Question Time criticised for promoting ‘racist’ rant from programme

PUBLISHED: 09:17 21 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:29 24 February 2020

An audience member on Question Time calls for government to close all the borders. Photograph: BBC.

An audience member on Question Time calls for government to close all the borders. Photograph: BBC.

Archant

Question Time has been criticised sharing a video of the views of an audience member who claimed the country had ‘had enough’ of immigration on social media without balance.

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An audience member on Question Time calls for government to close all the borders. Photograph: BBC.An audience member on Question Time calls for government to close all the borders. Photograph: BBC.

The programme, which was broadcast from Weymouth, was discussing "chronic understaffing in social care will be tackled" following the government's immigration announcement.

But rather than having sympathy for immigrants working within the health and social care system, an audience member argued the government was not going far enough to stop them.

In her comments - which went uninterrupted for 90 seconds - she claimed that it was time to "completely close the borders".

"Interesting what you're saying here," she said to Labour MP Alison McGovern, who was arguing in favour of freedom of movement. "68 million people now living in England and going up, according to UN estimates.

A Question Time audience member rolls his eyes as another says the country has 'had enough' of immigration. Photograph: BBC.A Question Time audience member rolls his eyes as another says the country has 'had enough' of immigration. Photograph: BBC.

"At what stage do the panel and people think this country has had enough? That we should close the borders, completely close the borders? Because it's got to the stage now where there's no education, the schooling, infrastructure - it's enough. We are sinking. Surely someone's got to see common sense and say 'enough is enough!'"

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She continued: "You've got people flooding into this country who cannot speak English. I've come from London. In the NHS everything is written in different languages. How much is that costing? How much is it costing for all the interpreters."

"How much is it costing for the interpreters? I was in hospital last week, the interpreter never turned up for the people who couldn't speak English. She was paid, they all had to go on and all the radiologists stood around. What sort of country is allowing this?

"What sort of country is allowing this tourism to come in? You arrive in a plane, you get free service, you can have your babies, you can just carry on having it all for free. Why haven't they got points set up in the hospitals and you pay, like you do in every other country you go to? You wouldn't turn up in America and be allowed to go for free."

Her rant failed to receive a single clap - but it was still left to left-wing commentator Ash Sarkar to respond to the woman's points after host Fiona Bruce failed to intervene.

Pointing out that figures show "migrants to this country bring more and contribute more in tax than they take out of the system".

She added that "migrants, particularly when they are young, they are working age, they are contributing to the private sector through the form of paying rent, through paying for their cost of living in this country and also contributing to this country through taxes."

Ash Sarkar respond to the point raised by the Question Time audience member. Photograph: BBC.Ash Sarkar respond to the point raised by the Question Time audience member. Photograph: BBC.

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Some viewers were left unimpressed that it was left to a panellist to challenge the woman's points, while many others criticised the programme for sharing the video on social media without any further context.

Anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain tweeted: "Truly sad to see such a misinformed audience. Broadcasting such opinions to millions of people and framing them as valid, merely normalises the expression of such racist views."

Columnist Tim Walker wrote: "Grotesquely irresponsible of Question Time to be actively spreading racist nonsense. They should delete this tweet immediately."

"This explains why Brexit happened," said commentator Steve Richards. "The widely held view and programmes like Question Time deliberately raising the temperature to boiling point as a form of entertainment."

Journalist Peter Geoghegan tweeted: "This is the problem with media as 'just reporting what people say' writ large. Important part of job of journalism is to contextualise statements. This isn't contextualised *at all*, indeed the line about immigrants costing public services too much looks like a statement of fact."

"This is how racism and far right extremism is normalised and legitimised," posted Owen Jones in reply to the programme's tweet. "This is a vile, unhinged rant, packed full of lies and hate, and the BBC decide to uncritically clip it so it can be easily shared across social media."

A BBC spokesperson denied the programme had not offered balance in its social media postings.

They said: "Last night's Question Time included a debate about immigration which featured a broad range of views from the audience members and panellists. We posted five clips of people expressing their different views on the issue, including a panellist responding directly to the views of an audience member".

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