The attitude of senior Labour Party figures to political coverage by the BBC has been laid bare in the memoirs of BBC political editor Nick Robinson. Despite some complaining that Labour receives unfair coverage from the BBC, Robinson has spoken of how the party tried to recruit him to be Ed Miliband’s spin doctor in the run-up to the general election.
In his book, Election Notebook: The Inside Story Of The Battle Over Britain’s Future And My Personal Battle To Report It, which is being serialised in The Mail On Sunday, Robinson says he was approached by “a senior Labour figure” 10 months before the election with the promise of a job afterwards in No 10 if the party was successful in its bid for power. He wrote:
“I had to resist the urge to roar with laughter and inquire whether the caller had got the wrong number. Instead, I politely expressed my thanks for being considered and explained I remained committed to journalism.”
Commentators have expressed particular surprise as Robinson’s involvement in Conservative politics during his student days is well known. Despite that the broadcaster, once described by UKIP MEP Gerard Batten as “personable and professional” is now generally known for his even-handed reporting.
In the book he recounts being told:
“The party knows it has a problem and is determined to fix it. The leader needs advice, and it has to come from someone with sufficient stature to ensure he’ll listen to it.”
Robinson writes that he first thought he was being asked if he could recommend someone “to take charge of what he calls Ed Miliband’s presentational difficulties.” Only after racking his brains for an answer did he realise he has misheard:
“I was being asked whether I would consider taking on the job of spin doctor, with a role at No 10 to follow, naturally. That’s right – me.”.
Robinson says he has no idea whether the offer came with Mr Miliband’s knowledge or “someone freelancing to try to be helpful.” Either way questions should be raised as to why a senior Labour Party figure considered the BBC’s political editor a suitable candidate for a partisan role in party politics.