One of the Conservative government’s chief Brexiteers has been labelled a “tinpot dictator” after accusing the BBC of “wilfully” ignoring good news stories about Brexit.
The Sun on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph have reported Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, has written to the BBC complaining that it has chosen not to report on figures published by his department showing “positive economic data”.
“I cannot recall a single time in recent times when I have seen good economic news that the BBC did not describe as ‘despite Brexit’,” Fox said in a letter to the corporation’s Director-General, Lord Hall, claiming the coverage is undermining his efforts to strike trade deals.
But the missive prompted a backlash from the pro-EU Liberal Democrats. Its Chief Whip, MP Alistair Carmichael, said:
“This is a blatant attempt at intimidating the BBC and undermining the independence of our media.
“The BBC shouldn’t be bullied into publishing government propaganda and has rightly stood its ground.
“Liam Fox is acting like a tinpot dictator. He can’t blame the media for his inability to deliver on all the trade deals promised by the Brexiteers.”
In his letter, Fox reportedly claims there is a “clear pattern of unbalanced reporting of the EU economy” and the work of his department.
He cites examples, including:
The BBC not reporting new figures showing a record number of projects in the UK from overseas investors, despite his team calling the BBC’s news desks.
He also claims statistics showing exports rose by 10.8 per cent were over-looked for a story about the widening trade deficit.
The BBC dismissed the claim: “No organisation takes coverage of the economy more seriously.
“We do not recognise the characterisation of our coverage outlined in the letter, but the BBC is always happy to talk with politicians as we always do on a regular basis.”
It’s not the first time Fox has damned the media for its Brexit coverage.
After Tory Andrea Leadsom’s claim that broadcasters should be more “patriotic”, Fox told the House of Commons “some elements” want the UK to fail in its negotiations with Brussels.
“It does appear that some elements of our media would rather see Britain fail than see Brexit succeed,” Fox said.
“I cannot recall a single time in recent times when I have seen good economic news that the BBC didn’t describe as ‘despite Brexit’.
The tone of his remarks was similar to that adopted by Leadsom, the Leader of the Commons.
She told BBC Newsnight: “It would be helpful if broadcasters were willing to be a bit patriotic. The country took a decision, this government is determined to deliver on that decision.”