After right-wing attacks on MPs, BBC Newsnight ‘discusses’ the issue
On 8 January, BBC Newsnight ran a segment on the latest attacks on MPs and public figures. Newsnight invited newspaper editor and owner Danny Lockwood, who also published a book by Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), to speak. Guests also included Times columnist and Conservative peer Danny Finkelstein, pro-Brexit Labour MP Kate Hoey, and Remain activist Gina Miller, to discuss recent events with host Emily Maitlis.
As The Canary‘s Ed Sykes reported, on 7 January, pro-EU Conservative MP Anna Soubry faced verbal abuse as she gave TV interviews. Protesters called her a “Nazi”, and later “jostled” her as she sought to re-enter parliament. This happened on the same day that journalists Kay Burley, Dawn Foster and Owen Jones also faced abuse from pro-Brexit agitators.
On Newsnight, Maitlis asked Lockwood if he thought the current situation was fuelled by “a dangerous bunch… with a far-right axe to grind”. He responded that it was “a storm in a teacup”. He said attacks on Soubry and Jones were “offensive”. But he also insisted the two should:
Look in the mirror, long and hard and look at the responsibility they have for bringing the debate down to that level.
Later in the segment, Maitlis pointed out that Lockwood has been accused of “ramping up tensions by Hope Not Hate”. She continued:
We’ve had many female MPs who’ve refused to appear tonight on the programme with you because they think you’re a ‘Tommy Robinson lite’.
To which Lockwood replied: “Really? Can you give me their names and addresses?”
Lockwood owns and edits a newspaper in Batley, the town where Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a right-wing extremist in 2016.
As the Observer reported in 2018:
Lockwood used his columns to attack a group that monitors anti-Muslim hate incidents – whom he called ‘soft-headed virtue signallers’; questioned the definition of Islamophobia; and mocked the ‘Zorro outfits’ worn by some Muslim women.
He also described Tracy Brabin, Cox’s successor, as one of “the Palestine-loving Labour left”. Brabin criticised Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslim women. In response, Lockwood claimed she made “a living out of pandering to men who treat women like domestic slaves”.
Lockwood met Yaxley-Lennon in January 2018, close to the building dedicated to Jo Cox. Allegedly, they discussed “how the town’s Muslim and ‘established’ white community were ‘completely at odds with each other’”. The Observer said Lockwood “did not agree with the views of the former EDL leader”. Lockwood stated that Yaxley-Lennon was “a very unwise young man who’s his own worst enemy a lot of the time”.
Lockwood is also managing director of The Press News Ltd. This company published Yaxley-Lennon’s book Tommy Robinson Enemy of the State in 2015. According to the Observer, in 2018, he also used his newspaper column to encourage readers to buy this book.
In an earlier segment of the show, Newsnight asked “how much responsibility do senior politicians have in all this?”. It then showed a clip of shadow chancellor John McDonnell when he was a backbencher. In 2012, McDonnell called for a time when people felt able to challenge Conservative MPs and coalition ministers. He was speaking at a conference of trade unionists about challenging the government’s ‘austerity’ policies and resisting public sector cuts in the workplace.
Earlier that day, Finkelstein had written on Twitter:
I wonder if it’s ok when condemning the behaviour toward Owen Jones & Anna Soubry, to gently point out that John McDonnell called for Tory MPs not to be able to show their faces in public without being challenged by direct action. And this shows at least the problem with that.
“The left was targeted”
During the segment, Hoey challenged the lack of BBC coverage over alleged attacks on Nigel Farage’s family. Neither she nor the segment made any reference to the continued attacks on Jeremy Corbyn or Diane Abbott.
Not long before Newsnight broadcast, Hoey voted against Labour and with the Conservatives over Yvette Cooper’s no-deal Brexit amendment in the Commons.
Shortly after Newsnight screened, Owen Jones said:
Tonight, [Newsnight] did a package on yesterday’s far right incidents which didn’t mention once that the left was targeted, and had not a single left winger on their panel.
Featured image via BBC screengrab
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