Question Time panellist Isabel Oakeshott: ‘I observed nothing but complete professionalism from presenter Fiona Bruce’

Question Time panellist Isobel Oakeshott: ‘I observed nothing but complete professionalism from presenter Fiona Bruce’

Labour's Diane Abbott on BBC's Question Time with presenter Fiona Bruce. Image: BBC

Monday, January 21, 2019

Isabel Oakeshott, a political commentator who appeared on Question Time alongside Dianne Abbott on BBC’s Question Time, has said that presenter Fiona Bruce was “completely professional” and “even-handed”.

The Labour Party has made a formal complaint to the BBC over the treatment of Ms Abbott on the show.

She was interrupted more than double the number of times Conservative MP Rory Stewart was, according to the shadow Home Secretary.

Ms Oakeshott told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “I observed nothing but complete professionalism from the presenter Fiona Bruce. She was entirely even-handed.

“All of us who go on Question Time know that it is a robust and lively forum and you are lucky to escape some mocking and jeering from the audience.

“I get it every time I go on in varying measures that is the nature of the beast and anyone, who signs up for the programme, knows that it is going to be a bit of a rocky ride and there are going to be metaphorically punches thrown.

“In a week like last week, one of the most extraordinary in British politics it is hardly surprising that the audience wanted to hold Diane Abbott, as a key figure and spokesperson for the opposition, to account.

“The bottom line is that Labour’s policy that they have adopted of deciding that they are not going to talk to the Prime Minister until she takes no deal off the table – which she is legally unable to do – has been a massive strategic error and voters up and down the country are bewildered.

“Diane Abbott understandably struggled to defend that position and was rightfully ridiculed for it.”



Ms Oakeshott added that the audience did seem to be “surprisingly pro-Leave”.

She added: “But, I think it is really important that the listeners understand the enormous lengths that the Question Time team go to – those who actually produce the programme – to meticulously balance the audience.

“They actually employ someone to make sure the audience is finely balanced between those who are pro-Remain, pro-Leave, Tories, Labour, other parties and I know that the individual takes the job extremely seriously.

“If an audience sounds like it was packed with Leavers, that is not actually the case, it may just be that there were lots of Remainers in the audience who also found Diane Abbott’s position and her flailing attempt to defend her party’s policy ludicrous.”

In a statement, the BBC denied that any of panellists on the programme had been treated unfairly.

A BBC spokesman added that "Diane is a regular and important contributor to the programme”.