Coffee House

Was last night’s Question Time a preview of how the coalition will deal with the media?

28 May 2010

11:13 AM

28 May 2010

11:13 AM

All kinds of hoohah about last night’s Question Time, for which Downing St refused to
put up a panellist because of Alastair Campbell’s involvement.  If he was replaced with a shadow minister, they said, they would happily get involved.  But, as the excutive editor of
Question Time explains here, the Beeb wasn’t prepared to go along with that.  So Campbell got to lord it up in
front of the cameras.

For the reasons outlined by Guido and Iain
, it was probably a slight mis-step by the coalition – but not one, in itself, that will have any important rammifications for them or the public.  For while it’s not the
government’s prerogative to decide on the entire Question Time panel, it is their prerogative to choose whether or not they join it.  Last night, they simply chose not to.

This does inspire a wider question, though, about how the government will deal with the media in future.  There’s a sense in coalition circles that many media appearances will just reduce into
attempts to conjure a split story between the Tories and the Lib Dems – especially when an agent provocateur like Campbell is involved.  So don’t be surprised to see Downing St being
fussy about Question Time, and other shows, in future.

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Show comments
  • Joanne Morley

    I don’t know if these Downing Street petitions actually amount to anything, but I think I might sign this one: ‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to abandon TV licence or let us have a choice whether or not to watch BBC…’

  • Archie

    Reluctant as I am to give credit to the Cleggeroons, my reading of this is that they got it spot-on. It’s about time the government of the day set the agenda for what is, after all, a publicly funded body and not pander to said body’s agenda; and to the best of my knowledge Ali C has not been elected and besides John Redwood can more than handle himself; and is it too much to hope that this little skirmish signifies the start of some major aggro for the Beeb? If so, about bloody time! And Verity is spot-on with her suggestion for Sweet Mel!

  • streaky

    You got it all wrong.

    They’ll just only appear on loyal channels owned by rupert murdoch i.e. all of them but the BBC (for now anyways).

    Did at some point we have media ownership regulations in this country anyway?

  • Boudicca

    With Campbell, Morgan and Dimbleby, QT was heavily biased towards the left.

    Cameron was quite right to let the left-wing luvvies talk amongst themselves. They just demonstrate how repulsive they are.

    When the BBC make QT genuinely impartial – for a start by changing the Chairman – perhaps the Tories will take it more seriously. Cameron said that the new Government would not be interested in continuing with Labour’s ‘Politics as Entertainment’ and perhaps this was just the start.

    Good on Cameron.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Is my name being taken in vain? Yes, I am a big fan of David Cameron. He’s a Tory and he’s Prime Minister, isn’t he? What’s not to like? And he’s a Tory prepared to tax the rich. I’m not rich so what’s not to like? The last Tory to tax the rich ws Nigel Lawson, of whom I am also a fan. Oh, and which (female) politician do you fancy? I’m developing a bit of a ting for Angela Merkel. A pity she’s on the way out.


    Frank P, not Tiberius but Fergus who had the hots for his “little chipmunk.” Easy mistake to make though as both were and are among Dave’s most avid and adoring fans.

  • Alcazar

    May 28th, 2010 8:35pm

    I thought she was gagging for it. Apparently she loves it on a bike in leathers.

  • Alcazar

    Lizzy, happy to share my Ladyshave.

  • JohnRS

    The government is not a branch of the entertainment industry, despite the biased BBC’s wish to make it so.

    It would do the BBC a power of good to find that not a single coalition politician at any level would agree to be interviewed for the next 2 or 3 months. I’m sure Sky, ITN, C4 etc would be most happy to provide a platform to replace them. Just how popular would Question Time be if no-one of any influence ever appeared?

    Now the election is over the BBC needs to realise that a government with 5 years ahead of it needs the BBC a lot less than the BBC needs the government…..and, oh yes Auntie, by the way, there’s a TV Tax review in 2012, had you forgotten??

  • Tiberius

    I have to admit, Frank P, to using Google to unravel your Latin reference, and while I don’t remember expressing uncorrect thoughts about this particular fiery red-head (I do own up to Caroline Flint and Isobel Lang), I have to say I thought her body language was something of a draw last night. If anything, her lack of involvement in government has liberated her libido.

    Mind you, who wouldn’t let their hair down after escaping 13 years of subjugation under the Faecal yoke.

  • Lizzy

    Alcazar my dear do steady yourself. As you have quite rightly observed how do you know that I am a woman.

    Whatever my mysterious gender why are you attempting to insult me, or indeed any woman, with that time honoured pathetic excuse for a put down of “time of the month”.

