The party stooge planted by Labour on Question Time: Complaints after diehard supporter attacks UKIP panellist on debate show
- Labour activist Amy Rutland, 23, attacked UKIP candidate on Question Time
- Politics graduate called Eastleigh candidate Diane James ‘disgusting’
- Accusations she was ‘Labour Party plant’ deliberately given airtime by BBC
By SUE REID
Until she opened her mouth, the young blonde sat demurely in the audience of BBC1’s latest edition of Question Time show.
But as the thorny topics of an EU exit and immigration controls were debated, the camera swung on to Amy Rutland, who launched a personal attack on the UKIP panellist, the Eastleigh candidate Diane James, calling her ‘disgusting’.
Miss Rutland, a politics graduate, claimed UKIP preyed on vulnerable people by ‘scaremongering’ about the number of Romanians and Bulgarians expected to come to Britain.
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The show’s presenter David Dimbleby, asked the UKIP guest to answer the allegation that she was ‘disgusting’.
Now it has emerged that the 23-year-old from Margate in Kent is a diehard Labour supporter and her presence on last week’s show has prompted dozens of complaints.
She is a regional policy co-ordinator for the party, campaigned at the Eastleigh by-election in which UKIP came second to the Lib Dems and even spent the afternoon before the QT screening last Thursday in Dover at a meeting to talk about education policy with Labour MP Stephen Twigg, who was also on the panel.
As complaints arrived at the BBC from viewers – there have been 90 so far – Miss Rutland clearly considered her performance a triumph.
She sent a tweet before the programme aired (it is recorded an hour ahead of the viewing time) boasting: ‘Don’t miss out on Question Time tonight, you’ll see me rip into the disgusting UKIP woman!’
Those pitching for an audience place in the programme are asked which political party they would vote for if there was an election tomorrow, what their views are on the EU, whether they are a member of a political party – and if so which one, and about their ethnic background. The 150 who appear on the show are picked from 500 applications.
Last week there were outraged tweets from the public when Miss Rutland’s political allegiance became known. Many voiced suspicions she was a Labour Party ‘plant’ and deliberately given air time by the BBC.
Others rounded on Mr Twigg – who alluded to Miss Rutland during the programme as ‘the questioner in the audience’ – accusing him of being disingenuous by disguising the fact he knew the activist.
As for Miss Rutland, who lives in Margate, Kent, by Sunday night her Twitter account had been closed down to all but her followers.
A photograph showing her with a Labour Party backdrop had been replaced by one of her smiling in what appears to be a coffee bar.
At her home, where she lives with her mother, Sheila, she was keeping her own counsel. Her mother said: ‘Amy is quite upset. She doesn’t want to talk. If you want anything you will have to go to the Labour press office.’
A BBC spokesman said QT attracted audience members who were ‘very interested’ in politics and it was natural that some people would have political affiliations. He added: ‘The programme was chaired fairly and impartially.’
This is not the first time QT has courted controversy. In 2001, the then US ambassador to Britain, Philip Lader, struggled to hold back his tears in the face of a brutal attack by audience members in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The debacle prompted Greg Dyke, then the BBC’s director general, to publicly apologise.