Audience Fail on Any Questions


When you reach my ripe old age, Friday nights are not what they used to be. Friday nights are reduced to babysitting the grandchildren or a game of Gin Rummy with the Mrs. Occasionally I escape and potter down to the White Hart for a couple but Friday is also shopping day and I’ve already had a drink (I sneak one in whilst banned by my wife from the supermarket).

This last Friday evening I happened to be bored and so flicked through the radio stations to see whether there was anything decent on. And I hit the start of Any Questions on BBC Radio 4 from Edwinstree Middle School in Buntingford, Hertfordshire, with the businessman and political donor Arron Banks, ex-Labour adviser turned stand-up comic Ayesha Hazarika, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lamont and the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell MP.

I have a lot of time for thoroughly decent Jonathan Dimbleby, who gloriously stumbles through his broadcasts but often manages to find pearls of scoops at the same time. I had never heard of Ayesha Hazarika, I still associate Lamont with the ERM fiasco, think John McDonnell is a dangerous buffoon and know little about Arron Banks except that he has large pockets and is prepared to have a punt on the UKIP lunatic asylum.

So, I sat back with a cup of tea and listened in. There is a podcast available here of the show I tuned into.

First to speak – about the Labour Party’s disaster in the Copeland by-election – was Lamont. He spoke well and thoughtfully, explaining what an obvious disaster Corbyn is for Labour and how the Tory Government had a lot to be getting on with on the Brexit front and were enjoying the freedom and space a lack of opposition presented them with. No claps from the audience.

Second to speak was Ayesha Hazarika. I was worried about what she was saying as she’s a Muslim and I presumed that the audience would not be that keen on listening to a Muslim given the current national mood in Britain and Europe around Muslims. But her fairly tame opening remarks received a surprisingly hearty round of applause from the Any Questions audience. I was pleased for her – maybe they had missed Lamont’s speech and an opportunity to clap. I guessed that maybe the clapping was because she presented herself as a comedian – nothing to do with her ex Labour adviser days. So I listened on…

Third to speak was John McDonnell. He rattled on for 5 minutes – way longer than any of the other panel members. Dull, turgid stuff – defending embattled Corbyn to the hilt yet sounding as depressed about the disaster of Copeland as if he was at home amongst comrades who cared and felt empathy for his position. He was finally interrupted by Dimbleby but the floor did not then go to Banks as it should have done – it went back to Hazarika to respond to McDonnell’s response with yet more fluff. Yet more clapping.

I was already fed up by this point. I’d been listening to over 14 minutes of a 46-minute programme and still not heard Arron Banks’ voice. What was this? A Labour Party Political Broadcast?

Then, finally, at 14 minutes and twenty-four seconds into the programme, Banks has to butt in to get his say. He accuses John McDonnell of “being Westminster” after McDonnell blamed the public’s distrust of Westminster for the Copeland loss.

I wait for a clap.

I thought that deserved a clap.


Banks continued. Then came to a close after giving his answers to the question. Again, he had spoken well. Result?


Not even a solitary clap.

I listened a while longer and more of the same from the audience, who ignored Banks and Lamont – I felt embarrassed and angry. So, I switched off.

The MP for Buntingford where Any Questions was held on Friday is Sir Oliver Heald. The constituency of North Hertfordshire he represents has a Conservative majority of 55.4%. The nearest challenger – Labour – received 18.9% of the vote.

So why did the audience blank both Lord Lamont and Arron Banks while clapping the Labour-linked panellists? They are clearly not representative of the area.

It’s a great shame that, in spite of many complaints from the British public, the BBC has as yet failed to solve its live audience problems. They need to get a grip or we’re off.

Both across Question Time and Any Questions, the audience can’t be trusted. Time to hand pick them so they are representative even if that means bringing in a few ringers from each party. The current audience entrance criteria is wrecking these live shows.

The BBC, rightly or wrongly, are creating a false popularity for unpopular views and they need to find an answer to this problem pronto or droves of viewers and listeners will simply drift away and find other channels which provide a fairer and more representative product.

