POLITICS

Labour Anger Over Ed Miliband's BBC Question Time Interrogator, Catherine Shuttleworth

01/05/2015 15:52 | Updated 01 May 2015

There is reportedly “a lot of anger” at Labour HQ over a Question Time audience member who grilled Ed Miliband last night.

Catherine Shuttleworth appeared as part of an audience billed as undecided voters - but it has been claimed she is an enthusiastic Tory who even gave George Osborne a thumbs up afterwards.

Questioning the Labour leader, she referenced a note left by Labour Treasury minister Liam Byrne in 2010 telling his successor that “I’m afraid there is no money”.

The small business owner said: “Going back to the letter, I run a business in Leeds.

“The last five years have been really tough, but the economy is improving. What worries me is you are about to put Ed Balls back in as Chancellor and he called that letter a joke.

shuttleworth

Catherine Shuttleworth questioned Ed Miliband last night

“Running a business the last few years is anything but a joke, and if that's the way you want to treat business how can we trust you?

“Why on earth should I trust a Chancellor who thinks that letter was a joke?

“If he worked in the corporate world he would have been fired and he wouldn't have been allowed back to that job.”

A Labour source told The Daily Mail that the party felt the Tories had been allowed to "rig" the BBC show, but Shuttleworth told the paper the reports of her being a Conservative supporter were untrue.

"Oh god no. No," she is reported to have said. "I've never been a member of any political party and I do not intend to be. I'm not a Tory at all, it's absolute nonsense."

"I'm just an ordinary business person who asked what I thought was a simple and easy question."

"If you come to Yorkshire this is what will happen, people will ask you questions, they will be fairly direct."

Shuttleworth, the chief executive and founder of advertising and marketing company Savvy Marketing, also told the Telegraph that she had applied to join the Question Time audience as an undecided voter but now was likely to vote Conservative.

She said: “If I run my business badly and I lost lots of money my business would go bust.

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“If I worked for a corporation and I was the finance director for a corporation and I managed the corporation was managed last time I would not be in a job and I would not be allowed a second go at it.

“My question to Mr Miliband was why did you allow him another go?”

But according to LabourList, Shuttleworth gave George Osborne a brief thumbs-up in the spin room.

According to the Mail, it later emerged that Shuttleworth had backed a Conservative party letter from small businesses and started her firm with Tory MP Andrew Jones.

The paper reported Shuttleworth said of Cameron: “I think he's done a great job in turning the economy round.”

Apparently rankled by Shuttleworth’s comments, a Labour source suggested that there was some suspicion over her place in the audience.

They told LabourList: “There’s quite a lot of anger that the BBC could let this happen.”

The source added: “Cameron has dodged the face to face debate – and now this has happened."

A Labour spokesman told Huffpost UK that there was no official comment on the incident, adding: "It's not up to us, it's up to the BBC to choose their audience."

Miliband, second to face the studio in Leeds after David Cameron, was repeatedly raked over the coals for the last Labour government's record on the economy. "Do you accept that when Labour was last in power it overspent?" he was asked.

The Labour leader almost had an embarrassing end to his 30 minute grilling when he tripped off the debate stage.

The audience was widely praised by the commentariat from all perspectives, many of whom had expected it to go easy on the three leaders. Faisal Islam, the political editor of Sky News, observed: "They were roasted at times. They were getting punched."

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