Following host Fiona Bruce going badly wrong during last Thursday’s edition of the BBC’s still allegedly flagship political debate show Question Time, complaints were made to the Corporation. And, as so often, the conclusion was that the Beeb had nothing to apologise for. There had been a misunderstanding, because Ms Bruce had misheard.
Here’s the statement: “There was a genuine misunderstanding which can occur in a debate style programme which is broadcast as live. The auditorium is noisier than it appears on the broadcast, and Fiona misheard the member of the audience who was sitting at the back and who made a valid observation about Vote Leave”. Do go on.
“Fiona believed the audience member was referring to Leave EU and her comments in relation to that were correct. We’re happy to clear up any confusion and make clear that the subsequent panel discussion did not refer to Vote Leave”. We know it didn’t refer to Vote Leave. We also know that Isabel Oakeshott lied shamelessly.
Not that the Beeb is going to address that, it seems. And while Channel 4 host Krishnan Guru-Murthy mused “I preferred the days when it was ok to say ‘sorry, we made a mistake’. We all make mistakes”, it was Jessica Simor who picked up on the obvious howler: “Sadly, the correction itself is wrong. Have written to editor to explain”.
Not that she will get anywhere, but let’s see why she is right and the BBC is wrong. This is what Fiona Bruce said on “mis-hearing” the audience member: “I think when it comes to the Leave EU campaign, as far as I am aware they were cleared of a number of things actually, so I’m not entirely sure that you’re right about that”. Cleared? Were they?
On the £6m in loans from Arron Banks, the Commission concluded “The Commission found that Leave EU failed without reasonable excuse to report these transactions correctly … The Commission therefore determined that the responsible person for Leave EU committed an offence under paragraph 5(9)(b) of Schedule 2 of EURA in respect of the pre-poll transaction report. Further, these facts form part of an offence under section 122(4)(b) in respect of the referendum campaign spending return for Leave EU”.
On services from Goddard Gunster, “The Commission is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Leave.EU did pay for services from Goddard Gunster that should have been reported in its spending return … the responsible person for Leave EU failed, without reasonable excuse, to include these payments in Leave.EU’s referendum spending return … these facts form part of an offence under section 122(4)(b) in respect of the referendum campaign spending return for Leave EU.” And there is more.
On payments to Better For The Country Limited, “The Commission is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Leave EU, without reasonable excuse, failed to include spending of £77,380 in its referendum spending return, comprising fees paid to BFTCL as its campaign organiser … These facts form part of an offence under section 122(4)(b) in respect of the referendum campaign spending return for Leave EU”. And more.
Fiona Bruce - not keeping control ...
On all payments over £200 having to be accompanied by an invoice or receipt, “The Commission found beyond reasonable doubt that the responsible person of Leave EU failed, without reasonable excuse, to provide the required invoice or receipt for 97 payments of over £200, cumulatively totalling £80,224. The responsible person of Leave EU therefore committed an offence under section 122(4)(c) of PPERA”.
And on the spending limit, “As a non-designated campaigner, the referendum spending limit imposed by section 118(1) and Schedule 14(1)(2)(c) of PPERA on Leave.EU was £700,000. Leave.EU reported spending of £693,094, which is £6,906 under the spending limit … The Commission found beyond reasonable doubt that Leave.EU failed to include a minimum of £77,380 in its spending return, which meant that Leave.EU exceeded its spending limit by more than 10%”. Only 10%? Maybe not.
... or calling out the liars
“The Commission is satisfied that the actual figure was in fact greater, given the failure to report an appropriate proportion of the cost of services provided by Goddard Gunster … The Commission therefore determined that both Leave EU and the responsible person committed offences under section 118(2)(c) of PPERA”. Cleared? No they weren’t.
So when the BBC PR people claim “Fiona believed the audience member was referring to Leave EU and her comments in relation to that were correct”, they are wrong. Worse, on the basis of the Electoral Commission evidence, the Corporation should not be inviting Isabel Oakeshott on any of its programmes ever again.
Krishnan Guru-Murthy was right. Just say you loused up. It’s so much easier to do.
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