A Tory minister has refused to be interviewed on the BBC’s flagship Today programme after John Humphrys’ controversial comments about equal pay, it was claimed last night.
The new minister of loneliness, Tracey Crouch, is said to be angry that the presenter has failed to apologise for mocking the BBC’s former China editor, Carrie Gracie.
Other women MPs are following suit, with Caroline Dineage, the Tory MP for Gosport tweeting her support for her fellow minister. She wrote that she ‘couldn’t be more proud of my pal @tracey_crouch.’
Humphrys was overheard joking about Miss Gracie’s warnings over the BBC’s gender pay gap. The veteran presenter told North America editor Jon Sopel: ‘Oh dear God. She’s actually suggested that you should lose money – you know that, don’t you?’
Tracey Crouch (left) has refused to be interviewed on the BBC’s flagship Today programme after John Humphry’s (right) has failed to apologise for joking about Carrie Gracie’s BBC gender pay gap warnings
Caroline Dineage, Tory MP for Gosport tweeted her support for her fellow minister
Miss Crouch, who would not comment when contacted, has previously said a similar conversation between two male ministers would have resulted in demands for an apology or the prospect of them losing their jobs.
It is understood Miss Crouch, who is also sports minister, turned down a bid for an interview from the Today programme as part of a wider piece on her new role as the minister for loneliness.
Her decision led the editor of the programme to raise the issue with Downing Street, which blamed logistics, according to the paper.
Another MP who was asked to appear on Today told producers she would consider it, but wanted to express her annoyance about Humphrys’ comments.
‘When they told me it would be him interviewing me, I just laughed,’ said the MP, who then refused to go on.
Carrie Gracie (pictured) came out and said doesn’t trust her BBC bosses and believes they lied to her about why men get paid more following her resignation
Former Tory Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said Miss Crouch’s decision would make her ‘think twice’ about being interviewed by Humphrys.
Last night, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage criticised Miss Crouch, saying she was ‘cutting off her nose to spite her face’.
‘If I boycotted all the media that had said disobliging things about Eurosceptics, I would be living in a cave in the Scottish Highlands,’ he said. ‘You have to take the rough with the smooth and the relationship with the media and politicians is like that. Has she ever stopped to think that he may just be taking the mickey, or is that not allowed any more.’
According to the Guardian, one guest who appeared on Today claimed a figure at the radio programme had said it was struggling to attract senior women.
But the BBC denied this, pointing to recent interviews with international development secretary Penny Mordaunt, and the Labour pair of Yvette Cooper and Rosena Allin-Khan.
They also said that while they could not comment on individual staff matters, the management at the BBC had been ‘deeply unimpressed’ by Humphrys’ remarks.
Former Tory Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan (pictured) said Miss Crouch’s decision would make her ‘think twice’ about being interviewed by Humphrys
Some MPs offered Miss Crouch their backing. Labour’s Stella Creasy said politicians wanted to ‘show solidarity’ with the women in the BBC, because of the response to Miss Gracie’s decision to resign. Miss Creasy, who complained that the BBC blocked journalists who had tweeted their support for Miss Gracie from presenting on-air segments about the pay row, wrote to culture secretary Matt Hancock to warn of a ‘chilling effect’.
‘We remain concerned about how the BBC is handling equal pay and handling staff speaking out, so decided to show solidarity to get them to take it seriously,’ she said.
‘It’s the responsibility of every staff member to take these issues seriously and it doesn’t appear at the moment that John Humphrys is on the same page.’
A spokesman for Miss Crouch’s department admitted she had not managed to fit in the Today programme, but added: ‘Tracey Crouch spoke to a number of broadcasters, including the BBC, on her role leading the Government’s new loneliness strategy.’
A BBC statement described Humphrys’ comments as ‘ill-advised’ and said he regretted them.
Tracey Crouch: The Sports minister the Prime Minister put in charge of tackling loneliness
Tracey Crouch, 42, has been named as the minister for loneliness, which she combines with her role as minister for civil society and sport.
She grew up in Kent before attending the University of Hull where she studied law and politics, hoping to become a solicitor. However, she began working as a researcher for a Tory MP before working in public relations where she held several roles, including head of public affairs for Aviva.
She was then elected as the MP for Chatham and Aylesford in 2010 – becoming the first Conservative to win the seat.
Despite having always wanted to be Sports Minister, the FA-qualified football coach was hesitant to accept the role when David Cameron offered it to her after the election in 2015.
She told him she had had a miscarriage during the election campaign, then aged 40, that had ‘changed my priorities in life’.
Later in 2015 she revealed she was expecting a child and became the first Tory minister to announce she would take maternity leave.
She was also the first minister ever to use the shared paternal leave arrangements introduced by the Coalition government, and shared time off with her partner, Steve Ladner.