Sunday , July 14 2024

Has Question Time been unfairly dominated by Remainers?

On 4th April 2019, Charles Moore accused BBC’s Question Time programme of being biased against Brexiters, quoting research from the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) that Remainers featured on the programme almost twice as much as Brexiters.

The host, Fiona Bruce, refused to accept that there was any bias, and BBC Question Time released the following statement on their Twitter profile:

“In response to the point made by @CharlesHMoore about our panels – we’d point out that since 2016 there’s been a range of competing and different positions on Brexit which #bbcqt has reflected both on the panel and from our audience.”

— Tweet from @bbcquestiontime, 22:47 on 4th April 2019.

It is true that BBC Question Time has featured people of varying opinions. However have Remainers and Brexiters been featured equally on the programme?

To answer this question, it is necessary to first define what constitutes a “Remainer” and a “Brexiter”. In this analysis, I have defined a Brexiter as anyone who voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum, and who would still vote Leave in a future referendum. People who voted Remain in 2016, but had since said they would vote for Leave (Piers Morgan, Liz Truss are notable examples) have also been categorised as Brexiters.

“Remainers” are defined as anyone who voted Remain in 2016, and would likely vote Remain again in any future referendum. This includes many politicians, who although they have been trying to implement the 2016 vote to Leave, would still personally prefer the UK to remain in the EU. People like Ken Clarke, who is a fervent Remainer yet voted in favour of May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, as well as ministers like Philip Hammond and Greg Clark, fall into this category. In short, people are judged to be Remainers or Brexiters based on how they would vote in a hypothetical 2nd referendum.

Several guests on the show have been less outspoken on their views regarding Brexit. In cases where their position is not public knowledge, their stance has been assigned based on their comments during the Question Time broadcast, as well as reaction to their comments on social media. For many of the more recent Question Time episodes, the Brexit stance of guests that were featured on the programme were listed in The New European (a pro-Remain publication), and they have been assumed to be accurate.

I have analysed 2017, 2018 and the first 13 episodes of 2019 (the episodes aired at the time of writing).

The balance of Leavers against Remainers in 2017 is illustrated below:

The balance of Remainers vs Leavers on the BBC Question Time panel throughout 2017. Episodes  21 and 22 were Party Leader debates, so have been omitted.

Excluding the two leaders debates preceding the General Election, there were 39 episodes of Question Time in 2017. Only two episodes (the 12th and 13th episodes of the year) featured more Brexiters than Remainers on the panel. The 15th and 19th episodes of the year featured no Brexiters on the panel at all.

In 2017, the Question Time panel featured 128 Remainers and 67 Brexiters – a big imbalance compared to the makeup of the nation which voted 52-48% in favour to Leave.

In 2018, Question Time featured the following panellists:

The balance of Remainers vs Leavers on the BBC Question Time panel throughout 2018.

Only one episode, the 8th of the year, featured more Brexiters than Remainers on the panel. The 20th episode of the year featured no Brexiters at all. Remarkably, there were 13 episodes with only one Brexiter on the panel.

In 2018, the Question Time panel featured 131 Remainers and 64 Brexiters – a bigger imbalance than 2017.

So far in 2019, the Question Time panel has looked like the following:

The balance of Remainers vs Leavers on BBC Question Time for the first 13 episodes of 2019.

Only one episode (the 6th of 2019), featured more Brexiters than Remainers on the panel. Six episodes (almost half the episodes broadcast so far this year) have featured only one Brexiter, and in total so far in 2019, Question Time has featured 44 Remainers and 21 Brexiters on the panel.

From the start of 2017 to the time of writing of this article, Question Time has featured 303 Remainers and 152 Brexiters, a bias of roughly 2:1. It is clear that although the country voted to Leave, and polls have not moved materially since the vote, Brexiters have been chronically underepresented on the UK’s premier politics and debating programme.

Panellist categorisations – 2017

In the following categorisations, Brexiters are displayed in Red, whilst Remainers are displayed in  black.

