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THE BBC made an embarrassing climbdown over the weekend when its public relations team finally admitted that Diane Abbott was treated unfairly on Question Time.
The shadow home secretary’s office had launched a scathing attack on the broadcaster, accusing its flagship politics show of “legitimising mistreatment, bias and abuse against Ms Abbott as a black woman in public life.”
The row followed the Question Time debate in Derby on Thursday night.
During the show presenter Fiona Bruce told Ms Abbott she was “definitely” wrong to say Labour was “level pegging” in the polls and repeatedly sided with right-wing writer Isabel Oakeshott, who insisted Labour was “miles behind.”
The majority of polls put Labour slightly ahead, prompting campaign group Momentum to produce a viral video highlighting the BBC’s mistake.
And audience members also came forward to blow the whistle about what they said were dirty tricks by Ms Bruce before the show went on air.
As the Morning Star front page reported on Saturday, the BBC anchor is alleged to have warmed up the Derby audience with a sexist smear against the trailblazing black politician.
On Friday the BBC strenuously denied such claims, telling the Star: “We firmly reject claims that any of the Question Time team treated any of the panel unfairly before and during the recording last night.”
However, by Saturday afternoon the broadcaster was making a rare U-turn about what was said on Question Time about polling.
“A YouGov poll published on the day of the programme suggested a lead for the Conservatives,” the BBC tweeted. “Diane Abbott was also right that some other polls suggested Labour either as ahead or tied, & we should have made that clear.”
The BBC’s tweet has done little to reassure viewers, with many calling for the correction to be given equal prominence and broadcast on air.
The Labour Party also appears determined to prove that Ms Abbott was treated unfairly before the show started. Labour staff have made a formal complaint to the BBC over what it called Ms Abbott’s “unacceptable treatment” and demanded the network hand over any unseen footage from the disputed warm-up session.
In another development, Martyn Ware, founding member of bands The Human League and Heaven 17, has alleged that “Abbott’s microphone was deliberately turned down (and the others turned up) to make her sound weaker, and to make it more difficult for her to defend herself.”
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