Following last week’s full-frontal assault on Coalition minister Vince Cable, this week’s Question Time saw another Coalition minister, Grant Shapps, fall victim to a rampaging bullock, being questioned and interrupted by David Dimbleby far more than any of the other guests (even David Starkey). The figures for this will appear in the comments field below.

Well, you might say, both Mr Shapps and Dr Cable are government spokesmen, so David Dimbleby is right to challenge them more than guests from the opposition parties – except that DD didn’t challenge government ministers more than opposition party guests when Labour were in power. Quite the reverse.

Here’s a list of the guests who were interrupted most frequently by DD in relation to the length they were allowed to speak (yes, interruption coefficients!) in the months leading up to the general election. (There are a few joint first prizes):

29/4 Liam Fox (C) /Vince Cable (LD)
22/4 William Hague (C)
15/4 Nigel Farage (UKIP)
8/4 Theresa May (C)
1/4 Ken Clarke (C)
25/3 Liam Byrne (L)/Baroness Warsi (C)
18/3 Caroline Lucas (Green)/Andrew Lansley (C)
11/3 Jo Swinson (LD)
4/3 Boris Johnson (C)
25/2 Nigel Farage (UKIP)
18/2 Lynne Featherstone (LD)
11/2 Jim Allister (TUV)
4/2 Theresa May (C)
28/1 Jenny Tonge (LD)/Nigel Lawson (C)
21/1 Caroline Spelman (C)

Full details of the statistics behind this list can be found here.

By political party, that results in these totals for the award for Most Interrupted Panelist:

Conservatives – 10
Liberal Democrats – 4
UKIP – 2
TUV – 1
Greens – 1

…and for the government of the day…

Labour – 1

I wish David Dimbleby a long and happy retirement!

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  1. Craig says:

    Here are the figures for Thursday’s programme;

    Number of questions/points put by DD to each guest above and beyond the question from the audience (not counting such invitations to speak as “Grant Shapps?” or “Brian Cox?” (as a general rule, the more extra questions put the tougher the ride for the guest): 
    Grant Shapps – 17
    Diane Abbott – 8
    David Starkey – 8
    Simon Hughes  – 7 
    Brian Cox – 1 
    Number of interruptions made against each guest by DD: 
    Grant Shapps – 15
    David Starkey – 9
    Diane Abbott – 6
    Simon Hughes  – 6 
    Brian Cox – 0
    Length of time each guest got in the spotlight (all the time they were speaking & all the time DD was putting a question to them): 
    (This took some time to work out as they kept talking over each other!)
    Simon Hughes – 10 minutes 29 seconds 
    Grant Shapps – 10 minutes 18 seconds 
    David Starkey – 10 minutes 12 seconds 
    Diane Abbott – 10 minutes 3 seconds 
    Brian Cox – 6 minutes 11 seconds 
    Interruption Coefficients (the number of interruptions/the length of time spent in the spotlight – the higher the number the tougher the experience!): 
    Grant Shapps – 1.5
    David Starkey – 0.9
    Diane Abbott – 0.6
    Simon Hughes  – 0.6 
    Brian Cox – 0
    The two panelists of the Right clearly came out worst.


  2. Craig says:

    Given that the audience was from Manchester, a pro-Labour bias might be expected from the crowd. But wherever Question Time comes from the alleged cross-section of the voting public tends (massively) to applaud only left-wing comments and make left-wing points. Right-wing guests are frequently jeered or met by silence. There is a big problem with audience selection at that programme, and it’s gone on for years.
    This week’s comments from the audience break down like this:

    Attacks on the Coalition/Defences of Labour – 11
    Attacks just on David Starkey – 2
    Left-wing talking points – 1
    Attacks on Labour/Defences of the Coalition – 3
    A plague on all their houses – 2
    Joke at the expense of the French – 1


    • Millie Tant says:

      The audience selection process is another good subject but I am also wondering if there is anything in the selection of venues. Did they for example choose Labour-supporting towns for the Question Time programmes fitting around the Labour Party conference? Manchester was one. I can’t recall the others.


      • Craig says:

        Yes, I think they’re following the party conferences – Liverpool for the Lib Dems and Manchester for Labour. So it should be Birmingham on Thursday, where the Conservatives are holding theirs. Birmingham has a Con-Lib council.  
        I’m going to risk doing a Nick Robinson here 😉 , but I predict that won’t make the slightest difference and it will feel (as usual) as if the audience is packed with Labour activists.  
        The programme mostly comes from London, I think. London has lots of non-Labour voters, though they don’t seem to turn up in the Question Time studio very often! When they move beyond London, it does seem to come quite often from large cities with low levels of Tory support, like Cardiff, Glasgow or Middlesborough (in the pre-election period), but I’ll have to check that out.  


      • hippiepooter says:

        David Dimbleby is on record as saying it still remains a mystery to him why the audience for the 9/11 edition was so partisan anti-American.  He didn’t like it.

        It appears from the stats that spending so long immersed in the uber-left culture of the BBC trying to walk a tightrope he’s absorbed the lefty bias by osmosis.

        Before I left Blighty 8 years ago I found DD impeccably unbiased.

        Nicky Campbell also used to get a lot of stick for bias, but although generally a bit of a leftie he is a ‘people’s leftie’.  I always found him a really class act.  I dont know if he’s dramatically changed in the last 8 years for all the opprobrium he attracts here, or if its for the same reasons he used to get stick while I was a listener/viewer that I could never fathom?


        • Millie Tant says:

          Dimbleby doesn’t select the audience, of course, so he may well be surprised and on occasion even not like what those behind the scenes serve up.

          I used to like David Dimbleby presiding over Question Time with his calm manner and serene authority. Maybe that gives him an air of detachment and impartiality.

