Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political editor, has withdrawn as star speaker at a dinner for Britain’s defence industry after complaints from anti-arms trade campaigners.
The £235-a-head Mayfair dinner, scheduled for next week, will be attended by the bosses of global arms manufacturing companies, government ministers, Downing Street defence advisers and high-ranking officers from the UK military.
Mr Robinson’s appearance at the ADS annual dinner had been the subject of a formal complaint to the BBC by a leading anti-arms trade pressure group. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) wrote to the BBC this week stating that it believed the appearance would compromise the corporation’s impartiality and Mr Robinson’s “reputation for objectivity when reporting developments in the arms industry”.
The corporation said it “did not accept” the accusation that Mr Robinson’s appearance would compromise his or the BBC’s reputation for impartiality.
However, it added that because of a “change of plan”, Mr Robinson “will be reporting on the television news on the evening in question and will therefore not be attending the dinner”. The volte-face comes despite publicity prominently featuring the journalist as the event’s star speaker.
CAAT responded: “While we are pleased that Nick Robinson has pulled out, we are disappointed that the BBC does not recognise the obvious conflict between their reputation and values and those of the arms trade.”
In 2012, Frank Gardner, the BBC’s widely respected security correspondent, pulled out of a speaking engagement at the Counter Terrorism Expo Awards. Last March his fellow security correspondent, Gordon Corera, was criticised for taking part in a counter-terrorism trade event.