BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ and ‘alleged’ antisemitic Tweets

Back in September 2014 when a prospective Parliamentary candidate for the British Labour Party was suspended after posting a series of offensive anti-Israel and antisemitic Tweets, the BBC ignored the story.

When the same person – Vicki Kirby – became the focus of further controversy earlier this month after the Guido Fawkes website revealed that she had been elected to the position of vice-chair of the Woking branch of the Labour party, the BBC did cover that story and her subsequent second suspension from the party.

Coming hot on the heels of the Oxford University Labour Club row and the expulsion of another Labour party member, much of the BBC’s coverage of the Vicki Kirby story focused on the reactions of other members of the party to the latest controversy and the issue of antisemitism within the Labour party. It was therefore not surprising that the topic arose during an interview (from 2:39:42 here) with the Shadow Secretary for Education, Lucy Powell, on the March 16th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.Today 16 3

What was remarkable, however, was presenter Sarah Montague’s introduction to that topic.

“On another matter we are learning over the last 24 hours that a Labour Party member has been suspended for the second time because of complaints made about antisemitic comments that she allegedly posted online. Now, she was suspended for the first time and reappointed…eh…before Jeremy Corbyn became leader but we have heard increasingly as a result of comments made in recent weeks that there is a problem in the Labour party that is not being dealt with sufficiently by the leadership.” [emphasis in bold added]

The fact that Montague found it necessary to place arguably superfluous emphasis on Kirby’s reappointment “before Jeremy Corbyn became leader” in September 2015 is interesting. Whilst that may well be the case, in February 2016 she was described on the Woking Labour party’s website as “newly elected vice chair Vicki Kirby” so that appointment presumably took place after the Labour leader assumed his position.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘allegedly’ as being “[u]sed to convey that something is claimed to be the case or have taken place, although there is no proof”. Did Sarah Montague really intend Radio 4 listeners to go away with the impression that there is no proof that Kirby posted antisemitic Tweets – despite the fact that her own organisation (as well as others) had already published screenshots of them two days beforehand? 

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