Dashboardising BBC Question Time

2018-03-19 data-vis bbc-question-time


At the end of November 2017 I had a great opportunity to work for two weeks with the Digital Team of Full Fact. Full Fact is an independent factchecking charity located in London, UK. The Digital Team of Full Fact builds tools to facilitate this mission. In the following blog post, I will write about my activities there. The post is also available on the Full Fact Blog.

BBC Question Time dashboardification

Let me start with a little bit of background.

BBC Question Time is a popular debate TV programme, featuring prominent politicians, journalists, and other influential public figures. Every show is organised around a few “big questions” asked by the audience members, selected from a local community. The panellists discuss around the posed questions. In addition, the host, David Dimbleby, asks the audience to comment on the panellists’ viewpoints. The show is broadcast every Thursday evening. The Full Fact team of Fact Checkers produces a fact checking report from every programme, which is published on Friday, right after the show. Here is an example.

Now the idea. I would like to create a visual aid (let me call it a dashboard of the show) to help with analysis of each BBC Question Time episode. It should depict the debate around each of the “big questions” brought up by the audience members.

The data

Luckily, BBC provides the subtitles for every show. This will be the fuel for the dashboard.

Moreover, the subtitles contain not only the transcript, but also styles indicating who actually spoke each line of text. There are four styles — S1, S2, S3, and S4. S1 is reserved for the host of the programme. S2 denotes audience member. S3 and S4 are used for the invited panellists (politicians, influential journalists, other public figures). There has to be at least two of them, because the panellist often comment on each others opinions. However, unfortunately, the styles do not allow for identification precisely which of the panellist should be attributed to every subtitle.

In this blog post, I will use the BBC Question Time episode from 2017.12.07 as an example.

The dashboard concept

Visualising discourse is an involved subject, see e.g. the visualisations here by Centre for Argument Technology. Nevertheless, I decided to start simple.

The dashboard will represent a discussion after each of the “big questions” as a bar chart.

Each bar on the chart should represent piece of text spoken by one person (I will call it a turn, for the rest of this blog post). The height of the bar will be proportional to the number of words contained in a turn. For the chart not to be dominated by a few very long remarks, I will use a logarithmic scale for number of words. I will colour bars according to who actually spoke (i.e. the host, the audience, or the panellists)

The visualisations

OK, let us see how the above idea works in practice. To make the name “dashboard” a bit more justified I added two interactive superpowers to the bar graphs. If you hoover over each bar, a tool-tip with the exact turn text should pop-up after a little delay. You can also click on each bar to play the video near that turn (opens in a new window). This is not very accurate, however.

So here are the “big questions” discussed on the show 2017.12.07 in a “dashboardised” form:

  • Q1: Would Brexit make an ideal theme for a modern Christmas pantomime?
Would Brexit make an ideal theme for a modern Christmas pantomime? APPLAUSE. Oh, yes, it would! Oh, yes, it would! Owen Smith… Well, yes, is the short answer. I'm not sure which would be the end of the horse - the Tories or the DUP - but the last week has been an extraordinary pantomime. It's a very good word to describe it. We all thought it was a deal done. We all thought there was going to be resolution of the Irish border question, because the Tories were telling us the deal was done. They were briefing straightaway on Monday that they had sorted it out and it was all in the bag. The Irish thought it was all sorted out, and then of course, Arlene Foster rang up at the last minute, the leader of the DUP, and pulled the plug. And it's been, unfortunately, symbolic, that pantomime performance, of the entire way in which the Tories have been running the Brexit negotiations from start to finish. You know, I'm deeply worried that we're not going to get a deal. I hope we're going to get something in the next couple of days that will allow us on to the next stage, because we need to get to the next age of the talks, but the reality is, if they continue like this, then it is all going to end, not in the laughter of a pantomime but in tears. OK. I wonder who Widow Twankey is. Bernard Jenkin… I think it will probably… It will be far too long for a pantomime. Oh, really? I think people would get far too bored with it. I'm afraid it's going to go on for at least another sort of 18 months or so, so I think we need to stay calm. European negotiations are always very last minute. The important thing is, Owen, that we do actually deliver the referendum result. We don't try and reverse it. And you're part of a team in the Labour Party that are trying to pull Jeremy Corbyn back from his manifesto commitments to honour the leave vote. You want another referendum. You didn't vote for Article 50. You didn't even want to respect the referendum result to start with. And we are going to fulfil our manifesto commitments. We're going to take back control over our laws, our borders, our money and our right to create new trading relationships with the growing part of the world, the 90% of the economic part of the world that is growing much faster than the EU, because that's where our long-term prosperity lies. Kelvin, let me just ask you, do you think it's turning into a pantomime? It is a farce. It's unreal. There doesn't seem to be any direction from any source at the moment. I think what we need is a Prince Charming to come along and save the country. Did you vote for it? Perhaps marry an American celebrity and thereby secure a good trade deal with America, perhaps. OK, Richard Bacon. Did you vote for Brexit? No. No. I think, I suppose, with a pantomime, when you go and see one, at least you more or less know what it is you're going to get, and now I look at Brexit, and there were lots of good reasons to vote for Brexit. I'm sure people in this audience is sincerely voted for Brexit for sensible reasons. It was not something I voted for. But I actually now think that whichever side you voted on, it turns out that no one really knew anything about it. And it has turned out to be so much more… So much more complicated than anyone thought. And it's astonishing, when you look at the Irish border question that we're talking about this week, that no one seems to have thought about these consequences. I was looking, Bernard - I know you are part of Vote Leave - at some literature that you put your name to earlier today, and it was during the campaign, I should say. I don't remember any reference to the Irish border during the campaign. Do you remember that? During the campaign for Brexit. I looked at a letter you wrote, and it was all about the NHS getting money, and scientific research getting money. We're going to take back powers and have less red tape. I couldn't see the Irish border in there anywhere, and I think it's one of the many things, many intractable problems, that have come after Brexit that no one thought about beforehand. Did you think about it, Bernard? Let him answer him. Is he right - it wasn't in the stuff? It was never an issue, and it shouldn't be an issue, because there's not going to be a hard border in Northern Ireland. Who says it shouldn't be an issue? For example, the permanent secretary, who actually runs the HMRC that would collect the customs revenue at the border between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, he has said his consistent advice to ministers, he's told a select committee quite recently, consistent advice to ministers, whatever circumstances, whatever the arrangements, there is no need for a hard border. The former prime minister of the… What would a hard border mean? There's no need for new infrastructure that the border, no need to stop lorries at the border, no need to put up a checkpoint at the border. The former prime minister of the Republic of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, agrees. He says, you don't need to have a hard border. This is a manufactured row. By the DUP? No, by the… The people who are keeping you in power. By the Government of Ireland and by the EU, who are trying to leverage more money and concessions out of the British Government. What about the DUP? Well, the DUP is actually supporting the British Government, and the British Government is supporting the DUP. There is agreement between them. The DUP has this Government dancing to the tune of a Lambeg drum. I'm sure, Bernard, you know as well as I do, customs union requires a solid barrier if we are beyond a customs union. No, it does not. It does in the sense of goods being moved across it. No, it doesn't. Now, my party is the only one here that has been consistent in its argument that the best deal for Wales, and to be perfectly honest, the best deal for the whole of the United Kingdom, is to remain in the single market and the customs union. And no one voted to leave that. Nobody voted to leave that. Many people were sold a kiss you of lies. Many people were sold --a tissue of lies. In all honesty, we need certainty now. Let Kate Andrews in. There are pros and cons to any vote, especially one of this magnitude. And the British people have voted to leave the European Union. If you decide to stay in the single market and customs union, you're basically cutting yourself off from one of the biggest pros Brexit, which is that you get to create free-trade deals around the world. So, I think that would be a very negative thing to do if you want to actually capitalise on the positive sides of Brexit. I appreciate that there are going to be hurdles along the way. The Kelvin's point, you're absolutely right that this has become a pantomime. I mean, the politics of it, and the personalities of it are getting in the way of negotiating. The Labour Party is not much better, frankly. That's like a traditional slapstick British comedy. One person walks in, says we're staying in the single market, leaves and someone else walks in and says, no, we're definitely leaving. And politicians aren't being very honest with people right now. These are crucial moments of decision-making, and if we're going to capitalise on the benefits of Brexit now that that decision has been taken, we need serious discussions about the trade deal were going to get. Let's hear from one or two members of our audience. You in the front, in the middle there. Then I'll come to you at there. Yes. It seemed like a pantomime yesterday, with David Davis with his speech in front of the committee. He seemed to have lost his script, because the things he was coming out with in terms of how he is assessed the risk of us leaving Brexit. It just seems a total embarrassment. What are the Government doing? Perhaps Bernard could answer that, because he said he was going to do 58, or 51, depending on your view… He said he had done it. He has never actually referred to impact assessments. These were a fiction of the media and the Labour Party. What was he doing? Then you put