          But then too I used to like Radio 4 and to believe that the BBC was a quality broadcaster. Now I consider it a haven of political and cultural bias and sloppy, ill-informed, poor-quality, agenda-driven journalism mixed with promotion of special causes. I feel ashamed of my earlier naivety and poor judgement in accepting and believing in the BBC’s consciously cultivated air of authority and knowing what it is talking about on all manner of subjects.


  3. NotaSheep says:

    Do you mean the David Dimbleby easily controlled by Harriet Harman on Question Time here… <iframe title=”YouTube video player” class=”youtube-player” type=”text/html” width=”200″ height=”180″ src=”” frameborder=”0″></iframe>


  4. Andrew Mars says:

    I recall a huge amount of booing and jeering from the audience on one episode when Nigel Farage suggested that immigrants who settle in Britain should learn to speak English.
    I doubt anyone except the looniest of liberals takes this programme seriously after the pantomime edition with Nick Griffin.


    • beness says:

      And the BBC is just about to start a programme about immigrants speaking English.

       Guess the remit will be that they should be welcomed with open arms.


      • Andrew Mars says:

        Imagine the reaction if there was a British ex-pat in the audience who’d been living in Spain for a few years and they announced that they’d not learnt Spanish. The audience would take their purple placards out from under their seats and start chanting “RACIST NAZI FASCIST IMPERIALIST SCUM” before attacking him with claw hammers.
        The hypocrisy of the left is so obvious to all except themselves. They can’t quite understand that anyone with patriotic views usually has the same opinions regarding all countries and their right to maintain an identity.
        The left’s agenda is purely anti-British. 


        • Marky says:

          My favourite quote regarding this is.

          “What was the good of going to Peking when it was just like Shrewsbury? Why return to Shrewsbury when it would all be like Peking?” E.M. Forster


    • hippiepooter says:

      The BBC should be biased against extremists, the only problem is its bias against a Nazi scumbag like Griffin is a left wing bias, not a democratic one.  Genocidal Jews haters like Jeremy Hardy of the SWP should get exactly the same treatment, but they dont, they’re feted.  We’re not even told that they’re members of the extreme left wing Socialist Workers Party but just left to think that they’re mainstream lefties.

      Something Conservatives and any sincere democrats should be making a song and dance about, but they dont.


  5. beness says:

    Should they be expected to speak english?

     Surely not.


  6. Gerald says:

    Excellent statistical anaysis. Probably the most incontrovertable evidence of bias, being fact rather than opinion.

    If one agrees with the point being made the natural tendancy is to not interrupt.



  7. prpw says:

    Excellent work Craig, as always


  8. David Vance says:


    Great work and thanks for sharing. The bias is not just visceral, it is statistical. This happens at every level. Any time I get on, I am also constantly interrupted, attacked….it’s IN their nature. 


  9. Span Ows says:

    “interruption coefficients”…love it! This is precisely the type of information/big stick that needs to be used to bash the BBC (and their luvvie sidekicks) over the head with. That said this week looks like an almost balanced affair compared to normal weeks although we can expect the Coalition members to be in the spotlight more to enable more interruptions/boos/etc


  10. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Great work, Craig.  Appreciate all your efforts.


    • Roland Deschain says:

      Seconded.  I don’t know how you have the patience or stomach for it, Craig.


  11. Peter Baber says:

    On the subject of interruptions by so-called impartial chairmen, I complained last week to the BBC about Philip Dodd, presenter of Radio 3’s Nightwavers. (You people should really investigate him – in my experience the more niche the programme the more Christian/Liberal and biassed the presenters are.)

    Anyway, in this case I was complaining about his constantly interrupting Peter Hitchens on a discussion programme because he happened not to agree with Mr Hitchens’ claim that the ‘progressive’ tag was essentially utopian. (Curiously enough, Mr Hitchens’ opponent on the progressive side was none other than Kitty Ussher. Good to see the BBC finding airtime for so recently disgraced politicians.)

    Anyway, much to my surprise I have had a response – within 48 hours. Not bad, considering the last time I complained I didn’t get so much as an acknowledgement. So, read at your pleasure:

    Reference CAS-316914
    Thanks for your e-mail about ‘Night Waves’.
    I understand that you feel that Philip Dodd is a poor presenter as you feel he goes beyond the role in order to make his views known to guest and to listeners. In particular you mention that he disagreed with Peter Hitchens in a recent interview and the interrupted him throughout it. I note that you feel that and interviewer should refrain from giving their own personal opinions during interviews.
    Philip Dodd is a broadcaster, writer and curator who has won numerous awards, in the fields of broadcasting, publishing and cultural entrepreneurship.
    However, all our reporting staff are acutely aware of their need to be impartial and unbiased whilst covering areas of debate and dispute. BBC journalists are committed to reporting without bias. Each presenter has their own style. If this weren’t the case, then interviews and discussions would quickly become predictable.
    Presenters and interviewers are appointed on the basis of their experience and talent, but judgements are often subjective and we’d never expect everyone to agree with every choice we make.
    I do appreciate your concerns about Philip Dodd and so I’d like to assure you that I’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.
    The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.
    Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
    Kind Regards
    Leanne Bennett


    • Roland Deschain says:

      “If this weren’t the case, then interviews and discussions would quickly become predictable.”

      Yes, they would, wouldn’t they(!)


    • Millie Tant says:

      Thanks for posting that. It was an interesting read.  I love the civil servant-like po-faced prose: “I understand that you feel that Philip Dodd is a poor presenter..”  😀

      And the bit about the interviews becoming predictable if all the presenters were the same. Ho, ho. I’d say the Beeboid Corporation is fairly predictable in certain directions.