ANDREW PIERCE: Fiona Bruce set for a baptism of fire on Question Time

ANDREW PIERCE: Fiona Bruce set for a baptism of fire on Question Time

ANDREW PIERCE: Fiona Bruce set for a baptism of fire over Brexit when she takes over from David Dimbleby on Question Time

Fiona Bruce will become the first female presenter of the current affairs panel show

Fiona Bruce is set for a baptism of fire — over allegations of the programme’s political bias — when she takes over as the anchor of BBC1’s Question Time.

Under David Dimbleby, who retires from the Thursday night show this week after 24 years in the hot seat, it has been the subject of intense scrutiny for a perceived anti-Brexit stance.

There are fears among many at the Beeb that Bruce, who also hosts Antiques Roadshow, is too lightweight. 

Particularly, there are concerns over whether she has the ability to maintain what the BBC Charter demands, namely that the public broadcaster does all it can to ensure ‘controversial subjects are treated with due impartiality’.

Last week, during 80-year-old Dimbleby’s penultimate programme, panellist Charles Moore, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, said: ‘Everybody on this panel except for me comes from a Remain point of view in the referendum . . . and therefore they don’t understand why people care about this and they don’t see what the real issue at stake is.’

Fellow panellists were Cabinet minister James Brokenshire, Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti, Ian Blackford MP (the SNP’s leader at Westminster) and Jill Rutter of the think-tank Institute For Government, which she says has ‘no view on Brexit’.

David Dimbleby, who is 80, announced in June that he would be leaving the role this month

Hardline Brexiteer Moore could have argued, too, that since the beginning of 2016, there have been only six Question Time panels with more Leavers than Remainers — and just one since the EU referendum.

In response, a BBC spokesperson says: ‘Question Time is not a single-issue programme and panellists are expected to address a range of subjects each week.

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‘The BBC is no longer reporting on the binary choice which faced the electorate in the referendum. Question Time gives audiences the opportunity to hold to account politicians from government and opposition parties for the way they are carrying out Brexit.’

I’ll be watching to see who Fiona Bruce’s first panellists are on January 10 . . .

Referendum tennis, anyone?

Shadow Attorney General Baroness Chakrabarti is warning Labour’s MPs of the danger of a second EU referendum.

She says: ‘Whether you’re for Leave or Remain, if we were to have another binary vote, and we get something similar to the split we saw last time — whether it’s a little bit for Leave or a little bit for Remain — what happens next? Best of three, women’s tennis? Best of five, men’s tennis?’

The minister for universities Chris Skidmore was once in a punk band [File photo]

Chris Skidmore, the newly appointed minister for universities, was once in a Oxford punk band which recorded lewd lyrics about the Queen Mother only weeks after her death.

As he tries to attract the world’s best young brains to Oxford and Cambridge, he’ll be deeply embarrassed to be reminded that the group, Bob Nylon and the Elastic Band, had a song called Oxford Reject that included the lyric: ‘Hey Oxford reject, you’re always gonna be a reject, you’re still a reject in my eyes.’

The Marx Memorial Library in Central London — whose trustees include Comrade Corbyn — is selling a Christmas card showing a Russian bear brandishing a stick outside a cosy cottage. 

Does this threatening image tell us something about the policy of a future Labour government towards the millions who live in the countryside? 

The Christmas card shows a Russian bear brandishing a stick outside a cosy cottage

Talk about unjoined-up government! Just days after Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg angered an international committee of politicians by failing to turn up to a meeting in Westminster, it’s emerged the Government has given his organisation £90,000. 

The money is from the Cabinet Office to promote on Facebook a £21,000 video which it made to sell Theresa May’s controversial Brexit deal.

Understatement of the week

Jim Shannon, a DUP MP, said: ‘The EU are bullies and they haven’t been very helpful over the withdrawal.’  

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