UK

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ fury at Nick Robinson after he told PM to ‘stop talking’

Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries was left angered 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 after the exchange between Mr Robinson and the Prime Minister on Radio 4’s Today programme – which sparked 558 Ofcom complaints this month. 

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

It comes as Ms Dorries, whose appointment comes amid ongoing talks with the broadcaster about what level the licence fee should be set at for the next five years,  recently told BBC bosses to address bias and elitism within the corporation.

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

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 moth the culture secretary is understood to have called for reforms and a greater monitoring of the balance of news programmes 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.’ 

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

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

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.

‘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’.        

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. 

MailOnline has approached Ms Dorries and the BBC for comment.


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