#No. in yearAirdatePanellists
1311112-Jan-17David Lidington, Gisela Stuart, Paul Mason, Monica Grady, Arron Banks
1312219-Jan-17Chris Grayling, Emily Thornberry, Alistair Carmichael, Piers Morgan, Lionel Shriver
1313326-Jan-17Diane Abbott, James Cleverly, Angus Robertson, Susie Boniface, Geoff Norcott
1314402-Feb-17Patrick McLoughlin, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Maajid Nawaz, Nick Hewer, Laura Perrins
1315509-Feb-17Claire Perry, Owen Smith, Peter Whittle, Billy Bragg, Ann Widdecombe
1316616-Feb-17David Mundell, Shami Chakrabarti, John Swinney, Val McDermid, Mark Littlewood
1317723-Feb-17Justine Greening, Angela Rayner, Douglas Carswell, Peter Coates, Isabel Oakeshott
1318802-Mar-17Elizabeth Truss, Dawn Butler, Menzies Campbell, Peter Hitchens, Jamie MacColl
1319909-Mar-17Karen Bradley, Kezia Dugdale, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Polly Toynbee, Fraser Nelson
13201016-Mar-17Jacob Rees-Mogg, Angela Eagle, Joanna Cherry, Matthew Parris, Tim Martin
13211123-Mar-17Brandon Lewis, Nia Griffith, Leanne Wood, Giles Fraser, Hugo Rifkind
13221227-Mar-17David Davis, Keir Starmer, Nick Clegg, Suzanne Evans, Melanie Phillips, Alex Salmond
13231330-Mar-17Ruth Davidson, Lisa Nandy, Paul Nuttall, Len McCluskey, Kate Andrews
13241406-Apr-17Suella Fernandes, Diane Abbott, Tim Farron, Jonathan Bartley, Gerard Coyne, Michelle Dewberry
13251527-Apr-17Damian Green, Clive Lewis, Jo Swinson, Stephen Gethins, Camilla Cavendish
13261604-May-17David Davis, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Paul Nuttall, Leanne Wood, Juergen Maier
13271711-May-17Ben Wallace, Joanna Cherry, Emily Thornberry, Merryn Somerset Webb, David Hayman
13281818-May-17Priti Patel, Angela Rayner, Vince Cable, Jonathan Bartley, Charles Moore
13291925-May-17Amber Rudd, Andy Burnham, Colin Parry, Sara Khan, Nazir Afzal
13302001-Jun-17David Davis, Barry Gardiner, Nick Clegg, Suzanne Evans, Angus Robertson
2309-Jun-17Chris Grayling, Shami Chakrabarti, Isabel Oakeshott, Armando Iannucci, Alastair Campbell
13312415-Jun-17Tobias Ellwood, Emily Thornberry, Norman Lamb, Laura Perrins, Rob Delaney
13322522-Jun-17David Lidington, Jon Ashworth, Ian Blackford, Peter Oborne, Gina Miller
13332629-Jun-17Liam Fox, Stella Creasy, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, Nick Ferrari
13342706-Jul-17Jacob Rees-Mogg, Richard Burgon, Caroline Lucas, Susie Boniface, Craig Oliver
13352814-Sep-17David Gauke, Dawn Butler, Kirsty Blackman, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Will Self
13362921-Sep-17Vince Cable, Kwasi Kwarteng, Jess Phillips, Dia Chakravarty, Paul Mason
13373028-Sep-17Karen Bradley, Ian Lavery, Peter Hitchens, Richard Tice, Ayesha Hazarika
13383105-Oct-17Damian Green, Angela Rayner, Michelle Dewberry, Sarah Churchwell, Fraser Nelson
13393212-Oct-17Theresa Villiers, Owen Smith, Simon Hamilton, John O’Dowd, Jonathan Lynn
13403319-Oct-17Chris Grayling, Lisa Nandy, Sal Brinton, Simon Wolfson, Richard Coles
13413426-Oct-17Jacob Rees-Mogg, Shami Chakrabarti, Alex Salmond, Camilla Tominey, Germaine Greer
13423502-Nov-17Daniel Hannan, Jeane Freeman, Kezia Dugdale, Anne McElvoy, Owen Jones
13433609-Nov-17Justine Greening, Stella Creasy, Kirstie Allsopp, Aditya Chakrabortty, Charles Moore
13443716-Nov-17Emily Thornberry, Nadhim Zahawi, Tim Farron, Rod Liddle, Val McDermid
13453823-Nov-17Greg Clark, Diane Abbott, Bernard Hogan-Howe, Dreda Say Mitchell, Stuart Rose
13463930-Nov-17Chuka Umunna, Sam Gyimah, Henry Bolton, Sarah Baxter, Yanis Varoufakis
13474007-Dec-17Bernard Jenkin, Owen Smith, Liz Saville Roberts, Kate Andrews, Richard Bacon
13484114-Dec-17Nicky Morgan, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Robert Winston, Isabel Oakeshott, Geoff Norcott

