BBC row: Harsh words in exchange of letters

Edited extracts from the exchange of letters between David Hill and John Barton.

Dear John, The John Humphrys problem has assumed new proportions after this morning's interview with Harriet Harman. In response we have had a council of war and are now seriously considering whether, as a party, we will suspend co-operation when you make bids through us for Government ministers. Individual Government Departments will continue to make their own minds up but we will now give very careful thought to any bid to us, in order to make absolutely sure that your listeners are not going to be subjected to a repeat of the ridiculous exchange this morning.

Harriet Harman was keen to be interviewed this morning ... in the knowledge that she would be challenged on the wisdom of the Government's decision ... In the event this failed to happen. Humphrys interrupted so much that she was never permitted to develop a single answer.

Frankly, none of us feel that this can go on .... I am sure your listeners don't want it. We can see no benefit to us ...We need to talk as this is now serious.

Yours,

David Hill.

Dear David, Thank you for being so frank in your letter of complaint about John Humphrys' interview with Harriet Harman ... Your description of it as "a ridiculous exchange" surprised me ...

John was ... seeking a direct answer to a simple question: were the cuts forced on the Government by financial necessity or because the Secretary of State believed that they were desirable in themselves? ...

I disagree with your suggestion that Ms Harman "was never permitted to develop a single answer".

Her first answer for instance was almost one minute long, and later she explained at length the Government's strategy for helping lone parents to return to work.

We would obviously be very sorry if you decided to "suspend co-operation" ... The losers would be the listeners,

Yours sincerely,

Jon Barton

Editor, Today

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