Jeremy Vine, the Radio 2 host who will help to lead the BBC’s general election coverage, has been accused of damaging the corporation’s reputation by speaking at a gathering of arms trade executives.
The former Panorama and Newsnight presenter gave the post-dinner speech at a £250-a-head gathering this week at the Hilton on Park Lane Hotel organised by ADS, the trade organisation that represents defence and security industries in the UK.
The annual banquet was attended by the bosses of global arms manufacturers, including Thales, Finmeccanica, Cobham, Raytheon, MBDA and BAE Systems. The arms companies attending the dinner in London included those with export and business interests in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, Israel, Taiwan and Bahrain.
The pressure group Campaign Against Arms Trade (Caat) lodged a formal complaint with the BBC, stating that Mr Vine’s appearance at the dinner was “incompatible with the corporation’s values”. Caat told the BBC that there was a clear conflict for an organisation which stood for journalistic free speech to be appearing to support an industry which “profits from dictatorships which silence and supress debate”.
Mr Vine’s fee for the after-dinner speech is believed to be a five-figure sum. Last night a BBC spokesman said: “Jeremy is a freelance presenter and so can make personal appearances without speaking on behalf of the BBC, as he did here.”
Last year, the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, was effectively forced to withdraw as the star speaker at an ADS bash in Mayfair after complaints by Caat that his appearance was “compromising BBC impartiality”.