Friday 14 June 2013


Like many other people, I wrote a letter of complaint to the BBC over the choice of panelists for last night's 'Question Time'.

The BBC will, I am sure, in due course, acknowledge that I have written to them and will doubtless come up with some long winded management speak gobbledegook reply, about overall balance, and period of referendum campaign, etc.

In a debate clearly meant to be largely about the referendum (why otherwise invite an audience of only 16 and 17 year olds?*), it was odd that neither the YES campaign nor the NO campaign was invited to take part. Instead of that  the Respect MP from Bradford and the UKIP MEP for South East England were invited.

A cynic might think that with the dual disadvantage for UK viewers of the programme coming from Edinburgh, and having questions supposedly framed by 16 and 17 year olds, the largely English audience would give it a miss and  the ratings would suffer. So to spice it up, why not bring in two well known hopefully adversarial figures from England, to make the tv audience feel less alienated? (After all, the English audience neither know, nor care, who Robertson, Davidson, Riddoch or Sarwar are, and both Galloway and Farage are good tv.)

I'm glad to know that, among all the letters of complaint from unimportant ordinary people like me, the BBC will also have received a letter from the unaffiliated Electoral Reform  Society of Scotland. They may have to put a little more effort into answering this one.

Dear Ms Valentine

The Electoral Reform Society in Scotland seeks to inform and improve Scotland's democracy. With that in mind, we have being undertaking an inquiry into what a good Scottish democracy looks like.

A major theme that has emerged from this year long, citizen led inquiry, is the importance of the media to instruct, publicise and inform the debate. There has been support for a publicly funded media provider, but a strong sense that that body should be impartial and should seek to provide balanced and informed coverage of politics. Clearly this is of particular concern in the run up to the 2014 referendum.

We were concerned therefore to see the lineup for the BBC Question Time programme to be held in Edinburgh this evening (Thursday 13th June). Not only does the selection of panellists fail to represent the makeup of Scottish politics, but it also seems to be aimed more at pantomime than serious debate.

That this should be the case when the audience is, very pleasingly, to be made up of 16 and 17 year olds in recognition of the extension of the franchise to that group for the referendum is  worrying.

It seems to  show a lack of respect for these young audience members - implying that they do not deserve serious political debate. It also fails to allow them to hear from their elected representatives in this public debate forum which receives the widest of political attention. Two of the parties which will be competing for their vote in 2014 are unrepresented and the Yes and Better Together campaigns are needlessly unequally represented. Were this not bad enough, available spaces on the platform are taken instead by George Galloway MP and Nigel Farage MEP, two individuals and parties who are not represented in Scotland.

We welcome the decision to involve 16 and 17 year olds in a public debate about the referendum, but the chosen panelists do those 16 and 17 year olds a disservice as they will not be able to hear from the parties who represent them and who will be seeking their vote in 2014.

We would ask the BBC to urgently reconsider the panel, and at the very least to re-schedule a repeat of this edition of Question Time, but with a panel representative of Scottish politics that respects the BBC's role to be impartial and equal.

Yours sincerely

Willie Sullivan

* The programme actually was divided up by topic as follows (thanks for Rev Stu's research)

(By the way, I'd like to make it clear that I have not watched the programme. I wouldn't give them the audience numbers. My complaint is about the makeup of the panel; the exclusion of two parties which have representation in parliament and the inclusion of two parties which have none.)


  1. Did anyone expect a 'fair fight'?
    The BBC is the propoganda arm of the British state, and will always act in its interest.

    1. Short answer to that Jutie, is no.

  2. Re Syria.
    I can visualise a war in the middle-east, with 'our boys' involved at the time of the referendum.
    Maggies 'Falklands bounce' all over again.

    1. Lordy, I never thought about that, but yes, I Wouldn't put it past them.

      After all these weapons of mass destruction, so sorry chemical weapons (one gets a bit mixed up) could be Edinburgh in 45 minutes, so we'd better get out there and stop them.

      Ah flaw in that argument is Syria doesn't have much oil.... hardly worth it...

  3. Like a lot of folks yesterday I sent in a complaint to the BBC, no doubt it will NEVER see the light of day. Having seen the line up I decided to follow my normal Thursday evening view practice and AVOID BBC Question Time. However, as I read tweet after tweet after tweet on Twitter my curiosity got the better of me and did eventually end up watching QT.

