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The BBC has been accused of allowing its Comic Relief TV appeal to become ‘an advert for Jeremy Corbyn’.
Tory MPs reacted with FURY at this year’s Red Nose Day broadcast, lambasting BBC bosses for peddling ‘socialist nonsense’ and making ‘absurd’ claims about the scale of poverty in Britain.
During the six-hour broadcast on Friday night, celebrities painted a bleak picture of hunger, deprivation and homelessness in the UK, which MPs say amounted to a political attack on Theresa May’s Government.
Under its Royal Charter, the BBC has a strict obligation to remain politically neutral, but in a series of controversies that rocked its flagship charity appeal:- Comedian Lenny Henry was heavily criticised for likening hunger in the UK with the malnutrition endured by millions in the developing world in the late 1980s;
- Chart-topping superstar Ed Sheeran was accused of hypocrisy after making a heartfelt plea about the plight of homeless people – after he sought to install railings to stop people sleeping rough outside his £8 million London home;
- Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman urged viewers to support a refugee charity which has made repeated attacks on the Government and is run by the daughter of a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn;
- Donations to the appeal fell, with £8 million less raised this year than during the previous event in 2017;
- Viewing figures were also down, with 600,000 fewer people watching the show this year.
Just minutes into this year’s BBC1 broadcast, Mr Henry made an appeal for FareShare, a charity which collects food which would otherwise be thrown away and hands it out to food banks and women’s refuges.
Sir Lenny, who famously recorded a film in Ethiopia for the first Red Nose Day in 1988, warned that ‘real hunger’ is ‘hitting a huge number of people in this country’. He added: ‘I have been talking about global poverty since Comic Relief began but if you told me back then that I would be here today asking you to reach into your pockets so we could help feed children in the UK, one of the richest countries in the world, I wouldn’t have believed you.
‘But that is where we are and that is exactly what I am doing.’
His comments were last night branded ‘complete rubbish’ and ‘socialist nonsense’ by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory Work and Pensions Secretary. ‘That statement is frankly, simply not true,’ he said. ‘That is an absurd exaggeration and clearly should not be used in Comic Relief advertisements.’
FareShare claims that one in eight people ‘go hungry in the UK’, equivalent to more than 8.25 million people. But according to the latest figures from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, 2.2 million people in the UK – around 3.4 per cent – are ‘severely food insecure’, which means they are ‘experiencing hunger’.
Tory MP Nigel Evans said Sir Lenny’s film ‘paints a horrific picture’ of Britain, adding: ‘This is an advert for Jeremy Corbyn and his brand of politics that will alienate a lot of people.
‘This is a Party Political Broadcast and that is incredibly dangerous. I know they want to raise funds but distorting the picture in order to do so is not clever and it runs the risk of dragging the BBC and the charity into politics, which is somewhere they really do not want to go.’
The BBC last night said: ‘Across the evening a number of films are broadcast which demonstrate the depth and range of the many projects and issues supported by Comic Relief both in the UK and abroad. Thanks to the generosity of the public, vital work such as that shown last night can continue making a positive difference to so many people’s lives.’
Charity run by daughter of Labour MP
The daughter of a key Jeremy Corbyn ally runs a refugee charity supported by the BBC’s Comic Relief.
Oxford-educated Bethany Gardiner-Smith is CEO of Safe Passage, which helps reunite children from refugee camps with their families in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.
But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the 31-year-old’s father is Barry Gardiner, Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade and a staunch cheerleader for Mr Corbyn.
Last night, critics accused the BBC of straying into political territory by supporting the charity and warned that the public would stop donating if Comic Relief became politicised.
TWO top SNP figures have accused the BBC of deliberately demoting the status of the third party at Westminster.
A joint letter sent to the BBC by SNP depute leader Keith Brown and Westminster leader Ian Blackford raises “two formal complaints” against the broadcaster.
First, the SNP say their status as the third biggest party at Westminster is being actively downplayed by BBC editors and managers because they only represent Scotland.
Second, they say the broadcaster is failing to serve all audiences equally by continually under-representing them on flagship shows like Politics Live and Newsnight.
After key Brexit votes were held in the House of Commons this week, the BBC on two occasions broadcast both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s responses, but cut away as the SNP’s Westminster leader began speaking. They also cut away from the Commons just as Blackford was standing up to give his opening remarks in the original debate over May’s deal on Tuesday.
The SNP are the third largest party at Westminster and the party of government in Scotland.
The letter from Brown and Blackford argues that the BBC’s news and current affairs programming is falling below the standards of its editorial guidelines.
The pair also say the BBC is “in breach of its mission and responsibility” to serve licence fee payers across every UK country, erasing the SNP from its coverage by “consistent and deliberate editorial decisions”.
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