Has Question Time finally caved in to public pressure over UKIP? [VIDEO]

Dimbleby UKIP Question Time
Steve Topple

On Thursday 6 April, BBC Question Time appeared to have finally listened to repeated public outcry over the programme. Because after sustained pressure and a rather vocal campaign, there was not a UKIP politician in sight on the final show before Easter.

Where’s Wally?

After two episodes in which firstly UKIP’s Suzanne Evans and then Paul Nuttall appeared (even though the party no longer has an MP), the Green Party launched a campaign with the hashtag #InviteTheGreens. UKIP has appeared on 24% of Question Time editions since 2010, compared to just 7% for the Greens, whose co-Leader Caroline Lucas was elected as an MP in 2010.

And the Green Party’s campaign appears to have paid off. As co-Leader Jonathan Bartley made his debut appearance on 6 April. But his performance wasn’t without controversy.

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At the beginning of the show, Bartley had to ask [4.19] presenter David Dimbleby to let him speak. Towards the end, the veteran presenter appeared to forget the Green Party co-Leader’s name. Also, Dimbleby was about to close the show, but then seemed to remember [57.15] Bartley hadn’t spoken on the final question. And Bartley caused uproar when he suggested [31.42] that people who voted to ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum didn’t know what they were voting for.

Brexit

Bartley said [31.42] of people who voted to leave the EU:

They didn’t vote for a country that was less prosperous. They didn’t vote for a third of our environmental… [shouting from audience] the OBR reckons that the end of free movement is going to cost us £18bn by the year 2021. The government has already said that we’re gonna have to lose potentially a third of our environmental protections…

Dimbleby then said [32.06] to Bartley:

You’re assuming people voted the way they did, you didn’t like they way they voted, so you assume the worst motives… Maybe people voted the way they did because they wanted to vote that way and knew what they were doing?

Bartley replied [32.18]:

I think people both on the remain side and leave side voted in good faith. And I think there was a terrible referendum campaign and people were misled. But we did have the option, for example, of staying in the single market and leaving. This version of Brexit the government is pushing for… [interruption from audience]

Conservative MP Suella Fernandes then interrupted Bartley, saying [32.26]:

Jonathan needs to stop talking down our country. Stop patronising the voters and telling them how they voted. Let’s be more positive.

Nailing the Tories

The Green Party co-Leader made strong points on free school meals and Syria. But perhaps his best moment was on welfare reform. He took Conservative MP Suella Fernandes to task over the government’s cuts to benefits:

Fernandes repeatedly said that the government wants to “make work pay”. But the statistics over poverty show otherwise. Figures show that more than 14 million people in the UK now live in relative poverty; while officially only 1.6 million people are unemployed. And the number of children in poverty rose by 400,000 from 2010/11 to 2015/16. Meaning there are now four million deprived children in the UK. And a staggering 66% of those are in working households.

UKIP on the ropes?

Bartley’s appearance comes as new figures show that the Greens will be standing more candidates in May’s local elections than UKIP. Nuttall’s party will be putting up candidates in 48% of wards, compared to the Greens 53.9%. And with Question Time’s epiphany over its guests, maybe the tide is starting to turn against UKIP and towards the Greens. Either way, Bartley’s appearance, if not without controversy, was surely a breath of fresh air on what’s fast becoming a staid and stale political programme.

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