them into a motion without working out what you really meant. What was he doing with those 58 - what were they? There's tonnes. There are 58 sectors that have been subject to some sectoral analysis. And you can go and read it if you want. It's now in a pile of 800 papers in a room that we don't want to spread around too much because it might give our opposition… There's nothing in it worth reading, Bernard. I've looked at them. There you are. The reality is that David Davis and Theresa May said on nine separate occasions in the House of Commons that they'd done or were doing 58, sometimes he said 57, sometimes 60, but around 58 sectoral analyses that were absolutely meant to show what the impact of Brexit would be on those different sectors, and he now says that there aren't. But Owen, you're going back… It's misleading you, the public. He needs to be held to account for that. Can I ask a very simple question - what is a sectoral analysis if it's not saying, this is what will happen in aerospace and so on? We are going back to the politics of it. On what scenario are you going to base your assumptions? What do you mean, what scenario? He was the one who was doing it. We've had 50, nearly 60, sectoral analyses already done, he said. On the basis of what you want, Bernard. That's what we should be analysing. Surely, Government has a responsibility to be modelling what the likely outcomes are. On the basis of what assumptions? And these analyses… OK, one at a time. Why did he do it? Why did he say he was doing it? He must know the assumptions. Because there was lots of work being done in lots of departments about different sectors of the economy and what we need to negotiate to further the interests of those sectors. That's not to say there's a definitive forecast for each sector of the economy on the day we leave, because we don't even know what kind of deal there was going be. Back to Kelvin's point, this whole conversation has gone back to political point scoring and politics. We want to be talking about what those impact assessments would even look like if we were able to do them, and the truth is, you get a lot of nonsensical statistics. I work for an economic think tank. Economists are really good at analysing the past. They're really bad at predicting the future. What we need our politicians to be doing is negotiating the best trade deal possible. Let's stop talking about the politics and get to the policy. So, Kate, when you heard that David Davis So, Kate, when you heard that David Davis was saying he'd got the sector analysis nearly done in June, what did you read into that? That he was just talking blather or doing something that you didn't approve of, or what? Like everybody else, I believed him and was disappointed to hear that he was so sloppy with his language. Perhaps he he needs a much bigger slap… Nine times. Yes, I don't disagree with you. He probably needs a bigger slap on the wrist than he's been given, but qualitative assessments, looking at what different sectors are going to need after Brexit, a lot more important than coming up with sloppy numbers. What happened during the referendum when the Government came out with its figures? £4000 worse off if you vote for Brexit. You know, the economy is going to grow 6% less than it would have if you vote for Brexit. Was that true? No. So, what are these numbers going to do now? £350 million for the NHS. That number was put on the side of a bus. It was. And it's not true. That came from a table of statistics that is produced by the Government, and I am chairman of the committee that looks at the statistics authority, and I said to them, 18 months before the referendum, you should change this table because it's misleading, and they changed the table. You can't derive that figure… Let's not go back over that. I never used that figure personally. Silence, silence. Don't go fighting that battle, because it was a year and a half away. The man at the top right. It's a good battle to fight, but we've got to move on. Up there, the top right. You, sir. Yes. Yes, speak. Kate made the point of the dishonesty of both sides. Surely if there has been so much dishonesty from both sides, which I think most people in the audience would agree with, then that must be the best reason that we should sit down together and be given the opportunity to say, now that we've got the truth, we would like another referendum. I agree with that. OK. I'll take a point from the woman there, in the fifth row. Yes. It's very hard not to be party political about this when you see the committee, was it yesterday, it seems like a lifetime already, voting along party lines. It's the incompetence that I think really gets everybody. Either these sectoral analyses, either they have been done and they've been hidden, or they are incredibly incompetent and just not doing their job. It's got to be one or the other. You know, they should have had… They don't even know where they're going. Owen is saying yes. But you are saying all parties are in a muddle about this? No, no, because actually there is a party that is in government. And there were ten Tory members on the committee, the Brexit committee, and they all voted to support, basically, support David Davis. It is separated along party lines. You could make the other argument that all the opposition parties, they voted also on party lines. It's a bit six of one… But I'm afraid you're right, it's turned into a party political spat that really doesn't add much light to the situation. If he lied to the committee that these were available but they were not, there is a question whether that is contempt. Right, and now I'm going to leave that point. This is a serious issue and it's got to be determined over the next whatever it is. Jonathan Jennings, let's have your question and go to the heart of the matter.
  • Q2: Might a no-deal Brexit actually be the best result for Britain?
Might a no-deal Brexit actually be the best result for Britain? A no-deal Brexit be the best result, in other words free trade, in effect. What do you think, Kate? No, I don't think it would be the best result and I don't think that any party negotiating right now wants that to be the case. There's too much to lose. There's too much money, there's much prosperity at stake. That being said, I don't think that a bare-bones Brexit, perhaps, would be the end of the world. If we were to crash out with a structure that wasn't filled in yet, we are not starting from scratch. The UK and the EU would already recognise each other's standards to a very large degree. The UK works with countries that aren't in the EU on very important things, like nuclear technology and intelligence. You wouldn't be starting from nothing and it would be possible to make it work. I don't think it is a disaster scenario if you had a very loose structure in place. But let's not aim for no deal. We can do this. We're better than this. Again, go back to the optimism, look at the positive sides of voting for Brexit and let's try to get the best trade deal possible. Liz, you said… APPLAUSE. In your view, we should stay both in the single market and the customs union. So anything other than that, you think, would be a disaster? Forgive me for stating the obvious, and I believe this to be true for all the nations of the United Kingdom, but I am from Plaid Cymru and I have a particular interest in the interests of Wales and a particular interest in the interests of Dwyfor Meirionnydd, which is an upland rural area. Wales exports to the EU 90% of its agricultural produce. It exports a third of its lamb produce. If we go out without a deal, the good cuts of lamb, which are those which will be exported, will have 40% tariffs on them. Now, I am not going to sign up, as a representative of Dwyfor Meirionnydd, to what would effectively be an upland clearance. APPLAUSE. Bernard Jenkin, what about you on a no-deal Brexit? Well, obviously, a good deal is better than no deal and that's what we must try to achieve. I agree with Kate that if we got a bare-bones deal, which is dealing with all the housekeeping, if you like, we