Redwood slams `Blair-band' BBC

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The Independent Online
John Redwood, the right-wing Cabinet minister, yesterday attacked the BBC for political bias and being dominated by an "Islington Blair-band" who dictated what was wrong and right in society.

Mr Redwood, the Secretary of State for Wales, said that "middle class left-wing opinion formers" within the corporation were conspiring to deny choice by pandering to people on low incomes.

Addressing a meeting of party supporters in Wokingham, Mr Redwood singled out the treatment of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report which last week identified a growing prosperity gap between rich and poor in Britain. He said the BBC had failed to analyse the data put forward by what it termed the "respected" charity.

The Rowntree findings were widely reported by the national press, as well as independent radio and television.

He said the programme drew invalid distinctions in the health prospects of two mothers-to-be from wealthy and poor backgrounds in Glasgow. "The BBC, pandering to the plight of those on low incomes, produces its own gap between the Islington Blair-band that watch and listen to it and the low income Glaswegians that don't," he said.

"It is politically correct to demand more middle-class warders in the welfare gulag.

"It is a disgrace that many middle class left-wing opinion formers not only tell people on lower incomes than themselves they don't have choices, but they go out of their way to stop people having choices."

A BBC spokesman dismissed the accusation and suggested Mr Redwood might have misunderstood the programme, which was not based on the Rowntree report but on two studies published in the British Medical Journal. "They looked at the widening gap between the health of the rich and poor, as opposed to the economic poverty gap highlighted by the Rowntree foundation. The programme's findings, that during the 1980s the health of the poorest worsened significantly relative to the richest, are of undoubted significance."

Chris Smith, the shadow National Heritage Secretary, said it was the Rowntree findings that Mr Redwood found "unpalatable", not the "faithful reporting" by the BBC.

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