Even the BBC had to admit this Question Time audience member got it wrong

Fiona Bruce and BBCQT audience member
Ed Sykes

On 21 November, an audience member on BBC Question Time (BBCQT) attacked Labour for pledging to tax ‘ordinary people’ like him. The problem is, he’s in the top 5% of earners in the country. And even the BBC had to step in to call out his nonsense.

Only the top 5%

Labour’s tax calculator shows that the party is only asking the richest 5% of earners to pay more income tax. Its fully-costed 2019 manifesto also makes that clear.

However, one BBCQT audience member claimed:

I am one of them people that [Labour] will tax more, and I am nowhere near in the top 5%.

After Labour’s Richard Burgon said he was wrong, he continued by saying:

I’ve read your policy. It’s above £80,000. And I am nowhere near in the top 5%, let me tell you. I’m not even in the top 50%.

With confusion both on the panel and in the audience, he then revealed that he earns over £80,000 – which clearly does make him “in the top 5%”.

He couldn’t be more out of touch with reality

The man’s claims on BBCQT were so nonsensical that even the BBC had to call them out:

It clarified that:

And it highlighted the utter absurdity of the ‘not even in the top 50%’ claim:

It also shared the following graph in an article on the subject to make it extra clear:

As the BBC pointed out these tax office figures “exclude people earning too little to pay income tax, which means that the audience member would have been well into the top 5% of all earners”. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) pointed out in August 2019, “43% of adults pay no income tax”.

While the BBC did expose the audience member’s nonsense, the BBCQT account on Twitter didn’t provide any clarity on its tweet that included his false claim. So it didn’t undo the damage done when people saw the original clip live or on social media.

Extreme privilege

Income inequality in Britain is extreme, and we need to talk about it much more. Because the share of national income that the UK’s ultra-rich receive has increased significantly since the 1980s. And today, only 310,000 people make up the top 1% of earners, who are“disproportionately male, middle-aged and London-based”. Such extreme inequality is disastrous for numerous reasons.

The man in the BBCQT audience may not be able to see his position of privilege. Or he may not want to see it. But it’s there. So the BBC rightly called him out. Because Labour is not planning to tax ‘ordinary people’ more. It’s simply seeking to address the immense inequality that has only grown worse and worse in recent decades under Tory and Torylite governments. And to do so, it’s asking the wealthiest 5% to pay a bit more. That is not a big ask, but it’s something these people will fight tooth and nail to prevent – even if that means spouting barefaced lies.

Featured image via BBCQT

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  • Show Comments
    1. Have a listen to this evenings BBC Radio 4 ‘PM’ programme (via payback) where precisely this issue was put to an expert from The Institute of Fiscal Studies. In section toward end of programme titled ‘Ask The Expert’ on timebar 42:21 the expert says ‘the angry anti-Labour Question Time guy’ was indeed part of the 5% that he angrily tried to deny. Just shows you just have to listen to several versions of ‘fact’ and NEVER take as fact the first, or even the last, ‘fact’ as fact. Said expert says ‘the angry anti-Labour Question Time guy’ “…is in the top 5%”. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000bgpn

    2. The idiocy of this man rather summed up Brexit man. Even when it’s explained they won’t have it. “Liar!” they scream. Neither this man nor the eloquent man who ‘feared for his daughter’ under Labour were big hits for us Labourites; they were inventions that failed to hit their mark.

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