BBC faces bias row after Boris Johnson is confronted by hostile audience on Question Time4 min read

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BBC faces bias row after Boris Johnson is confronted by hostile audience on Question Time and repeatedly heckled

  • Boris Johnson faced hostile questions from audience on Question Time special
  • But one rough tally estimates PM was interrupted four times more than Corbyn
  • Critics accuse the BBC of choosing ‘political activists’ instead of ordinary voters

The BBC faced a bias row last night after Boris Johnson was confronted by an hostile audience in a Question Time election special.

In his half an hour session, the Prime Minister faced unremittingly hostile questions and struggled to get answers in as he was repeatedly heckled.

At one point host Fiona Bruce had to repeatedly intervene to stop an audience member who refused to stop shouting at Mr Johnson.

Mr Johnson faced remoreselessly hostile questions on whether he could be trusted, his newspaper columns, over the report on Russian interference in the Brexit referendum and on whether the Leave campaign broke electoral law

Mr Johnson faced remoreselessly hostile questions on whether he could be trusted, his newspaper columns, over the report on Russian interference in the Brexit referendum and on whether the Leave campaign broke electoral law

An exasperated Miss Bruce shouted: ‘Can you hold on a minute I am in charge of this thing.’

It also emerged that one of the questioners was an actress from I, Daniel Blake, a film by left-wing director Ken Loach.

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Kate Rutter grilled Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson on whether she regretted voting with Conservative Party during the coalition.

She asked: ‘You talk about the Lib Dems as a viable alternative to Labour of Tories. I’d just like to ask you that with 14million UK citizens living in poverty do you regret consistently voting with the Conservatives and in favour of harsh and uncaring benefits cuts.

The BBC insisted the audience of 150 people in Sheffield was a ‘roughly equal’ split between Labour and the Conservatives, with a ‘smaller number’ of Liberal Democrats and SNP supporters

The BBC insisted the audience of 150 people in Sheffield was a ‘roughly equal’ split between Labour and the Conservatives, with a ‘smaller number’ of Liberal Democrats and SNP supporters

‘Is there any kinds of alternatives to the Conservative Party?’

A rough tally from a senior Tory source suggested Mr Johnson was interrupted by the audience and Miss Bruce four times more often than the Labour leader.

The interruptions tally was 11 for Mr Corbyn, fifteen for SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, seventeen for Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and 45 for Mr Johnson, who at times was unable to get a word in.

Last night critics accused the BBC of choosing ‘political activists and trade unionists’ instead of ordinary voters.

Robbie Gibb, a former senior BBC executive and ex-Downing Street Director of Communications said: ‘The best TV audiences are designed to give ordinary people the opportunity to challenge and question politicians. However many of these questioners are clearly political activists and trade unionists. Spoils the programme.’

The BBC insisted the audience of 150 people in Sheffield was a ‘roughly equal’ split between Labour and the Conservatives, with a ‘smaller number’ of Liberal Democrats and SNP supporters.

It also claimed there were more Leave voters than Remain in the audience to reflect the Brexit referendum result.

At one point host Fiona Bruce had to repeatedly intervene to stop an audience member who refused to stop shouting at Mr Johnson. An exasperated Miss Bruce shouted: ‘Can you hold on a minute I am in charge of this thing'

At one point host Fiona Bruce had to repeatedly intervene to stop an audience member who refused to stop shouting at Mr Johnson. An exasperated Miss Bruce shouted: ‘Can you hold on a minute I am in charge of this thing’

Mr Johnson faced remoreselessly hostile questions on whether he could be trusted, his newspaper columns, over the report on Russian interference in the Brexit referendum and on whether the Leave campaign broke electoral law.

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By contrast, Mr Corbyn faced difficult questioning at first, but was allowed to speak at length in response to a series of soft-ball questions.

Last night will increase pressure on the BBC to ensure balance in two weeks’ time when it hosts the final election debate, a head to head between Mr Corbyn and Boris Johnson, hosted by Nick Robinson.

One broadcast industry source told the Mail: ‘People who attend Question Time are always going to be vocal but there are clearly questions about audience vetting. When you have three parties that back remain to some degree, creating a balanced audience is extremely challenging.’

A BBC spokesman said: ‘Every leader tonight faced tough questions from the audience, which consisted of people who’d identified themselves as supporting the political parties involved. The majority were supporters of the Conservatives and the Labour Party, in equal numbers.’

It also emerged that one of the questioners was an actress from I, Daniel Blake, a film by left-wing director Ken Loach. Kate Rutter grilled Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson on whether she regretted voting with Conservative Party during the coalition

It also emerged that one of the questioners was an actress from I, Daniel Blake, a film by left-wing director Ken Loach. Kate Rutter grilled Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson on whether she regretted voting with Conservative Party during the coalition

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