Tories hit out at outrageous bias over BBC's coverage of Boris Johnson

‘The BBC isn’t going to stop until he’s gone’: Senior Tories hit out at ‘outrageous bias’ in Beeb’s ‘unbearable’ coverage of Boris Johnson’s apology for No10 party

  • Senior Tories accuse BBC of ‘outrageous’ bias over its Partygate coverage 
  • Today programme’s Nick Robinson came under fire for his bad-tempered clash 
  • Whitehall insiders have called the BBC’s coverage of Boris Johnson ‘unbearable’ 

Senior Conservatives last night accused the BBC of ‘outrageous’ bias over its coverage of Boris Johnson’s apology to MPs for the Downing Street lockdown party.

They were incensed at Wednesday’s 10pm television news and yesterday’s Today programme on Radio 4, accusing both programmes of allowing an openly anti-Johnson agenda to dominate.

A Whitehall insider called the BBC’s coverage of the Prime Minister’s statement ‘unbearable’, adding: ‘It feels like the BBC isn’t going to stop until he’s gone. Wednesday night’s News at Ten was extraordinary but Today was even worse.’ 

Tories angrily pointed to a series of barbed comments from Today presenter Nick Robinson as examples of bias.

They were infuriated when he sneeringly asked whether Mr Johnson’s apology ‘really was an apology’.

Mr Robinson, interviewing Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis, said ‘most people’ thought the Prime Minister was only saying sorry because he had been caught.

And, during the heated exchange, Mr Robinson said the PM’s focus had ‘always been on blaming other people for his behaviour’.

When he had introduced the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mr Robinson said Mr Lewis was there to ‘try to defend’ the PM. 

Conservative MP Richard Holden said: ‘When a BBC interviewer interrupts 32 times in ten minutes, with questions up to 30 seconds long, people will rightly ask: is this an interview, or a diatribe of BBC bias, with a Cabinet Minister being invited in as a human piñata?’

Tories angrily pointed to a series of barbed comments from Today presenter Nick Robinson (pictured) as examples of bias

A senior Tory backbencher said: ‘It was an overly aggressive interview. Nick Robinson kept interrupting Mr Lewis, asking the same questions.  It got more and more aggressive and went on too long. 

Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘This is a clear show of BBC bias but I am afraid the BBC are regularly promoting their own political agenda rather than being an independent broadcaster as they’re supposed to be.

‘Whether it’s the Prime Minister or Brexit, they are pushing a particular line.’

Conservatives pointed out that while the Cabinet and senior figures had backed Mr Johnson, the BBC had spent much of the day giving a platform to often minor figures calling on him to resign.

They see it as another example of Left-of-centre ‘group-think’ at the BBC, which Tim Davie, the director general, has vowed to root out in the aftermath of controversies, including one-sided Brexit coverage. 

The latest row comes as senior BBC executives are locked in talks with Nadine Dorries over the upcoming licence fee settlement.

The Culture Secretary has already said the Corporation needs to do more to prove it was properly impartial.

On Wednesday’s News at Ten, the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg told presenter Huw Edwards there was ‘a real poison spreading among Conservative MPs in the last 24 hours’ which called into question whether Mr Johnson could recover from it.

She said many of the programme’s viewers might have listened to him and felt ‘genuine rage’ about what had been going on at Downing Street during lockdown. Headlines on the Today programme suggested ‘pressure was growing’ on Mr Johnson to quit – when only a handful of Tory MPs have called for him to go.

Yesterday, Mr Robinson said: ‘So once again the public are left to look on in bewilderment as the Conservative Party contemplates changing another leader’.

There were a series of interviews with former supporters of Mr Johnson in Manchester who said they had now ‘lost faith’ in his leadership. 

But it was the bad-tempered nature of the clash with Mr Lewis that raised most hackles. 

Tories believes Mr Robinson used perjorative language on several occasions. At one point the journalist interjected: ‘His focus has always been on blaming other people for his behaviour.’ 

The minister replied: ‘No, if you’re going to make a statement like that I’m going to challenge you…’

Mr Robinson replied: ‘Well I am, because he’s already sacked someone for that hasn’t he? Boris Johnson tends to allow other people to take the flak and it seems to me that the only facts that might come out in this inquiry is blame being placed on other people, on civil servants.’

A BBC spokesman said: ‘There has been a high level of public interest in this story.

‘Our coverage has included perspectives from across the political spectrum, including different views from within the Conservative party, and has adhered to editorial guidelines on impartiality throughout.’

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