Frightened BBC fails to run story on Labour by-election winner until appallingly late

Birmingham Erdington: Paulette Hamilton wins by-election

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Paulette Hamilton came top in the Birmingham Erdington by-election yesterday, on Thursday, holding the seat for Labour, which has won every election there since 1945. The turnout was just 27 percent – 23.3 points lower than in the last general election. It was, as GB News’s Alastair Stewart pointed out, a good night for “None Of The Above”. It was, however, a bad night for the BBC, which has been accused of making a “major mistake” in its coverage of the election.

On the afternoon of the eve of votes being cast, GB News host Tom Harwood broke the news of some controversial comments made by Labour’s (now successful) candidate, Ms Hamilton.

In a 2015 debate titled “The Ballot or the Bullet – Does your vote count?”, Ms Hamilton, posed with this question, admitted “I’m not sure”, adding: “Although I believe in the vote… I’m not sure that we will get what we really deserve in this country using the vote.”

Later, talking about Muslim councillors in Birmingham, she said these “don’t… look after the needs of the community”.

She added: “They’ve got into positions of power and they’ve forgotten the reason they were put there in the first place.”

Mr O’Flynn told himself off for being “too cynical in thinking there’s no way the Paulette Hamilton scandal would be on the front page”, but: “It wasn’t anywhere to be found.”

For journalist Michael Crick, this was a “major mistake”.

He said in a post on Twitter: “They’ll be frightened of being accused of influencing the by-election, and reluctant to follow a GB News scoop, but it’s a major error if they’ve ignored it, especially when it’s so easy to follow up.”

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This was not a view from a man with no knowledge of election coverage – Mr Crick having previously worked for BBC Newsnight, and then for Channel 4, before moving to Mail Plus, and in all of these roles becoming well known for his all-encompassing coverage of elections (by-elections, general elections – the lot).

The election grandee when on to state the fact it was the eve of the by-election was “no excuse” for omitting the story altogether.

He said: “When I was Newsnight reporter I did a story of Labour fiddling election expenses in the Wirral South by-election. And we transmitted the night before polling.”

The BBC did in fact later publish an article on its website covering these past comments.

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For Mr Crick, this was “appallingly late – about 10pm on [the] eve of polling”.

The broadcaster also decided against sharing the article with its 13.5million followers on its BBC News Twitter page, despite posting other politics articles on this account – opting for the much smaller BBC Politics Twitter page (872,200 followers).

The Birmingham Erdington by-election came after the death of Labour MP Jack Dromey, who had held the seat for almost 12 years.

Responding to coverage of Ms Hamilton’s past comments, Labour told GB News: “[Out candidate] is arguing for better representation for the black community in public life, and as she is campaigning to become Birmingham’s first black MP she has a point.”

A Labour source also told the BBC, in its “appallingly late” coverage of the story”: “These attacks on a black woman seeking to become the city’s first black MP are deeply disturbing.”

The BBC has been approached for comment.

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