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:

 

2017
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:

 

2018
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:

 

2019
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.

 

— JR, 08/04/2019

 

 

 

Panellist categorisations – 2017

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

# No. in year Airdate Panellists
1311 1 12-Jan-17 David Lidington, Gisela Stuart, Paul Mason, Monica Grady, Arron Banks
1312 2 19-Jan-17 Chris Grayling, Emily Thornberry, Alistair Carmichael, Piers Morgan, Lionel Shriver
1313 3 26-Jan-17 Diane Abbott, James Cleverly, Angus Robertson, Susie Boniface, Geoff Norcott
1314 4 02-Feb-17 Patrick McLoughlin, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Maajid Nawaz, Nick Hewer, Laura Perrins
1315 5 09-Feb-17 Claire Perry, Owen Smith, Peter Whittle, Billy Bragg, Ann Widdecombe
1316 6 16-Feb-17 David Mundell, Shami Chakrabarti, John Swinney, Val McDermid, Mark Littlewood
1317 7 23-Feb-17 Justine Greening, Angela Rayner, Douglas Carswell, Peter Coates, Isabel Oakeshott
1318 8 02-Mar-17 Elizabeth Truss, Dawn Butler, Menzies Campbell, Peter Hitchens, Jamie MacColl
1319 9 09-Mar-17 Karen Bradley, Kezia Dugdale, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Polly Toynbee, Fraser Nelson
1320 10 16-Mar-17 Jacob Rees-Mogg, Angela Eagle, Joanna Cherry, Matthew Parris, Tim Martin
1321 11 23-Mar-17 Brandon Lewis, Nia Griffith, Leanne Wood, Giles Fraser, Hugo Rifkind
1322 12 27-Mar-17 David Davis, Keir Starmer, Nick Clegg, Suzanne EvansMelanie Phillips, Alex Salmond
1323 13 30-Mar-17 Ruth Davidson, Lisa Nandy, Paul Nuttall, Len McCluskey, Kate Andrews
1324 14 06-Apr-17 Suella Fernandes, Diane Abbott, Tim Farron, Jonathan Bartley, Gerard Coyne, Michelle Dewberry
1325 15 27-Apr-17 Damian Green, Clive Lewis, Jo Swinson, Stephen Gethins, Camilla Cavendish
1326 16 04-May-17 David Davis, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Paul Nuttall, Leanne Wood, Juergen Maier
1327 17 11-May-17 Ben Wallace, Joanna Cherry, Emily Thornberry, Merryn Somerset Webb, David Hayman
1328 18 18-May-17 Priti Patel, Angela Rayner, Vince Cable, Jonathan Bartley, Charles Moore
1329 19 25-May-17 Amber Rudd, Andy Burnham, Colin Parry, Sara Khan, Nazir Afzal
1330 20 01-Jun-17 David Davis, Barry Gardiner, Nick Clegg, Suzanne Evans, Angus Robertson
23 09-Jun-17 Chris Grayling, Shami Chakrabarti, Isabel Oakeshott, Armando Iannucci, Alastair Campbell
1331 24 15-Jun-17 Tobias Ellwood, Emily Thornberry, Norman Lamb, Laura Perrins, Rob Delaney
1332 25 22-Jun-17 David Lidington, Jon Ashworth, Ian Blackford, Peter Oborne, Gina Miller
1333 26 29-Jun-17 Liam Fox, Stella Creasy, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, Nick Ferrari
1334 27 06-Jul-17 Jacob Rees-Mogg, Richard Burgon, Caroline Lucas, Susie Boniface, Craig Oliver
1335 28 14-Sep-17 David Gauke, Dawn Butler, Kirsty Blackman, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Will Self
1336 29 21-Sep-17 Vince Cable, Kwasi Kwarteng, Jess Phillips, Dia Chakravarty, Paul Mason
1337 30 28-Sep-17 Karen Bradley, Ian Lavery, Peter Hitchens, Richard Tice, Ayesha Hazarika
1338 31 05-Oct-17 Damian Green, Angela Rayner, Michelle Dewberry, Sarah Churchwell, Fraser Nelson
1339 32 12-Oct-17 Theresa Villiers, Owen Smith, Simon Hamilton, John O’Dowd, Jonathan Lynn
1340 33 19-Oct-17 Chris Grayling, Lisa Nandy, Sal Brinton, Simon Wolfson, Richard Coles
1341 34 26-Oct-17 Jacob Rees-Mogg, Shami Chakrabarti, Alex Salmond, Camilla Tominey, Germaine Greer
1342 35 02-Nov-17 Daniel Hannan, Jeane Freeman, Kezia Dugdale, Anne McElvoy, Owen Jones
1343 36 09-Nov-17 Justine Greening, Stella Creasy, Kirstie Allsopp, Aditya Chakrabortty, Charles Moore
1344 37 16-Nov-17 Emily Thornberry, Nadhim Zahawi, Tim Farron, Rod Liddle, Val McDermid
1345 38 23-Nov-17 Greg Clark, Diane Abbott, Bernard Hogan-Howe, Dreda Say Mitchell, Stuart Rose
1346 39 30-Nov-17 Chuka Umunna, Sam Gyimah, Henry Bolton, Sarah Baxter, Yanis Varoufakis
1347 40 07-Dec-17 Bernard Jenkin, Owen Smith, Liz Saville Roberts, Kate Andrews, Richard Bacon
1348 41 14-Dec-17 Nicky Morgan, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Robert Winston, Isabel Oakeshott, Geoff Norcott