    I suspect you were trying a bit of trolling against my “rant”. Well I seem to be ahead of all the other “ranters”.

    I love it. Now must dash as I need a quick shave, a couple of steaks and a quick work-out before rugger practice.


    Of course the guy who would have wiped the floor, with great gusto and enjoyment, with both Back on the Bottle Campbell and Moron (both ex-D Mirror) would have been the great and good Lord Tebbit.

    Trouble is from the Cameron Green Party point of view, he would have wiped the floor with Dave as well – and just as deservedly so.

  • Alcazar

    Ms Manners
    May 28th, 2010 2:43pm

    You don’t even bother to spell Lizzy’s name correctly and assume that I am a man and Lizzy is a woman.

    Presumptuous, but no more than what is expected from a classless act such as yourself. You should be listening to Woman’s Hour with the rest of the sisterhood.

  • David Ossitt


    “So Tories & LiB Dems will share a QT platform with Nick Griffin but not Alastair Campbell- Pathetic cowards!”

    Well THX that is your opinion and as an avid admirer of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair; one can understand that because of this you probably do not despise Alastair Campbell, even though to many he is an utterly despicable bully.

    You might not like Nick Griffin but he is the leader of a legitimate political party, Campbell is not, Nick Griffin is an elected politician, Campbell is not, Nick Griffin did not lie and falsify documents so that Blair could go to war but Campbell did, Nick Griffin did not hound Weapons Expert Dr David Kelly to an early death but Campbell did, Nick Griffin has never misused his influence to bully the BBC into doing his bidding but Campbell did on a number of occasions.

    The Tories and Lib-Dems are not pathetic cowards; it is just that labour at long last are no longer in power and the arch liar Campbell like his master is a yesterdays man.

  • perdix

    That the public are often poorly informed about policy (of any party) is largely due to the MSM’s preoccupation with “splits” and “rows” rather than rational discussion. Still I suppose they feel they have to do something to increase sales and ratings, but public service? Nah!

  • Polly Gamma

    You’ve absolutely nailed it once again Frank P.

    Big Applause from this household.

  • Frank P


    Campbell – Blackburn/Burnley.

    Yeah, I know, but the ultimate insult is to dis a man’s football obsession. Even his thick skin wouldn’t withstand that barb.

    Btw I expected some protest from you on my objection to Eutamias Minimus being allowed on QT. Has your lust waned now that it’s no longer a member of the government?

  • Victor Southern

    I suppose that I have watched 95% of all the QTs over the past 10 years or so.

    Last night’s episode was about the worst of all. I doubt that I shall bother with it in future. Two slightly mad and disgraced men were allowed to talk for about 60% of the time, over anybody else.

    Dimbleby is fading fast and does not have the energy or mental quickness to control the show.

  • Snowman

    What Robert Eve and nash and Frank P say. Spot on boys.

    cannot bear watching these two unprincipled, rotten minions either. Why should anyone listen to them, what do they represent except for their egos. If there ever was a case against the BBC, the appearance of these two vile unelected has-beens and the selection of the QT audience must be it.

  • jaybs

    I fully back and support the decision to put no one up against Campbell, like Mandelson he is unelected and why should they represent the labour party.

    What do we expect from Campbell cheap PR and what we are coming to expect from the BBC! with the Love In they seem to have with Liebour.

  • David Ossitt

    Sorry it was not two against four; it was two against four plus the very carefully selected left wing audience, so it was two against the many.

  • David Ossitt

    Gavin Allen executive editor of Question Time; gave a self serving explanation as to why he had including the liar and cheat Alastair Campbell in last nights Question Time, this explanation included the following statement.

    “Not only is Alastair Campbell one of the most senior and influential figures in the Labour movement”

    This is self evidently pretentious bollocks.

    What he did not seek to explain was his reasons for having only one elected politician, ‘John Redwood’ on the panel of the five.

    For the first time in many months I did not watch, though I did want to; because it is always a pleasure to listen to John Redwood and the journalist and historian Sir Max Hastings who always brings intelligent argument to any debate.

    But I was aware that they would be outnumbered; by four to one, David Dimbleby no longer pretends to hide his bias in favour of the labour party, the arch liar in chief Campbell, the self opinionated, I am a celebrity, bag of left wing wind Piers(insider dealing)Morgan, and the horrid and ugly Susan Kramer.

    And so she who must be obeyed and I had an early night.

