Last week seemed such a promising beginning for BBC Question Time under the new leadership of Fiona Bruce, with her holding both Labour and Tory representatives to account and insisting that they answer the questions put, rather than using the platform given to them to slag off their opponents. Sadly, all the credit banked by that first effort was expended, and worse, last night. And the critics are once again circling.
Fiona Bruce - falsehood, misinformation, and worse
Diane Abbott - smeared and jeered ...
... while Isabel Oakeshott gets off scot free (again)
The programme came from Derby, and featured among the panellists mercenary hack Isabel Oakeshott, Tory MP Rory Stewart, and Labour’s Diane Abbott. Stewart received the benefit of the audience knowing that he had tutored Royalty, Ms Oakeshott avoided being identified as the water-carrier for offshore billionaire Michael Ashcroft, and Ms Abbott as treated, by all accounts, shamefully. The feedback does not look good.
A number of audience members have already passed adverse comment on proceedings, with Labour member Jyoti Wilkinson telling “Tonight I managed to wangle myself into the @bbcquestiontime audience. The way they stoked up the anti Dianne Abbott sentiment before hand was appalling - the BBC is in dire need of reform … The wangle was the fact I managed to get picked without having some underlying hatred of Dianne Abbott”.
He had more to say. “We were made to turn our phones off as we entered the building, and i was fairly taken back by it all. If you watch the episode, you can see the hostility … There was a huge amount of hostility towards Diane - jokes about only being in the shadow cab cos of her affairs with Corbyn etc alongside the usual stuff you hear”.
Oh dear, BBC. And it wasn’t just Labour members: Khalil Akbar told that “I have to agree somewhat. I was sat there at the front and amazed at the number of ‘Leave’ voters behind me with their running commentary...it was not a balanced audience for sure-especially given [they] spoke to everyone and interviewed beforehand”.
Another Labour member, Alison Martin, recalled “I was in the audience of Question Time tonight - didn't feel like a balanced audience, though the Leavers were loud. The jeers against Diane Abbott were worse than could be heard on the broadcast; was some humour at Diane's expense from BBC staff before the recording”.
It wasn’t just Ms Abbott’s fans voicing unease at the spectacle: “I can’t say I’m a massive fan of Diane Abbott but I’m much less of a fan of the obvious bias and abuse she is facing tonight. She might not be easy to watch but the way she’s being treated tonight is absolutely disgusting … Not a fan of Diane Abbott but I am yet again seeing such bias from the bbc and Fiona Bruce - need to be fair and equitable” were typical.
Word got back to Aaron Bastani of Novara Media. “I’m told that prior to broadcast of tonight’s #bbcqt Fiona Bruce came out, introduced herself to audience and gave a 10 minute talk [this is normal for QT]. Proceeded to make jokes about Dianne Abbott which were ‘in reality appaling’ then in rehearsal the floor manager did the same thing [while this is definitely not]. Abysmal”. He was also unimpressed at Ms Bruce’s research.
“Last 4 polls • Kantar - Labour lead by 3% • ComRes - Labour lead by 2% • BMG - Labour level • Survation - Labour lead by 3% Fiona Bruce, heading BBC flagship politics program #bbcqt ‘Labour are behind in the polls’ These are the people protecting us from fake news?” That was not the new host’s only faux pas.
The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr picked up another, arguably worse howler: “No Fiona Bruce!! She just intervened after a woman referred to Leave's ‘dirty campaign’ & said there are ‘questions about both sides in the referendum’. Totally untrue. There are multiple legal investigations into Vote Leave, BeLeave, LeaveEU and Arron Banks. And none into Remain”. Any suggestion Remain cheated is Leave propaganda.
And that still from the show in Ms Cadwalladr’s Tweet looks, well, terrible for Ms Bruce and the Beeb. Added to all of that, as Otto English observed, was the glossing over of Ms Oakeshott’s vested interest. “Isabel Oakeshott backs No Deal because Isabel Oakeshott is nothing more than billionaire Michael Ashcroft's spokesperson and that is what off shore billionaire Michael Ashcroft wants”. Correctamundo. Ms Cadwalladr concurred.
“Exactly. Isabel Oakeshott is a paid lobbyist. And the @BBC can invite her on every week but they could and should be open & transparent about whose interests she represents”.
So that’s apparently shameful treatment of Diane Abbott (again), misinformation on opinion polls, falsehood on referendum cheating, and lack of openness when it comes to panellists’ backgrounds. Not good, BBC. And one has to say it: we’ve been here before.
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