 

Panellist categorisations – 2018

# No. in year Airdate Panellists
1349 1 11-Jan-18 Dominic Raab, Dawn Butler, Gina Miller, Nish Kumar, Piers Morgan
1350 2 18-Jan-18 Margot James, Andy Burnham, Howard Davies, Munira Mirza, Dustin Lance Black
1351 3 25-Jan-18 Michael Forsyth, Chris Williamson, Fiona Hyslop, Maggie Chapman, Peter Oborne
1352 4 01-Feb-18 Justine Greening, John Mann, Jo Swinson, Miatta Fahnbulleh, Tim Stanley
1353 5 08-Feb-18 Claire Perry, Emily Thornberry, Richard Tice, Rachel Sylvester, Terry Christian
1354 6 15-Feb-18 Theresa Villiers, David Lammy, Richard Walker, Faiza Shaheen, Camilla Cavendish
1355 7 22-Feb-18 Brandon Lewis, John Prescott, Camilla Tominey, Ash Sarkar, Juergen Maier
1356 8 01-Mar-18 Kenneth Clarke, Owen Smith, Nigel Farage, Michelle Dewberry, Radzi Chinyanganya
1357 9 08-Mar-18 Liam Fox, Laura Pidcock, Roma Agrawal, George the Poet, Prue Leith
1358 10 15-Mar-18 Chris Grayling, Keir Starmer, Mairead McGuinness, Afshin Rattansi, Brian Cox
1359 11 22-Mar-18 James Cleverly, Shami Chakrabarti, Stewart McDonald, Paris Lees, Peter Hitchens
1360 12 12-Apr-18 Jo Johnson, Barry Gardiner, Jonathan Freedland, Kate Andrews, Nicola Horlick
1361 13 19-Apr-18 Elizabeth Truss, Emily Thornberry, Vince Cable, Nesrine Malik, Iain Dale
1362 14 26-Apr-18 Matthew Hancock, Diane Abbott, Caroline Lucas, Jen Robinson, Simon Evans
1363 15 03-May-18 David Lidington, Chi Onwurah, Matt Forde, Camilla Tominey, Martin Lewis
1364 16 10-May-18 Esther McVey, Chuka Umunna, Alejandro Agag, Chloe Westley, Akala
1365 17 17-May-18 Dominic Raab, Diane Abbott, Bernard Hogan-Howe, Camilla Cavendish, Aditya Chakrabortty
1366 18 24-May-18 Anna Soubry, Anneliese Dodds, Sarah Churchwell, Dominic LawsonLionel Shriver
1367 19 31-May-18 Kwasi Kwarteng, Caroline Flint, Kate Forbes, Darren McGarvey, Brian Souter
1368 20 07-Jun-18 Damian Hinds, Shami Chakrabarti, Richard Reed, Alison Phillips, Richard Madeley
1369 21 14-Jun-18 Dominic Grieve, John Mann, Leanne Wood, Isabel Oakeshott, Matthew Wright
1370 22 21-Jun-18 Damian Green, Jon Ashworth, Afua Hirsch, Tim Martin, Ella Whelan
1371 23 28-Jun-18 Suella Braverman, Clive Lewis, Johan Eliasch, Helen Lewis, Janet Street-Porter
1372 24 05-Jul-18 Priti Patel, Lisa Nandy, Ian Blackford, Matthew Parris, Carolyn Radford
1373 25 12-Jul-18 Claire Perry, Barry Gardiner, Gina Miller, Charles Moore, Piers Morgan
1374 26 13-Sep-18 Rory Stewart, Chris Leslie, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Faiza Shaheen, Theo Paphitis
1375 27 20-Sep-18 Chris Skidmore, Barry Gardiner, Vince Cable, Camilla Tominey, Nazir Afzal
1376 28 27-Sep-18 Jacob Rees-Mogg, Ian Lavery, Polly Mackenzie, Ayesha Hazarika, Rod Liddle
1377 29 04-Oct-18 David Gauke, Emily Thornberry, George the Poet, Isabel Oakeshott, Claude Littner
1378 30 11-Oct-18 Ross Thomson, Kezia Dugdale, Mike Russell, Fraser Nelson, Val McDermid
1379 31 18-Oct-18 James Cleverly, Keir Starmer, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Michael Dobbs, Nish Kumar
1380 32 25-Oct-18 Andrea Jenkyns, Lisa Nandy, Hannah Bardell, Sebastian Payne, Paul Mason
1381 33 01-Nov-18 Giles Watling, Andy McDonald, Anne McElvoy, Kate Andrews, Shappi Khorsandi
1382 34 08-Nov-18 Kwasi Kwarteng, Diane Abbott, Mairead McGuinness, David Aaronovitch, Jordan Peterson
1383 35 15-Nov-18 Claire Perry, Barry Gardiner, Liz Saville Roberts, Mark Serwotka, Tim Stanley
1384 36 22-Nov-18 Karen Bradley, Clive Lewis, Richard Walker, Trevor Phillips, Julia Hartley-Brewer
1385 37 29-Nov-18 Nadhim Zahawi, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Layla Moran, Tim Martin, Benjamin Zephaniah
1386 38 06-Dec-18 James Brokenshire, Shami Chakrabarti, Ian Blackford, Jill Rutter, Charles Moore
1387 39 13-Dec-18 David Davis, Nicky Morgan, Angela Rayner, Caroline Lucas, Jo Brand

