Labour lodge formal complaint with BBC over ‘appalling’ treatment of Diane Abbott
The bitter row between the BBC and Labour over the treatment of Diane Abbott on Question Time has escalated after the party lodged a formal complaint with the broadcaster.
The Shadow Home Secretary hit out in the wake of Thursday’s show, accusing the BBC of “legitimising racism” against her during a heated edition of the programme, which was chaired by new host Fiona Bruce.
According to Labour, the frontbencher was interrupted twice as often as government minister Rory Stewart, including by Ms Bruce to wrongly correct her about Labour’s latest polling figures.
Following the show’s broadcast, several people who claimed to have been in the audience accused the show’s production team of “whipping up” the audience against Ms Abbott during the warm-up.
In one segment, Ms Bruce and political pundit Isabel Oakeshott contested Ms Abbott's assertion that Labour were neck and neck in the polls, arguing that Labour were “definitely behind”. But in the last 10 results Labour have led in four, been behind in four and tied in two.
The BBC tweeted: “We’ve reviewed what was said re polling. A YouGov poll published on the day suggested a lead for the Conservatives.
“Diane Abbott was also right that some other polls suggested Labour either ahead or tied and we should have made that clear.”
It is believed that Labour have called on the BBC to apologise for the mistake on air, with one party source telling The Guardian: “We want to see the warm-up footage because of these claims from audience members and we want an on-air apology over the polling.”
Writing in the Independent, Ms Abbott branded the programme “the political version of the Jeremy Kyle show”, as she claimed she was not allowed to respond to a “blatantly abusive” remark from the audience.
She added: “Over the 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.”.
A spokesperson for the MP added: “A public broadcaster like the BBC should be expected to be a model of impartiality and equality. The BBC cannot claim anything of the sort when analysis of the programme shows that the only black woman on the panel was jeered at and interrupted more times that any other panellist, including the chair itself.
“The media must stop legitimising mistreatment, bias and abuse against Ms Abbott as a black woman in public life. The BBC should be ashamed that their programming is complicit in such behaviour.”
In a further statement, a spokesperson for the BBC said that any claims the audience were “whipped up” ahead of filming were “inaccurate and misleading”. They added: “Diane is a regular and important contributor to the programme.
“We firmly reject claims that any of the panel was treated unfairly either before or during the recording.”