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Boris Johnson news – live: Cummings says PM knew party was not ‘work event’ as Dorries to outline BBC’s future

Critics call government’s move to end BBC licence fee ‘brazen vandalism’

Joe Middleton
Monday 17 January 2022 17:31
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Everything you need to know about the Downing Street party inquiry

Boris Johnson knew that a “bring your own booze” event he attended in Downing Street in May 2020 was not a work event, his former aide Dominic Cummings has said.

The comment comes the week after the prime minister apologised to the nation over the incident, while insisting that he had not realised it was a party.

As new partygate accusations continue to emerge, the government has been accused of attempting to distract the public by attacking the BBC and by saying the military could be put in charge of preventing small boats from crossing the Channel.

The latter plan was today lambasted by Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons defence committee, who said the military taking on the “migrant challenge” was a “massive distraction”.

Meanwhile, culture secretary Nadine Dorries is expected to give a statement in the Commons on Monday afternoon about the BBC, whose licence fee the government wants to scrap by 2027. Critics say the policy amounts to “brazen vandalism”.

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Tories want ‘sycophantic’ broadcaster media, says SNP politician

The SNP’s John Nicolson has fiercely criticised the government for freezing the BBC’s licence fee, saying “free speech will be the victim” if the broadcaster is “felled”.

“The Tory right wants the broadcast media to be as sycophantic as most of the print press, offering fawning adulation to their leader,” he said.

The SNP’s culture and media spokesperson added: “The hostility towards the BBC and its future does not stem from a desire to protect pensioners, but rather from visceral loathing of the prime minister’s critics.”

Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 17:31
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Government accused of attacking BBC to shield PM from partygate scandal

The government has sought to stop the PM being “dead meat” over the partygate scandal by distracting the public through an attack on the BBC, its critics have said.

My colleague Adam Forrest has the full story:

Government accused of attacking BBC to stop PM becoming ‘dead meat’

Culture secretary says future of licence fee in doubt – but faces claims of distraction tactics

Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 17:21
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Government accuses BBC of ‘group think’

Returning to the BBC, the government has once more attacked the broadcaster, accusing it of “group think”.

“In the last few months, I’ve made it clear that the BBC needs to address issues around impartiality and group think,” culture secretary Nadine Dorries said.

In response, her Labour counterpart Lucy Powell told MPs: “The impartiality of the BBC is crucial to trust in it. By explicitly linking the charter renewal to the BBC’s editorial decisions, the government sounds more like a tin-pot dictatorship than a healthy democracy.”

Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 17:13
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Constituents 60 to one against PM on partygate, says Tory MP

Sixty times more people oppose Boris Johnson on partygate than support him, a Tory MP has said.

Conservative backbencher Steve Baker told reporters that “there must be one rule for all” and “the rule-makers must obey the rules that they apply on others”.

Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 17:05
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BBC calls licence fee decision ‘disappointing’

BBC chairman Richard Sharp and director-general Tim Davie have called the government’s freeze on the broadcaster’s licence fee “disappointing”.

The rate will be kept at the current rate of £159 until April 2024.

They said in a statement: “Given the breadth of services we provide, the licence fee represents excellent value for money. There are very good reasons for investing in what the BBC can do for the British public and the UK around the world.

“A freeze in the first two years of this settlement means the BBC will now have to absorb inflation. That is disappointing - not just for licence fee payers, but also for the cultural industries who rely on the BBC for the important work they do across the UK.”

Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 16:53
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Government guilty of ‘cultural vandalism’, says Labour

Labour’s Lucy Powell has said ministers are guilty of “cultural vandalism” over their targeting of the BBC.

The shadow culture secretary added that Boris Johnson appeared more like a “tin pot dictator” than the leader of a thriving democracy.

“Is the licence fee at the heart of the cost of living crisis?” Ms Powell said, referring to the Tories’ justification for the freezing of the BBC licence fee.

“The overnment claims this is all about the cost-of-living crisis. I mean, pull the other one. What is it about the £13.57 a month that marks it out for such immediate and special attention to address the cost of living over the £1,200 increase in energy and household bills, or the £3,000-a-year tax increase that her Government has imposed?” she added.

Ms Powell hinted that ministers were scapegoating the BBC, rather than looking at higher costs on the public, such as rising energy bills.

She also said that the national broadcaster was “the envy of the world”, which needed to be protected.

Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 16:50
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BBC licence fee frozen for next two years

Government minister Nadine Dorries has announced that the BBC’s licence fee will be frozen for the next two years.

The culture secretary said the broadcaster is a “great institution” which spreads the country’s “values and identity” across the world.

However, the Tory frontbencher said she could not justify putting further strain on households amid a cost-of-living crisis.

She added that the BBC needed to be “forward-looking” and target all areas of the country, “not just the London bubble”.

Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 16:36
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Watch BBC statement live

Watch live as Priti Patel and Nadine Dorries address MPs
Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 16:30
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Nadine Dorries gives BBC statement

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries has begun her statement on the BBC and its funding.

Speaker Sir Lindsey criticised her for leaking the government’s thinking on the issue to the media, before addressing the Commons on the matter.

Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 16:27
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Patel asked ‘how on earth’ she can defend PM over partygate

Labour frontbencher Yvette Cooper has criticised home secretary Priti Patel for defending the prime minister over the partygate scandal.

“How on earth can she defend the prime minister, who has publicly admitted breaking the rules? She isn’t even waiting for the Sue Gray report,” Ms Cooper said in the Commons.

“The home secretary’s job is to uphold the rule of law. Does she realise how damaging it is to public trust and to trust in the police to be undermining the rule of law now?” she added.

Ms Patel suggested that Labour was seeking to “pre-judge, pressure, smear, slander” the government over the events.

Rory Sullivan17 January 2022 16:06

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