Too many brown faces in Question Time audience, says Littlejohn

Appropriately, Richard Littlejohn’s last appearance on BBC’s Question Time came on the first of April 2010. It was in Stevenage and Richard Littlejohn looks back on this appearance in his column today – a column that calls for Question Time to be scrapped and ‘put out of its misery’. Why exactly does he want the show to be scrapped, what was it about his final appearance (he insists he has turned down invitations to appear on the show since) that made him no longer want to engage with the public?

Well, it all seems to boil down to the fact that Richard Littlejohn is a bit of a racist xenophobe. He just hates stepping outside of his own gated, white, affluent, Conservative monkeysphere and realising that we’re actually a diverse bunch of non-tory voters. Richard Littlejohn recounts how in Stevenage he looked into the audience and saw:

The audience is always the same noxious, inarticulate blend of Left-wing local government activists, NHS malcontents, trades union officials, spotty students and women in headscarves. Occasionally, they throw in a couple of comedy Tories with dandruff, for the rest of the crowd to boo.

Last time I was on the programme, it came from Stevenage, Herts, where 93 per cent of the population is white, and which elected a Conservative MP in 2010 with 41.4 per cent of the vote.

Yet the audience looked as if it had been bussed in from central casting, carefully selected to reflect the BBC’s view of what Britain should look like. If 41.4 per cent of that audience were Conservative voters, they did a damn good job of disguising it.

He saw the people outside of his monkeysphere and labelled them all as enemies. He saw not just women – a group he has always reserved a special level of deep hatred for over the years – but, gulp, women in headscarves. Thus his ultimate fears – women and foreigners – were combined in one frightening instant before his droopy, vision-less eyes. For the record whilst it is true that 41.4 per cent of people voted Conservative, it should be noted that 33.4 per cent voted Labour (the seat had been retained by Labour since 1997) and another 16.6% Lib Dem. Therefore Conservatives voters where never likely to form the majority of the audience – even more so when the local turnout for the election was only 64.8 per cent.

As for expecting 93% of the audience to be white, well, isn’t the point of BBC programming to be as representative as possible and in particular political discussions should be as inclusive as possible – which is kind of the point in Question Time giving a wide audience of people the chance to engage with senior politicians.

You will have noticed that I suggested Richard Littlejohn was a racist at the start of this post, it is a point he is always quick to deny. In fact he fielded a question during his last Question Time appearance from a young lad who suggested he was a favourite writer of BNP leader Nick Griffin, which he was, Nick Griffin said so. Littlejohn reacted very angrily and made the young lad retract the accusation. I’m pretty sure Richard Littlejohn would never read this blog, but if he does and he wants to get his lawyers in touch for libel I think I would take my chances and stand by my belief that Richard Littlejohn is racist.

Richard does not help his case by constantly providing my point of view with clear evidence, as he does in his column today. When he remembers looking at the audience in Stevenage he recounts his shock that it wasn’t the 93 per cent white, 41.4 per cent Tory audience he had hoped for and comments:

I took one look at them and thought to myself: if this is a true representation of the people of Stevenage, then we really are all going to hell in a handcart.

I’m not quite sure how he could argue that this isn’t a blatantly racist statement, especially given his statistical prelude in which he tried to argue that the number of brown faces in the audience should have been minimal. He is basically suggesting that when even Tory-voting white enclaves are dappled with brown faces then the end of the world is nigh – he is after all suggesting that such a path is a path towards hell. Add to this his normal inverted comma disdain of any attempt to ‘celebrate the “diversity” of the nation’ and you can see why Littlejohn candidly admits that you ‘shouldn’t waste your time’ applying to be in the audience ‘if you happen to be a Daily Mail reader’ (although he doesn’t comment on the frequent appearances of Mail columnists on Question Time, probably because this kind of ruins his very narrow, silly argument).

Indeed, what Richard Littlejohn fails to see is that his argument for why Question Time should be scrapped is actually a pretty compelling argument for why Question Time should carry on just as it is. If you are a Daily Mail reader, or tabloid reader in general, then you already have many ‘news’ outlets filled with xenophobic, dishonest bile that you can cuddle up to everyday; you don’t need Question Time to be turned into more of the same. Littlejohn complains that the BBC should ‘devise a programme which accurately reflects the wider views of the great British public’, without realising that it does reflect the wider views of the public, what it is careful to avoid is representing the noisy minority whom Richard Littlejohn writes for.

Irrespective of how hard the right-wing media try to turn us into a nation of xenophobic, ignorant bigots, Question Time demonstrates time and again that they’ve not succeeded. When a right-wing journalist gets a hard time on Question Time from the audience it is not because that audience is stuffed full of liberal malcontents, but rather that an intelligent audience can easily see through the usual distortions trotted out by such people. What Littlejohn sees when he looks into a Question Time audience is the future: diverse, intelligent, concerned and proactive individuals who want a fairer world for everyone (along with the occasional person that makes me facepalm as happened last night). It is the reason that tired, simple, Conservative thinkers like Littlejohn rarely step outside of their own sycophantic mailbag, and why they decide to lock themselves away in gated communities in foreign countries.

As a brief aside, I also found it amusing for Richard to describe the audience as ‘inarticulate’ given his past record of very famous verbal humiliations, and to claim that Question Time has passed its best when earlier this week he plagiarised his own writing, again, and made a claim that was astoundingly stupid, even by his standards:

Haringey hired someone to give hopscotch lessons to Asian women.

As Full Fact points out:

Back in 1995, former Conservative Party Chairman Brian Mawhinney regaled his Party’s Conference with a story of how taxpayer’s money was being similarly spent on hopscotch for Asian women.

In fact, it later transpired that the public money had been given to the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre, a well-respected voluntary organisation that deals with domestic violence, language and integration issues in Camden, which neighbours Haringey.

So could a similar misunderstanding have been made by Richard Littlejohn?

We contacted Hanringey Borough Council to ask about the mysterious job, who weren’t aware of one fitting Mr Littlejohn’s description. We’ve also tried to get in touch with Mr Littlejohn himself to find out more about how he came across this vacancy, but have yet to hear back from him.

But the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre did advertise for a management position in May last year.

So whilst as yet we’re unable to say with complete certainty that Haringey haven’t been engaging the services of Asian hopscotch specialists, given the claim’s history and the proximity of an Asian women’s voluntary centre named Hopscotch to Haringey, you might be advised to treat this particular “non-job” with some scepticism.

And isn’t it funny how Richard Littlejohn is only now calling for the scrapping of Question Time, when largely Conservative politicians are getting grief, when he seemed perfectly happy to appear when Labour were getting the same treatment. Or perhaps the audiences back then were still white enough, perhaps his brain has a clear limit on the amount of brown faces in a crowd that are acceptable and it was finally broken last April?

Who knows. What I do know is that if Richard Littlejohn is concerned about certain things passing their sale-by-date, he should really start with his own career.

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