BBC’s Andrew Neil and Caroline Lucas MP clash over Arron Banks appearance

How can the BBC presenter get away with brazenly political attacks like this?

BBC presenter Andrew Neil has come under criticism after seeming to claim that under Caroline Lucas there “would be no free press.”

The well-known BBC host was responding on Twitter to the former Green Party leader, who had called the BBC’s decision to give Arron Banks an “appalling misjudgement”.

Banks is thought to have given up to £9.6 million to Leave.EU, one of the organisations that campaigned for Brexit and that Banks co-founded, and UKIP.

Banks and others are currently being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA), which according to the Electoral Commission is looking into whether a “number of criminal offences may have been committed”. This includes whether Banks was the “true source” of the £8m given in funding to Leave.EU. There have also been reports that Theresa May as Home Secretary refused to investigate banks in early 2016.

Banks appeared on the BBC’s Sunday prime time morning programme, The Andrew Marr Show. He denied the claims and called the investigation a “witch hunt”.

Responding to Lucas’ tweet, Neil, who is best known for hosting the BBC’s This Week, said that the former Green Party leader “should be ashamed”.

Former Green Party press officer Matthew Butcher criticised Neil’s response, writing on Twitter:

“I just can’t imagine any other BBC presenter being allowed to say this? The corporation is meant to show ‘balance’ and this is one of their top presenters saying a leading MP wants to end the free press – with no evidence whatsoever. Baseless, alarmist garbage.”

Neil has come under scrutiny in recent years from figures on the left. Commentator Owen Jones penned an op-ed for the Guardian claimed Neil had “right wing politics” and “routinely” used his Twitter account to “promote rightwing causes”.

There are understood to have been dozens of complaints to the BBC after inviting Arron Banks onto the Andrew Marr show over the weekend.

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