  • Liz Brown

    “senior frizby – mandelbum is swanning it up in one of young Rothschild’s chateaux in Switzerland and whizzing around, in the style to which he has become accustomed, at our expense, in one of YR’s ferraris or whatever the de luxe sports cars of the day is. He is also being tipped for the post of chairman of BP……….the bastard

  • Maggie

    Campbell and Morgan conspired together to create a schaltzy rose- tinted “interview” with Gordon Brown in a failed bid to improve his image. Yesterday, the conspired with the editor and presenter of Question Time to humiliate a Cabinet Minister. They and their BBC co-conspirators are seriously pissed off that they didn’t succeed.

  • Liz Brown

    the biased beeb says it is up to them whom they have on the DD show – equally it is up to No 10 to decide if they want to play that game….they (No 10) are under no obligation to put someone up and they chose, rightly, so not to do. The biased been is forgetting its place in the great scheme of things and has done itself no favours.
    Why were both Campbell and Morgan invited to appear on the same prog? this is reminiscent of the witch hunt that took place with regard to Nick Griffiths’ appearance. The biased beeb needs to be reminded that it is a public broadcasting company funded by the tax payer and that the tax payer expects a level playing field.
    I applaud the attitude of No 10 who are prepared to show that they will not be bullied by the beeb.

  • Simon Stephenson

    strapworld and Frank P

    Didn’t spot the irony. Sorry. Still don’t in fact, even after a re-read. Still that’s my fault.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve grown so used to people singing the praises of the likes of Littlejohn, Clarkson and Botham, that I’ve lost sight of the fact that not everyone is a halfwit, and that some people are just taking the p1ss.

    I’ll try to be more alert.

  • Senor Frizby

    Has anyone heard or smelt mandelson since the election? I wonder what silver lining he is extracting from what cloud in preparation for his umpteenth return to front-line politics.

    Forget the issues surrounding hereditary peers.. it is these politically shameless self-interested, anti-democratic peers I’d like to see removed.

  • Minekiller

    @The Man

    Completely agree. Emperors New Clothes time, Govt show QT to be a lefty chat show and last night’s was to anyone with half a brain watching a cack-handed attempt by the BBC to ambush the government. At least the government now know that the BBC is at war with them.

  • lescam

    “Situations like yesterday’s QT
    problem show that the lack of a Tory
    polecat is a real weakness”.

    Lord Tebbit, where are you? Your country needs you!

    Must admit to having a soft spot for Piers Morgan. He gives me the impression of being amiable, not malicious. Don’t always agree with him, but I don’t dislike him. I couldn’t argue with his view, stated on an earlier QT last year, that it was grotesque having Tony Blair as the Middle East peace envoy.

    As for Campbell, he should go back to playing his bagpipes and watching Burnley. He is not a politician, he never has been, he is merely a motormouth who has pushed himself to the front and thinks the BBC owes him a living.

    It is not just time for a new chairman of QT, it’s time for a new producer as well.

  • Tiberius

    Frank P: that is one brilliant post.

    But, as a point of fact, Campbell is a Burnley supporter.

  • The Man

    I think the Government should take David Cameron’s statement (about not being part of the entertainment industry) to heart and decline all media invitations where they don’t have a specific message to communicate. QT, Newsnight et al seldom shed any meaningful light on any topic because of the self importance of the presenters and their adherence to their own agenda, rather than seeking to understand or explain that topic.

  • Paddy

    Alistair Campbell did himself no favours last night.

    He was given enough rope and he was exposed for what he is – a liar.

    He knows he has been “rumbled” and there is no way back for “New Labour”.

    They’re like “ferrets fighting in a sack”.

    Just enjoy!

  • Gawain

    I never watch the programme anymore, it has become a rather unpleasant experience. There is no debate because everyone is trying to complete everyone elses sentances. The audience are allowed to participate without declaring their party allegiance. The panel is too large. If I was in the cabinet I’d rather have my toenails extracted with a blunt knife than appear with Morgan and Campbell. Life is just too short to put yourself through that kind of humiliation.

  • Frank P

    Simon Stephenson

    Unlike you to miss the irony in strapworld’s posts. Tut, tut!

    Why is Campbell – a two-bit ex-porn magazine scribbler, unelected self-appointed ‘political’ fixer, part-time manic-depressive nutter and Blackburn Rovers supporter FFS! – allowed to strut the BBC stage, anyway?

    His double-act charade with the egregious chubby-faced petulant Morgan was obviously arranged and scripted beforehand, including the faux-polemical ding-dong. Both the ugliest examples of their generation and clearly the reason why we are now all in the hands of the politicians currently running the ‘nation’; the blurred hues of political colours are now a sort of dirty yellowy reddish mush with more than a touch of faecal Brown. Not a blue tint in sight. As unattractive as those who wield the political paint brushes – daubers and dabblers all.

