Barry Gardiner Accuses BBC Of 'Bad Editorial Judgement' Over Jeremy Corbyn Interview

Rachel Wearmouth
Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner

Shadow minister Barry Gardiner has accused the BBC of “bad editorial judgement” over how long Jeremy Corbyn was questioned about anti-Semitism on its flagship Sunday politics show. 

The Labour leader was interviewed on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, but Gardiner said too much time was devoted to allegations of anti-Semitism levelled at the party and not enough to its policy on Brexit. 

The shadow international trade secretary said 14 minutes were dedicated to what he called “a very well, video-documented series of questions about anti–Semitism”, while Brexit was handled in six. 

Speaking at a Politics Home fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Gardiner said he had complained to BBC chiefs. 

“I have taken that up with the BBC,” he said. “I had a meeting with them last night.” 

Gardiner added that he was “not saying it is biased” and that it was “perfectly, perfectly legitimate” to question Corbyn about anti-Semitism.

“But to spend 14 minutes on it and six minutes on Brexit that was, in my view, bad editorial judgement,” he told delegates.

“The really important that the public needs to hear about and what the party needs to communicate is what the Labour Party is doing on Brexit.” 

It comes after a summer of bad headlines for Labour, in which veteran MP Margaret Hodge accused the leader himself of being an anti-Semite and as the party delayed accepting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance official guidelines on anti-Semitism. 

Gardiner accepted the party had to rebuild trust with the Jewish community. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is interviewed by the BBC's Andrew Marr in Liverpool, during the party's annual conference in the city.

He went on to say that protesters calling for a so-called people’s vote on Brexit are “talking about fairy dust” because Parliament cannot force Theresa May’s government to call one.  

“It is one thing to call for a general election and it’s one thing to call for a second referendum on the vote, but you have to have the mechanism to achieve it,” the shadow minister said.  

“And under the process that Parliament has put in statute there is not a mechanism that would force the government to do that.” 

It comes as Labour prepares to debate whether it should back a second referendum on Brexit, should the government not cede to its demands for a general election. 

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell suggested in a BBC interview that any such second referendum would focus on the terms of the deal, and not include an option to remain as many of Labour’s pro-EU members want. 

Gardiner made an impassioned plea for activists to focus their campaigning on opposing a no-deal exit from the bloc, which, after the EU rejected May’s Chequers proposals, is now more likely. 

“They want to take us out into a deregulated nirvana, as they say, and we are talking about fairy dust,” he said. 

“We are talking about things we cannot influence and we don’t have the mechanism to deliver upon. 

“We need to start talking about what is the way between Saltzburg and Chequers.” 

HuffPost UK has approached the BBC for comment.