BBC: party leaders Question Time audience contained almost no Lib Dems

It’s fair to say that the Question Time audience last night for the party leader slots last night didn’t seem to show much warmth to the Liberal Democrats.

And that’s because, Alex Cole-Hamilton has tweeted, the BBC choose to make it that way. More specifically, the BBC ‘balanced’ the audience based on the number of MPs each party has in the House of Commons, rather than – say – the party’s current levels of political support. Or (as is done in some TV debates overseas, and which would be my preferred option) making up the audience of undecided voters.

That meant only about 3% of the audience was meant to be Lib Dem.

As Alex Cole-Hamilton pointed out when highlighting this:

UPDATE: The BBC’s line on the make-up of the audience seems to be evolving in an opaque way, with other reports now saying it was based on an unspecified mix of current MPs and vote share last time. That too would result in an overwhelmingly non-Lib Dem audience – and so an important point to bear in mind either way about audience reactions.

If you sign up for my blog posts digest you’ll get a handy one-a-day email with links to all the latest posts. You can also sign up for a range of other lists, including Liberal Democrat Newswire – a monthly newsletter about the party. Just pick the options you’d like on the sign-up form.

19 responses to “BBC: party leaders Question Time audience contained almost no Lib Dems”

    • 15% to 20% of support, that’s anywhere up to four or five million people does NOT make you a ‘minority’. The DUP only polled around 800,000 votes last time and even the SNP only 977,000 for all its MPs. The Lib Dems are a national party and in almost any other western country they would be a very significant party as their electoral systems are proportional.
      By maintaining this perverse and undemocratic ‘minority exposure’ policy, it simply prevents such parties getting the exposure they need to become adequately known by the voters.

  1. We can complain about the BBC but Jo did not have good answers ready for some predictable questions.
    Undemocratic? No response on fair votes if Boris gets back with 35% of vote
    Coalition/austerity? No response referring to 2008/9 financial crisis and Labour’s refusal to talk about a coalition in 2010.
    Tuition fees? Why not promise a fundamental review and state opposition to 6% interest rates etc
    Was she badly advised or just winging it?

  2. I’m afraid not everyone is tribally attached. Whether Lib-Dem or not, the fact is that to many voters the Lib-Dem message overpowerly stinks. It is clear to many, I believe, that not even victory in the General Election would entitle a party to cancel the result of the 2016 ‘People Vote’. I find Lib-Dem position illogical and, I believe it to be a historic mistake.
    Had this undemocratic position not been adopted, given the abysmal position of the Labour Party, Lib-Dems could have had a chance of becoming the real opposition in the new parliament.

    • We are not a ‘direct democracy’ but a representative one. Referendums are always advisory as was the 2016 one, until Tory and Labour politicians declared that they would ‘respect the result’. It was a wafer thin majority and nothing stays still in any form of politics, nor do we know what people actually voted for and why they voted. Certainly no majority voted for the Johnson type of Brexit on the current table.
      While I agree that the only way you detoxify the original decision is by having another referendum (unfortunately), this is NOT democracy, and direct democracy has never worked except in tiny city states in Ancient Greece where at least the small number of citizens involved could debate and understand the issues first.

    • If Corbyn promises to reverse Tory cuts and wins a majority with 42% of the votes is that illegitimate because he doesn’t have a majority. No because without electoral reform that is how our system works. The party with a majority of MPs has the mandate to change policy. The Lib Dems position on Brexit is exactly the same. Maybe tactically a second referendum could have been better but the policy is no less democratically legitimate than any other domestic policy chosen by other parties.

  3. Still it wasn’t a great atmosphere and it’s not Lib Dems you need to try and win over!

    I do think you have to say that you would not enter formal coalition negotiations again, whatever the economic pressures, without sufficient MP’s to ensure more wins. That lesson was sorely learned in 2015 and this time more Lib Dem MPs will be used to block bad policies and work with others on our priorities, so the more the better!

    And despite the miss-step of revoke you need more passion on Europe! Dear Leaver, you’re not stupid but weren’t asked to decide on a piece of legislation, you weren’t even consulted through a Citizens’ Assembly on the questions. That’s why 3 years later Brexit is still a pain in the nation’s backside because Leave couldn’t agree on Leave! “For me, after two European centred World Wars, the European Parliament represents human progress and I’ll keep fighting for that!” I think that might have got agreement, respect and applause!

    And finally, Jo as the leader, not the loner! It was a mistake to put just Jo on the side of the bus, presidential style, when you could show strength in depth of a potential cabinet team to take on the others. Attention starved smaller parties can get boiled down to one person and I recall several ordinary folks in 2010 saying “Clegg seems alright but what can just he do?”

  4. Also based on self-declared support.

    Remember Labour leadership hustings where the undecideds were all Corbynites.

    And yesterday Labour Party members in Sheffield were bragging that they got in pretending to be Tories. (Not that you’d find many actual Tories in Sheffield.)

    Quite how you would find true undecideds is unclear.

  5. She did pretty well considering the general negativity. It’s scandalous that the Lib-Dems were not fairly represented in the audience. There are no LD MPs at all right now (nor from any other party) so to base attendance on a non-existent parliament is clearly wrong. And even the BBC must know that FPTP does not provide fair representation, whatever its merits in other respects – which I have yet to discover.
    Nevertheless, I would like to make a few comments, with the benefit of hindsight and a comfortable armchair view, and fully accepting that I would not have done better.

