Leaked text messages show LBC colluding with a Tory cabinet minister to make him look good

Tom Swarkbrick on LBC
James Wright

Text messages leaked to BuzzFeed show that an LBC presenter tried to stage-manage an interview with a Conservative cabinet minister.

LBC‘s Tom Swarbrick was trying to bag an interview with the unnamed government figure. In the process, he sent the minister the interviewing questions and promised to be gentle. In the end, the interview didn’t go ahead.

Revolving door

Swarbrick confirmed the authenticity of the messages and said:

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This is an example of political game playing, where only one part of a conversation has been leaked about an interview which didn’t even go ahead.

But this looks like the latest example of a revolving door between establishment media and politics. First, Swarbrick worked at LBC for four and a half years. Then he became Theresa May’s head of broadcast for a year and a half.

Leaving Downing Street in early 2018, Swarbrick rejoined LBC. And only three months later, he bagged an interview with May, his former boss. That was the same week that LBC broadcast former UKIP leader Nigel Farage interviewing the main UKIP financer, Arron Banks. Now, leaked messages show Swarbrick trying to carry out what amounts to a stage-managed interview with a cabinet minister.

The revolving door continues to spin. In the late 1990s, journalist and political adviser Robbie Gibb was chief of staff to then Conservative shadow chancellor Francis Maude, among other Conservative party roles. Gibb then worked at the BBC, becoming the head of the broadcaster’s Westminster programmes. After more than two decades at the BBC, Gibb was back working for the Conservatives in late 2017. He became the prime minister’s director of communications.

And the revolving door is not limited to UK politics. CNN forced political commentator Donna Brazile to resign after she sent Hillary Clinton debate questions during the 2016 Democratic Party primary. Brazile was political adviser to Bill Clinton during both his 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns.

Love-in

The establishment collusion reflects a broader problem in the media. In the UK, around 51% of leading journalists and 80% of editors come from private education. Only 7% of the wider population comes from such an elite background.

It appears that such a concentration of power impedes the actual job of journalists, which is to hold power to account. LBC is essentially allowing its presenters to stage-manage love-ins with leading Conservative politicians. That’s a disgrace.

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James Wright