Emily Maitlis's Newsnight speech about Dominic Cummings was not impartial, BBC rules

Tom Butler
·Senior Editor
·2-min read
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05:  Emily Maitlis addresses students at the Cambridge Union Society on October 5, 2015 in Cambridge, England.  (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Emily Maitlis addresses students at the Cambridge Union Society on October 5, 2015 in Cambridge, England. (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)

The BBC says Emily Maitlis’ Newsnight recent comments about Dominic Cummings failed to “meet our standards of due impartiality”.

A statement issued by the BBC said “we should have done more to make clear the introduction was a summary of the questions we would examine” adding “our staff have been reminded of the guidelines”.

Maitlis accused Boris Johnson of “blind loyalty” as she addressed the “deep national disquiet” caused by Dominic Cummings’ breach of lockdown rules on Tuesday, 26 May.

With withering condemnation, the Newsnight presenter summed up in just one minute the controversy surrounding the government adviser’s refusal to apologise or resign for breaking quarantine rules,

Maitlis, 49, opened the BBC current affairs programme by saying: “Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The country can see that, and it’s shocked the government cannot.

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"He was the man, remember, who always got the public mood, who tagged the lazy label of elite on those who disagreed. He should understand that public mood one now: one of fury, contempt and anguish.

"He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools, and has allowed many more to assume they can now flout them.

Dominic Cummings, top aide to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leaves his home in north London, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The British government faced accusations of hypocrisy after the revelation that  Cummings traveled more than 250 miles (400 kms) to his parents' house during a nationwide lockdown while he was showing coronavirus symptoms. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA via AP)
Dominic Cummings, top aide to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leaves his home in north London, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The British government faced accusations of hypocrisy after the revelation that Cummings traveled more than 250 miles (400 kms) to his parents' house during a nationwide lockdown while he was showing coronavirus symptoms. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA via AP)

"The prime minister knows all this, but despite the resignation of one minister, growing unease from his backbenchers, a dramatic early warning from the polls and a deep national disquiet, Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it."

She added: “Tonight we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the workings of Number 10. We do not expect to be joined by a government minister, but it won’t stop us asking the questions.”

Maitlis received praise on social media for her comments at the time. Labour MP David Lammy described Maitlis’s opening as: “Public service broadcasting.”

Cummings, a senior aide to Johnson, has been under increasing public scrutiny after it emerged he drove 260 miles from London to his parents’ home in Durham during lockdown.

The government adviser said in a press conference that he and his wife had believed they were coming down with coronavirus and needed help caring for their son.