    1. She could usefully have spelled out that in the 2010 coalition both sides had to compromise. The LDs were thus obliged to vote for unwelcome Conservative policies in return for the Conservatives doing the same for LD policies they disapproved of. She would then have gone on to spell out what those LD ones were, starting perhaps with raising the income tax threshold substantially. Someone should give her a full list.

    2. There are undoubtedly a lot of well intentioned people who feel that the 2016 referendum result cannot be fairly overturned except by another referendum. She should dispel that misconception upfront, and not have to have it squeezed out of her. She should say that the LDs are doing no more than Boris Johnson: if he were to get a working majority, he would say he had a mandate to proceed with Brexit on his terms – which have never been approved by parliament or or the people. (It would be useful to refer to the Evening Standard poll of polls on October 10th, if there’s nothing later, showing that Remain was ahead of leave in 73 polls of 74 so far in 2019, and by a margin of some 53:47. If the LDs got a working majority (which she is right to retain as a genuine possibility, but shouldn’t pretend it is just as likely as the Conservatives or Labour achieving one) they would do what they have promised, namely to revoke the Art. 50 notice. Also just as no parliament can bind a later one, no referendum can do so either. To assert that it does is to deny the basis of our parliamentary demcoracy, and notwithstanding the 2016 referendum result, it was NOT a decision to abolish that.

    3. She was challenged to say why people should vote for the Lib-Dems rather than the Labour party apart from their respective stances on Brexit. (The many who think there must be a further referendum before revoking that notice need to know the answer to that.) Surely two of the most vital distinctions are the two policies that seem to have sunk without trace, despite being in the manifesto and having been Liberal policy since I joined the party under Jo Grimond: (A) changing the electoral system to STV (alongside an explanation why the 2011 AV referendum did not decide this issue – and, if need be, that Nick Clegg was an idiot to go along with AV at all); (2) proper devolution of powers to the regions, with accountability to democratic regional assemblies (much as in Scotland, which she’ll know more about than most), and not just to local mayors of a few cities, which leaves unrepresented all their rural hinterlands, who are then even more isolated than ever.

    4. Could someone PLEASE persuade her to stop constantly flailing her arms about. Nobody other leading politician does it (she could take lessons from Nicola Sturgeon on deportment), and it is making her a figure of fun and the object of derisory comments among many commentators who just don’t take her seriously as a result. The occasional gesture where she wants to express particular emphasis is fine of course, but to do it all the time is completely counter-productive. It suggests that deep down she doesn’t really think her own words are very persuasive, so they all need boosting in the hope that other people will think they are. A measured delivery of the right words and very little else, so the audience has to concentrate on what is being said, attracts positive attention, and is infinitely more compelling.

    • I agree wholeheartedly on the need to compromise is a coalition and I just don’t understand why JS, and Libdems generally, have not made that point over the years. She performed well in a hostile situation.

      Clegg should have used proportional representation to better effect in his negotiations with the Tories. It was an opportunity that is unlikely to surface again for years.

  6. This is I would think is very wrong of the BBC.
    The leaders each had 30 minutes. They should have been treated on an equal basis as the election is a lottery when people can vote any way they wish, and there should be no bias in such a setting. We must remember these leaders are real people and to subject them to potential unfair levels of bias is quite wrong.
    Clearly there was bias based on old-fashioned ideas about TV debates.
    If the time allocated was in proportion to the number of MPs then that would a nonsense too.
    I hope the Liberal Democrats Party will put in a complaint.

  7. The BBC are pathetic and embarrassing defenders of the status quo.

    I hope the current party president is complaining strongly about thisstitch up.

  8. I agree that Jo should be persuaded to stop waving her arms about all the time. It is very irritating and her high pitched voice is equally annoying resulting in her being described as “shrill”. The two together make one wonder if she really believes in what she is saying and results in her not being taken seriously. The reaction to her on “Gogglebox” is probably a true representation of how the general voter see her! Please can something be done about it before it is too late.

  9. The BBC should be ashamed of itself (as should ITV for only including the leaders of the failed duopoly). Auntie has been woefully unbalanced in recent years trying to toe the Tory party line, and QT has sadly become tabloid readers viewing. The audience representation was a stitch up to make us look a minority party without hope of winning scores of seats (which we can do if sufficient Remainers vote for us in a couple of weeks).

    As for Jo’s deportment I fully agree with other comments made here. Compare her to Vince Cable who has excellent statesman qualities and it’s evident that she lacks confidence. Head office need to address this and her voice urgently.

  10. and I resent Fiona Bruce (and other presenters) trying to ridicule the possibility of the LD leader becoming PM.. now if she had said ‘given the unfair voting system we have….’ then it might have been different.
    Jo’s answer, on the other hand could have been ‘if this is a democracy then it should be possible for any party to come through and take the lead, or are you saying we have a an undemocratic voting system.?’ or ‘given the results of the recent European election the Conservatives and Labour are in 4th and 5th place behind us, so what are you talking about?’ or ‘with at least three parties in contention we only need around 200 seats to become the largest single party, then as our our leader I would be called to form the next government’

  11. Locally we had a known Tory activist and local election candaidate Ryan Jacobsz in that QT audience asking questions. He has attended 3 previous QT’s that we are aware of. He was the man in the white shirt with a strong South African accent who was picking up Corbyn on antisemitism. If someone is a Party member and former Candidate then that should be disclosed. It has now appeared in the local party.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.