UK

BBC Dismisses The Canary's Claim Laura Kuenssberg Is To Speak At Tory Party Conference

No, we don't 'need to talk' about this, The Canary.

27/09/2017 15:09 BST | Updated 27/09/2017 18:08 BST

The BBC has dismissed leftwing, pro-Jeremy Corbyn website The Canary’s suggestion that Laura Kuenssberg was speaking at Tory Party conference.

The broadcaster’s political editor has suffered online abuse and threats so severe that she has required a bodyguard during the Labour Party conference she is currently covering.

The Canary, a website that repeatedly accuses the BBC of rightwing bias, wrote an article on Wednesday claiming that Kuenssberg was an “invited” speaker at a fringe event of the Tory conference, which starts on Sunday.

PA Wire/PA Images
Laura Kuenssberg talks with Jeremy Corbyn (centre) and his press aide Seamus Milne (right) at Labour's conference in Brighton

“The news raises questions about the impartiality of the journalist and her organisation. Again,” the Canary article reads.

It included a screengrab of the speakers’ list for an event organised by the Centre for Social Justice, the centre-right think tank founded by Iain Duncan Smith, and the Living Wage Foundation.

The article prompted the BBC to issue a denial, tweeting that Kuenssberg was only at the Labour and Conservative conferences to “report impartially”.

The Canary article said its inaccurate claim followed “months of accusations about Kuenssberg’s impartiality”.

The site, set up in 2015, has sought to establish itself as a credible source of information, despite its use of extreme, partisan headlines to attract attention on social media. However, the BBC took it seriously enough to invite its editor on Question Time in June.  

But its Kuenssberg story attracted the condemnation from mainstream journalists for failing to check its suggestions.

Buzzfeed’s Jim Waterson said it had taken him two minutes to establish it was “bollocks”.

Columnist Kate Maltby called it a “smear” and disputed the idea it was wrong for journalists to address third party events at conferences, even if Kuenssberg were doing that.

Deputy Newsnight editor Jess Brammar said the article “would be funny if a williness to lie in headlines weren’t so pernicious”. 

Writing in The New Statesman, Helen Lewis accused the Canary of running a “sexist hate campaign for clicks”. 

The Centre for Social Justice tweeted that inviting Kuenssberg was “wishful thinking” and suggested maybe inviting leftwing columnist Owen Jones, who is also attending. 

According to the screengrab the Canary used, a representative from The Times was also invited to speak.

The Canary’s article follows outrage and condemnation about the need for Kuenssberg to require a bodyguard. She has become a regular target for anger by those who accuse the BBC of political bias.

The Sun On Sunday quoted a BBC insider who said protection was needed because of “big crowds where there can be hostility”.

Diane Abbott, herself the recipient of a huge amount of abuse, said told a Labour fringe event it was “just wrong” and had to stop.

“There can never be any excuse for any abuse of anybody,” Jeremy Corbyn said in his centrepiece speech in Brighton on Wednesday.

Steve Topple, the author of the Canary article, tweeted earlier to suggest he didn’t think much of claims Kuenssberg suffered abuse, accusing her of “trying to cause a row” between Corbyn and John McDonnell.

He then added: “SHIT. SORRY. I can’t say that. Could be abusing her.”

He had also complained that “any debate about Laura Kuenssberg and why people might be angry with her has been neatly shut down”.