Panellist categorisations – 2018

#No. in yearAirdatePanellists
1349111-Jan-18Dominic Raab, Dawn Butler, Gina Miller, Nish Kumar, Piers Morgan
1350218-Jan-18Margot James, Andy Burnham, Howard Davies, Munira Mirza, Dustin Lance Black
1351325-Jan-18Michael Forsyth, Chris Williamson, Fiona Hyslop, Maggie Chapman, Peter Oborne
1352401-Feb-18Justine Greening, John Mann, Jo Swinson, Miatta Fahnbulleh, Tim Stanley
1353508-Feb-18Claire Perry, Emily Thornberry, Richard Tice, Rachel Sylvester, Terry Christian
1354615-Feb-18Theresa Villiers, David Lammy, Richard Walker, Faiza Shaheen, Camilla Cavendish
1355722-Feb-18Brandon Lewis, John Prescott, Camilla Tominey, Ash Sarkar, Juergen Maier
1356801-Mar-18Kenneth Clarke, Owen Smith, Nigel Farage, Michelle Dewberry, Radzi Chinyanganya
1357908-Mar-18Liam Fox, Laura Pidcock, Roma Agrawal, George the Poet, Prue Leith
13581015-Mar-18Chris Grayling, Keir Starmer, Mairead McGuinness, Afshin Rattansi, Brian Cox
13591122-Mar-18James Cleverly, Shami Chakrabarti, Stewart McDonald, Paris Lees, Peter Hitchens
13601212-Apr-18Jo Johnson, Barry Gardiner, Jonathan Freedland, Kate Andrews, Nicola Horlick
13611319-Apr-18Elizabeth Truss, Emily Thornberry, Vince Cable, Nesrine Malik, Iain Dale
13621426-Apr-18Matthew Hancock, Diane Abbott, Caroline Lucas, Jen Robinson, Simon Evans
13631503-May-18David Lidington, Chi Onwurah, Matt Forde, Camilla Tominey, Martin Lewis
13641610-May-18Esther McVey, Chuka Umunna, Alejandro Agag, Chloe Westley, Akala
13651717-May-18Dominic Raab, Diane Abbott, Bernard Hogan-Howe, Camilla Cavendish, Aditya Chakrabortty
13661824-May-18Anna Soubry, Anneliese Dodds, Sarah Churchwell, Dominic Lawson, Lionel Shriver
13671931-May-18Kwasi Kwarteng, Caroline Flint, Kate Forbes, Darren McGarvey, Brian Souter
13682007-Jun-18Damian Hinds, Shami Chakrabarti, Richard Reed, Alison Phillips, Richard Madeley
13692114-Jun-18Dominic Grieve, John Mann, Leanne Wood, Isabel Oakeshott, Matthew Wright
13702221-Jun-18Damian Green, Jon Ashworth, Afua Hirsch, Tim Martin, Ella Whelan
13712328-Jun-18Suella Braverman, Clive Lewis, Johan Eliasch, Helen Lewis, Janet Street-Porter
13722405-Jul-18Priti Patel, Lisa Nandy, Ian Blackford, Matthew Parris, Carolyn Radford
13732512-Jul-18Claire Perry, Barry Gardiner, Gina Miller, Charles Moore, Piers Morgan
13742613-Sep-18Rory Stewart, Chris Leslie, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Faiza Shaheen, Theo Paphitis
13752720-Sep-18Chris Skidmore, Barry Gardiner, Vince Cable, Camilla Tominey, Nazir Afzal
13762827-Sep-18Jacob Rees-Mogg, Ian Lavery, Polly Mackenzie, Ayesha Hazarika, Rod Liddle
13772904-Oct-18David Gauke, Emily Thornberry, George the Poet, Isabel Oakeshott, Claude Littner
13783011-Oct-18Ross Thomson, Kezia Dugdale, Mike Russell, Fraser Nelson, Val McDermid
13793118-Oct-18James Cleverly, Keir Starmer, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Michael Dobbs, Nish Kumar
13803225-Oct-18Andrea Jenkyns, Lisa Nandy, Hannah Bardell, Sebastian Payne, Paul Mason
13813301-Nov-18Giles Watling, Andy McDonald, Anne McElvoy, Kate Andrews, Shappi Khorsandi
13823408-Nov-18Kwasi Kwarteng, Diane Abbott, Mairead McGuinness, David Aaronovitch, Jordan Peterson
13833515-Nov-18Claire Perry, Barry Gardiner, Liz Saville Roberts, Mark Serwotka, Tim Stanley
13843622-Nov-18Karen Bradley, Clive Lewis, Richard Walker, Trevor Phillips, Julia Hartley-Brewer
13853729-Nov-18Nadhim Zahawi, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Layla Moran, Tim Martin, Benjamin Zephaniah
13863806-Dec-18James Brokenshire, Shami Chakrabarti, Ian Blackford, Jill Rutter, Charles Moore
13873913-Dec-18David Davis, Nicky Morgan, Angela Rayner, Caroline Lucas, Jo Brand

