On last night’s Question Time, Fiona Bruce’s BBC ‘impartiality’ mask slipped for one revealing moment

Fiona Bruce and Brandon Lewis on BBC Question Time
Tracy Keeling

During BBC Question Time on 12 September, host Fiona Bruce’s mask slipped for one revealing moment. The public broadcaster makes much of its commitment to “due impartiality” in its output. But one brief exchange between Bruce and Home Office minister Brandon Lewis on the programme has got people up in arms. Because many saw the playful “teasing” in it as an anathema to the adversarial relationship the media should have with those in power.

Just teasing you

As per usual, Brexit featured heavily as a topic on Question Time. One question in the programme, however, focused less on the current government’s handling of the issue and more on the PM who started the debacle: David Cameron:


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That led audience members to share their thoughts on Cameron, who promised an EU referendum in 2013 and delivered it in 2016.

One woman brought up the fact that Cameron – who campaigned to remain – pledged to stay in his post no matter what the outcome of the vote. Following her comment, Bruce asked Lewis whether he wished Cameron had stood by that pledge:

But as Liam Lavery pointed out, Bruce then stopped the “struggling” Lewis in his tracks as he tried to answer the question. As she did so, she patted him on the arm, smiled, and said, “I’m teasing you, I’m teasing you”. Lavery wasn’t the only viewer who was taken aback by the exchange either:

Double standards

Although it was a fleeting moment in the show, it speaks volumes. Because it demonstrated a lighthearted, good-natured playfulness between the BBC host and her Conservative minister panellist. A whimsicality which is generally missing from Bruce’s interaction with Labour shadow ministers. And it’s a chumminess that certainly isn’t conducive to the adversarial relationship journalists should have with those who wield political power.

Featured image via BBC

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  • Show Comments
    1. Not even a deaf and blind sheepdog in Orkney believes that the EBC is impartial! The coverage given to the YES movement marches is laughable. Just a (bad, sick) joke in Scotland. 🤮🤮🤮

    2. On R4’s Today programme there have been a number of John Humphrys interviews with Brexitty ministers that have started with a disconcertingly chummy bit of banter. It feels like a pattern to me but I can’t discern whether it’s a deliberate tactic by the interviewees or whether they are genuinely surprisingly matey with each other. I don’t hear Humphrys being that chummy with Remainers though.
      (And contrary to stereotyped opinion, I think Nick Robinson is pretty fair.)

    3. Almost as bad was when she said “that’s the best answer you’re going to get” to an audience member when Brandon gave a half-answer to a question in the same episode, letting him get away with it

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