Last night on BBC1 the panel of Question Time from Birmingham consisted of Politicians from two main Political Parties, Ken Clarke (Conservative) and Andy Burnham (Labour). Both men have had Ministerial careers. There were three other panel members. One was Douglas Carswell (UKIP), a party that has widely been identified as having had hugely disproportionate access to the Question Time and the Any Question panel compared to their electoral success. In recent weeks it has been shown via twitter that the BBC has targeted UKIP members to join the Question Time audience, wheras most other people in the audience of the show are supposed to answer questions to avoid political parties from dominating the show. Although the show went out on the night of a by-election there were no other parties represented on the panel. No Lib Dem, no Green, no SNP or Plaid Cymru even though both parties could be part of a rainbow coalition in May 2015.
The panel was made up of five people and the other two members were not invited on the basis of any party political allegiance and thank goodness, bearing in mind that the three Politicians were all white men, the other two members were women from different ethnic backgrounds. One was Yasmin Alibhai-Brown who regularly appears on TV programmes commentating on a number of issues. The final person, Dia Chakravarty was invited due to her role as the Political Director of the Tax Payers Alliance. What is unclear and at the heart of my question for David and his team is why did the BBC give such a prestigious platform to a lobby group that is so closely linked to the Conservative Party, particularly when the panel included one Tory and one MP who was a Tory until a few weeks ago. Why in any case invite a Lobby Group to send a representative onto a show like Question Time when there are so many Charities or even Businesses with first rate CEOs and Senior Officers or Trustees who could have brought in a different sort of voice and tenor to the event?
Perhaps it is because the Producer does not have any suitable names on their list? I have a few suggestions: Debra Allcock-Tyler from Directory of Social Change, Ruth Valerio from A-Rocha, Catherine Johnstone CEO of Samaritans or Denise Hatton of YMCA come immediately to mind. All four people are excellent speakers and have experiences and skills that were all to evident by their absence last night. Casting further afield what about Paula Sussex of the Charity Commission? I am sure other people could help with names of their own. The point is we could do so much better, both in terms of Party Politicians as well as those who are supposed to provide a counterbalance. Please David, would you refresh your address book or lets refresh the whole format?