Nick Robinson, the BBC’s Political Editor, conceded yesterday that his reporting during the lead up to the Iraq war was too close to the government’s own agenda.  

During a debate at City University last night, Robinson declared that “it is the one moment in my recent career where I have thought I didn’t push hard enough, I didn’t question enough and I should have been more careful,” he said. “I didn’t do enough to go away and say ‘well hold on, what about the other side?”

He then talked of the BBC’s reportage of Iraq from 2002-2003, and their failure to provide an objective, non-Partisan coverage during these critical stages: “Over the period of weeks and months, the cumulative effects meant that we never quite got round to reporting the alternative view.”

In response to a question then raised about whether he believes the government lied about the true threat of weapons of mass destruction in the lead up to the war on terror, Robinson said: “I don’t think the government did set out to lie. I do think they systematically and cumulatively misled people.”

Yet Robinson qualified this by saying that he “watched the government deliberately mislead the press, while they sat back and smiled, knowing that had allowed journalists to make Iraq, through the issue of weapons of mass destruction, one of British interest”.

Robinson referred to a press conference on the Iraq War in 2002 with Alastair Campbell, the then Press Chief to Tony Blair: “It was clear to me that Alastair Campbell knew how what he was saying was being reported, knew that that was a long way from the truth and was content for it so to be”. Yet Robinson, by his own admission, quite staunchly toed the government line.

 

The debate at City University was intended to consider whether the relationship between political campaigners and journalists was a partnership of democracy or one more akin to “rats in a sack”, with fellow panellists human rights activist Peter Tatchell, Joy Johnson, former press secretary to Ken Livingstone; and David Hill, former press secretary to Tony Blair.

Robinson’s line on the matter was that the two are co-dependent and must “work closely together to form a partnership of democracy. It isn’t the job of a journalist to pick a constant fight with people in power.”

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