Sunday Politics, BBC One, 16 June 2013

Sunday Politics


We received complaints from viewers who felt presenter Andrew Neil was too aggressive during his interview with the leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson.

Response from Sunday Politics

The English Defence League has been demonstrating across the country in significant numbers following the Woolwich murder, and also stands accused by some of having inspired (or even be directly responsible for) the recent increase in Islamophobic attacks. Also, six men were recently convicted for having tried to detonate explosives at an EDL rally. Given that background, we decided to interview the EDL’s co-founder, spokesman and leader Tommy Robinson in order to give viewers a chance to understand more about the organisation through a testing interview. We believe the interview was editorially valuable.

As with all Sunday Politics interviews, we seek to present a true picture of the subject and the subjects under discussion with meticulous research and robust interviewing. This was the approach we took with this interview.

The item covered the history and ideological outlook of the group, its attitudes to Muslim Britons, its reaction to Woolwich as well as Mr Robinson's political and personal history, which was relevant material given his criminal convictions and the allegations of criminality on the part of EDL members. Given that the EDL is not a political party but a loose organisation, discussion of the character of the group and its leadership is particularly relevant. It was a robust interview, as our viewers would expect, given the importance and significance of the issues being discussed.

Mr Robinson was given ample time and space to reply to Andrew Neil’s questions. He was shown video and stills of himself, and other EDL members, and again was given time and space to respond.

Mr Robinson had 15 minutes on BBC1 on one our flagship political programmes and had the opportunity to put his case forcefully and clearly which he did. It is true that towards the end of the interview, Mr Neil and Mr Robinson talked over each other a few times and we appreciate some viewers may have found this frustrating. However, we believe the interview was fair, forensic and well conducted.