Senior Labour PR executive Tom Baldwin has claimed the Conservative Party threatened the BBC over its election coverage with “'what would happen afterwards’ if they did not do as they were told and fall into line”.
Writing in The Guardian, the former Times journalist Tom Baldwin (pictured, Reuters) claimed there has been a “long-standing campaign by the Conservative party, fuelled by the commercial interests of sections of the press, to attack the world’s most successful state-funded public service broadcaster as a giant leftwing conspiracy. It is not.”
Baldwin revealed in the article that he has spent the year making “almost daily complaints” to the BBC on behalf of Labour.
He said: “Far from being in the pocket of Labour, the BBC was too easily swayed by newspapers that support the Tories and are heavily invested in Labour’s defeat. It contaminated everything, from the questions that were asked in interviews, to the lazy assumptions that were made about Ed Miliband.
“When the rise of digital is causing the direct influence of the Sun, the Telegraph, the Mail and the Times to plummet faster than their readership, it was frustrating the BBC should have so often have provided an echo chamber for them.”
He was particularly critical of the way the BBC gave “prominence” to the idea of a Labour-SNP coalition. Baldwin wrote: “The BBC wanted endless reports on the prospects of a deal, we wanted to focus on our positive offer for living standards, young people and the NHS, but we should all have been talking about what would happen in a Conservative second term.”
He added: “In truth, Downing Street’s criticism of the BBC is akin to a football manager railing against the referee after a 3-0 win with a disputed penalty.”
Baldwin also claimed that BBC “executives and journalists” have told him that senior Tories made “regular, repeated threats… during this election campaign about ‘what would happen afterwards’ if they did not do as they were told and fall into line”.
He wrote the article following the Government’s appointment of John Whittingdale as Culture Secretary, a move that has been widely reported to represent a “threat” to the BBC.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid, Whittingdale’s predecessor, put the reports down to “over-excitement” yesterday. But Labour’s new shadow culture secretary, Chris Bryant, claimed that the Government had been “briefing” that the appointment signalled “war”.
Baldwin wrote in his Guardian piece: “[F]or all its faults, no government should play political games with its independence. The BBC is an organisation that is invested in fairness, seeking balance even when it is impossible to achieve, listening and speaking to everybody.
“All that is precious and fragile, especially now.”