Showing his true allegiance
Gibb’s BBC legacy is programmes like the Daily and Sunday Politics, where Andrew Neil could use the BBC’s name as cover for pushing climate change denialism, where Neil could tag-team with political editor Laura Kuenssberg to have a junior shadow minister resign live on air in order to give the Tories an advantage at PMQs, and where Ms Kuenssberg effectively took dictation from Matthew Elliott on Vote Leave’s lawbreaking.
Yet somehow, he was recently made a non-executive member of the BBC Board. And that is when Robbie Gibb came unstuck. As the FT has reported, “[Gibb] tried to block the preferred candidate to oversee the BBC’s news channels because the appointment would shatter relations with the Government”. So who was that preferred candidate?
“Gibb … issued his warning to the news division’s managers after Jess Brammar, former editor of HuffPost UK and [former] deputy editor of BBC Newsnight, emerged as the favoured candidate in the recruitment process … [Gibb] told BBC director for news and current affairs Fran Unsworth in a text message that she ‘cannot make this appointment’ [and that] the Government’s ‘fragile trust in the BBC will be shattered’”.
The Guardian has picked up on the story, adding “The Sunday Times previously reported that Gibb’s appointment as a non-executive director on the BBC board in April only came about following sustained support from key Conservative adviser Dougie Smith”, noting “The FT reported that part of Gibb’s resistance to Brammar centres on a row between HuffPost UK and Conservative equalities minister Kemi Badenoch”. Do go on.
“After being approached with a series of questions by a HuffPost reporter in January, Badenoch embarked on a Twitter tirade about how the site had a vendetta against her. Brammar then defended her reporter and attempted to force the Cabinet Office to investigate Badenoch’s conduct”. Ms Brammar had defended her journalists.
The impression that Gibb is interfering on the Tories’ behalf is inescapable. As Paul Waugh put it, “How can a non-exec director of the BBC interfere in a recruitment process?” Steven Barnett added “Robbie Gibb trying to stop a senior BBC news appointment that Downing St doesn't like. Huge test of BBC ability to resist political interference”.
Matthew d’Ancona - hardly a screaming leftie - mused “Deeply worrying: [Jess Brammar] (who would be excellent in the role) was not acting in a remotely partisan way in defending her reporter. And what is Robbie Gibb doing getting involved in the first place?” James O’Brien noted the involvement of Dougie Smith, then added this coda.
“The reported Robbie Gibb scandal creates, if true, the perception that *every* senior BBC appointment has been tacitly approved by Number 10. Only his immediate resignation could begin to rectify this”. Gibb’s been caught with his fingers in the till.
But he probably isn’t big enough to do the decent thing. So he'll have to be sacked.
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