A BBC News graphic showing anti-Brexit political parties performing best at this year’s European Parliament elections was a “lapse of editorial standards”, the broadcaster’s complaints unit has ruled.
The BBC reported in May that the Liberal Democracts, Green Party, SNP, Change UK and Plaid Cymru, which all oppose Brexit, had won 40.4 per cent of the vote, while pro-Brexit parties took a 34.9 per cent share.
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But its tally of pro-Brexit parties (pictured) only included the Brexit Party and UKIP, excluding the Conservative Party despite the fact it was pushing forward with taking the UK out of the European Union.
Had it included the Tories as a pro-Brexit party in its tally, Brexiteers would have outperformed anti-Brexit parties by more than three per cent. Labour were similarly not counted for either side.
A complaint was twice “rebuffed” by the BBC’s complaints unit, according to Guido Fawkes, before the corporation eventually upheld it.
The BBC has now removed the graph and published a correction note in its story.
In a letter leaked online, BBC executive complaints unit deputy head Dominic Groves said the graphic was an “attempt to provide some clarity” around arguments by pro- and anti-Brexit parties claiming that the results of the European elections favoured their side.
BBC News also said the graphic was an effort to “illustrate the squeeze on Labour and the Conservatives by parties offering a clear cut proposition on whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU”.
Groves wrote to the complainant: “We think this a reasonable approach in principle, but the resulting graphic does not seem to us to have contained sufficient information to achieve the desired result.
“The bar labelled ‘pro-Brexit’, as you have pointed out, reflected only the combined vote for the Brexit Party and UKIP.
“Those were the parties either advocating a no-deal Brexit or explicitly willing to countenance it – but those are not the only ‘pro-Brexit’ positions, and a significant section, if not a majority of the Conservative Party is in favour of a form of Brexit, whatever the actual balance of opinions in it.”
He later added that there had been a “lapse of editorial standards” and that the complaints unit would “consider what further action is required”.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We note the findings of the ruling.”
Its correction note reads: “This article has been amended to remove a chart that attempted to show the performance of pro- and anti-Brexit parties, after a ruling from the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit.”
The Brexit Party received the largest share of votes at the European elections in May, standing at 31.6 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats in second place with 20.3 per cent of the vote.
Labour and the Conservative Party received a combined 23 per cent of the vote.