Diane Abbott’s constituency Labour Party backs her in BBC ‘media bias’ row

Diane Abbott. Photograph: UK Parliament/Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

The Hackney North & Stoke Newington Labour Party has come out in support of the constituency’s MP and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott following the row over her recent appearance on BBC’s Question Time.

The show’s new host Fiona Bruce is alleged to have joked about Abbott’s past relationship with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the warm-up to the episode in Derby on 17 January.

Labour has also accused Bruce of showing bias during the programme by interrupting Abbott more than other guests.

In a statement titled ‘We Stand with Diane Abbott against Media Bias, Misogyny & Racism’, Hackney North’s constituency Labour Party (CLP) offers the MP its unequivocal backing.

It starts: “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.”

Abbott has represented Hackney North since 1987, when she became the first woman of African-Caribbean heritage to be elected to Parliament.

She is also the first black woman to hold a position as senior as Shadow Home Secretary.

The CLP goes on to state: “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.”

On the Question Time row, the CLP said there were “serious allegations” that Fiona Bruce “actively encouraged studio audience hositlity towards Diane”.

It adds: “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.”

Citing a “disturbing increase in far-right street mobilisations”, the CLP said Bruce’s behaviour was as “at best irresponsible and strongly suggested shameless bias”.

It goes on: “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.”

Parliament’s ethics watchdog has previously found that Diane Abbott suffers more abuse than other female MP.

Hackney North CLP signs off by declaring its “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”.

Diane Abbott’s office and the BBC had not responded to requests for comment at time of writing, but the broadcaster has said publicly that it “firmly rejects claims that any of the panel was treated unfairly either before or during the recording”, calling Abbott “a regular and important contributor to the programme”.

The Labour Party has lodged a formal complaint with the BBC over Abbott’s treatment on Question Time.

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