7 Moments When 'Question Time' Summed Up The David Dimbleby Era

Graeme Demianyk

David Dimbleby is to leave Question Time at the end of the year, with the broadcaster saying it was “the right time” after 25 years in the chair.

During his time as host, the programme has delivered countless extraordinary moments as his tenure coincided with the rise and fall of Tony Blair, the Iraq War, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, the Scottish referendum, Brexit and more.

The Dimbleby era appears to have a series of defining characteristics, and here are just seven.

The audience ...

There were many special audience members, but one stands out.

With the Scottish referendum approaching, Question Time witnessed its most spirited contributor: the self-professed “passionate highlander” Nigel from Inverness.

His memorable intervention could have been ripped from the script of Braveheart - bit only if William Wallace was in favour of the unity of England and Scotland, which he probably wouldn’t have been.

Nigel boomed: “I was born in Inverness, I’m a passionate Highlander, and I love Scotland. I will take a stand to keep the United Kingdom together. I will give my life for my country as my grandfather did in the First World War.”

Dimbleby, wisely, made no attempt to shut it down as the peroration went on.

Social media ...

New life was breathed into Question Time in the social media age, with most on Twitter being sure to point out on Thursday night how they will never watch again.

But some took a simple pleasure from the ‘Dimblebot’ Twitter account, a basic robot that has been supplying commentary in ‘all caps’ along to the BBC’s show (and everything else) for years now. 

The real-world Dimbleby acknowledged his existence after John Prescott brought up the online phenom.

He said: “We’e having as serious discussion here, but I do know I’m called a Dimblebot and I know there’s a Dimbledance - I can do it too.”

The controversy ...

In 2009, BNP leader Nick Griffin’s appearance caused a huge national debate over whether the BBC was giving a platform to extremist, racist views, or if the far-right’s claims needed to be challenged.

Griffin gave a shaky performance as the BNP leader dominated the programme that was dedicated almost exclusively to his far-right policies.

He criticised Islam and suggested that many people find “the sight of two grown men kissing in public really creepy”.

The BBC later revealed Question Time had pulled in 7.8million viewers, three times the usual figure.

But by the general election a year later, the BNP was on its way down. Despite promising a “political earthquake” in Barking, east London, the BNP leader suffered a humiliating defeat, beaten into third place by Labour MP Margaret Hodge in the constituency.

The no-nonsense chair ...

Sometimes the crowd would go too far. But in what appeared to be a Question Time first, an audience member was once kicked off the programme by Dimbleby for repeated heckling of guests.

The unidentified man from the Plymouth audience - resplendent in a Liquorice Allsorts shirt - earlier in the show argued how the “Tories and Blairites” were the big losers in the general election after Labour Party surge under Jeremy Corbyn.

But after bellowing “tax the rich” at Tory minister David Liddington and making loud interventions when anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller was speaking, the veteran broadcaster had had enough.

“Listen, I think you ought to leave, you know,” the presenter demanded, and off he went.

The risk of embarrassment ...

Politicians always took a risk in appearing.

Take Ed Miliband, who survived his 30 minutes with the live Question Time audience ahead of the 2015 election - only to nearly came a cropper at the end when he tripped off the debate stage.

The no-nonsense chair (panelist model) ...

Sometimes the panelists were just as enthusiastic as the audience.

During a highly-charged debate over Brexit in Darlington, ardent Remainer Terry Christian - dubbed the “most hated man on television” following his stint as host of the infamous 90′s show The Word - repeatedly spoke over Dimbleby and fellow guest Richard Tice, earning heckles of “shut up” from the audience. 

But it was the panel’s chair who finally ended Christian’s tirade over the potential drawbacks of leaving the EU. 

“Okay, let’s stop, stop, stop, stop, stop please,” Dimbleby demanded. 

“It’s getting boring, you’re getting boring,” he continued, chanting “boring, boring”. 

The celebrities/UKIP ...

A common concern among commentators is how Nigel Farage appears to always be on.

In 2014, there was the perfect storm of celebrity (which again often annoyed the purists) and Ukip when Russell Brand clashed with the Ukip leader, with the comedian calling Farage “a pound shop Enoch Powell”.

But it wasn’t much of a spectacle, and things only livened up when a shouty blue-haired woman aimed some good old-fashioned insults at Farage, calling him a “racist scumbag” and shouting something about his “rich banker friends”.