THE BBC has rejected suggestions that Ukip was invited to send members to sit in the Question time audience.

Rival politicians questioned why three Teesside Ukip parliamentary candidates were watching the show live when it was recorded in Middlesbrough on Thursday (November 6) evening.

Labour candidate for the Stockton South seat, Louise Baldock, was one of several people who questioned why the candidates were in the audience - and why they had asked three questions between them.

She said their appearance was "unusual and perhaps unfair," adding: "I'm sure all candidates from all parties would like to get themselves on television in front of their voters."

Critics pointed out that a Facebook update apparently posted by one of the candidates, Ted Strike, who will contest the Stockton South seat, suggested he had been invited on to the show.

However, a BBC spokeswoman said members of Question Time audiences were never pre-selected.

She added: "Absolutely no-one is discouraged from applying to be part of our audience. The particular members of the audience referred to applied in the normal way and made points in exactly the same way as other members of our audience.

"Question Time is a free flowing debate programme and we are satisfied that last night's programme reflected a significant range of opinions on a number of different issues.”

North-East Ukip MEP Jonathan Arnott added: "As shown in previous elections, UKIP are the main challengers to Labour here in Middlesbrough.

"Yet, despite not even having a representative on the panel, the latest line of UKIP attack is that there are far too many UKIP supporters in the Question Time audience, which of course, is selected by the BBC. It’s not our fault that people are abandoning Labour in their droves."