Question Time row: Labour complains as the BBC manages NOT to apologise

The Tory-supporting BBC has got itself into a real pickle after Question Time host Fiona Bruce and fellow panellist Isobel Oakeshott tried to gaslight Diane Abbott over poll results.

They claimed that Labour were trailing the Tories when the most recent poll (by Survation, and therefore reliable) put Ms Abbott’s party three points ahead. It was a blatant lie that many of us witnessed. If you didn’t, see my recent article.

Now, according to the Mirror, Labour has made a formal complaint to the BBC.

The paper claims Labour have complained that Ms Abbott was incorrectly challenged during the programme. The complaint is also said to mention the level of interruption Ms Abbott faced – panelists or Ms Bruce stopped her 21 times, whereas Tory Rory Stewart was stopped nine times and the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman eight times.

And social media claims, reported in my previous article, that a BBC team member made inappropriate comments to the audience about Ms Abbott and Labour leade Jeremy Corbyn are also said to be included in the complaint.

The BBC’s press team has responded to the row as follows:

Many of us have been having fun with it.

Some have pointed out that YouGov is a Tory operation run by Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, thereby calling its results into question.

Journalist Steve Howell addressed the inaccuracies in the statement:

This Writer made a pertinent point about the dates of recent polls:

Here‘s Gurdeep Sahota: “You were sorry to hear her concerns, now say sorry to … Your statement says that you reject anyone was treated unfairly. Do you now accept that she was treated unfairly? Can you broadcast this on the next episode?”

Or how about Audrey: “I’m pretty sure that what you wanted to say is ‘It was Fiona Bruce’s job to rectify Isabel Oakeshott on this, and we recognise that she failed to do so. On hers, and the BBC’s behalf, we profusely apologise to Diane Abbott!'”

Ms Abbott herself has written a piece in the Independent, calling her treatment “a disgrace”. She tweeted:

In her article, she wrote: “Over a long political career I have appeared on BBC Question Time innumerable times, but I have never had such a horrible experience as I had in Derby last week.

“Fiona Bruce… does not appear to be well briefed. She got the polling for Labour vs Tory wrong. She (or her researcher) appears to have got their figures from a Conservative Central Office handout. Above all, it seems she is not afraid to appear unfair as a presenter.

“I was interrupted more than twice the number of times that Tory MP Rory Stewart was interrupted, even though he spoke more times than I and for a longer period overall. I was not allowed to respond to a blatantly abusive remark from the audience. I’m also told that she made unpleasant remarks about me to the audience, before the programme was actually recorded.”

Note that the BBC has issued a denial – but not of what Ms Abbott alleged. It denied that “any of the panel was treated unfairly either before or during the recording”. This could refer to personal treatment, not references made about them to third parties.

Ms Abbott also made a crucial point regarding race: “Who could blame any young Bame women with an interest in politics and a left-of-centre ideology seeing the way that I was treated on Question Time and deciding that politics is not for her?”

That would suggest outright racism on the part of BBC employees.

Or perhaps they are simply following the Conservative “hostile environment” agenda.

Needless to say, there has been a huge gammon-based backlash against Ms Abbott on the social media. I won’t quote any of them; you can find out for yourself if you can stomach that much salted meat.

On a personal note, as the journalist who first wrote that Ms Abbott had been gaslighted by the BBC, it was pleasant to see others in the mainstream pick up on that term and bring it to a wider audience than I have here.

So Biba Kang in the Independent (again), wrote: “They’ve chosen to weaponise the public conception of Abbott as “ill-informed”, and are peddling the widespread and deeply problematic narrative that people of colour, and black people in particular, are paranoid and angry without cause.

“This approach is an incredibly common way of dealing with accusations of prejudice. It’s essentially gaslighting: the process of psychologically manipulating someone, such that they doubt their own sanity. By telling Abbott that she has in fact been mislead by erroneous social media reports, the BBC are actively undermining Abbott’s own experience of events. People of colour will be familiar with this insidious technique being used to undermine their legitimate concerns.”

Hear, hear.

And Faisa Shaheen tweeted:

No – these people need to be stopped.

The BBC has been self-regulating for far too long. I’m led to believe this is supposed to have changed recently but I see no evidence of any difference.

Perhaps it’s time the Corporation was taken to court over the damage it has been doing to the reputation – not only of prominent left-wing politicians like Ms Abbott – but of left-wing politics as a whole.

If Labour doesn’t get satisfaction from the BBC’s complaints department, then perhaps the party will take that option.

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No Comments

  1. SteveH January 20, 2019 at 2:56 am - Reply

    It gets worse
    Re Diane Abbott on QT…
    As a sound expert, I can confirm that Abbott’s microphone was deliberately turned down (and the others turned up) to make her sound weaker, and to make it more difficult for her to defend herself

  2. Jeffrey Davies January 20, 2019 at 9:05 am - Reply

    The BBC staff need sacking big time without redundancies they disgrace to the license payers

    • lin wren January 21, 2019 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      Paying for licence is not mandatory. Stop paying it. Simples

  3. nmac064 January 20, 2019 at 9:17 am - Reply

    I don’t think the BBC standards are “poor” Mike, I believe they are blatantly and deliberately a branch of the Tory propaganda machine.

  4. Alexander Holdom January 20, 2019 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Why not refuse to pay your TV licence until the BBC shows itself to be neutral?

  5. Dan January 20, 2019 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    I can’t watch QT any more, the pro-Tory bias winds me up so much. Time it was scrapped IMO.

  6. John D. Ingleson January 21, 2019 at 5:15 am - Reply

    Dan – exactly my sentiments – I normally like to see how the fight’s going (only on catchup, mind. I’ve notified I no longer need to pay for a license to watch government propaganda) but, disgracefully, this British institution has turned into a lynch mob – it seriously makes me feel physically ill! What a disgrace! ‘Pay the government to pull the wool over your eyes, wont you!

  7. yelobeli January 22, 2019 at 1:13 am - Reply

    1) Where was the pro-Tory bias when James Cleverly was brilliantly ripped apart on last week’s programme?
    2) Even if there was any foundation in this compliant (there isn’t), it was not “gaslighting”. To call it so trivialises gaslighting as abusive behaviour.
    3) The fact that Abbott is way beyond her level of competency has nothing to do with her race or sex. Swing voters (and many longtime Labour voters) look at the prospect of her running the Home Office with a justifiable combination of horror and disbelief. That does not for a moment negate what she has achieved as an MP, but she would be completely out of her depth in a senior ministerial position.

    • Mike Sivier January 22, 2019 at 4:00 am - Reply

      Gaslighting IS abusive behaviour and it’s what Fiona Bruce and Isobel Oakeshott did to Diane Abbott.
      Your claim that Ms Abbott is “way beyond her level of competency” is an opinion, not a fact. You provide no information to support your claim. Is it based on that single mistake she made over numbers?
      I shall not comment on your mention of James Cleverly, beyond pointing out that it is nothing but whataboutery.

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