Nick Robinson slams suggestions of BBC bias in No 10 drinks party coverage

The Prime Minister has come under severe pressure following revelations about gatherings held at 10 Downing Street during the national lockdown.

Ellie Iorizzo
Wednesday 19 January 2022 14:39
Nick Robinson slams suggestions of BBC bias in No 10 drinks party coverage (Ian West/PA)
Nick Robinson slams suggestions of BBC bias in No 10 drinks party coverage (Ian West/PA)

Nick Robinson has refuted suggestions of BBC bias in its coverage of the Downing Street drinks party allegations.

The presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme defended the corporation after calls for the BBC to show “super-impartiality” in its reporting.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, Robinson, 58, said the idea that the “BBC alone should play down or ignore the crisis” is “absurd” in reference to the corporation’s coverage of “partygate”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised for the partygate saga, but is facing calls from MPs within the Tory party and beyond to resign amid allegations of partying in Downing Street during the pandemic.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Robinson referenced a piece written by former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore which appeared in the publication on January 18, saying: “Lord Moore has called for the BBC to show ‘super-impartiality’ in its coverage of what he calls the ‘scandal’ of Boris & parties.

“In a letter to @telegraph I ask why he didn’t call for this when Blair, May & Corbyn were facing leadership crises.”

In his letter to the paper, which featured in Wednesday’s edition, Robinson said: “Charles Moore (comment January 18) accuses the BBC of acting like a ‘Fox News of the left’ by ‘taking a line and incessantly promoting it’ in our coverage of the ‘scandal’ (his word) of Boris Johnson and parties.

“Let’s leave to one side that it is ITV News that has, to its credit, made the running on this story, by publishing the recording of the Prime Minsters staff laughing about the idea of parties in Number 10, and the email in which his staff were invited to ‘bring your own booze’ while other folk could not visit or comfort loved ones.

Nick Robinson presents BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (Jeff Overs/BBC)

“Let’s focus, instead on the BBC’s alleged crime.

“We have, it seems, done what The Telegraph and all other newspapers have done, and not what Lord Moore says we should do.

“He says newspapers have made a ‘great meal of this scandal and a good read it has often been’, but suggests the BBC should behave differently.

“We should have focused on what really mattered last week: the possibility of war in Ukraine (which we have covered widely).

“Clearly we should report the parties story – like all others – in a ‘calm, balanced’ way, hearing from those who defend the PM and challenging them as well as those who attack him, and pointing out that this may not lead to his departure.

“We have done that.

“However, the idea that the BBC alone should play down or ignore the crisis, which has led Conservative MPs – both Brexit allies and enemies of the PM – to call on their leader to quit is absurd.

“When, as BBC Political Editor, I reported night after night on the loans for honours scandal which destroyed Tony Blair – or, as presenter of Today, on Theresa May’s fight over Brexit with her own backbenchers, or Jeremy Corbyn’s battles over anti-Semitism – I heard no call for ‘super-impartiality’ from Lord Moore.

“I wonder why not.”

Robinson took over from Andrew Marr as the BBC’s Political Editor in September 2005, and has been a fixture on the Today programme since 2015.

The BBC has been contacted for comment.

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