CORRECTION: The original version of this article mistakenly claimed that Kate Andrews works for the IEA. In fact, she has left the IEA and now works for the Spectator. The article was corrected accordingly at 11.50am on 3 March.
People have accused the BBC of “censorship” after it stopped Labour MPs from going on two of its programmes. The move seems to be in response to the Tories boycotting some of the broadcaster’s shows. But one shadow minister said the BBC is ‘denying’ his party a voice.
On Friday 28 February, Labour Press Team tweeted that BBC Radio 4 Today ‘refused’ to let a Labour MP on its show:
While the Conservatives are boycotting @BBCr4today it is ridiculous that the programme is refusing to take a Labour politician tomorrow morning to talk about the government’s response to Coronavirus
— Labour Press Team (@labourpress) February 28, 2020
Soon after, Labour’s shadow transport minister Andy McDonald revealed that Any Questions, another Radio 4 show, had ‘stood him down’ too:
Very disappointed that I've been stood down from tonight’s Any Questions on Radio 4 because they said they couldn’t get a Tory MP on the show.
Just because we have a part-time Prime Minister and a part-time government, that shouldn't mean Labour is denied a voice. #bbcaq
— Andy McDonald MP (@AndyMcDonaldMP) February 28, 2020
In both cases, the BBC looked like it was using the impartiality card. Because it seems to be in response to the Tories not sending anyone on either shows. In the case of Any Questions, the BBC replaced McDonald with former Labour MP candidate and director of the Class thinktank Faiza Shaheen.
And the Today programme’s saga with the Tories then became even more peculiar.
As PoliticsHome reported, it started after the 2019 general election. The Tories refused to let government ministers go on the Today programme. Number 10 reportedly said at the time:
The Today programme is irrelevant, it is not a serious programme any more so we are not going to engage with it – it is far better for us to put people up on BBC Breakfast and Five Live.
This seems to still be the case. Hence why the BBC refused to let a Labour MP on the Saturday 29 February episode of Today. That was until late on 28 February.
As the Times deputy political editor Steven Swinford tweeted, the Tories appeared to partially lift the ban:
Downing Street has agreed to end boycott of Today programme so ministers can go on air to discuss Coronavirus
Lee Cain, No 10's director of communications, told aides tonight he had agreed with BBC that there was a 'public interest' in having ministers on national broadcaster
— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) February 28, 2020
So, a government minister did end up appearing on Today on 29 February:
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) February 29, 2020
And yet, still no Labour MP was invited on. Meanwhile, the Tories will only talk about the coronavirus. As Bath Labour Party pointed out:
If this government continues to dodge being held accountable to the British public, @BBCRadio4 must remember that they are a public service broadcaster and follow @afneil’s lead and ‘empty chair’ them: https://t.co/mlwmjeOQ88
— Bath Labour Party (@BathLabourParty) February 28, 2020
It seems ridiculous that just because the Tories boycott the BBC, the BBC should in turn block Labour MPs. This guise of impartiality that the state broadcaster hides behind is in no way in the public interest. If the BBC was doing its job properly, it would, like Andrew Neil and Sky’s Kay Burley, ’empty chair’ the Tories. Because surely it’s in the public interest to know that the government is boycotting the BBC? But in the dystopian world of our state broadcaster, anything is possible.
A double dose of the execrable Kate Andrews on BBC today #PoliticsLive#bbcaq They're really spoiling us. Has she now got her own desk at Broadcasting House? Same office as Uncle Andrew? https://t.co/lVn6IyiNlK
— Clapton Blues (@garyfoskett) February 28, 2020
The Canary asked the BBC for comment. But it had not responded at the time of publication.
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?