The BBC was last night plunged into a damaging general election row after it admitted equipping three hecklers with microphones and sending them into a campaign meeting addressed by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader.
The Tories have made an official protest after the hecklers, who were given the microphones by producers, were caught at a party event in the North West last week. Guy Black, the party’s head of communications, wrote in a letter to Helen Boaden, the BBC’s director of news, that the hecklers began shouting slogans that were “distracting and clearly hostile to the Conservative Party”.
These included “Michael Howard is a liar”, “You can’t trust the Tories” and “You can only trust Tony Blair”.
Last night, the BBC claimed that the exercise was part of a “completely legitimate programme about the history and art of political heckling” and said that other parties’ meetings were being “observed”. However, The Telegraph has established that none of Tony Blair’s meetings was infiltrated or disrupted in similar fashion.
I sometimes forget that the BBC is part of the government in the UK. This makes paying columnists look like child’s play.