The BBC immediately sacks a TV doctor for launching a campaign against Jacob Rees-Mogg

Dr Phil Hammond, BBC logo and Jacob Rees-Mogg

The BBC wasted no time sacking Dr Phil Hammond after the radio presenter and TV personality announced plans to challenge Jacob Rees-Mogg’s parliamentary seat.

Our public service broadcaster brought Hammond’s 12-year run presenting Saturday Surgery on BBC Radio Bristol to an end. The doctor also hosted the BBC Two programme Trust Me, I’m a Doctor.

The news came shortly after Hammond announced plans to stand for the National Health Action (NHA) party at the next election in his home constituency of North East Somerset. Potential future Conservative leader Rees-Mogg currently holds the seat.

Read on...

On policy, the NHA party wants to restore the NHS as a fully public service. But the party also has a broader manifesto on education, housing, and other areas.


The doctor and comedian said he’s “very sad and a little puzzled” at the BBC‘s decision. Explaining itself, the BBC told The Canary:

Impartiality is at the heart of our journalism. Active political involvement is an area covered by our editorial guidelines. Standing as a candidate in an election is a conflict of interest and someone seeking election is unable to continue in this type of editorial role.

What’s clear is that the BBC editorial guidelines are open to interpretation. There is a procedure in place for BBC employees running for office:

When BBC employees stand for election for the European Parliament, the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly unpaid leave of up to six weeks is granted for the period to the election date.

However, the guidelines also say:

It is unlikely that they will be able to undertake high level or high profile programme responsibilities from then until the election, unless they fail to be selected or withdraw their proposed candidacy.

Gaming the guidelines?

BBC Radio Bristol sacked Hammond. But there are many instances of high-profile BBC figures playing loose with the guidelines, without any apparent consequences.

Flagship BBC presenter Andrew Neil has hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers thanks to his job at the public broadcaster. Neil, who also chairs the conservative Spectator, uses the platform to spread conspiracy theories about climate change, ridicule Jeremy Corbyn, and promote “a relentless sympathy for Brexit and denunciation of its critics”. At the same time as presenting Daily Politics, Neil has also delivered speeches championing neoliberal capitalist figurehead Friedrich Hayek and fuelling the ongoing smear campaign against Corbyn.

Yet the BBC guidelines on conflict of interest suggest considering whether a staff member is, among other things:

  • Expressing views on matters of political controversy or public policy in books, articles, leaflets, letters in the press, social networking sites, blogs, etc.
  • Speaking in public on matters of political controversy or public policy
  • Promoting a partisan view on an issue put to local or national referendum.

It may be right that the BBC sacked Hammond. But it seems progressives have to hold themselves to higher standards than pro-establishment right-wing figures at the BBC. As Owen Jones notes, you cannot imagine a left-wing equivalent of Andrew Neil promoting socialism, Corbyn, and honouring Friedrich Engels without any consequences. But perhaps you can imagine a right-wing equivalent of Hammond keeping his BBC job until the election.

Get Involved!

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured image via Dave Briggs / WikiMediaAndy Roberts / Flickr and Parliament / WikiMedia

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed