It’s an important week for the Government: we’ve had the Queen’s Speech, the new Parliament has been opened, the cuts are being announced, and, most significant of all, the new and improved two-headed donkey has refused to move in the direction of the BBC.
For the last few days, it’s been known that one of the pundits on this week’s Beeb Question Time would be Alastair Campbell. He’s been tweeting about it on and off for long enough. Also pencilled in was Piers “Morgan” Moron, famous for being himself, and likely not to agree with Big Al over trivialities such as Iraq, Iraq and Iraq, but not necessarily in that order.
So how does the two-headed donkey handle this one? Easy. It puts one or more of its hooves in the brown smelly stuff by trying to get Big Al chucked off the programme. A Government representative, the Beeb was told, would not appear against Campbell, but they would field someone if a Shadow Cabinet member appeared in his place.
Not surprisingly, the Beeb declined this attempt at panel gerrymandering, pointing out that when Labour were in power, they willingly put up ministers against Tory supporting journalists or peers. Moreover, Question Time does not impose any precondition or qualification on its panellists. It would be mightily boring if panels were made up only of MPs, and subject to haggling over appearances by minor parties.
In the event, the Beeb roped in Tory maverick John Redwood, who had no problem with debating Big Al, and he acquitted himself well. And that’s the whole point: this is a forum for debate, but in a way that entertains and informs. As for the “not elected” mantra, it should be ridiculed for its sheer lameness. Whatever next? Removing Dimbleby Major from the chair for being “unelected”? No more journalists appearing because they’re “unelected”?
The reality is that the Beeb has gained in stature for standing firm, the Government has emerged looking foolish, and Big Al has trumped Andy Coulson big time.