Diane Abbott MP. Photo: Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0)

The BBC has been accused of legitimising the racist abuse of black women as Labour issued a formal complaint about the treatment of MP Diane Abbot on Question Time.

Labour claim audience members had been “whipped up” to single out Diane Abbott for abuse prior to a live airing of BBC Question Time last week, and that the Labour MP had been prevented from responding to allegations and crude remarks by members of the audience.

The party also claim that new host Fiona Bruce, who has replaced David Dimbleby, repeatedly interupted Ms Abbott with misinformation and lies about Labour’s standing in recent polls.

Diane Abbott at the 2016 Labour Party Conference. Photo: Rwendland via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

A spokesperson for the Hackney MP said: “We are appalled by the treatment of Diane Abbott on BBC’s Question Time.

“It was clear that a hostile atmosphere was whipped up, propped up by reports of inappropriate and sexist commentary in the audience warm-up session.

“A public broadcaster like the BBC should be expected to be a model of impartiality and equality.

“The BBC cannot claim anything of the sort when analysis of the programme shows that the only black woman on the panel was jeered at and interrupted more times than any other panellist, including by the chair herself.

“The media must stop legitimising mistreatment, bias and abuse against Ms Abbott as a black woman in public life.

“The BBC should be ashamed that their programming is complicit in such behaviour.”

Labour has demanded to see warm-up footage, that has not been aired by the public broadcaster.

“We want to see the warm-up footage because of these claims from audience members and we want an on-air apology over the polling”, the spokesperson said.

Diane Abbott MP. Photo: Alex Hilton via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The BBC has since accepted that Ms Abbott was right about polling figures, but rejects claims the Labour MP was treated unfairly.

“Diane is a regular and important contributor to the programme”, a BBC spokesperson said.

“We firmly reject claims that any of the panel was treated unfairly either before or during the recording.”

Ms Abbott was the victim of widely reported vile racial abuse and death threats on Twitter during the run-up to the last general election. And is said to be the target of internet trolls to this day.