A senior Conservative MP has broken ranks to publicly criticise Boris Johnson’s controversial chief advisor.
Cummings has been criticised as being behind what many see as a war between Johnson’s government and the media, especially the BBC.
Last week claimed reported in the Sunday Times suggested that Number 10 could be prepared to scrap the TV licence fee as part of a move to scale back the broadcaster’s operations.
But Merriman, who who is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the BBC, said the “ideological trench warfare” against the corporation was “unedifying”.
In the interview he defended the BBC, calling it a “much-loved British institution”.
“Since the election, the BBC has become the subject of various negative briefings and opinions,” he said.
He said as chairman of the APPG for the BBC, he felt the corporation needed a “supportive voice” in the face of suggestions that it would be: “forcibly slimmed down, moved to subscription and, bizarrely, given a ‘whack’ in the process”.
And while he said it is “absolutely right” that the future funding model of the BBC is debated before 2027, he added: “What’s not helpful, and unedifying, is waging some ideological trench warfare on the BBC”.
Merriman said his own preference was to continue with the licence fee but said: “Others will take a different view, but I dislike the nasty manner in which this debate is being conducted. It needs to stop.”
He also raised concerns about Cummings, saying while the PM’s senior aide was a “breath of fresh air”, he was concerned about his “brutal” methods.
Mr Merriman also raised concerns around the “somewhat brutal” methods of Dominic Cummings – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial senior aide at Number 10.
“Where I get concerned is the somewhat brutal way behind (his methods). So the BBC is a good example of that,” he added.
“And there seems to be a sort of nasty streak behind some of these briefings. And if our whole mantra is to try and unite the country, after the difficulties we’ve had over the last couple of years – and this Government has a mandate to do that – then I’m not sure why we need to be quite so divisive in the tone and language that we’re using. I just don’t think it’s going to end well.”
Merriman’s comments come amid ongoing tension between the BBC and the Government.
Johnson and his ministers have been been accused of boycotting certain programmes, including Radio 4’s Today programme, in a move that former home secretary Amber Rudd said felt like “the wild west”.
Cummings has also been at the heart of controversy leading bookies to offer odds of 3/1 that he will leave Downing Street by the end of March.
He was seen as the catalyst for the appointment of Downing Street adviser Andrew Sabisky following a callout for “weirdos and misfits”.
It transpired Sabisky had a history of offensive online remarks, including saying black Americans have lower IQs than white Americans, and a comment on Cummings’ blog in 2014 that compulsory birth control should be imposed to stop creating a “permanent underclass”.
Cummings is also seen to have driven Sajid Javid’s shock resignation as chancellor.