This quickly became our most popular tweet to date, but also attracted the fury of Labour leftists. The word 'plant' was deployed time and time again as they vented their anger that a Tory supporter had been allowed airtime. The irony of their referring to him as a 'fascist' while denouncing his right to speak was clearly lost on them.
The young lad was soon identified as Layton Smith, a pro-Leave Conservative and 'aspiring politician'. Some Labour trolls were cock-a-hoop as it provided further evidence of their crazed 'Tory plant' conspiracy. One daft professor spun a bizarre yarn about a BBC producer dressing the young man up to look more 'working class'.
This young man is called Cyril and he is from an incredibly affluent family. A BBC producer (@RobBurl) dressed him and had his hair cut to make him look like a regular working class youngster. I can assure you, I know this boy and he is a fox hunter. https://t.co/tD1g3yiw8y— Dr Robert 'Rob' Zands PhD #BeKindOnline (@DrRobertZands) November 1, 2019
In an excruciatingly embarrassing u-turn the professor later admits that he got the wrong producer (Rob Burley doesn't work on Question Time) and that the lad in question is not actually 'Cyril' at all!
Many who have read this viral tweet will see a retraction of sorts, further down the thread. Unfortunately I got the producer mixed up and the young man is not the Cyril I know. Just a very similar looking young Tory. What I will say, however, is that all the vile abuse WILL stop https://t.co/1ipyL0HJzd— Dr Robert 'Rob' Zands PhD #BeKindOnline (@DrRobertZands) November 1, 2019
Even the basic premise of a 'plant' doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. Anyone, literally anyone, can apply to be in the Question Time audience. Activists from a myriad of political parties have popped up in the audience over the years - including Labour activists. Naturally, these people don't complain as long as it's the Tories who are being attacked.
In any case this episode backfired on them immeasurably. This time yesterday Layton was a fairly anonymous young man who had a couple of hundred followers on Twitter. After the trolls began spreading his name around the Twittersphere he garnered a following of more than 5,000 (and counting). Needless to say, the 19-year-old is now the very happy recipient of a rapidly growing profile!