 

 

Panellist categorisations – 2019

# No. in year Airdate Panellists
1388 1 10-Jan-19 James Cleverly, Emily Thornberry, Jo Swinson, Melanie Phillips, Nish Kumar
1389 2 17-Jan-19 Rory Stewart, Diane Abbott, Kirsty Blackman, Anand Menon, Isabel Oakeshott
1390 3 24-Jan-19 Suella Braverman, John Healey, Sonia Sodha, Iain Anderson, Nick Ferrari
1391 4 31-Jan-19 Helen Whately, Richard Burgon, Juergen Maier, Camilla Tominey, Gina Miller
1392 5 07-Feb-19 Michael Forsyth, Anneliese Dodds, Fiona Hyslop, Hugo Rifkind, Eunice Olumide
1393 6 14-Feb-19 Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lisa Nandy, Grace Blakeley, Geoff Norcott, Jimmy Wales
1394 7 21-Feb-19 Mel Stride, Andy McDonald, Chris Leslie, Ella Whelan, John Barnes
1395 8 28-Feb-19 Nadhim Zahawi, Barry Gardiner, Layla Moran, Lionel Shriver, Henning Wehn
1396 9 07-Mar-19 Dominic Raab, Margaret Beckett, Iain Martin, Javed Khan, Owen Jones
1397 10 14-Mar-19 James Cleverly, Clive Lewis, Ian Blackford, Catherine Barnard, Julia Hartley-Brewer
1398 11 21-Mar-19 Tobias Ellwood, Nick Thomas-Symonds, Jeffrey Donaldson, John O’Dowd, Polly Mackenzie
1399 12 28-Mar-19 Damian Hinds, Jenny Chapman, Simon Wolfson, Merryn Somerset Webb, Yanis Varoufakis
1400 13 04-Apr-19 Jeremy Wright, David Lammy, Mairead McGuinness, Charles Moore, Ash Sarkar
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2 comments

  1. I’ve always been astonished how the media have hardly reported on why the EU has been unpopular enough for people to vote leave. Federalism does not suit people who have been brought up in the freedoms that Democracy allows. Federal politics puts money before people. It’s always the efforts of the nation (people) that really matter

    Like

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