Panellist categorisations – 2019

#No. in yearAirdatePanellists
1388110-Jan-19James Cleverly, Emily Thornberry, Jo Swinson, Melanie Phillips, Nish Kumar
1389217-Jan-19Rory Stewart, Diane Abbott, Kirsty Blackman, Anand Menon, Isabel Oakeshott
1390324-Jan-19Suella Braverman, John Healey, Sonia Sodha, Iain Anderson, Nick Ferrari
1391431-Jan-19Helen Whately, Richard Burgon, Juergen Maier, Camilla Tominey, Gina Miller
1392507-Feb-19Michael Forsyth, Anneliese Dodds, Fiona Hyslop, Hugo Rifkind, Eunice Olumide
1393614-Feb-19Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lisa Nandy, Grace Blakeley, Geoff Norcott, Jimmy Wales
1394721-Feb-19Mel Stride, Andy McDonald, Chris Leslie, Ella Whelan, John Barnes
1395828-Feb-19Nadhim Zahawi, Barry Gardiner, Layla Moran, Lionel Shriver, Henning Wehn
1396907-Mar-19Dominic Raab, Margaret Beckett, Iain Martin, Javed Khan, Owen Jones
13971014-Mar-19James Cleverly, Clive Lewis, Ian Blackford, Catherine Barnard, Julia Hartley-Brewer
13981121-Mar-19Tobias Ellwood, Nick Thomas-Symonds, Jeffrey Donaldson, John O’Dowd, Polly Mackenzie
13991228-Mar-19Damian Hinds, Jenny Chapman, Simon Wolfson, Merryn Somerset Webb, Yanis Varoufakis
14001304-Apr-19Jeremy Wright, David Lammy, Mairead McGuinness, Charles Moore, Ash Sarkar

This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog:

About Joel Rodrigues

Joel was born and lives in the United Kingdom, and is a geophysicist working for an oil services company. He blogs in his free time about politics, mainly concerning Brexit. He identifies mainly with conservatism and civic nationalism.

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  1. Malcolm Allan

    What do you expect it’s from the reamainers at the BBC

  2. Isaac Anderson

    Well done you, Joel, for doing the statistical research to expose the BBC’s nonsensical hypocrisy and pretence to be unbiased.

    As Malcolm said above it is the from the ‘Brussels Broadcasting Corporation. Purveyors of Spin, fake news & smokescreens.’

  3. John Pickles

    Whoever selects who goes on Question Time, and whoever he or she reports to, plus the overall editor should be sacked for bringing the BBC into disrepute. They have to be out of their biased minds, at a time when the funding of this organisation is under debate.

  4. Kelsey

    Well done for exposing it for how it is ! The BBC are a very biased organisation . It’s about time they were exposed

  5. Adam Hiley

    I am sick of Remoaners being given a platform to continue to lecture us if they love the EU so much piss off & move to it then