then move into a deal that's already set up for us by the World Trade Organisation that's known as most favoured nation status. And if we went straight to most favoured nation status, there would be some advantages. We wouldn't have to pay huge exit bill. We're only going to pay a big exit bill if we get a good trade deal. We would immediately have control of our tariffs, our regulation. We'd be able to cut tariffs on some of the foods that we pay taxes on when you're buying your tangerines in the shops this Christmas. You've got a tariff on the tangerines. We don't grow tangerines in this country. Why are we protecting, trying to protect our tangerine industry when we haven't got one? I'm interested in protecting Welsh agriculture. Of course. If we went to a bare-bones deal in WTO, the government would immediately have a lot more money to be able to spend on protecting upland farming. And we've always protected upland farming. The man up there in the white T-shirt. If we don't get a no deal, we're going to save £50 billion, and that could be used to pay for the tidal lagoon in Swansea, and the electrification of the train line to Swansea as well. APPLAUSE. So your view is, no deal and no money on exiting, just leave. Yeah, because I don't see… Why do we have to pay 50 billion to the EU to leave in the first place? Owen Smith. Well, look, I think it's impossible to sit here in Swansea and say anything other than leaving on World Trade terms, as Bernard has just advocated and some of his hard-line Brexiteers want… I don't think it's the best deal, I want a trade deal. Well, some of your colleagues want it. I think some of those people who were angling for a hard Brexit absolutely see that because they see us able to sort of buccaneer across the world. I think that's fantasy. We are here in Swansea. We've already heard about the lamb. We've got a car plant just up the road from us here. We'd have 10 to 20% tariffs on the cars being exported. Not 20%. Complete rubbish. We'd have import, taxes, of course, both ways that would affect the steelworks that is just down the road, both on things that we were importing in order to create the steel and on the steel we export. You're wrong about that, too. Hang on, you said ten or 20. Which is it? I think it's 12%. It's 9.5% or 9.8% on cars. 10%. Does anyone want to pay an extra 10% for cars exported? Can I just tell you something? Can I explain something to you? This is far too serious. I've got to make a serious point, too, actually. We've got a car plant just down the road, where those engines, the Bridgend plant, could also be made in Spain. And I'm deeply worried about the future of that plant because we already know there are grave concerns about its future. And we know that Ford are worried about the uncertainty that attends Brexit. Let Bernard Jenkin reply, then I'll come to you, Richard. Ford has ready announced investment into motor manufacturing in this country since the vote. So they've got more confidence in this country than you have. And said they're worried about that plant after 2021. And you're wrong about the tariffs. What's imported and processed and then exported, you get what is called inward processing relief. You don't pay the tax twice. It's quite a clever tax. And in any case, the pound has already fallen very substantially since we left, since we had the vote. Why was that? Why did it fall? Actually, the IMF said it was overvalued. It triggered a devaluation. The pound has already fallen more than the cost of the tariff. But if we had tariffs on motors, we import far more cars than we export. We collect a lot of money on the cars we import, and that could be spent on the electrification of the railway. APPLAUSE. Richard Bacon. There are so many unforeseen consequences to Brexit. The devaluation of the pound, the Defence Secretary this week has been talking about the need to buy more military equipment. Britain wants to buy 138 F35 fighters from America. We have devalued so much against the dollar that we can no longer really afford them. That's one of the many consequences. But I think to your point about the 50 billion, that was a figure we were told we were never going to have to pay. I think if we had a no-deal Brexit, you can't have a no-deal Brexit. You've got to have some sort of deal over the Irish border, for example. I don't think it's at all possible, and I think that those people in government talking about a no-deal Brexit are saying that from an emotional place rather than a rational place. And every independent economic body thinks it would be terrible for the economy, and 50 billion that we save, would be more than lost by the hits to the economy. The person in blue with spectacles. You are saying how trade has been affected and how it has cost 4 billion, but that's all on social media. Because we're out now, all the social media is focusing on the bad stuff about Brexit. We need to start focusing on the good stuff about Brexit and why we are leaving and why the British public chose to leave. And how do you think it's going so far, going back to the original question? Right now, it's only showing the bad stuff, not any of the good stuff, how it's going to save us money in years to come. That's completely true. When you're doing any reform, the people who are against the reform are much noisier than the people who are quietly in favour of the reform. Surely the Brexit impact assessment should have been able to tell us that. And they are not. APPLAUSE. So you want the government to publish more political propaganda. I thought that was one of the mistakes that the government made during the referendum. What is distressing at present is apparently the best minds of the civil service are all engaged with Brexit, and all the other departments are suffering from the loss of them. And it's going to be the best decision we made for 50 years. And all we can see is some of the greatest incompetency, which doesn't raise people's confidence for the future. Bernard, just before we move on to another question in a moment, the Cabinet seems divided all the time about the way to go, between those who want a softer and harder route. Well, this is a very big historical change. You'd expect the Cabinet to be divided? And the establishment of this country, which was almost obsessed with driving us on and on into integration with Europe, has been rebuffed by a vote of the British people. And there is a shock. This is a political shock. And I think a lot of my colleagues are finding it very difficult to adapt, with what they were brought up to believe, that somehow being in the European Union was absolutely essential to this country. But you know what, most countries aren't in the European Union and they're absolutely fine, they do very well. We're going to do very well outside the European Union. We'll have our democracy back, we'll be in control of our immigration, we'll be able to do those trade deals with other countries, which is what the future of this country is really about. APPLAUSE. Sitting at Cabinet and hearing Philip Hammond on the one hand, say, and Boris Johnson on the other, what does Theresa May make of it? I think she's finding it very difficult, but she's a very, very strong minded, decent, principled person, who is absolutely devoted to her duty as a public servant and I think the British people can see that. Yes, but where does she see her duty lying, as between these conflicting views of what should happen? I think she sees her job as chairman of the Cabinet, to try and bring the voices together and instil a sense of direction. But let's face it, both the major political parties are very divided about this. This is why we had to have a referendum, because there was a kind of cosy consensus of the elite politicians, and in both political parties there was dissent about the direction in which we were going. And the British people have distilled a decision. That's a real eye-opener. That shows that this is more about the parties, the two major Westminster parties sorting out their own problems, rather than putting the interests of the