Lib Dems angered by BBC decision to put fewer supporters in Question Time audience

PUBLISHED: 17:56 23 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:17 25 November 2019

Jo Swinson is criticised for supporting austerity. Photograph: BBC.

Jo Swinson is criticised for supporting austerity. Photograph: BBC.

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Lib Dem supporters have complained about the set-up of the Question Time leaders' debate after the BBC confirmed the party had fewer supporters in the audience.

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Leader Jo Swinson faced limited support from the audience as she set out her position on Brexit and party policy.

She faced criticism for her involvement in coalition with the Tories and for supporting austerity as a government minister.

But the limited support is likely to have come down to the fact the room were "balanced" based on the number of MPs each party has in the House of Commons, meaning even the SNP had more support in the room than the Lib Dems.

MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton tweeted: "BBC confirm that the Question Time audience was stacked based on current party representation in the Commons, ie numbers of MPs. So there were effectively 2 Lib Dems in that room. Jo Swinson handled it with graceand passion. Sustained pressure but she didn't buckle once."

Kate Rutter in I, Daniel Blake. Photograph: YouTube.Kate Rutter in I, Daniel Blake. Photograph: YouTube.

Andrew Makinson, a Lib Dem councillor, wrote: "The biased BBC are a disgrace. They stacked the audience and allowed known Labour activists to dominate the questions to Jo Swinson. Corbyn and Johnson would've crumbled against such an organised pile-on, but Jo remained calm, dignified and professional."

Daisy Cooper said: "Wow. #BBCQT audience NOT based on voter intention - just based on a flawed electoral system & numbers that might change in 3 weeks. Pathetic".

Another said: "This explains why Jo Swinson's honest, straightforward answers were often met with a hostile, stony silence in the room".

The BBC did not deny the claims, and said there were smaller numbers for the anti-Brexit party, as well as a bigger contingent of Brexiteers.

A spokesperson said there was an equal split between Conservative and Labour supporters - with fewer Lib Dem and SNP supporters.

They added there was a slim majority for those who voted Leave over those who voted Remain, except for those who were too young to vote in the last election.

Sympathetic Lib Dem supporters were also left frustrated after discovering that the outspoken woman in the audience during the election programme and criticised the Lib Dem leader was actually an actress.

Kate Rutter played Sister Betty in His Dark Materials and also the character of Ann in the film I, Daniel Blake.

MORE: Who performed the best in the BBC Question Time leaders' debate?

She was described as "the woman in the red jacket" during the programme, and told Swinson: "You talk about the Lib Dems as a viable alternative to Labour or the Tories.

"I would just like to ask you, with 14 million UK citizens now living in poverty, do you regret consistently voting with the Conservatives in favour of harsh and uncaring benefit cuts?"

She said: "The Labour party has made it absolutely clear that they are going to get rid of Universal Credit and quite right.

She added: "And I can't honestly say that I could ever trust, after what happened in Sheffield, and we know all about that in Sheffield, when the Lib Dems went into coalition with the Conservatives. How can we be expected to be believing anything you say on this issue."

Presenter Fiona Bruce asked the woman if the answer was satisfactory. She replied: "Not at all, not in the slightest bit. You are still going to keep the Universal Credit which everybody knows is not working at all."

Viewers were quick to point out that they had seen her before.

Tom Newton Dunn tweeted: "Is Kate Rutter, an actress in I, Daniel Blake, a BBC Question Time audience member?"

Chris Bell wrote: "Woman in the red jacket is Kate Rutter, an actress who was in I, Daniel Blake. Also Coronation Street and His Dark Materials. Just ordinary voters dragged off the street."

MORE: Jo Swinson given tough time over support for Tory policies during coalition years

But some pointed out she was just as entitled to an opinion.

Vincent McAviney tweeted: "The BBC comms team in spinroom audibly discussing I Daniel Blake actress being spotted in the audience questioning Jo Swinson. Their strategy to say you can be ok the audience whoever you are bank manager or actor / and to be fair to them I agree, actors just voters too".

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