Downing Street has made a furious complaint to the broadcaster after it led its Radio 4 bulletins with claims from a Left-leaning think-tank that the measures unveiled by Chancellor Philip Hammond would mainly benefit the rich. One aide described the report on Tuesday’s Today programme as ‘the most biased bulletin in history’.
The row erupted after the flagship news show highlighted research by the Resolution Foundation without revealing that its director, Torsten Bell, was head of policy for former Labour leader Ed Miliband.
The Conservative Party has issued a damning rebuke to the BBC’s coverage of the £55 billion spending boost
The 7am bulletin declared that ‘an independent analysis of the Budget has said that despite moves to end austerity, low and middle income families face a continued squeeze’.
It repeated the claim in its 8am bulletin – but minus the word ‘independent’.
Last night, the Conservative Party issued a damning rebuke to the BBC’s coverage of the £55 billion spending boost, which was largely welcomed by the rest of the media.
A spokesman said: ‘It is frankly astounding that on the morning after the Government cut taxes for 32 million people, increased the national living wage to help 2.4 million low-income earners, and invested £1.7 billion more in Universal Credit, the BBC chose to lead its coverage on a report from a Left-wing think-tank that claimed only rich people would benefit.
The 7am bulletin declared that ‘an independent analysis of the Budget has said that despite moves to end austerity, low and middle income families face a continued squeeze’
‘The Resolution Foundation report only looked at income tax measures – if you look at the whole package of measures in the Budget, you will see it is those on the lowest incomes who benefit proportionately the most.
‘Even the Shadow Chancellor [John McDonnell] agreed this was a good Budget for low- and middle- income earners but not, it seems, the BBC, which gave top billing to some half-baked Left-wing spin’.
Last night the BBC refused to apologise for its coverage, describing the research as ‘the first detailed analysis of the Budget’, which was ‘clearly attributed to the Resolution Foundation’.
The contentious bulletins included an analysis by Economics Editor Kamal Ahmed, who this week takes up a promotion to become editorial director of BBC News.
According to the Treasury, the extra £6.6 billion announced by Mr Hammond to plug gaps in the Universal Credit social security system will hand an extra £630 a year to 2.4 million working families.
In addition, the threshold at which people will start paying tax will increase from £11,850 to £12,500, while the national living wage will go up by 4.9 per cent to £8.21 an hour.
There were also big spending commitments on defence and roads, in addition to the extra £20 billion a year for the NHS announced by Mrs May earlier this year. The package was so generous that some Tory MPs think it could pave the way for a snap General Election.
However, Radio 4 used research by the Resolution Foundation without revealing that its director, Torsten Bell, was head of policy for former Labour leader Ed Miliband
On air, Mr Ahmed disputed that it was an ‘end of austerity’ Budget, quoting the Resolution Foundation’s claim that the top ten per cent of households would gain most – around £410 a year – from tax changes, with poorer households gaining around £30 a year.
Mr Ahmed added: ‘Many of the cuts to welfare announced in 2015 are still to be rolled out… which the Foundation said would see a low-income couple with children up to £200 a year worse-off’.
Torsten Bell has been blamed by former Labour colleagues for the grandiose ‘Edstone’, the 8ft 6in tombstone engraved with six pledges for the 2015 Election.
Last night, Tory MPs lined up to criticise the BBC over its Budget coverage. Former Cabinet Minister Priti Patel said: ‘The BBC’s news editors need to take a hard look at themselves.
‘The BBC let their coverage be led by these claims from a Left-wing think-tank without employing an ounce of critical analysis.’
Daniel Kawczynski said: ‘It’s time the BBC rebalanced their political bias and remembered that they’re paid for by all British taxpayers.’
And Andrew Percy added: ‘It’s time the BBC acted as our national broadcaster rather than an echo chamber for the Left.’
In 2013, a report by the Right-leaning Centre for Policy Studies concluded that the BBC was more likely to cover Left-wing think-tank reports and to hail them as ‘independent’, while giving Right-wing research a ‘health warning’.
On Wednesday, BBC executives told news staff that the Resolution Foundation should be described as ‘a think-tank which aims to improve the standard of living of low and middle-income families’.
The Resolution Foundation said it was ‘an independent, non-partisan think-tank’, pointing out that its executive chairman is Conservative peer Lord Willetts.
A spokesman added: ‘Our analysis of the Budget, as well as that of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, highlighted that higher-income households would benefit most from the income tax cuts, while lower-income families would see incomes increased by the decision to reverse cuts to Universal Credit, but would lose from other ongoing reductions in social security generosity.’