Wake up, BBC. Or perish.






3 thoughts on “Audience Fail on Any Questions

  1. I just don’t pay the licence fee anymore.

    Why should I be enforced to pay for culturally Marxist state broadcaster, whose coverage is biased against the majority of the British public, its patrons!

  2. Excellent article, Mr. Browne.

    There is only point that I disagree with: Jonathan Dimbleby may well be “thoroughly decent”, but he is also thoroughly Left-wing – which in itself would not matter, were it not for the fact that he displays it so blatantly during the programme; always (like most BBC interviewers, with the rare honourable exception like Andrew Neil) giving the Right-wingers on the panel a much harder time than the Left-wingers.

    As Mr. Browne implies, the worst problem with AQ is the audience – and wherever the programme is hosted from, whether it be the most rural hamlet in deepest Devon, or some vibrant, diverse, enriched multicultural inner-city hell-hole, it is always exactly the same audience – which is like one of the late, great Peter Simple’s “All-Purpose Rentacrowd Left-wing mobs”, with identikit modish, Leftish views. They seem to be overwhelmingly people who “work” in the public sector, whose most polite response to a well-argued point is (as Mr Browne points out) is total silence. And if some Lefty rabble-rouser (like the self-proclaimed “comedians” whose only defining characteristics seem to be a total absence of what most people would regard as a sense of humour, couple with Far-Left views) on the panel should manage to utter the correct-sounding Leftish buzzwords – especially if they manage to get in a reference to “Fatcha” – they can be guaranteed to get a round of cheers, and probably some loud whoops, too.

    The effect that these dreadful audiences have on the panel cannot be underestimated. They embolden the John McDonnells of this world, and dishearten the Arron Banks. Not that AQ often has particularly impressive panellists in any case – Arron Banks was a rare example of a Right-winger who actually had the courage to take on the baying mob (oh sorry, I mean “audience”) and utter a few home truths (although Dimbleby shut him up prettish sharpish when he dared to refer to McDonnell’s IRA sympathies). But, as I said, this was a rare example – why would anyone other than the most dedicated Left-winger want to listen to AQ after AQ full of the same old endless Leftist guff, just for the very occasional case of a little bit of sanity breaking out – which, in any case, will usually be curtailed very speedily by the oh-so-objective J. Dimbleby?

    I listen to AQ less and less, because most of the time it is actually a very unpleasant experience. Oh for the good old days of David Jacobs who, however oleaginous, always gave everyone on the panel a fair crack of the whip.

    And, indeed, the panellists in those far-off days (I first got in to AQ as a teenager in the 1970s) were so much more impressive. Genuine free-thinkers, like Malcolm Muggeridge, were often on the panel, and were always highly entertaining. And no – I didn’t often agree with him, as I was a young Lefty in those days; but the point was he made his arguments very well, and most entertainingly. And the politicians on the panel were far better, too – Enoch Powell, Michael Foot, Eric Heffer, Lord Hailsham, for instance. It didn’t matter whether you agreed with them or not – the point was, they did not follow the “party line”, and it was always interesting to hear what they said.

    I’m not at all sure that there is any way that AQ can be rescued, now. As Mr. Browne says, it certainly would need a more balanced audience. But I also think it would need a new Chairman – someone like Andrew Neil would be great. And maybe – but only maybe – then it would be possible to find some more impressive panellists. Trouble is, so far has Cultural Marxism infiltrated the British Establishment (just listen to the reverence with which practically all AQ panellists treat “Climate Change”, for instance), this will not be easy.

    The only consolation, when one hears the Lefty AQ audience whooping, cheering and jeering, is that this is the sound of a tiny minority of people who are delusional enough to believe that their views are the “mainstream”, and who will be in for yet another huge shock when the results of the next General Election come through. But, despite this, there is still absolutely NO excuse for the BBC to be allowed to broadcast such a blatantly partisan programme week after week, when they are funded by a near-compulsory poll tax, and are supposed to be – try not to laugh – “objective”.

    Sorry for the long rant, but hope it adds at least something to the debate!

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