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Laurence Fox begs questions about QT

This week, the actor Laurence Fox got into an argument with a member of the audience on BBC's flagship politics show Question Time.  He has also had to apologise for remarks he made about the casting of a Sikh in an acclaimed movie, Sir Sam Mendes' '1917'.

The issue was whether the press attacks on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been motivated by racism.  Fox adamantly dismissed the idea as ridiculous.  That was foolish, and the question needed to be considered.


Analysis of media coverage shows that there have been persistent negative stories about Harry and Meghan.  So, what motives it?  Is it in the public interest, or is there another agenda?

The BBC insists on putting celebrities and actors on the panel, not because they have anything particular to say, but one assumes to brighten up the show.  After all, we are all intrigued to know what actors and reality TV shows have to say about current affairs.

Shows like BBC QT have an aura of respectability and establishment about them.  A top-line presenter heads the cast, and it is pretending in some way to represent the public view of events with live audience questions.

It is very rarely revealing of anything new, and the chair usually shuts down debate on the panel when an argument breaks out.  Perhaps it would be more fun and more illuminating if the discussion was allowed to continue for a bit.  Let politicians joust with each other.

Questions to the panel on QT usually follow the lead of current press comment.  Thus, there is an in-built bias to the slant of the programme.  The press is mostly right-wing and antagonistic to Labour.

Of course, that doesn't mean it is always favourable to the Tory party, but in large part it is.

So what about BBC QT?   I haven't watched it in quite a while.  It irritates me - the predictable questions,  and the likely answers.   Everything is black and white; while most issues, in reality, are grey and nuanced.  

It would be refreshing  to hear a panellist start their reply to a question  with 'You know, I am not sure...but I think..." or "You know, there are decent arguments on all sides of this issue...but my feeling is..."

Feelings matter in politics as in the rest of life.  Choosing a new pair of shoes doesn't always follow a set of logic; taste or only comfort might win, or it might be the colour - so many possible reasons.  None is right in the black and white sense.

The problem with politics is that it revolves around presumed certainties as if all issues are binary, with a right and wrong side. Choices there must be in the end, decisions are needed, and politicians tend to sound 'weak' if they hesitate.

Corbyn, for example, probably reflected the views of many voters when he gave the impression of being undecided on Brexit. Boris Johnson, not long before he decided to lead the 'leave' campaign had been a Remainer, or at least he could not contemplate the UK leaving the single market.

That isn't a criticism.  The truth is that there are some good arguments for leaving the EU, just as there are for remaining.  Politics is as much about finding ways to get things done, as it is deciding what the objectives are; both are key to doing anything significant.

Media journalists pick over the inconsistencies or contradictions in a politicians position. Politicians then deny the inconsistencies or contradictions. But of course, there are always inconsistencies or contradictions. Politics is the art of compromise, not merely persuasion.

A decision in politics often has to be taken on reasonably limited knowledge or information.  Gut feeling plays a role, as does the political viewpoint.

We will often look back with hindsight at decisions taken by past governments and criticise them. The criticism is often justified, but we should always consider the circumstances of choice.

Confrontation is not a bad thing in politics.  Laurence Fox's altercation with the BBC QT audience participant grabbed the headlines and in many ways opened up the debate.

Laurence Fox is a fine actor, we should not expect him to have the agility of a seasoned politician.  He clearly wanted to be controversial in his opinion.   That isn't a bad thing.  But to dismiss the issue of racism without considering the possibility was foolish.  





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