The imam who questioned the Tory Leadership candidates on last night’s BBC debate has since been suspended by his employer – a school where he worked as Deputy Head – for antisemitic tweets. Meanwhile, another questioner, Aman Thakar, asked the Tory contenders if they would be a legitimate Prime Minister should they win – Thakar turned out to be a Labour Party council candidate in 2018 in Southwark, and he even worked in Labour HQ. Since Guido Fawkes and the Spectator exposed these two characters (it took them less than a few hours), BBC presenters have been queuing up to apologise.
Aside from these basic errors in choosing questioners, the BBC format has taken huge criticism, while Emily Maitliss, who chaired proceedings, has been lambasted by MPs and across social media for last night’s uselessness, as the candidates spoke over her and she continually interrupted their answers.
Anyone can do an advanced Twitter search to find out whether a person is a bigot or has a connection to Her Majesty’s Opposition (alas, the two seem to come hand in hand these days), so why are BBC researchers, funded in part by the public’s licence fee contributions, not doing the necessary? It’s not as if they are having to Dun & Bradstreet or Kroll check candidates, as one might a client in a corporate takeover, nor are they having to wait on DBS checks as might a charity employing a volunteer – a swift check on questioners of our future PM should be the simplest thing to do. Not rocket science.
In a private company, such a public cock-up would result in heads rolling. No question there would be severe reprimands from managerial level down to the background-checking researcher. So it will be interesting to see what happens to BBC staff when their bosses launch an inquest into this omnishambles of a debate. As licence fee payers, the public deserves to know who was responsible and what punishment the error-makers get.
It’s good to see presenters like Nicky Campbell sticking his head above the parapet and apologising. But what we need to see now is BBC managers apologising and explaining what and who caused this embarrassing mess. If there was bias involved in setting political traps for the Tory Leadership candidates, the heads of departments should roll.