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:
We've reviewed what was said re polling on @bbcquestiontime. A YouGov poll published on the day of the programme suggested a lead for the Conservatives. Diane Abbott was also right that some other polls suggested Labour either as ahead or tied, & we should have made that clear.
— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) January 19, 2019
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:
Making matters worse.
BBC says they should have "made it clear" they were referring only to a YouGov poll.
But it wasn't a lack of clarity: they said the opposite.
Oakeshott claimed Labour's "behind in the polls" – plural.
Bruce says "definitely".https://t.co/sblRWIVC9V
— Steve Howell (@FromSteveHowell) January 19, 2019
This Writer made a pertinent point about the dates of recent polls:
YouGov poll was from January 6-7; Survation from Jan 12. The standard of BBC journalism remains poor, I see.
— Mike Sivier (@MidWalesMike) January 19, 2019
Here‘s Gurdeep Sahota: “You were sorry to hear her concerns, now say sorry to
@HackneyAbbott … 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:
The BBC needs to stop treating Jeremy Corbyn and his Ministers as if we are not legitimate political actors and give us the respect that they automatically give to Tory Ministers and Labour MP's on the right
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) January 19, 2019
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.”
And Faisa Shaheen tweeted:
This from Diane Abbott is 💯
As the only person from the left on a panel you’re often gaslighted and it’s not on. There have now been too many incidences of BBC bias, they need to take a long hard look at themselves. https://t.co/RYFI1riyJM
— Faiza Shaheen (@faizashaheen) January 19, 2019
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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