Bias storm for ITV as Peston compares Johnson to 'elected dictator'

Bias storm for ITV as Robert Peston compares Boris Johnson to ‘an elected dictator’ in Partygate tweet

  • Journalist Robert Peston has been accused of breaching ITV’s impartiality rules
  • He Tweeted Britain would look like an ‘elected dictatorship’ if it kept its PM 
  • The remarks came amid calls for Tories to oust Johnson for breaking lockdown
  • He and Chancellor Rishi Sunak received fines, along with other party members
  • TV regulator Ofcom said it would not investigate the comments as the body only regulates remarks made on air, whereas Peston’s posts were on social media

ITV News’ Robert Peston is being accused of breaching the network’s impartiality rules requiring its reporters to refrain from biased comments

Robert Peston was accused of breaching ITV’s duty for political impartiality last night after he criticised Boris Johnson for not resigning over Partygate.

ITV’s political editor tweeted that if Tory MPs decided to keep the Prime Minister in office, it would look like Britain was an ‘elected dictatorship’.

And he added: ‘This is not just a slippery slope. It is the bottom of the slope.’

Senior government sources said that such comments would not be allowed to be conveyed on air because it would fall foul of the duty of broadcasters’ to be impartial.

They said Mr Peston should be held to account by his employers even though the comments were made on social media.

Former Tory minister Rob Wilson said: ‘Peston has seemingly forgotten the old fashioned values of journalism that relied upon impartiality, gathering the facts and merely reporting the story so that people can make up their own mind.

‘This tweet is a journalist implicitly suggesting a democratically elected PM should be removed by their political party.

‘That’s not his job and there is nothing independent or impartial about it. ITV should certainly reprimand him as it brings his programme into question.

‘I’m sure Ofcom will also want to take a look at this as it crosses a line between partial and impartial.’

But last night Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, said it could not investigate his Twitter comments because they could only look at what was said on air.

Boris Johnson received the fine from police for breaking lockdown restrictions during a birthday party on July 19, 2020. He and Sunak apologised but never said they would quit

Mr Peston made his comments on Tuesday evening after the Prime Minister and the Chancellor received fines for attending a birthday gathering for Mr Johnson in Downing Street on June 19, 2020.

Both issued an apology, but neither said they would quit.

He wrote: ‘If Tory MPs unthinkingly keep him in office without a proper and public assessment of how Parliament was misled, because that is what suits them, and if they blithely ignore the Ministerial Code, then the charge will stick that this or any party with a big majority is simply an elected dictatorship, and the constitution means little or nothing.

‘This is not just a slippery slope. It is the bottom of the slope.’

ITV News is under a duty of impartiality, which would prevent the same comments Peston made on Twitter from being broadcasted – but the water is muddier when on social media

A senior Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: ‘My question is always: would someone say on air (regulated) what they say on social media?

‘And then would it be duly impartial? If not –then that’s an issue that their employer should look at seriously.’

Another government source said: ‘I’m sure ITV bosses will be picking up directly with him his editorialisation and broader issues over accuracy. Not for the first time.’

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