    From what I read and saw it would appear that the BBC's attempt to load the panel in favour of Unionism sort of backfired BIG style last. It started with Angus Robertson and his ATTACK on the BBC and its BIAS against neutrality on its panel and carried on with Lesley Ruddoch coming out in FAVOUR of Independence and ended with Galloway and Farage looking like the couple of complete a******s that we ALL know them to be!

    Rev Stu has a good piece about last night's programme, well TWO pieces actually, and but it is his first piece I found interesting. WHAT on earth was that poor wee lassie thinking about when she tried to put down the SNP for NOT supporting FREE education in Scotland? Was she a plant, plain stupid, misinformed or just plain out of her mind on drugs?

    Finally as an amendment to the graph you have at the top of this piece Tris I found thisk link on Twitter last night If you click on dear old Nige's name you can work through to a list of ALL of his Question Time appearances ALL 22 of them NOT counting last night's blockbuster!

    1. nah, ye'll get an answer Arbroath. It will be the same as mine, generated by a computer.

      I wasn't really that surprised when I read Stu's piece about the girl who didn't seem to realise that the only way she would get free education would be under an SNP government, and probably only in an independent Scotland. After all if they keep on cutting our grant and don't let us have control over our money (which would mean them going without something as we currently subsidise them) we won't be able to afford that.

      Funny that Iceland can afford that though all 380,000 of them, even under right wing governments!!

      Thanks for that list. It makes interesting reading. It's about making good television. Invite a controversial character ever although until very recently he had no real base in the country. He of course is delighted. They give you free drink at the BBC.

  4. tris

    ' By the way, I'd like to make it clear that I have not watched the programme. '

    Umm ! that would be the mary whitehouse syndrome then ???

    1. I thought someone might say that. So that was why I added my reason for complaint Niko. It was unfair to leave out the Greens and the Liberals and to include two English MPs whose parties have no representation in Scotland for Edinburgh, Brussels or Westminster...or indeed for any councils. In short, no mandate at all.

      And all this Niko, so that the English, Welsh and NI audience would not be bored by a bunch of McHicks and turn off.

  5. tris

    Me I am all for condemning Alex Salmonds next speech although
    haven't heard it or read and know nothing abaht it.

    1. Well, if you know some reason why he shouldn't be giving it then I see no reason why you shouldn't complain.

  6. I watched the programme and could not believe the two-faced holier than thous attitude taken by Galloway. Robertson quite rightly complained, and got cheered. about the lack of balance in the participants and Galloway tried to turn it round by claiming that Scotland, of all places, was intolerant of others and that this was typical SNP.

    Obviously sour grapes because he was rejected by Scottish voters on two occasions that I recall. Then, astonishingly he spoke in favour of UKIP whose policies, if he was the person he pretends to be, he should be utterly and publicly opposing.

    Sarwar needless to say joined Galloway in criticising the SNP but his contribution was less than impressive. Davidson did not say much but conducted herself reasonable well. Lesley Riddoch of the Scotsman was extremely effective and probably the most impressive performer on show and cut Galloway down to size and emphasised her commitment to independence.

    Bumblebee got quite agitated and flustered with Angus Robertson and his impartially should be under scrutiny especially after comments he made in England when Nicola Sturgeon was on question-time down there.

    Don't worry Niko, your better together pals would probably beat you to it!

    1. Thanks for the summary, John.

      Dumbledore is a biased old goat who should have been retired years ago. He only got the job in the beeb because of his father. He's a hopeless chairman for a show like this. He must be replaced soon.

      I never worried about Davidson being on any show. She's bound to be lacklustre, and lets face it Anas Sarwar is just a joke. Even the Lamont woman would make more of a fist of it than he would.

      Galloway is to quote Disraeli... a sophisticated rhetorician inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and to glorify himself.

      Imagine him agreeing with Farage about anything. It's obviously a case of my enemy's enemy must be my friend. And that is disgusting.

      I usually think that Angus, although pretty clever, is rather boring and long winded, so I'm glad he was good, and it if he got a round of applause for pointing out how biased the setup was, then good.

      Lesley Riddoch coming out of the closet and declaring herself to be pro indey, was also something they didn't imagine would happen, I guess.

      Things keep backfiring.

