I am one of the few people who can’t really complain about the editorial policy of Question Time having been on it 26 times since I was first elected in 1999. In terms of the coverage it gives Ukip I have found it fair and in the past few years the programme has even started accepting Ukip panellists other than me!
But there have been a couple of programmes in which my colleagues and I have faced a hostile audience which in no way represents how Ukip is normally received or which are representative of the opinion polls. I am not pointing the finger of blame at the QT team but the question I want to ask is whether the Question Time audiences being exploited by the hard left?
Last March, my colleague Diane James was forced to defend herself against a Labour Party member who was in the audience who called her “disgusting” and even boasted on Twitter that she had “ripped into” Ms James. Far from being just an interested local, Amy Rutland was a regional policy coordinator for the party and I don’t know if this was made clear to the QT team, who try to select a balanced audience.
I had a similar reaction on a second visit to Boston in Lincolnshire, a target seat for Ukip, where we achieved a huge result in the County Council elections. The audience was not representative of the results either in that area or across the country. And last week’s programme in Lewisham saw my colleague Paul Nuttall facing similar levels of hostility.
My advice ahead of my first appearance was “Ignore the live audience, it’s the viewers who matter”. But as the BBC’s flagship political programme is it right that those who can affect the performance of a panelist and create stories in their own right are so skewed?