Andrew Neil, lead presenter, BBC Daily Politics
That the BBC’s lunchtime political strand is under fire is not in doubt, and not the result of any conspiracy theory. The facts of the matter are well known: Doughty announced his resignation five minutes before the start of Prime Minister’s Questions, giving David Cameron a political advantage during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn, the Prime Minister being then able to deflect from discussing the floods.
Laura Kuenssberg, BBC Political Editor
That Doughty intended to resign that day was known by 0900 hours. Yet the story was held back for almost three hours. Had the news been broken earlier, no-one could have had cause for complaint. Nor would there have been a problem with holding the resignation until after PMQs. The problem for the BBC, and the source of so much disquiet, is the timing. This, too, is not a conspiracy theory.
Stephen Doughty's resignation email. Note time stamp
Moreover, that Doughty timed his actions deliberately to give his party leader as little chance as possible to react before PMQs is clear: his email to Corbyn was timed at 1151 hours. The chance of Corbyn seeing that before PMQs is not unadjacent to zero. Doughty was on set at 1153 hours. His announcement was made around two minutes later. This, too, is not a conspiracy theory, but fact.
Robin Gibb's reply to Seumas Milne
The response by the BBC’s Robin Gibb to Corbyn’s chief spinner Seumas Milne may also be considered. He asserts “I reject your suggestion that we orchestrated and stage-managed the resignation of Stephen Doughty”. That is not the impression given by Andrew Alexander’s now-deleted blog “Resignation! Making the news on the Daily Politics”.
This is what he said: “Just before 9am we learned from Laura Kuenssberg, who comes on the programme every Wednesday ahead of PMQs, that she was speaking to one junior shadow minister who was considering resigning. I wonder, mused our presenter Andrew Neil, if they would consider doing it live on the show?” Words like “orchestrated” and “stage-managed” describe that process all too well.
Gibb refutes Milne’s claim that the Doughty interview was designed to “Promote a particular political narrative”, but again, Armstrong’s blog suggests it was: “As Andrew Neil handed from the studio to the Commons chamber we took a moment to watch the story ripple out across news outlets and social media. Within minutes we heard David Cameron refer to the resignation during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn”.