brother, X-Factor.

  • Comment number 91.

    Why didn't the BBC invite an elected Labour M.P.?

    What mandate does Alistair Campbell possess?

  • Comment number 92.

    The BBC giving Campbell so much airtime irritates me hugely, and last night was the first time I have not wathed a QT for ages. It's all very well the BBC insisting that they aren't dictated to by any party as to who appears on the panel, and to an extent they have a point.

    However, they are failing to provide a decent standard programme if the best they can come up with for the view from the left is a publicity-seeking ex-editor of a red-top tabloid and a guy whose job was to be a professional liar, elected by nobody, representing nobody and accountable to nobody. Campbell could come on and say whatever he wants, make whatever accusations or gross exaggerations he wants and there would be no comeback. What possible benefit could there be for the government to waste the time of a top minister appearing on a programme that the BBC had turned into an irrelevance?

  • Comment number 93.

    The producers of Question Time have every right to invite anyone they like. We didn't see people opting out when Nick Griffin of the BNP was on the show a few months back. The real reason for the Tories asking for Mr Campbell to be removed is because they fear him - he was part of the team that kept the Tories in the political wilderness for 13 years. As much as I can't stand the spin aspect of what he does, he is only doing his job. The media villify him because he knows how to play them. I thought Alistair Campbell was an excellent choice of guest - he made some good points, received several rounds of applause during the show, and is one of the few people associated with the Labour party who has the guts to defend their policies over their term in office - not everything labour did was bad.

    The tory / lib Dem pact is a minority government doomed to failure. They've already changed the rules to suit themselves on votes of no-confidence, renaged on several manifesto pledges and now they want to control the media. Well done BBC for telling them where to go.

  • Comment number 94.

    Question Time used to be a flag bearer for fair and honest democratic debate in this country. Not any more.

    If the BBC are serious about this programme it should ensure that the government and opposition parties are represented by elected MPs each week and it must also cut down on the number of media types invited who spout out their biased tabloid views.

  • Comment number 95.

    The posts already made speak for themselves.
    Campbell is not elected and does not represent the Opposition Party, he is a paid consultant. The government made the correct decision. Nothing story. The BBC are just doing a bit of self publicity.

  • Comment number 96.

    The government were right not to join in with this pantomime. Who wants to hear Campbell defending his role in the Iraq war, abusing and talking over the other memebers of the panel? His tour of media outlets today, to defend himself, is no surprise.

    This is supposed to be serious political debate- cut back on the journalists, yesterday’s media players, ex whatever’s and get more elected MPS on.

  • Comment number 97.

    Well this is it folks, new way of doing politics as Dave likes to tell us. Firstly tell everyone that you are going to scrap Labours job tax, then scrap only the employers part. No wonder all those wonderfull business leaders signed a letter. Fix the voting system so that you can stay in power for five years. Try to neuter the 1922 club so there is no internal opposition and now try to dictate to the BBC who they can have on their panel. I seem to remember a political party somewhere in Europe in the 1930s doing similar things. Yes this is new open politics.

  • Comment number 98.

    I'm definitely with the government on this one. Regardless of our political persuasion there is a principle that we elect politicians to represent our views and to publicly hold each other to account. There is something sinister and insidious when those elected representatives hide behind and delegate their authority and responsibilities to unelected freelancers. The perception of labour as a party dominated by some unelected dictatorial elite contributed as much to their election downfall as any economic factors. If they are to gain back any credibility as a democratic body they need to bury the Campbell/Mandelson voices and let the elected representatives speak.

  • Comment number 99.

    Why is BBC not criticising Labour putting up a non elected, ex employee and ex spin doctor to pontificate on Labour policy or possible policy in repsonse to a voters question. If BBC or Labour cannot be fagged to have a proper Labour MP on then why should Government? Having a lot of non elected people to pontificate degardes the show. QT had John Redwood who is elected.
    BBC should have had a Labour, Lib Dem and Tory Gov't minister plus the other ragtag people.

  • Comment number 100.

    37. At 10:05am on 28 May 2010, Ronterra wrote:

    No 10 were quite right. The programme turned into the "Alistair Campbell Show" ! David Dimbleby was a terrible Chairman - completely biased, making contentious comments and allowing AC & Piers Morgan to overshout the others. Its time for a new Chairman to take over who can direct a civilised discussion of the questions - not just allow point scoring. Also, please give each member of the audience a Number Card, so that they can be easily identified when they want to speak.

    How about a guest host each week like they do on Have I Got News For You?

    Both programmes are comedy shows aren't they?


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