The BBC editor accused of not investigating far-right Brexit links now works for No 10

Door of No 10 Downing Street and BBC politics logo
Fréa Lockley

Following his recent resignation, Conservative MP Nick Boles made a staggering announcement. He indicated that Theresa May’s refusal to compromise on Brexit may be influenced by Robbie Gibb, her head of communications.

This is the same man who was in charge of the BBC‘s live political shows during the EU referendum. New allegations about Gibb suggest the BBC failed to investigate links between Leave.EU and the far-right while he was in charge.

“Brexit group covered up its targeting of right-wing extremists”

A Channel 4 News investigation – Brexit group covered up its targeting of right-wing extremists – reportedly saw leaked emails that revealed Arron Banks “repeatedly lied to cover-up his Brexit campaign’s effort to attract far-right extremists”. Facebook adverts by Leave.EU allegedly targeted supporters of known far-right groups including “the National Front, the BNP, Britain First and the EDL”.

But the emails show that when the BBC contacted Banks about the story, he denied these allegations. On the basis of his denials, it seems the BBC dropped the story. This stands in direct contrast to information from Leave.EU staff. According to Channel 4 News, one employee told Banks:

Those are our ads, we have targeted those groups since the beginning of the campaign as they gain most traction.

Channel 4 News, also saw an email from Banks to the BBC that said:

It’s wholly wrong to say we have targeted extreme right parties… your report needs to reflect this or it will be biased and if we have to we will take whatever legal action we need.

But further emails suggest that Banks and Leave.EU’s head of communications, Andy Wigmore, appealed directly to Robbie Gibb. Between 2008 and 2017, Gibb was head of BBC Westminster and the editor of all live BBC politics shows. He’s now Theresa May’s head of communications.

As Labour’s David Lammy noted, this poses serious questions:

BBC dropped investigation

According to Channel 4 News, Banks told another Leave.EU director:

I don’t think they will Run [sic] it after all that lot. You will have a busy week next week since Robbie will react by giving us massive exposure.

The BBC did drop the investigation. It reportedly told Channel 4 News that its story:

is “untrue” and that they had resisted pressure from Arron Banks.

[The BBC] said it dropped the story because their reporter was unable to establish that Leave.EU had targeted far right groups deliberately.

According to the BBC, Gibb wasn’t “the editor involved with the story and had no say in the decision not to run it”. It also denied claims that “editorial standards were compromised in any way”.

Channel 4 News reported that Gibb said:

These allegations are ridiculous and without merit. I remain proud of my contribution to the BBC’s impartial coverage of the 2016 EU referendum campaign.

Questions

The Evening Standard previously described Gibb as a “messianic Brexiteer”. He was widely known as a “hard Brexiteer long before it became fashionable”. Gibb reportedly left the BBC for the “one job he wanted: No 10’s director of communications”.

Following Channel 4‘s investigation, many people on social media questioned these links:

According to Channel 4 News, “Leave.EU questioned our methods and journalistic integrity” when asked for a response. It also allegedly threatened to post a journalist’s “personal phone number on social media”.

As The Canary has frequently reported, there are longstanding concerns about bias in the BBC‘s political coverage. Following Boles’ revelation, the links between Gibb, Downing Street, and BBC politics all need further investigation.

Featured images via Gov.UK and BBC Politics Bot

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