Labor is calling for the resignation of a BBC board member with close ties to Downing Street after being accused of trying to block a nomination on political grounds.
The Financial Times reported that Sir Robbie Gibb, who was Theresa May’s communications director during her tenure as prime minister, warned the company against appointing Jess Brammar after she became the top candidate to oversee the broadcaster news channels. Brammar, who has been employed by the company for much of her career, is a former deputy editor-in-chief of BBC Newsnight and a former editor-in-chief of HuffPost UK.
Gibb, who helped start the right-wing news channel GB News, reportedly texted BBC news and current affairs director Fran Unsworth, saying she “couldn’t take this appointment. And that “the government’s fragile confidence in the BBC would be shattered.” According to company website, one of Gibb’s responsibilities as non-executive director of the BBC’s board is to “maintain and protect the independence of the BBC”.
Deputy Labor Party leader Angela Rayner has called for Gibb’s resignation, saying he should be sacked if he refuses to resign. Rayner wrote: “It’s Conservative cronyism at the heart of the BBC, with Robbie Gibb in office to influence the BBC and promote the interests of the government and the Conservative Party. He should resign and if he doesn’t resign he should be fired.
Jo Stevens, the fictional secretary of state for digital culture, media and sports, also called the scandal an uprising of questions about “the conservative cronyism at the heart of the BBC”. It tweeted: “If Robbie Gibb is in office to promote Conservative interests, then he is in the wrong job. [Culture secretary Oliver] Dowden must join the calls for his resignation or the BBC must fire him immediately. “
Alastair Campbell, former Labor communications chief under Tony Blair, echoed calls for Gibb’s resignation online, condemning the interference as “chic putinism.”
Campbell was responding to a Twitter message from former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger saying that if the Financial Times report was correct, Gibb should also step down from the public service broadcasting advisory board. The panel, chaired by Dowden, is appointed to advise on the future of public service broadcasting.
The allegations of political interference follow the resignation of Sir Charles Dunstone, the founder of Carphone Warehouse, who resigned as chairman of the board of directors of the Royal Museums of Greenwich earlier this year after Dowden vetoed the reappointment of administrator Dr Aminul Hoque, scholar at Goldsmiths, University of London, who supported the “decolonization” of the curriculum.
The Guardian has contacted the BBC for Gibb’s comment. A spokesperson for the company said: “The BBC does not comment on ongoing recruitment processes, which are the responsibility of the executive, but for the record, no recruitment process has been blocked. People should wait for the result which will be announced in due course.
“And as a general principle, board members are able to discuss issues with other board members or senior managers. These principles have been respected.
Gibb has not commented on the allegations.
Gibb’s opposition to Brammar’s appointment, according to the FT report, was shaped by an argument between HuffPost UK and Equality Minister Kemi Badenoch, who in January publicly accused a journalist of having “Made up allegations” and created misinformation after contacting her to comment on a video. campaign to promote the coronavirus vaccination program.
Badenoch launched into a tirade on Twitter about how the outlet had a vendetta against her. Brammar defended his reporter and tried to force the Cabinet Office to investigate Badenoch’s conduct, which he ultimately refused to do.