The BBC’s Nick Robinson got into a slanging match with Boris Johnson as the Prime Minister made his first appearance on the Today programme for two years – with the presenter at one point telling him: ‘Stop talking!’.
The interview at the Conservative conference in Manchester immediately got off to a tense start, with Mr Robinson pointedly 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.’
Boris Johnson and Nick Robinson (both seen at the Tory conference today) got into a heated exchange on the Today programme
The PM replied, ‘I’m very happy to stop talking,’ before Mr Robinson asked him another question about business taxation.
The intervention clearly irritated Mr Johnson, who said he wanted to ‘get back to the point I was trying to make when you asked me to stop talking, an injunction you seem to have revoked’.
After a series of other irritable exchanges, Mr Robinson ended the interview with another loaded comment, telling him: ‘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.’
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.
‘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.’
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’.
Tory MPs complained about how Mr Johnson had been treated on the flagship programme
It comes at a difficult time for relations between the BBC and the government, with new Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries questioning whether the broadcaster would still exist in a decade during a fringe event at the conference last night.
She also took aim at the corporation for alleged nepotism and elitism – despite herself once employing her two daughters on her parliamentary staff.
Asked about Ms Dorries remarks, Mr Johnson told GB News in Manchester: ‘The BBC has been around for a very long time, it’s a great national institution, I’ve no doubt that it will be around for a long time to come.’
Ms Dorries, 64, demanded change at the organisation, saying its staff needed to reflect a wider demographic than just people ‘whose mum and dads work there’.
Speaking at a Conservative Party fringe event, the Liverpudlian Bedfordshire MP said its ‘groupthink mentality’ excluded minorities and people with regional accents.
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?’
It comes at a difficult time for relations between the BBC and the government, with new Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries questioning whether the broadcaster would still exist in a decade
Her comments about nepotism sparked a furious blast from BBC staff including presenter Clive Myrie, who used the Twitter hashtag #mymum to collate examples of staff who didn’t get jobs through their parents.
Ms Dorries herself hit the headline sin 2013 when, as a backbench MP, she was revealed as being among among 28 MPs who gave relatives pay rises at the taxpayers’ expense.
The MP for Mid Bedfordshire, boosted the salary of her daughter Philippa, then 28, into the £40,000-£44,999 pay band from the £30,400 she was earning as a constituency caseworker.
The one-time I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! contestant also paid her daughter Jennifer, then 26, up to £35,000 to work as a ‘senior secretary’.
In her fringe appearance yesterday Ms Dorries 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.