United Kingdom first. It's about giving a choice to the British people. We'll just hear a couple more points. A lot has been said about the impact assessment. How could they sensibly be conducted when no one knows at the moment whether we'd be part of a single market, customs union, hard Brexit, Canadian model, Norwegian model, EFTA model? It's impossible. It is weird, isn't it, weird that we haven't done a proper assessment of the impact of Brexit? But the entire British establishment was expecting the country to vote Remain. The man up there. We've got 15 months to go before we're out, as things stand. The woman on the left. The EU has produced impact assessments covering every area. They've done it for 27 countries. The Dutch government has produced impact assessments. PricewaterhouseCoopers has produced impact assessments. There's eight, nine, ten other organisations to have done so. So if they can all do it, why can't our government? Either they've done it, or all scenarios. OK, we shall see what happens with that. Do you think the country, just to finish, is going to be richer or poorer? Individual people. What's your view, Richard Bacon? I think in the end, poorer. And I know that Kate thinks that economists are not very good at forecasting the future, but they were pretty clear that all independent economic bodies said it would be net negative for the economy. I think if it's net negative for the economy, it's net negative for more or less everyone, so poorer. Sorry, the numbers that were released during the referendum suggested the people sitting in this audience were going to be £4300 worse off when they voted to leave. They suggested the economy was going to shrink by 6%. Growth figures aren't fantastic, and there are a lot of reasons for this. Let's not forget that so many of our domestic policy issues, productivity, all of this, has nothing to do with the EU and everything to do with policies set in Westminster by Westminster. The question was, do you think we're going to be richer or poorer as a nation? I think you're going to be richer, if you use the process of Brexit to be optimistic and to try to pursue the best deals possible. But don't put statistics out into the air that, as the gentleman pointed out, you can't rely on because there are just an indefinite number of variables. OK, let's move on. APPLAUSE. Just before we move on, there is a lot more to say about all that, and there will be, as Question Time goes on through the year to come. But next Thursday we are going to be in Barnsley if you'd like to come to the Question Time edition there. And then there is a break until January and we're going to be in, my goodness, we are going to be in Islington in London. Politicians' home territory. Momentum territory. Momentum territory, and many other people as well. Anyway, if you want to come either to Barnsley or Islington, on the screen now is how to apply and we will give those details at the end with the telephone numbers and all again. Let's have a question please from Tony Clark. Can we have your question, Tony?
  • Q3: Is Donald Trump right to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?
Is Donald Trump right to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Yesterday's news, Kate Andrews. So, my default position when it comes to the President is if he's said or done anything, I disagree with it. APPLAUSE. But now I'm going to get myself into a bit of trouble because a broken clock is right twice a day, and I think the president is right to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I'll tell you why. This has been American policies since 1995, it was the Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed in 1995, from both parties, pretty unanimous. And every six months, the US president, Republican or Democrat, has been signing waivers to put off implementing this legislation, mostly for political reasons. As recently as June this year, during the Trump administration, the Senate voted 90-0, Republicans and Democrats together, to prod the president to introduce this policy. Now he's done it. He has implemented what is across-the-board American policy. And I think it is the right decision because we are living in a dream world of we think that the two state solution is going to result in a divided Jerusalem. It is almost certainly not going to do that. And I hope that this can actually help to move the peace process that is not active at the moment anyway forward. And the last thing I would say is that the hatred of Qatar, or the threats of Hamas, should not be part of determining foreign policy in the UK or the US or anywhere else. Richard Bacon, you live in the US now. Yeah, I do. I think a couple of things. First of all, Theresa May said this will make peace harder. President Abbas said this marks the end of the peace process. Hamas have said they will unleash hell, and the Pope has said it was a mistake. And Donald Trump listened to none of those. Why would you listen to… Let him answer. You listen to different voices. Not terrorists. No, that's true. I was just telling you different views that have been expressed today. Do you think when you look Donald Trump's pattern of behaviour, even if you think this is the right thing, do you think that he is a great statesman who carefully weighed the evidence… No. Listened to different voices and reach the rational decision? Of course not. Of course not, he listened to his son-in-law, and other property developer from New York, and made this decision. And here's what I would say, living in Trump's America right now. Just in the last ten days, when he re-tweeted the anti-Muslim videos, he claimed that the access Hollywood tape is fake, he has pushed through a tax bill in the Senate along with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan which nobody had read and will take 30 million people out of health care, and it's giving me a real appreciation of the United Kingdom and our politicians here. Whatever you think of them, you take Theresa May or Ed Miliband or Gordon Brown or David Cameron, whether you like them or not, are they hard working, well-meaning people trying hard to do the right thing? You pick three who aren't around any more. I'm referencing party leaders, but I would say generally of politicians, and those around this table, that is in the end it has given me an appreciation of this country that we're better than that. Was he right to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? It appears to be only interpretable as a deliberately incendiary act that is aimed principally at a home audience. Without due consideration that he has now… There is violence on the occupied West Bank, probably as we speak, certainly today. There is violence increased because of this action in the Middle East. That then increased the risk here of terrorism activity in Europe. It will increase the risk of terrorism activity in the USA, and any president who acts in such a way as to endanger his own people as well as other people in the world is frankly not fit for public office. You, sir, in the middle. I totally agree that it's going to cause further problems in the Middle East and the wider region. It also legitimises the illegal occupation of the West Bank as well. So you see no merit? None whatsoever. Bernard Jenkin, do you? I'm afraid I'm more in agreement with Liz than Kate on this. I don't… If this was… If there was evidence that President Trump did, you know, very subtle, strategic thinking long-term… LAUGHTER. Then one could perhaps believe that this is part of the beginning of some kind of new process that is meant to jump-start some talks or something. I can't see that. I think this is not the solution, it is provocation. And we do want process and not provocation. The really dangerous thing is that this feeds the narrative that he's a recruiting sergeant for Isis terrorism, from Muslim fundamentalism, because the narrative around the West supporting Israel is, I'm afraid, part of the narrative that we are somehow interfering in their world, we are taking over their lands, interfering in their