Labour politicians keen to take back control of a north west London town hall have written to BBC bosses to complain about what they claim is the British broadcaster's political and racial bias. The row comes at a time when the BBC is under fire for inviting the leader of the fascist British National Party (BNP), Nick Griffin, to appear on its popular Question Time TV programme on October 22.
Brent Labour councillors supported by their London Assembly member, Navin Shah, have written to the BBC to protest against the fact that Dawn Butler – the first ever elected Black woman minister has never been invited to appear on the programme while her white Liberal Democrat opponent, Sarah Teather, who could unseat Butler at the General Election next year, has appeared three times in the last nine months.
Labour lost power to the Liberal Democrats in Brent three years ago and they do not want to lose one of their two MPs in the borough as well. The letter to the BBC says “we have long detected a bias towards the Liberal Democrats in the BBC but we are truly alarmed that Nick Griffin will now appear on BBC’s Question Time before Britain’s first elected Black woman government minister”.
Councillor Ann M John, leader of Brent Council’s Labour Group, said: “The Brent Central constituency is unique in having two women MPs fighting against each other at the next General Election yet the BBC persists in promoting one of them at the expense of the other. Sarah Teather has appeared on no less than three occasions in the past nine months and Dawn has yet to be invited, despite being the country’s first elected black woman minister. This displays a remarkable lack of balance. It seems that the BBC would prefer to entertain the BNP leader rather than give a fair chance to Dawn Butler. No wonder Greg Dyke called the organisation hideously white.”
Anti-fascist campaigners say that hundreds of their members will demonstrate outside the venue (believed to be Television Centre at White City) of the BBC programme on which Griffin is due to appear to stop him entering the building. They plan to leaflet BBC workers on the day itself, as they arrive at the building in the morning, urging them to stop work for the day in protest.
Some prominent government ministers including South African-raised anti-apartheid campaigner Peter Hain have voiced their opposition to Griffin, who was one of two BNP members elected to the European Parliament from Britain this year, being allowed on the show.
In March 2009 Dawn Butler came under criticism for claiming almost the full £23,000 second home allowance for MPs, despite her other home in Stratford, east London, being the same distance from parliament as her Brent south home, unlike feisty, squeaky clean Sarah Teather.