If anyone wondered what on earth possessed Theresa May for her to challenge Jeremy Corbyn to a ‘Brexit debate’ when she hid from anything resembling a head-to-head debate during last year’s general election campaign – you were right to be sceptical.
After confusion and anger this morning over the channel to host the debate, with Labour agreeing publicly for ITV to be the platform only for the BBC to then announce May had agreed with the BBC, the truth is beginning to emerge.
Theresa May wants only a truncated ‘head to head’ with Jeremy Corbyn – or preferably none at all – to be followed by ‘audience participation’.
And we saw in the BBC Question Time non-debate last year, what kind of ‘audience’ the BBC created.
So one-sided and right-wing was the audience that it spawned the ‘gammon’ meme after the SKWAWKBOX published the above graphic, depicting nine angry, older, white men who dominated the programme. It was copied and adapted in images and videos shared millions of times and still appears in new versions almost a year and a half later.
Out of an audience of around 120 people, the nine men pictured above were allowed to ask twenty-nine percent of the questions – many of them variations of “Why shouldn’t we nuke millions, you jessie?”
It takes little imagination where a Brexit discussion swamped by such characters would go.
A BBC source told the SKWAWKBOX that the final format has yet to be agreed and might involve a panel asking questions – but that:
It would be different from the Dimbleby non-debate. There would be a head to head but… I think it would be more like that 2010 debate where after a bit of a clash they had a chat with Greens and SNP who weren’t in the main bit of the show.
But the BBC’s Iain Watson told BBC News viewers this afternoon that a head-to-head may well not happen:
A Labour source told the SKWAWKBOX:
Theresa May will do anything to avoid a simple one-on-one debate and the BBC will be more likely to accommodate her. Labour wants a head-to-head. It’s that straightforward.
Whatever the eventual format, Theresa May will be hoping that:
- anything but a straight head-to-head debate will allow her to either obscure her poor performance compared to Corbyn’s under memories of skewed questions, or
- that the ‘take-away’ of viewers will be based on aggressive audience interventions and, based on past BBC performance, a liberal dose of anti-Corbyn smears, rather than the relative performance and credibility of the two party leaders.
Labour must hold out for the simple format that will really put the positions of the two parties and their leaders under the spotlight – on a channel with a better record of neutrality.
On that ‘level playing field’ there would only be one outcome.
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