countries, and I'm afraid I think this is going to… We've already seen the violence on the television screens this evening. Can I quickly jump in and say that, I mean, Trump did not make this decision because of his son-in-law. The Senate instructed him to do this as recently as June. That is an American institution. So before we go around just saying that Trump is speaking to his cronies, let's remember, when you are pushing back on this decision, you are pushing back on American institutions, which is fine. US presidents have pushed back on it since 1995. My bigger point is, I'm very uncomfortable with this idea that the violence that is coming up around the world is… I know you're not saying it's justified, but the assumption here is that if the West didn't do X, then people would be less violent, and I'm very concerned about that kind of rhetoric. All right, thank you. Owen Smith… I think it's terrifying, and it pains me to say it, but the leader of one of our greatest, most long-standing allies is, I'm afraid to say, a bully and a bigot and someone who has made, I think, an extraordinary crass intervention in a part of the world that we know is incredibly difficult and delicately balanced. We have violence on the screens of our televisions tonight as a direct consequence of this intervention by the President in the US. Kate says he has been instructed to do it - this vote was taken initially in 1995. As recently as June… Successive US presidents, mindful of the fact that America has a massively important role to play as a neutral broker in the Middle East, have chosen not to take this step. And Donald Trump, like a bull in a china shop, like the way he approaches everything, has charged in in order to feed his base and make good on one of the other crass promises he made during his leadership contest, and he has unfortunately, I think, destroyed America's ability to engage under his presidency and do what we need them to do, which is to help bring about peace in the Middle East. The woman at there in the third row. The woman in the middle. Let's hear from you. Hi, I just wanted to actually lead on from that. If American presidents haven't been kind of declaring their support for Jerusalem being Israel's, why is it that Trump has done that now, as in, if, like you said, why now? It doesn't… I don't understand, personally, and I hope you can explain this more. Why would he do this? Why would he potentially cause further violins? Why would he potentially --cause further violence? Why would he potentially cause a further divide, a divide that is just not necessary in such a divided world? Is it possible that he's partly distracting from the Robert Muller investigation? May be. I think it's because it's one of the foolish things he promised during the election, and he seems determined to make good on all of those things. He'll be genuinely building a wall next. I think Owen is right, that this is basically an election promise. As I said, a broken clock is right twice a day. I happen to think that in this case he is moving forward with what American institutions have been calling for the decades. None of this changes the fact that he is an incredibly dangerous and bigoted man. In terms of this particular topic, I think we have to see the wood for the trees. The man up there, then we will go on to another question. I think it's crazy, somehow, of Kate Andrews to suggest that because she can't see a two state solution in Palestine, that we should just hand over the land. Sorry, I can. Let him make his point. When Jews, Christians and Muslims have been living in Jerusalem for centuries together, somehow we should legitimise the state of Israel and delegitimise the state of Palestine, when Muslims have lived in Jerusalem for centuries peacefully and harmoniously with Israelis. It's just crazy how the US can continue to support Israel when it has been stealing land from the Palestinians for decades, stolen land from other countries, and now it's stealing Jerusalem. We must move on to another question. Morgan Davies Walker, let's have your question.
  • Q4: After the mass resignation of all members of the social mobility committee, does the panel think that social class is still relevant today?
After the mass resignation of all members of the social mobility committee, does the panel think that social class is still relevant today? The mass resignation on Sunday, I think it was, the social mobility committee, in protest against little evidence of meaningful action on social mobility, and they all resigned, both parties, led by Alan Milburn of Labour. They all resigned together. The question is, does the panel think social class is still relevant, given what they've asserted? Richard Bacon. Yes, it definitely is still relevant. Social class is a bigger determinant now of where you end up and how rich you end up as it has ever been. I don't want to make the entire thing about Brexit, but just as a side note, Alan Milburn said that when they resign, he resigned from this committee, it was partly a sense that it's not that the Government doesn't believe in this. Of course, they do and they want to do something about it, but so much energy has gone towards Brexit that there's not been enough energy put in towards this, but when you look at the top of almost all the major professions and look at universities like Oxford, that are taking in more kids from state school, but I think it's still around 40% from private school and only 7% of the population go to private school, I think that social class remains as big an issue in the United Kingdom as it's ever been. Bernard Jenkin. Of course, social mobility is very important, but I just hazard a guess, how many people in this room had ever heard of the social mobility commission? OK. She had. A few. But a tiny handful. The fact is, what really matters, what really creates social mobility, is economic success, having the highest rates of employment in this country that we've ever had, the lowest rate of unemployment for 40 years. 87% of children in England, I'm afraid to say, not in Wales, are now attending good or outstanding schools. There have just been some announcements about literacy in schools, the introduction of phonics in schools has had a dramatic affect on the reading ability of seven-year-olds. You mention universities. There are more people from deprived backgrounds going into universities than ever before. This is real social mobility. The introduction of the national living wage has raised… So why did all these people resigned saying the Government was doing nothing about it, including Tories? I think the fashion of having these commissions and these tsars, I mean, they're a bit of a talking shop. They don't actually do anything. They just discuss things. And I think Governments getting on with things is much more important. Too many experts. A little bit too many experts. Let's just get on with the job. Brexiteers have never been keen on the experts, as we know. They are so often wrong, that's why. In one of this case, one of the experts was one of your former colleagues, Gillian Shephard, who was a Tory education secretary for many years, and she resigned as part of this mass resignation, putting her name… You make it sound like some kind of political earthquake. I'm afraid it really doesn't matter very much. Well, it matters to the question. Bring in Morgan. Does it matter to you, Morgan? It should matter. Where is he? Morgan… I think that acknowledging social class for being an important way to address the fact that some people start from a position of privilege and some don't… We should stop talking about class. Why? Because you haven't faced the oppression that comes… No matter where you come from, we should provide a country with opportunities. Go on, Morgan, you tell him. It's easy for you to say that we shouldn't talk about Social class, because you haven't had to experience the oppression and the hardship that people who are in the lower social classes have faced. What I'm in politics for… Was to give more people more opportunities. Owen, Owen, hang on. Not to hold grudges about class. Owen, I interrupted you. I can't remember whether Bernard owns a castle or not… Oh, come on! I think it's quite big, though. I think class jibes are cheap. Well, I think the reality is, Bernard, that the reason this is such a big story is, your prime minister, Theresa May, stood on the steps of Downing Street upon assuming the Prime Minister job in this country and said that she thought social mobility and solving the problems we've got was the biggest challenge she faced and the biggest thing she was determined to fix. And to have her appointees, the people who sit on the very commission that's designed to measure whether she's achieving that objective, resign because they think she's failing on every objective measure is, I think, a really damning indictment. It is a storm in a Westminster teacup. 