BBC launches a major vetting review in wake of Tory leadership debate

The BBC has today launched a significant review of 'vetting and transparency' after its Tory leadership debate disaster - but has not suspended any staff over the fiasco and will not apologise.

The corporation says it will learn lessons after it was accused of breaching its own rules on impartiality during the biggest political show of the year watched by 5.7million people on Tuesday night.

BBC staff failed to properly vet the members of the public invited on to question the five MPs vying to be Conservative leader - with a Bristol Imam outed as anti-Semite Corbynista and a London lawyer unmasked as a Labour council candidate hours after the debate.

Furious MPs have queued up to demand that Ofcom probes the BBC’s Tory debate fiasco - but Britain's broadcasting watchdog insists that all complaints will be dealt with by the corporation, for now. 

And the remaining Tory leadership hopefuls today threatened to boycott any new BBC TV debate after the first showdown descended into a shambles. 

Revealing a new probe into Tuesday night's show - but falling short of an apology -  a BBC spokesman said: 'We have a long history of producing successful debate programmes and this was no different. We did however, adopt a different format for this programme and we will look at whether there are additional steps we might take on vetting and transparency should we repeat it in the future'.

She added: 'It is important to remember that a political debate programme involving members of the public will, by its very nature, attract people interested and engaged in issues who may well have been active in politics. It would be odd only to have programmes involving the public where everyone agrees with the politics of those they are questioning'.       

MailOnline revealed yesterday the BBC's choice of questioners may have breached the broadcaster's own rules on impartiality.

Aman Thakar (pictured) who questioned if the candidates had a democratic mandate, has worked in the Labour Party's legal department and was council candidate in 2018  - but the BBC didn't tell viewers with the broadcaster now launching a vetting review

Aman Thakar (pictured) who questioned if the candidates had a democratic mandate, has worked in the Labour Party's legal department and was council candidate in 2018  - but the BBC didn't tell viewers with the broadcaster now launching a vetting review

Labour supporter Mr Thakar asked the Tory candidates about calling a general election and their right to govern

Labour supporter Mr Thakar asked the Tory candidates about calling a general election and their right to govern

This is the section of the BBC's own impartiality rules which says that viewers may have to be told of a person's  affiliation to an organisation if relevant to a political show

This is the section of the BBC's own impartiality rules which says that viewers may have to be told of a person's  affiliation to an organisation if relevant to a political show

Ofcom has so far received 31 complaints about the BBC's Tory leadership debate. 

Abdullah Patel, has been suspended from his job as deputy head of a Muslim primary school over tweets he sent blaming women for rape, praising Jeremy Corbyn and attacking Jews.

And Aman Thakar, who previously worked for the Labour party, has been suspended from his law firm Leigh Day after it emerged he said the most harmful part of Hitler's legacy was his 'abuse of nationalism' in a tweet.

How did the BBC choose the debate questioners?
BBC used its social media channels and biggest national and local TV and radio shows to encourage the public to send in questions; 30,000 were received in a fortnight and a team cut chose the top areas of interest including Brexit, the economy and climate change; A smaller set of questions was selected by the BBC production team based in the ones they felt were the strongest; Individuals were pencilled in after ensuring a geographical spread of questioners and a variety of ages, backgrounds, gender and ethinicity; Final social media and background checks were carried out on Monday this week; Questioners were told they would be appearing in the 24 hours before the show;

In reference to Thakar the BBC's own impartiality rules state 'we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributor's are associated with a particular viewpoint.'

Thakar is a lawyer who had worked for Labour in its London HQ investigating anti-Semitism complaints.

Questions are being raised about the vetting process which allowed the two individuals onto the debate show in the first place. 

The corporation uses social media to gather questions to encourage the public to send in questions, and received more than 30,000 in just a fortnight.

A smaller set of questions are then selected by the BBC production team based in the ones they felt were the strongest and individuals were pencilled in after ensuring a geographical spread of questioners and a variety of ages, backgrounds, gender and ethinicity.

A final social media and background checks were carried out on Monday this week, but didn't manage to unearth the Imam's or Mr Thakar's tweets. 

Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale lambasted the quality of the vetting.

‘For a programme of this importance and with such a tiny number of people to check, having a quick glance at a Twitter account just to make sure they haven’t said anything really embarrassing is not sufficient. I would have expected them to do a little ore due diligence.

‘The BBC must put their hand up an apologise for what is quite a serious failure in terms of vetting or ensuring that the people they chose to ask questions were genuinely independent,’ he said.  

Ed Vaizey, a former Tory culture Minister, added: ‘It’s a pretty lamentable performance by the BBC. The fact that the background of these questioners was discovered so quickly by online journalists Guido Fawkes shows that the BBC didn’t do its homework properly.

‘I think the BBC should follow Nicky Campbell’s lead and apologise for this appalling lapse in judgement.’

Brexit Minister James Cleverly, who stood in the leadership race before backing Boris Johnson, said: 'I love and value the BBC, but stuff like this makes it really hard to defend you from critics. Didn't you think it relevant to inform viewers that Aman had been Labour Party staff? Other questioners said their political affiliations.' 

Michael Gove supporter Michael Fabricant added: 'This is appalling. The BBC should apologise'. 

Bernard Jenkin, Tory MP and a former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, added: ‘This is clear evidence that the BBC needs to do far better due diligence on the people to whom they give a platform. The BBC cannot command public confidence if it is consistently open to accusations of institutional blindness to left-wing sentiment.

‘Ofcom should either investigate itself or explain why it is not necessary.’

Some 21 people had complained to the broadcasting watchdog by yesterday afternoon. The regulator said it would direct the complaints to the BBC to deal with in the first instance. 

It typically investigates BBC broadcasts if the complainants are unsatisfied by a BBC probe. 

The show's editor Rob Burley has said that the Imam hid his social media posts but admitted that guests were not checked and confirmed until the 24 hours before the debate

The show's editor Rob Burley has said that the Imam hid his social media posts but admitted that guests were not checked and confirmed until the 24 hours before the debate

The show's editor Rob Burley also revealed the guests were 'not confirmed until very late' and 'routine' background checks were only completed on Monday - just 24 hours before they grilled Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart.

Tory leadership candidates threaten to BOYCOTT next BBC TV debate after the 'biased' corporation failed to vet guests

Tory leadership hopefuls are threatening to boycott a BBC TV debate after the first showdown (pictured) descended into a shambles

Tory leadership hopefuls are threatening to boycott a BBC TV debate after the first showdown (pictured) descended into a shambles 

Tory leadership hopefuls were today threatening to boycott a BBC TV debate after the first showdown descended into a shambles.

The special programme featuring five would-be PMs has been widely condemned after it emerged one of the 'ordinary voters' posting questions was an imam who had previously posted vile tweets about Israel.

Another was a former Labour staffer. There was also fury about the format - which contenders complained made them look like an aging

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