EXCL Diane Abbott could boycott BBC Question Time over 'abuse' row

Posted On: 
29th January 2019

Diane Abbott is mulling whether to boycott BBC Question Time after a row exploded over her most recent appearance on the show, PoliticsHome can reveal.

Diane Abbott was furious after an appearance on BBC Question Time
Credit: 
PA Images

The Shadow Home Secretary accused the broadcaster of “legitimising mistreatment, bias and abuse” after she was baracked by audience members earlier this month.

She claimed she had been “interrupted more times than any other panellist” - including by new host Fiona Bruce - and said she had been singled out during the warm-up to the show.

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But the BBC has rejected any claims that the Labour frontbencher was treated unfairly and has refused to release footage of the exchanges before the live transmission.

PoliticsHome understands that Ms Abbott is furious not to have received the footage from the broadcaster and that her demands for an apology have been rebuffed.

She has been mulling her next steps and considering whether she might refuse to appear on the show in future.

Labour has said Ms Abbott was interrupted 21 times during her appearance on 17 January, compared to nine times for Tory minister Rory Stewart and eight for SNP MP Kirsty Blackman.

It was also claimed that Ms Bruce made a quip in the warm-up about the relationship Ms Abbott had with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 1970s, which the BBC denies.

And critics pointed to a part of the show when Ms Bruce claimed Labour was "definitely" behind in the polls - despite some giving the party a small lead or showing it neck-and-neck with the Conservatives.

Ms Bruce was forced to clarify her remarks during the following episode and said she "should have made the context clear".

A source close to Ms Abbott told PoliticsHome there had been "no discussion about boycotting Question Time at this stage".

'HOSTILE ATMOSPHERE'

In a statement last week, a spokesperson for Ms Abbott said: “It was clear that a hostile atmosphere was whipped up, propped up by reports of inappropriate and sexist commentary in the audience warm-up session.

“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 than any other panellist, including by the chair herself.

“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.”

But a spokesperson for the BBC said at the time: "We are sorry to hear Diane Abbott’s concerns over last night’s edition of Question Time and we have contacted her team today to reassure them that reports circulating on social media are inaccurate and misleading.

"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."