The new series of the flagship BBC political debate show Question Time has already racked up its fair share of controversy, from Diane Abbott’s justifiable complaint, to audience plants, to Tories trying to fiddle their way in to the audience, to new host Fiona Bruce not quite being up to speed on opinion polling, we have seen and heard it all. Now questions are being asked about the relevance of panellists.
We know who you are, thanks
MPs, MEPs, members of the House of Lords, campaigners, subject experts and knowledgeable commentators are all very well, but tonight - and not for the first time, it has to be said - viewers are once again being subjected to the vacuous verbiage of TalkRADIO host Julia Hartley Brewer, who manages to put out a fog of words, while much of the time saying very little at all, except in promotion of Herself Personally Now.
Leave alone the shameless self-promotion, the constant trilling for the hardest of Brexit without any thought for what that will do to millions of Britons (clue: it won’t make them rich), the kinds of law and order soundbites that get a round of applause but do sweet jack about the problems facing the authorities, and the sly insertion of totally untrue claims, especially about anyone to the left of Genghis Khan for a moment, and consider this.
As former Attorney General Dominic Grieve showed recently on her favourite subject - Brexit - Ms Hartley Dooda does not know what on earth she is talking about. There is no grasp of detail, just a torrent of hot air, and claims that we can do whatever she says we can do, with no consequences and lots of unicorns for everyone. Silly and trivial things like international law are not for her. Comment is free, and facts are for wimps.
Even the Tweets put out advertising tonight’s show do not show this particular choice of guest in a good light. After telling that fellow panellist Catherine Barnard is a “Professor of EU law”, we read that Ms Hartley Dooda “Presents a regular show on TalkRADIO” and “Was previously political editor of the Sunday Express”. The Sunday Express is a joke newspaper. And she’s being given equal status to a professor of EU law.
Small wonder there has been less than total agreement with selecting Ms Hartley Dooda - once again - as a Question Time panellist, with comments such as “Does Julia Hartley-Brewer have a season ticket for the Question Time panel?” (and, whisper if quietly, the paper review panel on The Andy Marr Show™) and “Meaningless soundbite bingo on question time tonight anyone?” There was more.
“It's obscene you're going to put a law professor next to Julia Hartley-Brewer and act as if they are equal contributors. Everything wrong with Question time … Here's a good reason to avoid BBC Question Time tonight, unless you enjoy Brexiter lies being backed up by the chair … By the way, BBC, journalists deal in facts. Julia Hartley-Brewer doesn't really qualify, does she? … Julia Hartley-Brexit is going to be on question time tonight, it’ll be about as balanced as a one-legged cat in a hurricane”. That last was my favourite.
If Question Time is to have any credibility, it must take the world of politics and current affairs, its audience - both in the studio and elsewhere - and the subject matter seriously. Putting Julia Hartley Dooda on the panel shows it does not intend to do so.
The age of the shamelessly self-promoting pundit was for a time, but not for all time.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at