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BBC dismisses 600 complaints over Brendan O'Neill's Brexit riots claim on Politics Live

The BBC will not take forward almost 600 complaints about Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill’s comment on Politics Live about Brexit riots.

O’Neill was a guest on the BBC Two political panel show on 27 September when he spoke about what “ordinary” Leave voters must be thinking about discussions on how to extend the Brexit deadline further.

“I am amazed that there haven’t been riots yet, that’s the most amazing thing to me,” he said.

Asked by guest host Adam Fleming whether he thought there will be riots, O’Neill (pictured) responded: “I think there should be.”

Fleming, the BBC’s Brussels correspondent, replied: “Should be? You’re urging people onto the streets to smash up Vodafone and McDonalds?”

Observer chief leader writer Sonia Sodha, also appearing on the show, asked O’Neill if he was “urging violence”.

Clarifying his statement, O’Neill said: “When I look at the ‘Gilets Jaunes’, who have taken to the streets because Macron messed them around in relation to the eco tax and various other things, what I continually think is why have the British people been so patient?”

After further interjections from Fleming and Sodha, with the host pointing out “we all live in a world where you can’t go and smash up shops”, O’Neill went on: “I’m not talking about smashing up shops.

“There is a fine tradition in this country of radical protest… when people’s voices have been ignored. I think we have reached that level now.”

The BBC confirmed last week that 585 people complained that O’Neill’s comments were offensive or inappropriate.

A number of people took to social media to express their outrage over O’Neill’s comments after the show’s lunchtime broadcast.

Former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal tweeted that O’Neill’s comments were “indefensible” and that he had “crossed the line”.

Labour MP David Lammy, who represents the constituency of Tottenham which was hit by riots in 2011, called O’Neill’s comments “the height of irresponsibility”.

In a response to the complaints, published on Friday, the BBC has now explained why Brexitcast co-host Fleming’s response was sufficient.

“This statement was immediately picked up on and pushed back by Adam Fleming and other guests,” a statement said.

“It was for Mr O’Neill to defend his position and we cannot know what a guest is going to say in advance. These were not views Brendan O’Neill had previously expressed and we had no prior knowledge of them.

“When a guest on live television makes a controversial statement of this sort, all the presenter can do is push back on air and allow other guests to challenge the comment which is exactly what Adam Fleming did.”

The BBC’s final response was very similarly worded to a statement tweeted by Rob Burley, who edits Politics Live, just an hour after the programme finished.

Burley pointed out that people say “unpredictable things” on live TV and that O’Neill had “appeared to backtrack on his comments”.

Picture: BBC

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15 thoughts on “BBC dismisses 600 complaints over Brendan O'Neill's Brexit riots claim on Politics Live”

  1. Cedric:

    Firstly, he did not use the word protest. He used the word riot. Protest is peaceful. A riot is a violent uprising and is criminal by definition. Why are you dishonestly rewriting Brendan O’Neill’s words?

    Secondly, nobody has betrayed anybody. Since the referendum, the following things have come to light:

    1) The Leave campaign won, extremely narrowly, after engaging in multiple parallel campaigns of illegal cheating. This illegal cheating was so serious that if the referendum had been binding – which it wasn’t – the result would have had to be voided.

    2) Many of the stories the public was told about why we needed to leave the EU have proved to be fantastical lies and demented conspiracy theories. A classic example is the ‘sovereignty’ issue that you have raised in your own post. The mental gymnastics are mind-boggling to observe. You at once complain about Parliamentary sovereignty being used to thwart Brexit and yet also claim that we must leave the EU to regain our sovereignty. Absolutely hilarious.

    3) The public was explicitly – and, it turns out, falsely – promised again and again by the Leave movement that there was zero chance of leaving without a deal. In numerous television interviews on BBC1, prominent Brexiters stated that it would be the ‘easiest deal in history’ and the UK would easily secure a deal ‘at least as good’ as Norway’s. When the public has been repeatedly, explicitly promised there will not be a no deal exit, it is an outright lie to claim there is any mandate for a no deal exit. It is categorically not what people voted for.

    4) Poll after poll is now showing that in light of all of the above, there is no longer majority public support for Brexit. It is not ‘the will of the people’, despite the insistence to the contrary by its increasingly small coterie of fanatical supporters.

  2. BO: “I think there should be (riots)”. If that’s not incitement to violence then what is?
    BBC brushes aside 585 complaints, yet upholds one single complaint against someone who had the temerity to call out racism.
    BO a white male guest, NM a presenter and woman of colour.
    Doesn’t look at all good, Aunty!

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