Huffpost UK Politics uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Joshua Funnell Headshot

Dear BBC, More Owen Jones's on Question Time Please!

Posted: Updated:

No show angers me more than BBC Question Time. Consecutive laptops have been placed in mortal danger as I watch the same poisoned formula concocted each week by the alchemists Dimbleby & co. Consequently my dad has effectively banned me from regarding it with him, due to my Peep Show (on extremely bitter steroids) style analysis of the weekly 'debate'.

Predictably, week after week the BBC wheels out what it honestly believes are a diverse panel of politicians and commentators from all sides of the political spectrum. Sadly, what the BBC doesn't seem to understand, is that in this post Thatcher land we occupy with that other lady TINA (There Is No Economic Alternative) who roams around jacked up on deregulated free market transactions, is that Question Time's 'diversity' is akin to a civilised discussion between cans of Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Coke. Liberal democracies and real choices apparently aren't guaranteed.

Bless the BBC, its part of the establishment and doesn't even know it, doddering around like a well intentioned - but naïve - community organiser for the Conservative Party. The ever 'objective' BBC for example, once reported that it was, 'a fact' that George Bush and TB wanted to, export democracy to Iraq. Media analysts Media Lens were stunned by this factual claim, so asked former head of BBC news, Helen Boaden, for evidence proving this as fact. She responded to this request, I kid you not, with three pages of quotes copy and pasted from Bush and Blair speeches in which they claimed implementing democracy to Iraq was their real objective... This embarrassing example of journalistic naivety provokes the image of a sex attack victim gratefully accepting a glass laced with Rohypnol from a would be predator. This incompetence could be excusable, even almost palatable as black comedy, if it wasn't for its corrosive impact on public discourse.

With these thoughts in mind, I riddle you to find a guest on that illustrious Question Time panel that harbours a mere atom of anti capitalist sentiment, or what we call, 'a real left alternative'. They're about as likely to appear as an enthusiastic anarchist at a Goldman Sachs recruitment centre. The sum total of this incessant exclusion is to frustrate and alienate a significant proportion of the population, who are televisionally disenfranchised. I feel this myself; you sit there over time thinking, 'f*ck, where do I come in to this discussion? Maybe my egalitarian sentiments are nuts after all, maybe conservative uncle Kev was right all along'.

But QT's makeup exemplifies a stagnant political clique; utterly unresponsive and incapable of bending to the needs of people over big business like an arthritically fused spine. So over time, this constant exclusion of alternative views drip-feeds an insidious lesson to the British people: 'This is the political line, don't cross it, we are the establishment and if you disagree, you're excluded from plonking yourself on one of these holy TV thrones'.

And so, Question Time bears partial responsibility for people not voting; it demoralises the public in to submission by exclusion of meaningful dissent. It has even provoked a number of online QT drinking games, presumably contrived to help viewers cope whilst watching. So thank Christ, Owen 'epic moisturizer' Jones arrived on the panel recently, shooting down zealots like Eastwood in a desert. Academic. Intellectual. Hero. Lad.

Admittedly, other than Owen Jones, the BBC does sometimes have a few too many shandys, goes mental and books someone like Jonny Rotten. The Rottens of the panel normally serve as de-facto left wingers/comic relief. For example, Rotten will say something inane and we're all supposed to think

'Haha, Mr Rotten has expressed an inarticulate stupid opinion, how naïve and foolish of him, unlike these sensible well groomed men in suits, left wing politics must equally be stupid and of little significance'

The net result, again, is to subliminally inform viewers 'this is the spectrum for serious men and women, and those outside this consensus aren't credible'.

By contrast Jones' appearance is an anomaly and makes him potentially dangerous to the establishment; he's an articulate, very well informed young man who can argue with the best of them. Most impressively of all, he gives professional cynics like me a sense of hope and empowerment, and if sales of his book, CHAVS, The Demonization of the Working Class, are anything to go by, I'm not alone.

His Question Time emergence was an affront to the cosy consensus that incubates the sheltered likes of Iain Duncan Smith. IDS - the uber Tory - was so clearly riled by this young punk ranger from the north, that he proceeded to address him like a child who'd spoken out of turn at a formal grownup dinner party, "we've heard quite enough from you" he chastised Jones like a schoolmaster twitching to use his cain. It was a symbolic moment, to witness a young individual confidently, cogently and unashamedly voicing a left alternative future to neo liberal fossils, undermining the QT clichés we're all so bored of.

IDS was driven to emotiveness because figures such as himself are rarely substantively challenged by political rivals; to do so would be 'ill manors'. Owen Jones was unwilling to conform to the rules of the game, he wouldn't sit there and reaffirm in a one sided fashion. He wouldn't stay silent when the UK's disabled are being driven to death by ATOS's 'fit for work' tests. Instead he called bullshit on the consensus: Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms destroy peoples lives - sometimes literally - pandering to the Victorian prejudices clung to by demagogues.

Voices like Jones' are an essential antidote to a putrid politics that fails to address human need. Censorship needn't be redacted passages crudely covered in black ink, or a conveniently pulled microphone cord; instead it is to simply exclude and filter out alternative views. Question Time and media content more broadly, must open it's doors frequently to the likes of Owen Jones, or mainstream media, much like mainstream politics, shall deservedly become redundant.

* If you agree with this article then do something original; contact the BBC and positively complain about Owen Jones inclusion on Question Time, demand more similar voices instead of the consistently unrepresentative public discussions we are currently granted. Make a positive complaint here:
https://ssl.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/?reset=#anchor