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A storm in a tea cup? Possibly yes and no …

Today, with an admitted smidgeon of nervousness, I step into the recent row that has blown up in the media and elsewhere over the BBC’s alleged biased and unfair treatment of Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, upon the BBC’s staple Question Time programme, which was recently hosted by Fiona Bruce for the first time in succession to its previous permanent fixture of many years David Dimbleby.

I didn’t see the edition in question but instead caught the traditional segment on Radio Five Live that follows shortly afterwards called Question Time – Extra Time in which it revisits the main questions and exchanges that took place on the BBC1 Question Time earlier in the evening and either interviews participants who took part in it and/or allows Radio Five listeners to phone in and contribute their comments or pearls of wisdom upon the proceedings.

To recap for the benefit of Rusters who may have been on sea cruises over the past couple of months:

In short, Diane Abbott complained immediately after the recording of that edition of Question Time that she had been unfairly discriminated against, generally treated unfairly, and also made the butt of jokes made in front of the audience by Fiona Bruce before the recording of the programme took place.

Amongst her charges were that she had not been given equal ‘on air’ time with Rory Stewart, the Tory minister also taking part in the programme, and that she was interrupted by Fiona Bruce at least twice as often as any other panellist – this, according to Ms Abbott, a result of inherent BBC bias against either the Labour party and/or Ms Abbott herself.

I should perhaps add here that in response Fiona Bruce has said nothing at all and the BBC has formally denied Ms Abbott’s allegations.

Here are some representative media reports, reviews and comments that have appeared since this incident came to public notice:

Patrick Greenfield (and others) report upon the Labour Party’s official complaint against the programme – see here – THE GUARDIAN

Will Gore seems to be mounting a defence of the BBC along the traditional lines, i.e. that if the BBC is getting flak from both the political left and the political right, it can be presumed to be getting its desired and target ‘impartiality’ balance just about correct – see here, on the website of – THE INDEPENDENT

Zoie O’Brien reports upon the row as it rumbles on, with Diane Abbott complaining about the ‘poorly briefed’ Fiona Bruce etc. – see here – DAILY MAIL

[Note to Rusters: I can provide no link to any Daily Telegraph coverage of the spat because of its ‘paywall’ restrictions].

With the heightened tension surrounding the Brexit debacle – and a number of politicians and/or family members being verbally if not actually physically abused to an unprecedented extent – it is probably the case that everyone should take a good look at themselves and/or consider their actions carefully before holding forth upon political matters in the UK at the moment.

Nevertheless, I will offer this, even in the modern 21st Century world of political correctness and promotion of diversity and equal rights for all other members of minority ‘isms’.

My impression of the not-infrequent criticisms and satirical jokes that have been made at Ms Abbott’s expense over the past two or more decades that she has been on the national political scene have not been grounded in any snide, sneering, condescending, extreme right-wing attitudes towards her gender, race, colour or political creed.

Rather, they’ve tended to spring from the general impression gained by all – often supported by the evidence of her own various public appearances and utterances – that she’s just not terribly good.




About Lavinia Thompson

A university lecturer for many years, both at home and abroad, Lavinia Thompson retired in 2008 and has since taken up freelance journalism. She is currently studying for a distant learning degree in geo-political science and lives in Norwich with her partner. More Posts