Dorries' fury at Nick Robinson after he told PM to 'stop talking'

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries tells allies she is furious at Nick Robinson for telling PM to ‘stop talking’ during an interview and says he’s ‘cost the BBC a lot of money’ as she oversees negotiations over future of licence fee

  • Nadine Dorries has called on the BBC to put forward plans to tackle impartiality
  • Cabinet minister angered by PM’s exchange with Nick Robinson on Today show
  • After interview Tory MPs complained about how Mr Johnson had been treated

Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries privately expressed her anger to allies after Boris Johnson was told to ‘stop talking’ during a heated debate with presenter Nick Robinson.

The culture secretary, who took over from Oliver Dowden in the Cabinet reshuffle, expressed her frustration at Mr Robinson after his tense exchange with the Prime Minister on Radio 4’s Today programme – which sparked 558 Ofcom complaints this month. 

The heated interview saw the MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, who has previously called on the BBC to put forward plans to tackle impartiality, privately tell allies: ‘Nick Robinson has cost the BBC a lot of money’, The Times reports.  

While it is not clear where Ms Dorries expressed her anger at the presenter, the threat over money is understood to centre around the minister’s role in overseeing the future of the BBC licence fee and how Mr Robinson’s interview with the PM could affect the deal the corporation get. 

It appears the minister, who once described the state-run television as ‘more in keeping with a Soviet-style country’, is likely to play hardball in future negotiations following the interview.

Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries, who took over from Oliver Dowden in the Cabinet reshuffle in September, told allies: ‘Nick Robinson has cost the BBC a lot of money’

The Prime Minister’s exchange with Nick Robinson on the Today programme sparked 558 Ofcom complaints this month

During her first meeting with Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, and the corporation’s chairman Richard Sharp last month the culture secretary is understood to have called for reforms and a greater monitoring of the balance of news programmes within the corporation.

She also called on BBC bosses to address bias and elitism within the corporation.

A source told The Times: ‘They were both stunned and gulped down their tea. They thought she was just going to roll over.’ 

It comes as the BBC revealed it had received 558 objections on the grounds of bias over the heated Radio 4’s Today show between the Prime Minster and Nick Robinson earlier this month.      

The interview at the Conservative conference in Manchester immediately got off to a tense start, with Mr Robinson saying how long it had been since Mr Johnson was last on the show, prompting him to cheekily reply ‘has it really been that long?’

During the interview, Mr Johnson was interrupted during a long-winded answer on the supply chain crisis by Mr Robinson, who told him: ‘Prime Minister, you are going to pause. 

‘Prime Minister, stop talking, we are going to have questions and answers, not where you merely talk, if you wouldn’t mind.’

The PM replied, ‘I’m very happy to stop talking,’ before Mr Robinson asked him another question about business taxation. 

After a series of other irritable exchanges, Mr Robinson ended the interview and told the PM: ‘Thank you for talking to the Today programme and allowing the occasional question as well.’

The politician hit back: ‘It’s very kind of you to let me talk … I thought that was the point of inviting me on your show.’ 

Following the interview Tory MPs complained about how Mr Johnson had been treated, with John Redwood tweeting: ‘When the PM had a good answer to a question, the BBC Today programme tried to stop him, asking a different question.

During the interview, Mr Johnson was interrupted during an answer on the supply chain crisis by Mr Robinson

The MP for Mid-Bedfordshire has previously called on the BBC to put forward plans to tackle impartiality

‘BBC interviewers should allow an answer and pretend to be interested in the person they are interviewing. They seem to want to impose their view instead.’

Andrew Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire, dismissed Mr Robinson’s approach as ‘slapstick’.

He said: ‘Trademark BBC rudeness coarsens political debate. Rarely gets ”gotcha moment” its overpaid pundits are after.’

Bias at the BBC 

The BBC has repeatedly been accused of bias by critics

In July, it emerged that the corporation had received a record 500,000 complaints from viewers in a year amid concerns over the broadcaster’s ‘perceived bias’.

The figures were revealed in the BBC’s annual report, which acknowledged that ‘too many people perceive the BBC to be shaped by a particular perspective’.

The list of complaints was topped by Emily Maitlis with her monologue on Newsnight about Dominic Cummings in May 2020.

Ms Maitlis, during a discussion about Mr Cummings’ journey from London to Durham during the first national lockdown, claimed Boris Johnson’s former adviser ‘broke the rules’ adding: ‘The country can see that, and it’s shocked the Government cannot.’

Her speech later prompted 23,674 complaints and broadcasting watchdog Ofcom warned the BBC that hosts must not ‘inadvertently give the impression of setting out personal opinions’

BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty, alongside co-host and Charlie Stayt, also attracted 6,498 complaints after the pair appeared to mock Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick over the size of the Union flag in his office.

Ms Munchetty was later forced to apologise after liking social media posts in support of the on-air comments.

Not long after the PM had left the studio Mr Robinson – the BBC’s former political editor – sought to answer criticisms he had been rude.

He said: ‘For those listeners who may have been slightly offended by me telling the prime minister to stop talking… the truth is he’s a great communicator [but] he’s not a man who [always] loves the cut and thrust of question and answer’.        

Speaking at a Conservative Party fringe event this month, Ms Dorries demanded change at the BBC, saying its staff needed to reflect a wider demographic than just people ‘whose mum and dads work there’. 

Asked whether the licence fee would still be compulsory in 10 or 20 years, she said: ‘I can’t look into the future. Will the BBC still be here in 10 years? I don’t know.

 ‘We can’t look into the future. It is a very competitive environment at the moment.

‘You have got Amazon Prime, Netflix and other bods coming down the line.

‘This younger generation that are coming through, they certainly watch their television in a very different way to how my generation watched its TV, so who knows where we will be?’

She insisted she did not want a ‘war’ with the broadcaster but suggested it would have to set out how it will change before the next licence fee settlement, which covers the five years from April 2022.   

In 2014, Ms Dorries backed a campaign to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee, writing on her blog that state-run television was ‘outdated’. 

She wrote: ‘Such a structure of payment and aggressive persecution would be more in keeping in a Soviet-style country.’ 

At an event hosted by the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast last month, Ms Dorries, said she had ‘an interesting meeting’ with the BBC director-general Tim Davie and chairman Richard Sharp.

‘The perspective of the BBC is that they will get a settlement fee and then we will talk about how they are going to change,’ the culture secretary said.

‘My perspective is ”tell me how you are going to change and then you get the settlement fee”.

Ms Dorries highlighted a series of issues she had with the broadcaster, including a lack of working-class diversity and perceived political bias.

‘It’s about recognising that access and lack of impartiality are part of your problem,’ she said.

She said there was a ‘groupthink’ at the corporation which ‘excludes working-class backgrounds’.

‘North West, North East, Yorkshire – if you have got a regional accent in the BBC it doesn’t go down particularly well,’ she said.

‘They talk about lots to do with diversity but they don’t talk about kids from working-class backgrounds and that’s got to change.’

Asked how to address that, she said: ‘It’s not about quotas, it’s just about having a more fair approach and a less elitist and a less snobbish approach as to who works for you.’  

MailOnline has approached Ms Dorries and the BBC for comment.

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