Last week (17/01/2019), the UK got to see one of the worst dogpiles in BBC Question Times history, with the shows new host Fiona Bruce, and panellist, Right Wing commentator Isabel Oakeshott cut down Shadow Home Secretary, MP Diane Abbott. The incident happened when Fiona Bruce, and Oakeshott, grilled Abbot over Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to not visit Theresa May for Brexit Talks.
As the show went on, Diane was again grilled after claiming Labour was doing well in the polls, with both the Host and panellist again, attacking Abbot, making spurious claims that the Conservative’s were ahead in the polls, a fact that was later proven to more or less untrue.
This is a story that from the second it graced my eyes, it struck me as one of the worst visuals the BBC has broadcast in a long time, instantly making this something I needed to write about, but of course, me being a relative minnow in the world of Politics (and everything), I needed to do something unique. Before writing, I emailed a few of the panellists that were on last weeks show, in the hope of a reply that I could use to write an article around. To my surprise, I received a reply from Governments Minister of Prisons, Conservative MP Rory Stewart.
I asked Rory a few questions on what happened before, during and after the Question Time airing last week to see how his view on the situation matches to my own and of course, what happened onscreen. First, I asked Rory for his opinion on the alleged incident that occurred during the shows Warm-up, where it is said Fiona Bruce cracked very personal jokes about Abbott, I was unsure if he may have seen this. Rory’s answer to this matched my suspicions, he ‘didn’t see what happened before the show and neither did Diane’. Sadly, in the case of what is alleged to have happened before the show, it seems that unless an audience member has a recording of it, or until the BBC (do the right thing) and release the footage, we will never be able to truly know what happened.
The hounding of Fiona Bruce for perceived bias – like that of @bbclaurak – is a worrying sign of the aggression that female journalists too often face for doing their jobs. It’s interesting that I’ve seen claims that she’s both pro & anti Brexit – maybe she’s just fair?
— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK) January 22, 2019
Following on from this first question, I moved to the topic of Fiona Bruce and the “aggression” which she has faced on Social media following the broadcast in question. I asked Rory to Clarify where exactly this abuse was being directed AT Fiona, as my own investigations had drawn a blank on showing where Fiona Bruce was at the direct receiving end of any abuse, as she has no Social Media accounts that can be publically viewed. Rory Stewart’s answer to this question was that I could ‘see the abuse by looking at his Twitter feed’, so I went to the @RoryStewrtMP Twitter feed to verify for myself. On Rory’s Twitter feed, I saw heavy criticism of both himself and the BBC in general, so to a point, it is not untrue although the claim that Fiona Bruce has been directly receiving abuse on social media when she has no social media accounts, does not hold water. I feel a person’s Twitter feed can only really ever be directed at that one person and noone else.
To be honest, these were the only real questions I asked the Conservative MP although he gave us a little more feedback on his view of the incident (which was generous of him). In short, Rory tells us that he believes Diane Abbott was ‘listened to respectfully’, although went on to say that this was for ‘her first long answer’. I agree with Rory that Diane was listened to for her first answer, although, it did not come easy, it was not at this point (her first answer) that the show went horribly downhill (more on that soon). I have to disagree with his view that Diane was given respect when she spoke, as she was interrupted more times than anyone else on the show.
Question time has always been a show where we watch those we like, and dislike in politics, are destroyed by an audience of the Public, does battle with the show’s sharp-witted host and the panel of opposing minds all over the political spectrum, it is a format I am a fan of. The nature of the show makes it emotionally triggering nature unavoidable at times, with half the viewers being annoyed, half the time. One thing that cannot be questioned seems to be the public consensus over what happened to Diane Abbott in this Episode of Question Time, with all but the most ardent Right-Wing viewer agreeing that what happened was not just unfair, but not a good representation of BBC’s Politics departments in general, further endorsing the growing narrative of ‘Right-Wing Bias’, something which this incident seemed to be a damning example of.
Rory Closed his email by telling me that to get a sense of the whole show, by watching it. I was one of the dwindling audience of viewers who watched this incident play out on screen live and in the writing of this article, I have watched it again. The second viewing did not change my initial views on the two main incidents on the show, with Fiona Bruce and Isabel Oakeshott attempting to tear down Diane Abbott and have her appear to be a Liar. As the incident escalated, what we saw on screen was a horrible image, an image that conjured up one word, racism. The incident escalated to a point where we had the host, a White Woman, a panellist, a White Woman, with a White Man and fellow panellist, Laughing at the grillings like a Monkey, all set to the background noise of an angry and riotous crowd who were treating Abbott as if she was the UK’s nastiest prisoner, released for the day to be judged by society. What we saw was the closest thing to a media lynching I think we will ever see.
(FYI, I feel the Audience were the worst element on the show, The BBC Seemed to go out its way to find as many loud racists it could to fill out the audience.)
I do not think that anyone that the BBC who created or edited the show went out their way to create such a bad visual representation of the show to anyone watching and I definitely do not think anyone involved was racist. I think what happened may have started as what seemed like the right thing to do, seeing as it IS Question Time and that is how things usually go down, but I Hope that in the future, the Host of Question Time Fiona Bruce, and all future panellists watch this episode (in full), and stop situations like this from developing, as sometimes, a situation may look a lot worse on screen than it may seem in the studio!
You can view the Viral clip of the main incidences here. (The only real Summary is by Momentum, for Balance, the entire episode is linked before and will be available until BBC Remove it from their library.)
You can watch the full episode here.
Have a Story, Our inbox is always open! Many thanks to Rory Stewart for his comments. He seems an OK Chap and was happy to lend us his opinion!