The BBC has been hit with accusations of bias by many on social media after it seemingly enabled junior cabinet Stephen Doughty to disrupt PMQs on Wednesday by airing his resignation from Jeremy Corbyn’s shadowed cabinet live on the Daily Politics immediately beforehand.
For days, team Corbyn has been labouring to shuffle its cabinet to remove dissenters from the top tier of the party in an attempt to ensure more cohesion on vital policies. One such dissenter was Stephen Doughty, former shadow foreign office minister and MP for Cardiff South and Penarth.
A now deleted blog from Andrew Alexander, an output editor on the Daily Politics, which can be read here, irked some with his detailing of how Laura Kuenssberg, BBC politics editor, arranged for the MP to resign on the show.
He wrote: “When the producers arrived at 8am they began putting out texts and calls to Labour MPs we thought were likely to react strongly to the sacking of several shadow ministers for ‘disloyalty’.
“Kuenssberg… was speaking to one junior shadow minister who was considering resigning. I wonder, mused our presenter Andrew Neil, if they would consider doing it live on the show?
“Within the hour we heard that Laura had sealed the deal: the shadow foreign minister Stephen Doughty would resign live in the studio.”
Some have argued that the wording of the blog suggested Doughty was coerced to resign. The blog admits the MP “isn't a household name”. However, with the live resignation, the Daily Politics made the event “a dramatic moment with big political impact,” according to the blog.
The interview had a very real impact on PMQs too it reads: “Within minutes we heard David Cameron refer to the resignation during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn.”
The Political Scrapbook quotes a senior Labour source questioning the credibility of the move.
Senior Labour source on BBC row: "These events question credibility of all involved ... raises questions at the heart of democracy."
— Political Scrapbook (@PSbook) January 7, 2016
The BBC dismissed the backlash, denying it had manufactured Doughty’s resignation: “The shadow cabinet reshuffle was a major story this week and many MPs from all camps had strong opinions which were fairly reflected across BBC output. “Stephen Doughty had already decided to resign and willingly chose to make his announcement on the programme.” Doughty took to Twitter to mock those making the accusations against the BBC.
1. I decided to resign over sacking of colleague + him being smeared. 2. I tell my boss + close friends. 3. Lots of journalists ring me. — Stephen Doughty (@SDoughtyMP) January 8, 2016
4. I answer phone to one senior journalist who asks am I resigning? 5. I say yes but worried about smears + lies about reasons. — Stephen Doughty (@SDoughtyMP) January 8, 2016
6. Am asked if I will do interview on TV to explain my reasons without spinners getting in first. I say yes. 7. I write to Jeremy to say. — Stephen Doughty (@SDoughtyMP) January 8, 2016
8. I do interview and confirm reasons. 9. I get smeared by same people who attacked colleague I resigned over. 10. Point made. — Stephen Doughty (@SDoughtyMP) January 8, 2016
He then implied that the BBC bias crowd were conspiracy theorists.
Epilogue: twitter goes into meltdown + lizards running the BBC (all members of the Bilderberg group) are exposed in the harsh sunlight... — Stephen Doughty (@SDoughtyMP) January 8, 2016
The BBC, which is required by law to be a politically impartial broadcaster is often hit with bias accusations. Most notably during the Scottish Independence Referendum its new reporting sparked a protest outside its Glasgow office.