Andrea Leadsom MP has been accused of “echoing the Soviet view of broadcasting” after calling on broadcasters to be “a bit patriotic” during an interview on BBC Newsnight.
Leadsom, who is Leader of the House of Commons, made the remark as she was facing pressure from presenter Emily Maitliss over the start of Brexit negotiations.
The exchange, aired on BBC One on Friday, was as follows:
Leadsom: “… 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.
Maitliss: “Are you accusing me of being unpatriotic for questioning how negotiations are going , questioning whether you have the position of strength that she [Theresa May] said she wanted?”
Leadsom: “I’m not accusing you of anything Emily, I’m simply saying we all need to pull together as a country…”
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) June 23, 2017
Leadsom’s comments were condemned by some journalists on Twitter and in comment pieces today.
The BBC’s John Simpson, tweeted: “Depressing to hear @andrealeadsom echoing the Soviet view of broadcasting – that its duty is to be ‘patriotic’ – i.e. to back views of govt.”
Former Telegraph writer Tim Walker said: “Andrea Leadsom doesn’t get that journalism doesn’t have to be ‘patriotic.’ It just has to be honest.”
In a comment piece for the Times, former controller of Radio 4 Mark Damazer said Leadsom’s comments were “beyond parody”, adding: “The sheer witlessness of her remarks will ensure they have no impact on news and current affairs journalists at all.”
Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire said in a column that Leadsom’s comments amounted to “phoney patriotism” and had “all the hypocrisy of a well-heeled banker waving a cheap plastic Union Jack made in China”.