Official: BBC Question Time’s pro-Tory bias

by Stephen Tall on February 12, 2008

Time to revisit BBC Question Time’s political balance… 10 days ago, you may recall, Andrew Hinton’s Mindrobber blog questioned the omission of a Lib Dem representative from the panel, following on from a Lib Dem Voice thread. Andrew crunched some figures, which suggested parity between the Tory and Labour parties, with a lower number of Lib Dem panellists.

This seemed to lend some reasonable plausiblity to the BBC’s defence that “The programmes try to achieve balance over a reasonable period and certainly have a firm commitment to political balance over their series as a whole.” It’s worth noting, however, that party election broadcasts – a good benchmark against which to judge political balance – are allocated on a 5:5:4 ratio between Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem. On this basis, Lib Dems are under-represented on QT.

But the omission of a Lib Dem wasn’t LDV’s main whinge – our gripe concerned the inclusion, for the fourth week in succession, of an unofficial Conservative representative on the panel alongside the official Tory representative. So we took a second look at the data.

Normally, when you measure political balance, you don’t just consider MPs and peers from a party, but also include its other declared supporters. So when measuring QT’s political balance, it is only reasonable to include in each party’s totals the other declared supporters of that party, particularly when these figures include people such as a former senior employee of a party or a party’s prospective general election candidate.

On the basis of the recognised 5:5:4 ratio, you would expect a split between Tories, Labour and Lib Dems of roughly 36%/36%/29%. But is that what we found? Nope. Question Time graph

As you can see from the graph, over 40% of QT panellists are Tories, either official or unofficial, compared with a little more than 20% for the Lib Dems.

Even if you disagree with our notion of an appropriate level of Lib Dem representation, it is hard to see how the BBC can justify such a sustained bias in favour of the Tories and against Labour.

We’ve emailed the BBC with the link to this story, and will look forward to seeing whether we get anything more than a standard response.

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No comments

“maybe we should be different from the two main political parties”

That would be wonderful: a truly different political party. I’m not holding my breath for it to happen, though 😉

by Jennie on February 18, 2008 at 1:23 am. Reply #

I could have sworn I read something just the other week that the average tax burden under Maggie was ~35%. Don’t recall where, though.

by sanbikinoraion on February 18, 2008 at 5:01 pm. Reply #

@sanbikiniwossname “average tax burden” is hard to define. Given income tax rates and NI, 35% of income may be about right, but she also nearly doubled VAT to 15% from 8% and was a strong believer in indirect taxation.

But Jennie’s right, the amount taken as a %age of GDP (which is the only sane measure) has creeped up slightly under Labour but not that much, its remained in the low 40% range for ages.

Laurence is right, ideally we’d have a small state without a large tax burden, and tere are undoubtedly savings that could be made. But Thatcher didn’t manage it, Major didn’t manage it and Blair didn’t manage it. Brown isn’t bothering from what I can see.

It’s who, how and what is taxed that really matters, combined with making sure money isn’t being wasted. Once you’ve got that right, then you can look to reduce the burden, the current centralised system is undoubtedly horribly wrong, so that would need to be the top priority. In my oh-so-very-humble opinion, anyway.

by MatGB on February 18, 2008 at 5:15 pm. Reply #

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