When did BBC Question Time last change your mind?

Does the BBC flagship programme Question Time change anyone’s mind? The standard of debate on BBC Question Time is poor and getting worse.

We were told years ago that we needed female politicians who would bring civilised debate to male-dominated politics. I never believed it and I have seen no evidence that it has done so.

Occasionally one has a panellist who can inform the audience about matters they need to know, but increasingly they are interrupted by other panellists in a shouting match and even the subtitles may not help to unravel what was actually said. The women are as guilty as the men in this regard. Calm debate does not seem to have anything to do with gender but more to do with character.

The questions from the floor tend to be the rehashed opinions of political debate and the comments reflect the views of the chattering classes with only an occasional contribution to the debate.

So, what function does BBC Question Time serve? Does it change minds? Where are the answers that convince people? When will the BBC invite panellists who can debate and when will it raise the standard of debate? I know people who have given up watching it. I watch it while writing up my Bible commentary so that my time is usefully spent.

Very occasionally one will hear a significant contribution, such as a contributor on BBC Newsnight on 7 Aug 2018 made the interesting point that the use of “phobia is medicalising political debate”.  Slowly our secular society is discovering the folly of inaccurate language in debate.

When did the Bible last change your mind? When did you last read it? It will be more helpful and will supply many answers you will never hear on Question Time.


13 Jun 2019: Changing opinions and civilised debate being pioneered in the Scottish Highlands.

18 Jun 2019: during the cacophony of sound in the BBC’s Tory leadership debate tonight Emily Maitliss interrupted our likely future Prime Minister’s explanation how to deal with the Irish back-stop, the main sticking point in the Withdrawal Agreement, and it became a shouting match, which she is meant to chair and control. This evening, commenting on this leadership debate, BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg asks: “Who will give up to stop Boris Johnson?” Why is our objective national broadcaster asking such loaded questions? Does anyone notice what is common between Fiona Bruce of Question Time, Emily Maitliss and Laura Kuenssberg? What extra is the fairer sex bringing to our debates? The argument that women would improve and soften debate has by now demonstrated how ridiculous it was, and it is no wonder that it is not mentioned any more.

19 Jun 2019: the BBC is on the back foot about selecting a dodgy imam to ask a question in the Tory leadership debate last night. It has made its excuses but the frequent trailler by Emily Maitliss asked ‘the public’ to submit their questions. Two of the questions were not from ‘the public’, and why chose an imam anyway, however credible his credentials? I submitted my question, not expecting to be selected: If the UK leaves the EU on 31st October without a Withdrawal Agreement, can you explain in your own words, without reference to statistics and prophesies from other bodies, why the UK will not be in a stronger position to negotiate an even better relationship with the EU? This question was to deal with the fear of Remainers about ‘crashing out’ with a ‘no deal’, ‘hard’ Brexit. The BBC prefers to leave unchallenged the constant refrain about ‘a no deal, hard’ Brexit.

24 Jun 2019: the manager of England’s women’s team agrees that the game against Cameroon “didn’t feel like football”. Who was it that said that women will civilise public life?

10 Sep 2019: The Daily Telegraph p. 25: Iain Dale’s column about being a panellist on BBC Question Time is headed “All the interruptions and insults have made Question Time unwatchable.”

31 Oct 2019: a rare outbreak of civility when discussing Hugh Grant’s refusal to shake Savid Javid’s hand. The question began with the very good example of Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Clerk. A person in the audience drew out consensus by pointing out that “we should view people as people” instead of judging them by single issues. This reminds us of Jesus’ teaching:

Jesus challenges us to consider why we ‘behold the mote’ in our brother’s eye, but do not consider the beam in our own eye’?

Matthew 7:3.

28 Nov 2019: on BBC Question Time tonight, Fiona Bruce more than once appealed to Panel members that week after week we hear the public complain that they do not believe politicians, are disenfranchised, and don’t want to vote, and asked: “Are you proud of yourselves?” My question is if the BBC is proud of itself that it inhibits alternative and more believable voices? Are the BBC and the mainstream media unable to find people who speak the truth? The symbiotic relationship between politics and media suggests the BBC needs to clean up this double act.

29 Nov 2019: Iain Dale of LBC thinks that asking when you changed your mind is ‘a most fantastic question’ about which he is writing in a chapter in his forthcoming book.

25 Dec 2019: it is becoming commoner to ask people when they last changed their mind. Ruth Davidson on LBC asks Piers Morgan, ‘as an intellectual exercise’ – it is not clear to me why it is ‘an intellectual exercise’. She makes it sound as if changing one’s mind is some kind of confession. It should be rather common.

24 Dec 2020: the poor standard of current debate can be seen in 1. failure to recognise the role of adjectives in statements; 2. the failure to recognise that someone is playing devil’s advocate and thus not presenting their own view but the alternative view; 3. the inability to see that a debate moves forward.

18 Mar 2021: Ian Hislop on BBC Question Time tonight suggested that the public should no longer accept political answers of the form that this is not possible or it costs too much or it needs a long-term solution – “those answers are not good enough.”

21 Oct 2021: the latest complaint about Fiona Bruce interrupting a panel member, Kate Forbes MSP. Wasting people’s time?

12 Feb 2023: a question about Fiona Bruce’s conflict of interests.

28 Feb 2023: the female ‘soft-touch’ in modern politics.

14 Mar 2023: BBC Question Time’s host Fiona Bruce has been cancelled from a charity. She was accused for reporting what others had said as part of her job, and attacked on social media as if it was her own opinion. Such is the state of modern debate.

2 thoughts on “When did BBC Question Time last change your mind?

  1. Dominic Stockford

    Both Mandela AND Le Clerk had many reasons not to shake one another’s hand. That they did shake meant the first step to peace in SA was taken (even if it hasn’t arrived yet, all these years later).


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