The departure of David Dimbleby from Question Time is certainly sad from the point of view of the panellist. He was, in recent years, one’s sole protector. Calm, humorous, very slightly bored (but too polite to show it), David reminded one by his mere presence that there is a world of sane and civilised people outside the studio. He cheered me in adversity, rather as I once felt when I discovered Château Latour for £12 in an otherwise unremarkable hotel in Blackpool during a party conference. I also got no sense of his politics. Because he is rich, successful and on the BBC, I assume he must be mildly left-wing; but he has never given me any evidence to confirm or refute this theory. In the entire time I have done the programme — more than 30 years, starting under the great Robin Day — the left in the studio has been noisier, and usually more numerous, than the right. The difference between then and now lies in the left’s degree of organisation. Nowadays, you can tell as soon as you go on if there is a coordinated left-wing claque in the room (about 50 per cent of the time, there is). They tend to sit together, have common points ready and make the same sound of righteous shock at anything ‘unacceptable’. It would be interesting to see whether this planned intimidation would still work if the BBC made everyone present give up all mobile devices at the door. A programme called Question Time does need an audience which wants to listen to the answers.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, which appears in this week’s magazine