The latest run of flagship BBC politics show Question Time seems to be cursed: hardly a week passes without a mis-step, or a gaping flaw in audience selection. Yesterday evening, it was the latter, as a shouty young man in a red top berated the panel over Theresa May’s failure to get her Brexit deal over the line, and the UK out of the EU.
Such was the vehemence and passion of this audience member that his rant was clipped up and Tweeted out via the programme’s official feed, which told “‘It is nothing but sheer arrogance of people that have lost, and people that want to subvert democracy’ … This audience member says he is against another referendum on leaving the EU”.
Initial responses to the Tweet were highly positive, until one wag mused “Bet that one turns out to be an ex ukip candidate or similar”. Actually, his twin brother was. Also, Michael Rosen had smelt a rat when he saw the clip, asking pointedly “This man is not an anonymous ‘member of the public’. Could you please tell us who he is?”
That information was willingly ponied up by the Tweeter known as I Was A JSA Claimant, who put it directly: “Shouty guy on #bbcqt turns out to be a disgraced barrister who supplied 'chemsex' drugs to his teenage boyfriend, who later died from an overdose. His previous clients include Nadine Dorries and the Earl of Cardigan”.
Chemsex drugs and Nadine Dorries? Double disgrace! But seriously, who was he? Ah well. In May 2016, the Telegraph told readers “A celebrity barrister who supplied the ‘chemsex’ drugs that killed his teenage boyfriend has been spared jail and ordered to carry out unpaid work … Henry Hendron, 35, bought £1,000 of mephedrone and GBL from BBC producer Alexander Parkin, 41, to take to parties and sell on to friends”.
Do go on. “He gave detailed instructions to his Colombian boyfriend Miguel Jimenez, 18, on how to use and package the drugs, to which Miguel replied: ‘Blimey, and I'm the Colombian.’ … But, on the morning of January 20 last year, Hendron woke up to find Miguel lying dead next to him in bed at his flat in London's Temple, the collection of chambers where Britain's top lawyers and judges are based”.
Hendron was evicted from his chambers. He was evicted from his twin brother’s Covent Garden flat. His brother later denounced him as a “drug addict” after finding a quantity of drugs in the office, after he’d given his twin some work at his own law firm. The BBC even did a feature on him for the Radio 4 Today Programme. Yet somehow Henry Hendron got himself into yesterday evening’s Question Time audience.
An occasional lapse by new host Fiona Bruce is not the problem right now; she will improve with experience. The troubling and repeated failure for Question Time is with audience selection, and the ability of some parts of the political spectrum to become a part of it, while others are excluded. The result is a continuing stream of adverse publicity.
Giving a platform to convicted criminals is not a wise way to proceed here. Hint.
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