STORM OVER TORY TV DE­BATE

MPs ac­cuse BBC of in­com­pe­tence for fail­ing to vet bi­ased guests who grilled lead­er­ship ri­vals

Daily Express - - Front Page - By David Pilditch

THE BBC faced a fu­ri­ous back­lash last night af­ter a guest cho­sen to quiz Tory lead­er­ship hope­fuls was ac­cused of hav­ing made hate-filled rants. MPs said the broad­caster had slipped up badly by fail­ing to prop­erly vet peo­ple tak­ing part in the tele­vised de­bate on Tues­day night.

Some of the fiercest crit­i­cism came from lead­ing Tory Brex­i­teer Ja­cob Rees-Mogg, who said the pro­gramme had made the Cor­po­ra­tion look “not only bi­ased but in­com­pe­tent”.

He fol­lowed up by say­ing with­er­ingly this was “not a good look for a state broad­caster”.

The storm blew up af­ter it emerged an imam who put Boris John­son on the spot had al­legedly posted an­tiSemitic re­marks on so­cial me­dia along with in­flam­ma­tory com­ments about women and rape.

Af­ter the his­toric posts emerged, Ab­dul­lah Pa­tel was im­me­di­ately sus­pended from his mosque along with his role as the deputy head teacher of a pri­mary

school while an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is car­ried out.

And it was later re­vealed a so­lic­i­tor who asked the fi­nal ques­tion of the de­bate was hired last year by Labour HQ as a le­gal as­sis­tant and stood as a can­di­date for the party in a Lon­don bor­ough elec­tion.

Yes­ter­day Aman Thakar was sus­pended by lead­ing law firm Leigh Day over an al­leged tweet about the le­gacy of Adolf Hitler.

Mr Pa­tel – who has also praised Jeremy Cor­byn – had been se­lected to ap­pear on the de­bate to ques­tion can­di­dates over Is­lam­o­pho­bia, ask­ing whether they agreed that “words have con­se­quences”.

His in­put was one of the talking points and won praise be­fore his own “care­less lan­guage” emerged.

He al­legedly posted tweets com­par­ing the Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp Auschwitz with Gaza.

In one mes­sage Mr Pa­tel, from Glouces­ter, al­legedly wrote: “How long are the Zion­ists go­ing to hide behind the Holo­caust cry? It was a tragedy, but Gaza to­day is a re­peat of the op­pres­sion.”

In an­other he wrote: “Every po­lit­i­cal fig­ure on the Zion­ist’s pay­roll is scar­ing the world about Cor­byn. They don’t like him. He seems best suited to tackle them.”

He al­legedly posted a graphic show­ing Is­rael be­ing re­lo­cated in Amer­ica as a so­lu­tion to the Mid­dle East con­flict. Yes­ter­day Home Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid, who asked can­di­dates to back a re­view into Is­lam­o­pho­bia, said he should “prac­tise what he preaches”.

BBC pre­sen­ter Nicky Camp­bell apol­o­gised over Mr Pa­tel’s com­ments, which came to light af­ter he ap­peared on his show yes­ter­day.

He said: “I would like to apol­o­gise. His so­cial me­dia com­ments have been ex­tremely dis­turb­ing.We should have checked. We didn’t.” Amanda Bow­man of the Board of Deputies of Bri­tish Jews said: “Nicky Camp­bell is cor­rect in say­ing the BBC should have checked.”

Ef­fort

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “It was an in­com­pe­tently or­gan­ised de­bate. They al­lowed peo­ple on they had made no proper ef­fort to vet. The imam was there mainly to trip up Boris.” Fel­low Tory MP Mark Fran­cois said: “You would have thought the BBC could em­ploy bet­ter re­searchers. It turns out that their ‘fully rep­re­sen­ta­tive’ imam ap­pears not to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of mod­er­ate Is­lam but has ex­pressed views, in­clud­ing

al­legedly an­tiSemitic views that most peo­ple would find un­ac­cept­able.”

The BBC later said Mr Pa­tel would not have been se­lected for the pro­gramme if it had been aware of his pre­vi­ous com­ments.

His Twit­ter ac­count had been de­ac­ti­vated ahead of his ap­pear­ance, mean­ing the old tweets could not be read. It was only re­ac­ti­vated af­ter the pro­gramme – be­fore then be­ing taken down again.

Dis­qual­ify

The BBC in­sisted: “We car­ried out back­ground re­search into the on­line and so­cial me­dia pro­files of all our ques­tion­ers for last night’s de­bate.”

Mr Thakar, Labour can­di­date in Bor­ough in the South­wark elec­tion last year, had made his Twit­ter ac­count pri­vate. But screen­shots showed he once said: “Hitler’s abuse of the term na­tion­al­ism is, to me a na­tion­al­ist, the most harm­ful part of his le­gacy.”

The BBC de­fended its de­ci­sion for him to ap­pear say­ing “a back­ground in pol­i­tics doesn’t dis­qual­ify any­one from tak­ing part in a de­bate show”. But Leigh Day, where Mr Thakar is a so­lic­i­tor, said he had been sus­pended.

View­ers crit­i­cised the BBC on so­cial me­dia. Stu­art Fan­ning wrote: “Ex­cuses for ei­ther poor re­search or a poor for­mat for the ‘de­bate’.”

Twit­ter user Jonathan Jones said the BBC had “a long his­tory of out­ra­geous po­lit­i­cal bias”. An­other critic ac­cused the broad­caster of “ma­nip­u­lat­ing pro­grammes through audience se­lec­tion”

Last night Mr Pa­tel stood by his crit­i­cism of Is­rael but in­sisted he was not anti-Semitic. He said: “If you go through my tweets you’d see sup­port for the Jewish com­mu­nity.”

Mr Thakar tweeted: “Con­text on my tweets re­gard­ing Hitler, my full and sin­cere apolo­gies for any of­fence caused.”

MIS­TAKES hap­pen and the BBC should im­me­di­ately apol­o­gise for its Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship de­bate blun­der. Two mem­bers of the pub­lic, who should not have been let on screen, were able to ques­tion the con­tenders to lead this coun­try. Imam Ab­dul­lah Pa­tel chal­lenged the can­di­dates on Is­lam­o­pho­bia, ask­ing whether they agreed “words have con­se­quences”.

But it quickly emerged that a se­ries of deeply of­fen­sive and par­ti­san posts had been pub­lished on a Twit­ter ac­count linked to Mr Pa­tel. One ad­vo­cated re­lo­cat­ing Is­rael to the United States, while an­other claimed that every “po­lit­i­cal fig­ure on the Zion­ist’s pay­roll is scar­ing the world about Cor­byn”.

To make mat­ters even more em­bar­rass­ing, Aman Thakar, a former Labour coun­cil can­di­date who had worked for the party, asked the fi­nal ques­tion. He has since been sus­pended from his job at a law firm af­ter it was re­vealed he pub­lished a bizarre tweet in which he ar­gued that the “most harm­ful part” of Hitler’s le­gacy was his “abuse of the term na­tion­al­ism”.

Radio 5 Live pre­sen­ter Nicky Camp­bell was right to apol­o­gise for hav­ing the iman on the show and the cor­po­ra­tion should fol­low his ex­am­ple.

The BBC makes many bril­liant pro­grammes but in this case it ut­terly failed to vet par­tic­i­pants in a broad­cast of na­tional im­por­tance.

Imam Mr Pa­tel ap­pear­ing on the BBC Tory lead­er­ship de­bate

Scene from the TV de­bate, hosted by Emily Maitlis, with Mr Pa­tel putting ques­tion to the lead­er­ship hope­fuls

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