400,000 more children are in absolute poverty under the Tories. They are missing every single target. It's a disaster, Bernard. It's a disaster. Please. We cannot be on Question Time tonight, here in Swansea, in Wales. Swansea has not had any announcement on the tidal lagoon. There is not an inch of electrification on the railways in Wales. Of the devolved nations, Wales receives the poorest level of funding. We are seeing a situation where the south-east is overheating, and yet HS2 is designed to draw more people into the south-east. And London is funded more than Wales per head. But hang on, we're talking about social class, can you come to that? I'm talking about regional equality. But the question was about social class. And regional equality and social class will be intimately entwined. And I would remind you that in Wales it is Labour who have been responsible for education, and if that is our route out, we need to develop it. Kate Andrews. I agree with Richard and Morgan that social class needs to be discussed more. We often talk about gender discrimination and the ways that women in particular have struggled to move up the ladder, but I think that social class is really just as strong of an argument. But let's talk about what we can actually do about this. I mean housing costs, particularly in England but across-the-board, are incredibly restrictive in terms of who can access getting on the housing ladder. Let's liberalise the planning system and bring the cost of housing down. Electricity costs in England and Wales over the past two decades have risen by 50% because of onerous regulation. We can tackle that. Childcare costs are some of the highest in the OECD here in the UK. We can tackle that. We can make policy changes to put it forward. But Richard was right, we do have this issue of the Brexit black hole, where these issues that can be decided now in Westminster get pushed to the back burner because we can only talk about Brexit. We need to be having this conversation, and that will help tackle the issue of social class. The woman in the second row there. Can I go back to what Bernard said? You gave a percentage, 80 plus percent for England. It concerns me that you haven't got a percentage for Wales, and even on the news yesterday there was a lot about education in Wales. What was his percentage about? Was it 87% you gave? 87% for England. Percentage for what? 87% of children are now attending good or outstanding schools. And I'm afraid that's a much better percentage than in Wales. So what is it for Wales, and why is there not more concern and more money being put into Wales in education? Actually, I'm afraid the Labour Party run education in Wales and they've not been making the reforms we've had in England. We've increased spending on education in Wales, whereas you've cut capital spending in education at the Budget just a fortnight ago. Do you know what that shows? £300 per pupil, it's gone down. The woman in the third row, let's hear from you. I was interested to find out what your plan is to replace all of the funding that we used to get in south Wales for our most deprived areas through the European Social Fund. APPLAUSE. "The European Social Fund" was the last few words of that. The European Social Fund and the European Regional and Structural Funds, there will be a UK Prosperity Fund. Because once we've left the EU and we are free of the payments to the EU, we will actually have more money to spend in this country than we had before. We will no longer be making a net contribution to the European Union. And there is no tradition of addressing inequality in the UK. You must speak one at a time otherwise nobody can hear what either of you say. The woman there, and then I will come to you, Liz. All right, the man in front of you. I'm going to move on because we've only got ten minutes or so left. Martin Hens.
  • Q5: Should we allow anybody who has fought with Isis back into the country?
Should we allow anybody who has fought with Isis back into the country? Isis was mentioned when we were talking about Jerusalem, and of course we have the new Defence Secretary saying a dead terrorist can't cause any harm to Britain and we must continue to hunt them down. Owen Smith, should we allow anybody who has fought for Isis back here? Well, I think Gavin Williamson, the new Defence Secretary, I don't know whether he was trying to just get a good headline in the Daily Mail, but I did think that it was a very immature and slightly silly thing for him to say, to suggest that we are effectively going to hunt down and kill, or apparently kill people if they come back to this country having fought for Isis. He didn't say that. Come on. Well, I think that was the implication of what he said. It wasn't. What he actually said was… You are being a twit. Well, I think Gavin was being a twit when he said what he said, to be perfectly blunt. I think the implication of it was that they were going to be killed wherever they were in the world. I think that's precisely what he said. That was precisely the policy of your government when you were in office before 2010. Sorry, what was precisely the policy? It was precisely the policy that you were using drones to kill terrorists, even if they were British. If they had sworn allegiance to another state, or to something like Isis, they were going to get killed. And I have nothing to object to there. I think the reality is that if people are joining Isis and targeting British interests or British citizens they are legitimate targets, and they are in danger, wherever they are, to be killed. Should they be allowed back into this country, was the question? You can't deny people statehood, can you? So if you are, for example, someone who has gone to fight in Syria and then put… Because legally it's incredibly difficult to tell someone they are suddenly stateless. Because that of course implies that they must stay in another country or go somewhere else. So it's a glib sound bite, which was why it was a very silly thing for someone in a very serious position to say. We aren't going to assassinate people upon coming back to this country. Are we going to assassinate people if they go to Turkey, or other places where some of the people who have fought in Syria have gone? I don't think we are. Equally, if people have laid down their arms and want to come back to this country, we should arrest them. They should go through due process and we should rely on the law, not assassination. Martin, was on your mind? In my mind, if I can protect my family, or anybody else's family, I would do anything. I would not lose a moment's sleep over any of them being taken out anywhere. But hang on, what about when they come back to Britain? Don't allow them back through the borders. And do what with them? They can go wherever they like, but they are not coming back into this country to make more trouble. We have enough trouble with the ones we've got here. Those who have voluntarily gone to another country, they don't come back. Bernard Jenkin. Well, Martin, I do lose sleep over it, but I think the problem is that particularly the British people that go out to support Isis, they actually do renounce their allegiance to this country. They deny their citizenship of this country. And