    Dimbleby Major is just a piss-taker now; a treble dipper of gigantic greed (two major series wandering around Britain at licence fee payers expense, as pensions, already. More in store no doubt), he just has fun with QT; how could he not know what his apparatchiks rig up for both panellists and audiences? It’s The Left’s agitprop flagship.

    As for ‘This Week’. My missus summed it up nicely last evening! “Ah well!” she said. “The new faces have solved a problem for me; it’s way past my bedtime anyway and if you want to watch that new boring bunch you can do it alone. It’s been deteriorating for some time – now it’s rubbish!” I could only concur. I assume Itchy and Scratchy are now history? Not before time, of course, but the whole format is now so tired, even Neil appears to be bored to the point of somnolence as he mumbles and stumbles through the autocue. Another overblown hack with a gigantic ego despite the jokey self-deprecation-for-effect.

    As for that pseudo intellectual scouse git from soap TV given a slot last night to pontificate with his whimsical ‘Liverpewl ‘words of wisdom’ , his incoherent enunciation was a relief in one way, because what he did manage to utter in reasonable English amounted to a whole load of bollocks, so I was pleased to have missed most of his gabbling.

    David Davis once again displayed why he didn’t win the leadership and as for the flame-headed Chipmunk, I would have thought she would have hung up her political clogs and applied for a job on Coronation Street, to which she would be eminently suited.

    Must revisit Thursday late evenings. There’s always Fox, or maybe a book at bedtime. Coffee house is of course dormant at that time – read only. I’d get a life, if I hadn’t already had four or five eventful ones already, which have left me completely knackered.

  • John Bracewell

    Maggie @1.12 pm hits the nail on the head.

  • Verity

    Dimbleby has to go, obviously.

    You know who would be a dynamite Chairman for QT? Melanie Phillips! Cool head, clarity of thought, and a terrifyingly swift slice ‘n’ dice intelligence.

  • Ms Manners

    Alcazar 1:12 has the impertinence to impute the fact that Lizzie holds an opposing opinion to his own to her “time of the month” – to wit: “Lizzy, your early rant sounds like it’s your time of the month. But you got the talking points in order, well done! Now, have a chamomile tea.”.

    Coarse, patronising git.

    I am astonished that such primitive crudity got through.

    This over-familiar attempt to weaken someone’s argument by invading her privacy, in public, is a way inadequate men dismiss the opinions of women who take an opposing view.

    Perhaps his GP should cut back on the prescriptions for potency pills.


    The flatulent pomposity of David Dimbleby stinks to High Heaven. Surely surely way past his self-satisfied sellby date.
    Also if Auntie Beeb refuses to rinse out her urine-stained knickers, it’s high time for the government to do it for her.
    Omo washes whiter than white.
    As for Alistair Campbell….

  • Remittance Man


    Whether one likes it or not, whether one detests the odious little man or not, Griffin is a politician, the leader of a legitimate political party duly chosen by its membership who puts himself up for public election.

    Campbell is an unelected, unaccountable propagandist paid to perform like a barking seal by his masters.

    Can you spot the difference?

  • Ian Walker

    Alcazar: if Labour had tried the same tactic 12 months ago, you can be damn sure it wouldn’t be the BBCs headline news the next day.

    Bias isn’t just how you report, it’s also what you do (and don’t) report as well.

  • Naomi Muse

    A bit of stupidity all round.

    Having seen the appallingly badly chaired QT with Nick Griffin on it, it was clear that the BBC and Mentorn were after what they think of as good tv and not a good and balanced debate or answers.

    Clear then that the BBC do not want to be fair.

    As the coalition is talking all through of being ‘fair’ it will have to choose what it does in relation to appearances on the BBC, where pretty well only Andrew Neil gives a balance to his questions in both the DP and his evening show.

    The government should do what they think right, but not expect the BBC or others to set up programmes for a balanced view.

    Alastair Campbell has never been elected and therefore there was no need for any elected person from the coalition to appear on the programme at all. How would the BBC fare if fairness was the order of the day?

  • strapworld

    simon stephenson, you appear to have left your sense of humour at home this morning. May I suggest marmalade with your toast!

  • Ian, Essex

    THX-1138 “So Tories & LiB Dems will share a QT platform with Nick Griffin but not Alastair Campbell- Pathetic cowards!”

    Nick Griffin is an elected represenative of this country and so should be debated with. Al Campbell is not and the BBC had already filled the non-elected Labour seat with Piers Morgan. The Opposition should be represented by an elected official (as should the government).

  • Tim Carpenter LPUK

    Well, I was glad to hear at least one person “daring” to say that our current system is unaffordable.

    Shame John Redwood did not chime in too.