Ministers set to snub BBC's Newsnight after it hires Labour activist

Ministers set to snub BBC’s Newsnight after it hires Labour activist who made a string of anti-Tory comments on social media and likened Boris Johnson to Enoch Powell

  • Ministers are already under orders from No. 10 to snub BBC Radio 4’s Today
  • Threat follows government’s criticism of the licence fee and election coverage 
  • It has called the BBC a ‘pro-remain metropolitan bubble in Islington’ 

The BBC faced a fresh Government boycott last night after handing a plum job on Newsnight to a former Labour activist who likened Boris Johnson to Enoch Powell.

Ministers are already snubbing Radio 4’s Today under orders from No 10, and say the BBC2 flagship current affairs programme – presented by Emily Maitlis – is likely to be added to the blacklist.

The threat follows the appointment of Lewis Goodall as Newsnight’s policy editor. He is the author of a string of aggressively anti-Tory comments on social media.

Lewis Goodall has been hired as Newsnight’s policy editor, prompting the government’s decision to ban ministers from going on the programme

The decision means that ministers will no longer be grilled by presenter Emily Maitlis, pictured, who conducted a bombshell interview with Prince Andrew on his relationship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein

Downing Street has questioned the future of the licence fee and complained about the BBC’s General Election coverage, saying it spoke ‘to a pro-Remain metropolitan bubble in Islington, not the real world represented by Wakefield and Workington’.

Mr Goodall, 30, takes up his position this month after moving from Sky News, where he posted a series of highly opinionated Left-wing comments on Twitter.

When Boris Johnson controversially prorogued Parliament in September, Mr Goodall condemned the Prime Minister for refusing to apologise for ‘embarrassing the Queen’, which he described as ‘astounding’.

The same month, Mr Goodall tweeted that the Tory Party was increasingly ‘willing to tolerate a leader who does things/says things they never would have been willing to countenance previously just because they think he’ll bring them electoral success’, adding that it mimicked the ‘slow nervous breakdown on the Right’ in the US.

In contrast, in October Mr Goodall hailed the virtues of Sir Keir Starmer, now favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, saying: ‘Starmer is a rare politician these days. Someone who speaks from the dispatch box utterly across the detail and addresses serious policy not just the politics.’

Number 10 has already told ministers not to go on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme following allegations of bias. (Pictured: Lewis Goodall holding an electoral map of the UK)

After Channel 4 miscaptioned a speech by Mr Johnson to wrongly suggest he had referred to ‘people of colour’ – it was actually ‘people of talent’ – Mr Goodall was one of the first to retweet the slur.

When Mr Johnson was at the centre of a row in 2018 over his remarks likening Muslim women wearing burkas to letterboxes and bank robbers, Mr Goodall likened it to the furore over the late Tory MP Enoch Powell’s notorious ‘rivers of blood’ speech in 1968 on the supposed dangers of immigration. Mr Goodall wrote on a blog that the burka row showed that in Britain ‘you can say what you like as long as you’re posh’, adding: ‘Imagine the same words said with an Essex or Yorkshire or Brummie accent. Imagine them being said not by Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, but by a labourer, on camera for a clip on the six o’clock news’. In that case, he said, the PM’s remarks were more likely to be seen as ‘prejudiced, ignorant, rude, vulgar and yes, probably racist’.

He added: ‘With Mr Johnson, there is no such fear or worry of guilt by association. Rather, because of his verbosity, his humour, his Bertie Wooster cut-glass accent and demeanour, because of his power, he cannot be any of those things.

‘In this he resembles another would-be populist, indeed, the first: Enoch Powell… It is perhaps not mere coincidence that both men were classicists. It is their place atop of the English hierarchy of culture and class which makes them all the more grievous… It legitimises the prejudices of others, further down the class food chain, it suggests that certain things which probably ought not to be alright, in fact are. That is why I give the suggestion that there has been an increase in the numbers of attacks on women wearing the niqab in recent days absolute credibility.’

Last night, a senior adviser to a Cabinet Minister told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There is no way I am going to let my Minister go in front of someone like Goodall, and plenty of others feel the same way. Newsnight has been moving off our radar for years – this will just speed up the process.’ The BBC is considering banning its journalists from using Twitter because of the growing row about bias.

Mr Goodall has made a number of political comments, including likening Boris Johnson to Enoch Powell. His appointment has led to further criticism of the BBC

Mr Goodall was studying history and politics at Oxford when he began writing opinion pieces for The Guardian, which described him as ‘a Labour Party activist and blogger’. He has also worked for the Left-wing Institute for Public Policy Research. In 2018 he wrote a book called Left For Dead? The Strange Death And Rebirth Of The Labour Party.

Last weekend, author Charles Moore, a guest editor on Today, accused the BBC of reflecting the prejudices of its managers. His outburst came after a survey revealed that more than two-thirds of the public think the £154.50 annual licence fee should be scrapped or reformed.

Last night a BBC spokesman said: ‘No issue has been raised with Newsnight directly.’

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