BBC audience selection, as honest as a used car advert

Nigel Farage is suing the BBC for planting a biased left-wing audience at last week’s TV election debate from Westminster Hall. After some investigation, journalists managed to convince the BBC – who initially promised ‘transparency’, then tried to suppress the information – to reveal the details of how they had formed the audience. They used a ratio, they said, to break the audience up according to which political party they supported.

The ratio was 5:5:4:3:2:2:1, with the Conservatives and Labour getting the 5s, the Lib Dems on 4, Ukip on 3, the SNP and Greens on 2, and Plaid Cymru on 1. This meant that roughly, in an audience of 200, only about fifty people were not of a Left-wing persuasion.

It seemed somehow embarrassing that Nigel Farage should do this, like making a fuss about BBC bias seems almost as useful as complaining about the wind or the rain. Most of us will have noticed it already and learned over the years to endure it best we can. I have been particularly aware of the political preferences of audiences for Any Questions on R4 and Question Time on TV. As usual the BBC claims they are carefully selected from a wide range of the public, but strangely, as Nigel has found out, they may have a variety of backgrounds, but they all tend to be Labour voters.

I don’t have any proof to back his claim, but I know what I hear. Within a couple of hours of listening today, Wednesday 22nd of April, I heard a fascinating interview with Cherie Blair. This brought her together with the pesky French photographer who took a cruel snap of her opening the front door of Number 10, the morning after her husband won a landslide victory in the General Election of 1997.

Although the photo humiliated Cherie for years, she sounded sweetly amused, and when the photographer excused himself to her, she purred like a kitten. All this was interspersed with recordings from the triumphal day of the Labour victory, lest we forget, and Tony Blair making his speech promising to accept responsibility and rule always as, ‘New Labour.’

This trip down memory lane was followed at coffee time, by a barnstorming interview with Andy Burnham, passionately accusing the government of failing to provide enough social care outside the NHS and cutting social care deliberately, ‘ransacking the social care budget to pay for the NHS.’ It was pointed out that Cameron has promised another eight billion pounds to the NHS if he gets back in, but Burnham railed on, claiming the whole future of the NHS, ‘hangs in the balance.’

Asked where he would get the money from to improve things, he didn’t have an answer, but he spoke persuasively. The afternoon began with a discussion on the boat people pouring into Europe from Libya. We heard how Australia had solved the problem by being hard-nosed and determined, making the security of their borders the first priority, in other words, sending people back. The attitude expressed was something our recent government could only dream about. It was immediately condemned by Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the British Refugee Council, who claimed that the problem could only be solved by giving more money to the refugees and allowing them all to stay, ‘as we in Europe can cope with it.’

I ate my lunch to a report sneering at Boris Johnson and accusing his chum the PM of fighting a lacklustre election campaign. That may be true, but in the interest of fairness the only mention of Ed Miliband I heard all morning was in a discussion with some comedians, including Shappi Khorsandi, the unfunny Iranian, who referred to him throughout affectionately as ‘Ed,’ rather implying that they are friends. I can’t say that was any more surprising than a weather report predicting rain this Saturday. She has appeared on Question Time twice, the second time admitting she is a Labour supporter.

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