UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage will have his own half-hour show tonight on BBC television, during which he will answer audience questions.
The Election 2015: Ask Nigel Farage airtime given to Farage comes soon after controversy over the audience makeup of a BBC-sponsored challenger’s political debate on April 17.
Britain has a parliamentary election on Thursday, May 7, in which the entire House of Commons will be up for election or reelection. It will also decide if David Cameron of the Conservative/Tory party can hang on as prime minister.
With Cameron declining to attend, Farage was the only right-of-center candidate on the stage on April 17. An unfriendly to Ukip, London-centric studio audience booed Farage, especially over his views on immigration, for which the populist party has been branded racist.
This atmosphere prompted the Ukip leader to say at one point, “There just seems to be a total lack of comprehension on this panel, and indeed amongst this audience, which is a remarkable audience even by the left-wing standards of the BBC.”
Debate moderator David Dimbleby then jumped in to insist that the audience was selected by an independent polling organization to represent all political parties. See video embedded below.
According to the Express of London, however, liberals/progressives actually made up 70 percent of the audience. Although Farage said post-debate that he was too busy campaigning to lodge a formal complaint about bias, the BBC subsequently decided to give him the 30-minute Q&A slot.
The BBC — which is funded by the U.K. taxpayer — has apparently admitted that the audience was not fair and balanced.
Responding to the invite, which may or may not have been a form of damage control by the network, a Ukip rep said that “Nigel Farage is delighted to accept the BBC’s invitation to once again engage with the public.”
Over the long term, the BBC has often been accused of liberal bias. In this election, the conservative press supportive of the Tories has also given the Ukip campaign a rough time, however.
Farage’s TV show will air tonight after Cameron, Labor PM hopeful Ed Miliband, and Deputy PM Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats answer questions in a live broadcast.
Even a modest number of Ukip wins on May 7 could play a decisive role in forming a governing coalition in Westminster. Ukip already holds two seats in parliament as a result of special-election victories and came within a few hundred votes of winning a third in a Labor stronghold.
The rise of Ukip has resulted in part because a significant portion of the British electorate has become disenchanted with the Conservatives on the right and the Labor Party on the left. As such, neither is expected to achieve an outright majority in parliament on election day, with the liberal Democrats (who are currently in a coalition with Prime Minister Cameron’s conservative government) fading into irrelevancy, according to opinion polls.
Labor voters coming over to Ukip are roughly equivalent to what we would call, or used to call, Reagan Democrats.
Under the charismatic and teleprompter-free leadership of the beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking, and typically un-PC Farage, Ukip wants to reassert the sovereignty of Britain by exiting the European Union via referendum and leaving behind all its assorted heavy-handed regulations, and also, among other things, to clamp down on massive immigration into the U.K., which has come from both third-world countries as well as from Eastern Europe, the latter as a result of EU decrees. Labor and the Liberal Democrats officially want to stay in the EU and oppose a national referendum, while the position of the Cameron’s conservatives on an in-or-out vote is ambiguous.
Labor’s Ed Miliband has admitted that his party has made mistakes in immigration when it ran the U.K. government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, including when it comes to welfare benefits.
Last May, Ukip won the most seats for Britain’s representation in the European Union, the first time in about 100 years that a third or fourth party won a national election in England. Farage is himself also a candidate for the British parliament, the House of Commons, for the South Thanet constituency.
Discussing the alleged BBC bias in a radio interview today, the often controversial Farage offered this assessment of the situation.
“I believe they are guilty of blatant prejudice. I think they’ve been prejudicial on the European issue, prejudicial on the immigration issue. I think deep within their DNA, is a north London metropolitan mindset that just doesn’t see what Ukip believes to be acceptable. I think it’s as simple as that. We have complained like hell. We’ve written a number of letters to them. We were less than impressed by the audience they produced for the Challengers’ debate, where there was an openly hostile audience. Time and again, we see the BBC treating us in a way that is really quite extraordinary.”
If you are following the British political campaign, will you be watching Election 2015: Ask Nigel Farage tonight? Check back here for the video footage.
[Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Image News]
Added: Watch tonight’s Ask Nigel Farage program televised over the BBC from Birmingham, England.