Diane Abbott Question Time row: Hackney North and Stoke Newington Labour Party accuses BBC and Fiona Bruce of bias

Diane Abbott. Picture: Stefan Rousseau

Diane Abbott. Picture: Stefan Rousseau - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

This statement was submitted by the Hackney North and Stoke Newington Labour Party and we reproduce it here in full.

We Stand with Diane Abbott against Media Bias, Misogyny and Racism: Statement from Hackney North and Stoke Newington Constituency Labour Party

This CLP general meeting once again condemns the overt racism and misogyny, embodied in threats of physical violence and vile verbal abuse in both social media and sections of mainstream media against our MP Diane Abbott.

Diane was the first woman of African-Caribbean heritage elected to the British Parliament in June 1987. Thirty years later, she achieved her largest ever margin of victory on the highest turnout in Hackney North since 1959. As shadow home secretary, Diane is the first black woman to hold such a senior position. She is, of course, a public supporter of Labour’s general change of direction following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader in 2015. But she occupies her current shadow cabinet post because of her potential to be a radically progressive home secretary, who has already demonstrated a commitment to dramatically reform the immigration detention system.

Notwithstanding Diane’s achievements and despite the fact she has often been a principal target for online abuse, there are serious allegations that Fiona Bruce, the recently appointed chair of the BBC’s Question Time, actively encouraged studio audience hostility towards Diane prior to the recording of the January 17 broadcast in Derby [see editor’s note below]. There is no doubt that during the course of the programme Ms Bruce interrupted Diane’s contributions with far greater frequency than those of any other panellist, permitted a member of the audience to persist with a personal attack, and allowed notorious Conservative columnist, Isabel Oakeshott, to shout over her.

In addition, Ms Bruce insisted on contradicting Diane, repeatedly promoting an utterly inaccurate view of opinion poll data.

In a febrile political climate, which has seen a disturbing increase in far-right street mobilisations, Ms Bruce’s behaviour, and the direction of the programme, was at best irresponsible and strongly suggested shameless bias.

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This CLP believes it is vital that the Labour Party speaks and acts as one in opposition to the appalling media treatment Diane has received and the failure of the BBC to offer a comprehensive apology.

We also declare our wholehearted solidarity with her in campaigning against the type of abuse she has faced both historically and most recently in the context of Question Time, and we again commend her for the considerable courage and dignity she has consistently displayed in confronting racist and sexist bullying throughout her political career.

Editor’s note: The BBC has denied any QT panel member was treated unfairly “either before or during the recording” of the show.

“We are sorry to hear Diane Abbott’s concerns over [the January 17] edition of Question Time and we have contacted her team to reassure them that reports circulating on social media are misleading and inaccurate,” said a spokesperson.

“Diane is a regular and important contributor to the programme.”