Liberal Democrat President Sal Brinton and Party Chief Executive Nick Harvey have written to the Director General of the BBC, Lord Hall, questioning the legality of excluding the Liberal Democrats from the proposed Brexit debate.
A letter has been sent outlining that the Party will seek legal advice on the decision of the BBC to exclude the Liberal Democrats. This was following on from a letter sent earlier this week, in which the Party expressed disbelief at the format which would see two party leader’s with strikingly similar views engage in an entirely superficial ‘debate’.
Without the Liberal Democrats, who are the only national party to consistently oppose Brexit, there would be a complete imbalance of the political narrative which exists within the UK.
If this format is found to be in breach of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, the Party will seek a judicial review.
Notes to editors:
29th November 2018
Dear Lord Hall,
Further to the letter from the Liberal Democrats on the 27th November, you will be aware of reports indicating that the BBC have offered to host a debate between the Prime Minister and the Labour Leader.
We are deeply concerned by these reports, and disappointed that the BBC has failed to communicate with us in regard to any such plans, particularly given the details reported in the Guardian of some apparent proposals for other programmes that could include others beyond the Prime Minister and Labour Leader.
In light of these reports we are now seeking legal opinion on the reported proposed format and the possible exclusion of ourselves from the debate.
As we set out in our previous letter, a head-to-head debate between two leaders committed to Brexit would be entirely unacceptable, fail to provide balance and would be a huge disservice to millions of people who voted to remain in the European Union, and the growing number who want a people’s vote on the Brexit deal. It would be extraordinary for a publicly funded broadcaster to consider excluding such a sizeable viewpoint from a prime-time debate.
We are further concerned that any debate would move from the confines of the draft Brexit deal to broader political issues – the future of public services, the impact on the environment – where the Liberal Democrat position on such matters would be entirely unrepresented.
The BBC editorial guidelines state the need to “aim to give due weight and prominence to all the main strands of argument and to all the main parties”. The Ofcom Broadcasting Code emphasises the need for “due impartiality” and “an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included and given due weight” in such proposed programmes. This is something that could not be achieved in a head-to-head debate between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May without a Liberal Democrat representative.
The Liberal Democrats are advocating a vote on the Brexit deal, with the public being given an option to remain in the EU – a distinctive view that is not represented by either Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn. This policy was included in our 2017 General Election manifesto, in contrast to other parties.
The distinctive position the Liberal Democrats offer on Brexit must be considered in arranging any forthcoming debate on the Brexit deal, in which we expect to be included.
We look forward to your response on this matter.