      Bumblehead was bang out of order when he told the DFM off for daring to point out how things were done in Scotland. God knows we in Ireland, Wales and Scotland spend our lives listening to what is happening in England

  7. Many moons ago, I was on the GMC of the Labour party in Dundee. I was there as a union rep. George was the star, but was known as Gorgeous George right from the start. His politic viewpoint seemed sound, Nablus et al, but most folk used to laugh when his name was mentioned in the pub later.

    1. He's a bit too 'up himself' (if you pardon the expression) Jutie. I'm sure my granny would say 'abain hissel'...he being a bit more polite than me.

      I wonder how he manages to agree with Nigel Farage on ANYTHING...

  8. What nonsense.
    Galloway and Farage provided a modicum of intelligent comment amongst a sea of parochial small minded twaddle

    1. Have you fed the fairies at the bottom of your garden today?

    2. Why start that with "What nonsense"?

      That is precisely what I said.

      The audience is largely English. To have a panel of totally unknown (to them) unimportant (to them) McHicks and McHayseeds would provide a programme of no interest at all to that audience.

      To each his own opinion about what is "intelligent". On occasions Galloway does say something sensible, and I salute him for his indefatigability, although his audience would understand him a little better if he tried to express himself in terms usually understood by 21st century Scots, rather than Victorians.

      But, again in my opinion, Farage is just an unpleasant little expenses collecting racist boar with a drink issue.

  9. I thought it was interesting that, when Dimbledore announced the panel for next week's QT, the audience groaned when he said "Melanie Philips". It seems, even amongst 16-17 year olds, there's a recognition of QT 's addiction to controversialist grotesques rather than reasonable and informed debate.

  10. Melanie Phillips! Ye gads.

    She does the same for me as the parochial small mindedness of Scottish politicians does for our anonymous contributor above.

    Nothing she says is remotely of interest to Scotland or Scottish people, but because the audience is small in Scotland, the programme makers don't feel inclined to make any adjustments to the panel that might just interest us.

    I'm surprised though that someone of 16 would even have heard of her. Surely 16 year olds don't read the Daily Mail?

    Or maybe it was the production staff groaning. She's probably a prima donna.

  11. I couldn't agree with you more Tris.

    Its been a long time since I gave up on the BBC pretence of impartiality and fairness.

    QT used to be something I really looked forward to. Frankly I barely manage to watch episodes of it all the way through. And Dimbleby needs to be put out to grass. He is confrontational, badgering and hardly capable of managing any sensible discussions.

    Oh and don't even start me on the harridan going by the name of Melanie Phillips.

    1. Yes Dean. A long time ago I liked it, but as i got older I could see that Bumbbubble was only there because he had a "name" at the Beeb, not through any inherent ability.

      I accept that the programmes about Scotland and Scottish politics are not of any great interest to the English or Welsh viewer. Our health service, laws and education, and a vast host of other things, are not the same as ours, and it is boring to sit through discussions on whether colleges should be funded more, or less, if these colleges are not yours.

      In the Celtic countries we are used to that. it's called The News. But there are a lot of English and very few celts, so I accept that they have to make adjustments.

      But diluting such a programme to make it audience friendly in the south is wrong, because it neglected to take the opinions of the Greens and the Liberals into consideration. They are small but nonetheless represented politics in our country. And were sacrifices to bring in two showmen politicians, whose opinions, with respect, are not reflected in the Scottish population.

      Now I have argued that the British government needs to be involved in this debate, because it IS involved in this debate, which is why I say that cameron and Salmond should debate on tv in front of views in Scotland, but I do agree with Cameron that the top people in the UK government aside (because they have the power to change things) the debate is a Scottish one.

      Yes, it will affect England just it will affect the UK if Croatia joins the EU, but I wouldn't expect a referendum in Scotland on whether this should be allowed; nor did I expect one when Greenland left the EU.

      Melanie Phillips is plain awful!

  12. tris

    I work in my pyjamas, David Cameron admits

    Knew he wasnt a real man what real man wears PJs
    me i sleeps in the nuddy as all real men do..

    and all the women i sleeps with prefer me
    that way to.

    1. Jeeez, as if anyone wants to know what he does in his pjs, Niko.

      ALL the women you sleeps with Niko?

      Does Mrs Niko read this blog? I know Taz does; I hope he doesn't snitch on you!!