A top Labour MP has accused the BBC of “consciously playing a part” in the party’s worst election defeat since 1935.
Andy McDonald descended into a furious clash with presenter Justin Webb as he appeared to alleged a deliberate attempt to hurt Labour on the part of the state broadcaster.
The Shadow Transport Secretary accepted “we got this terribly wrong” – but joined John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn in putting some blame on the media. And he went further by point the finger directly at the BBC.
It comes as the Tories also wage war on the BBC over supposed bias ‘against Brexit’. Ministers are boycotting the Today programme and threatening to cut funding by £200m by decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee.
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme presenter Justin Webb asked Mr McDonald about Labour’s heavy losses and whether the party’s leader played a part in that.
An Opinium poll last week found 43% of people who didn’t vote Labour cited the party’s leadership as their reason.
But Mr McDonald said: “Don’t get me started on the media, Justin. I’m very worried about our public service broadcaster.”
“Are you saying that the BBC was in part responsible for Mr Corbyn’s loss?” Webb asked.
Mr McDonald replied: “I am saying that they played a part. I’m really worried about the drift. You’ve seen the catalogue of criticisms that we’re making.
“We’ve accepted that the print media are rained against us, but my goodness me. I’m going to look at us.
“We’re the important part here. We got this wrong, but if the BBC are going to hold themselves out as somehow having conducted themselves in an impartial manner, I think they’ve really got to have a look in the mirror. We’ve got a lot to say about this.”
Asked if the BBC “consciously” played a part, Mr McDonald replied: “Consciously, yes.”
The BBC was hit by a string of rows over its coverage during the election campaign.
Its political editor was among journalists who tweeted unconfirmed reports that a Tory aide had been punched during a hospital visit.
The reports later turned out to be false briefings from Tory sources – with Labour accusing the Tories of outright lying.
The elections watchdog also issued a warning after Laura Kuenssberg commented on postal vote returns, which is banned under electoral law. The BBC said she had not broken the law.
The BBC said it accidentally used old footage of Boris Johnson laying a wreath at the Cenotaph, rather than this year’s clip in which he laid it upside down.
A clip of a correspondent went viral after she said Boris Johnson “deserves” victory in what the BBC called a slip of the tongue.
Meanwhile, the Tories were left furious after interviewer Andrew Neil “empty-chaired” Boris Johnson – who chickened out of an interview – with a devastating monologue on the Tory leader’s record and trustworthiness.
Mr McDonald said: “When you have a BBC presenter standing in front of a television camera saying ‘and Boris Johnson is on his way to a richly-deserved victory’.”
Webb said: “Oh, it’s a slip of the tongue. That’s absolute madness, isn’t it?”
Mr McDonald said: “How many slips of the tongue are we going to make until you accept it?
“I think it’s a distraction, quite frankly. Because I’m accepting that we got this wrong … you asked me about Jeremy Corbyn, I’ll say to you quite clearly: he is a principled, decent man and he’s vilified.
“I had in my constituency where posters were going up saying this man is effectively a paedophile, ‘you would not trust this man with your children’.
“How much more do we need to do to demonise a good individual? So, he’s no longer going to be leader.
“The Brexit issue is going to be progressed, we’re going to be out of the European Union on January 31 and we as the Labour Party have to galvanise around our core principles and make sure that we deliver for our people. It’s as simple as that.”
BBC director general Tony Hall emailed staff on Friday saying: “In a frenetic campaign where we’ve produced hundreds of hours of output, of course we’ve made the odd mistake and we’ve held up our hands to them.
“Editors are making tough calls every minute of the day.
“But I don’t accept the view of those critics who jump on a handful of examples to suggest we’re somehow biased one way or the other.”
It came as the party’s leadership battle descended into acrimony with Jeremy Corbyn facing renewed criticism and one of his key allies being accused of calling voters “stupid”.
Caroline Flint, who lost her seat in the former stronghold of Don Valley during the catastrophic election for Labour, claimed Emily Thornberry had told a colleague: “I’m glad my constituents aren’t as stupid as yours.”
The shadow foreign secretary said it was a “total and utter lie” and was understood to be consulting lawyers.
Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, reportedly wrote to the party’s ruling National Executive Committee recommending the contest starts on January 7, with the view of having a new leader by the end of March.
Mr Corbyn had written in an open letter that “I take my responsibility” for the loss and apologised, but had come under fire for an unrepentant tone on the night of the defeat – and saying “we won the argument” despite losing 59 seats.