Friday, November 27, 2009

Time to Question When the #BBCFail

Earlier this week Jo Swinson tweeted that she had been dropped from the BBC Question Time panel in Edinburgh less than 48 hours before it was scheduled. What we ended up getting was the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, up against Blair's good mate Derry Falconer, David Davis of the Tories, comedian Marcus Brigstocke and Daily Fail columnist Melanie Philips. Apart from part of Lord Falconer's education being in Scotland none of the others has much Scottish experience.

The questions were largely predictable.

  • The Iraq Inquiry - but the one party that wasn't fooled by Blair's dossier weren't on the panel.
  • Jim Murphy's White Paper - Neither Falconer nor Davis seemed to know what their parties were up to on this, and the most pro-Calman party of the three co-sponsors was not represented.
  • There was the question of the leaked emails over climate change - to be fair most of the others handled Melanie Philips quite well on this question.
  • There was a question about the bank winning their supreme court appeal - the former Lord Chancellor took the bankers side, others including David Davis did say there was more to the issue with banks. One of the audience members ended up having to bring the Lib Dem point about the banks being penalised for their own overdraft rather than the tax payers.
  • There was also the issue of the SNP's alcohol plans. Only two of the Scottish parties that I am aware of have had a debate on these issues at full conference. Both were in the Autumn of 2008 and there were different road maps drawn up. Of course one of those parties was not represented by the dropping of Jo Swinson.
All in all it was a disgrace for the BBC to unilaterally stifle the angle of debate by omitting a Lib Dem when we already knew the areas that were going to come up for discussion. They also brought in four English based representatives unto the panel in Edinburgh. Jo Swinson once she was up in Scotland would have stayed up for constituency business so would not have been a wasted journey for a one hour show.

Also the question on Calman and indeed alcohol allowed Nicola Sturgeon free-reign to tar all the other three main parties in Scotland with the same brush, when as I've pointed out above on a number of occasions that is not so.

This is the second time in the last month that there has not been a Lib Dem on the Question Time panel. The BBC are already shifting into two party politics before we get to the stage where they have to be balanced before the general election. They are setting their own narrow political agenda and ignoring the fact that there is active, visible and viable difference of opinion to issues.

Were they running scared of debate, or was someone else on the panel running scared of debate? But to drop a political representative with less than 48 hours notice, especially when their party had differing views on a number of the weeks topical debates is a disgrace from the BBC. It never happens to Labour or the Conservatives. But it has happened in a city where the leaders on the council, with two MSPs, one MP and challenging for two more, is just the sort of city where Lib Dem opinion is strong.

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