Andrew Neil, Jeremy Paxman, Huw Edwards, Emily Maitlis, Piers Moron, Kirsty Wark, Nick Robinson, Victoria Derbyshire, Nicky Campbell, Eddie Mair, Evan Davis, Robert Peston, Andrew Marr, John Humphrys and that guy from Richard and Judy who did that one good interview scolding Gavin Williamson.
As Dimbleby declares 762 episodes not out on Thursday, these are the predictable names for heir apparent to the Question Time throne.
What all these names have in common (besides mostly possessing penises, being white and middle class) are being staple media celebrities embedded within the Westminster Village consensus. To name but a few, Andrew Neil – The Daily Politics and This Week; Emily Maitlis, Kirsty Wark and Evan Davis – Newsnight; Peston and Marr – shows in their own name, and so on.
Seemingly these candidates existing existence in media means they automatically qualify as members of a unique community known as ‘the talent’. TV commissioners and executives create a self-fulfilling prophecy, rationalising that audiences require familiar faces to tune in to, and so shower them in gold and programme appearances.
Although many have a soft spot for Dimbleby, his elite Etonian heritage has not helped his cause whilst hosting a show apparently exhibiting the countries democratic and pluralistic credentials. This problem is compounded by a perception (correct in my view) that guest panels have historically excluded left-wing voices, whilst consistently embracing those of the right (Nigel Farage, Kate Andrews et al) and audiences brimming with “gammon”.
Consequently, Question Time has become the social media equivalent of the battle of Stalingrad, where lefties as a Thursday ritual do battle on Twitter lamenting the inevitably unbalanced, unrepresentative #BBCQT proceedings.
While it may be nauseating to hear the left continually make this point, the medias post-election output remains the same discredited formula concocted prior to the election. It has the same predictable array of establishment guests with an obvious right-wing bias in guests (irrespective of party) brilliantly documented by Alex Nunns, not to mention a sprinkle of suspect inputs from opaque dodgy right-wing think-tanks of unknown income (the Adam Smith Institute, The Taxpayers Alliance etc..). This trend is all the more unbearable in light of Corbyn’s so called “hard left” Labour gaining a 40% vote share, despite being vilified and ridiculed across platforms for years.
Despite this context, the names proposed are predictably from the ‘more of the same’ category, the same post-election gawpers who cried in unison “nobody saw this coming!” as millions screamed at their TV’s “we fucking did and you either ignored or mocked us!”
So I write this as a polite warning to the BBC: we are your future license fee payers and many of us begrudgingly persist in watching Question Time out of a combination of morbid curiosity and a faint naïve hope that one day it can be reformed and fair.
As the Dimbleby era ends there is a real opportunity to freshen the format, making it truly representative, interactive, and by consistently embracing fresh perspectives beyond the stifling zorb of the Westminster club – both in terms of journalists and politicians invited on the show. Only then can Question Time operate with any credibility and this starts by appointing a host, or hosts, who demonstrate a willingness on the BBC’s part to appeal to a winder spectrum of opinion than that it has historically permitted.