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.
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