if they have renounced their citizenship, there comes a point when one is no longer responsible for them. And if somebody wants to come back and says, "I have really turned", there is a difficult problem for us. But I'm afraid while they are out there, the danger is thousands have come back from these war zones intending to do us harm. And it's all very well applying ultra human rights and civil justice to these people as though they were just ordinary criminals. They are not. We are at war with these terrorists. They should be arrested, incarcerated and processed. What are you saying should happen? Well, in the end, we are still developing the law of conflict, international conflict, where we are dealing with non-state actors. Just take as an example somebody who goes from a town in Britain, we will not name one, who has been out, fought in Syria and then comes back and arrives at the airport. What do you do then? You are saying they don't have statehood. Clearly they are a risk. But you're saying they've relinquished their statehood? If they have been fighting for Isis, they have effectively relinquished their status. What would you do with them? Send them where, Guantanamo Bay? What would you do? We don't want to finish up with a legal black hole like Guantanamo Bay. Quite. We put control orders on them, whatever they are called now. We track them, we incarcerate them sometimes. But you are allowing them back? You started saying you wouldn't allow them back. We try not to let them in in the first place, try to stop them coming back in the first place. If you leave the town that you referred to and you go to fight in Syria, you know what you are doing and you have rejected British values, there is no question about that. That alone is evidence of terrorism. And I don't support killing British citizens abroad with drones, which is what is proposed, what was proposed, and I don't understand how a government passionately against the death penalty can be in favour of using drones. I think when you come back to the country, you've been to Syria, that's evidence of terrorism. It's not a death penalty. The drones aren't? It is a conflict. They are in a conflict. Let me finish the point. I think you charge them and you attempt to put them in prison. And I think this point about a dead terrorist can't cause us any harm, I think actually dead terrorists inspire martyrs. And I think dead terrorists can cause more harm than a living terrorist in prison. Liz. Why do we think that meeting barbarism with barbarism will result in civilised… Let us go back to the Second World War, the Nuremberg trials realised that to bring peace, you must bring justice. We will have blood feuds for ever in the Middle East unless we bring peace. We will have martyrs back here, it will be an incentive for people back here. And let us remember that in 2007, safer neighbourhood teams in the police had six officers working in London. Now in Manchester, the murderer in Manchester was on the police radar. We need to enforce our community policing to make sure that we keep ourselves safe here. And would you allow anybody who's fought back into this country, which was the question that was asked? I have done work with the Yazidi community, and they need to have justice done, for those women who were raped, who saw their brothers, their sons and their husbands murdered, we, as an international community with the International Criminal Court have a duty of justice to those people. Kate Andrews. Liz is completely right. What separates everyone sitting in this room today from the people who go off and fight for Isis, who target children and rape women, is that we respect human rights and we respect the rule of law. And if they don't make it back to Britain, we're not going to shed a tear for them. But if they do, they should be brought in, they should be tried, they should have due process. They should feel the full weight of their decisions on their shoulders and they should be locked up for life. APPLAUSE. Right, Joshua Bain. Last quick question. Does the panel envisage another general election within the next six months? Back to the pantomime we began with. All right, quickly round the table, start on the right. I think it is unlikely. I think there is no appetite for it. But I think the way things are going for Theresa May, it's 60-40, I'd put it at. You have to be quick on this because we're running out. All I've learned in my short time in politics is six months from now it will be completely different to what is happening now. All right, Bernard. No. Thank you. Owen. Tories are adept at hanging onto power. They will hang on until the very last minute, I think. So you wouldn't try and unseat them at this stage? We are definitely going to try and unseat them but my point is I think they are very, very good, very assiduous when it comes to holding on to the reigns of power. You were going to have us our for Christmas. What happened? I'd like to see it, Bernard. Kate? No, but I do think that Mrs May may end up handing post-Brexit Britain to Jeremy Corbyn. APPLAUSE. I wasn't advocating for that, I just think that might happen. Joshua, you're last shout. What do you think? Well, I think she's finding it difficult now to govern without a parliamentary majority. She did always warn us about a coalition of chaos, she just never said it would be with her. APPLAUSE. OK. Right, well our hour is up. Thank you very much. Next Thursday, Question Time is going to come from Barnsley in Yorkshire. On the panel we've got the former Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, who is now a key Remainer on the backbenches. You sit apart on the Tory party backbench, you saying one thing, she saying another. I get on very well with Nicky. I'm sure you do but you disagree absolutely about almost every aspect of Brexit. One or two things. One or two important things. Anyway, Labour's Shadow Business Secretary is going to be with us, Rebecca Long Bailey, and Professor Winston, the scientist and broadcaster. That is next Thursday. Then there's a gap for Christmas, and then we're going to be in Islington in London on January 11. If you can come to either of those programmes, you would be extremely welcome to engage with our panel. The number to call is on screen. Or you can apply to the website. If you are listening to this in the bath on Radio 5 Live, you know Question Time Extra Time follows with more discussion for the points we have been making. My thanks to our panel. And to all of you who came to Swansea. Until Thursday next, from Question Time, good night.


A closer look at the above charts reveals the following:

  • The bar charts are scaled to the question most discussed in the show. So you immediately see that Q1 had the most turns, whereas the Q4 had the fewest. Note that this is calculated in the number of turns, which does not always translate to time. However, in this case both measures agree.

  • Over each bar chart you have the statistics of turns. In all four questions the host took roughly one third of all the turns. However, notice that his points are usually very short (around 10 words). The audience also is allowed for 10–15% of turns. These are, however, longer than those of David Dimbleby.

  • The chart lets you easily locate the points with a discussion between the panellist without David Dimbleby interfering. Just look for orange-yellow stripes.

Of course the obtained graphs could be extended in many ways. For me the two ‘nice-to-haves’ are:

  • It would be great to have the turns separated in between all of the five panellists. However, this seems very difficult to handle automatically with reasonable accuracy.

  • To do visualisations one has to know what were the “big questions” discussed during the show. This seems easier to automate. I will be looking into that in the next post


I thank the whole Full Fact Crew, especially the Digital Team and Lev Konstantinovskiy for the creative atmosphere and many hints during the project. I heartily recommend working with Full Fact, either as a volunteer or within any other opportunity at hand.