After last week’s edition of the BBC’s flagship political debate offering Question Time, the controversy surrounding the treatment of shadow home secretary Diane Abbott began, and four days later has still not abated. The Beeb has conceded that new host Fiona Bruce got it wrong on whether Labour was behind in the polls. But that has not stopped the Labour Party making a formal compliant to the Corporation.
This is not just about the treatment of Ms Abbott: as the Guardian has reported, “Labour has also demanded to see footage from the audience warm-up before the show amid allegations the crowd in Derby had been ‘whipped up’ against Abbott. She said she had also been told Bruce made unpleasant remarks about her before the recording began”.
In the circumstances, one might have thought that others who were party to the controversy might keep out of the row. But that thought would be misplaced in the case of mercenary hack and paid lobbyist Isabel Oakeshott, who, along with her gofer Steven Edginton, has mounted a crude attempt at gaslighting.
“‘If that’s racism, I’m a jellybean.’ @HackneyAbbott was rude and embarrassing off-air before @bbcquestiontime. Called out by the teenager she treated like dirt” tells Ms Oakeshott on Twitter, advertising a sneering and hyperbolic post by Edginton helpfully published by Conservative Home. The site is owned by Lord Ashcroft, who is, surprise, surprise, also Ms Oakeshott’s paymaster. This is a complete coincidence, so there.
Edginton’s gripe is, mainly, that Ms Abbott declined to engage him in conversation as he accompanied Ms Oakeshott on their journey from London’s St Pancras station to Derby. He talks of Ms Abbott’s “knee-jerk allegations”, which might be credible if she had made the complaint immediately after the broadcast, but she did not.
There is a smattering of politics-playing dishonesty, as Edginton claims “Abbott floundered about, struggling to defend her party’s increasingly bewildering position on Brexit”. Labour’s Brexit position is straightforward, and should bewilder no-one. He asserts that Ms Abbott was agin him: “she mistakenly assumed I was just another privileged Tory public school boy, to whom she did not need to bother giving the time of day”. No citation.
He accuses Ms Abbott of “whining”, and like so many who have never been on the wrong end of racism, claims that there was no racism. In true Daily Mail style, he tells “Perhaps she should consider her own prejudices - and what instant class-based judgements she makes of someone like me”. Nothing like making it up as you go along.
Ms Oakeshott, meanwhile, has endorsed Allison Pearson’s comment “The point @IsabelOakeshott was making is that, given the mayhem, Labour should be miles ahead. Instead, they struggle to keep neck and neck and, in the latest poll, the Tories were an astounding six points ahead. After one of their worst weeks ever”. Except they weren’t six points ahead, and it wasn’t the latest poll. Plus … Allison Pearson?
The same Allison Pearson who demanded internment camps after the Manchester Arena bombing? The Allison Pearson who tried to use the Brussels Airport attack as anti-EU propaganda? The gaslighting is gaining pace. But hell, it’s getting desperate, too.
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