Monday 16 December 2019 1:14 pm

Senior Labour MP says BBC ‘played a part’ in election defeat

A senior Labour MP has accused the BBC of “consciously” playing a role in the party’s election defeat, as figures on both ends of the political spectrum take aim at the broadcaster over perceived bias.

Shadow transport minister Andy McDonald said the BBC and other broadcasters had allowed Jeremy Corybn to be “demonised and vilified” during the campaign.

Read more: Boris Johnson sets sights on BBC licence fee as bias row heats up

The comments, made during a heated interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, came as the Labour party’s leadership battle descended into acrimony.

Presenter Justin Webb asked McDonald about Labour’s election rout and questioned whether the party leader was to blame.

“Don’t get me started on the media, Justin. I’m very worried about our public service broadcaster,” the MP for Middlesborough said.

Webb then asked if McDonald was suggesting that the BBC was in part responsible for the Labour loss.

McDonald replied: “I am saying that they played a part. I’m really worried about the drift. You’ve seen the catalogue of criticisms that we’re making. 

“We’ve accepted that the print media are rained against us, but my goodness me. I’m going to look at us. We’re the important part here.

“We got this wrong, but if the BBC are going to hold themselves out as somehow having conducted themselves in an impartial manner, I think they’ve really got to have a look in the mirror.”

Asked if the BBC “consciously” played a part, McDonald replied: “Consciously, yes.”

But fellow Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds hit back at McDonald’s accusations, suggesting his party should instead shoulder the blame for the election defeat.

“The media can be frustrating, and some of the tabloids at times just embarrassing, but blaming them for last Thursday is an abdication of responsibility,” he wrote in a tweet.

It came as the Labour party’s leadership battle was plunged into acrimony, with frontbench MP Emily Thornberry launching legal battle against former colleague Caroline Flint.

Flint, who lost her seat in the election last week, claimed Thornberry once told a colleague: “I’m glad my constituents aren’t as stupid as yours”.

But Thornberry branded the accusation a “total and utter lie” and said she had consulted solicitors.

Read more: Emily Thornberry launches legal action against ex-Labour MP Caroline Flint

The row over perceived BBC bias also means that the public service broadcaster is now facing an attack from both major political parties.

Boris Johnson is exploring plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee, while the Conservative party is said to be considering a boycott of the Today programme.