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‘BBC Hopes to Remind Viewers of its Tradition of Authoritative Journalism By Having Clive Myrie Join Laura Kuenssberg for its Election Night Coverage’

Having a figure such as Kuenssberg in such a prominent position during the upheavals of the past 14 years helped the BBC appease its implacable Conservative enemies, writes former BBC producer and journalist Patrick Howse

Clive Myrie and Laura Kuenssberg will present the BBC’s 2024 General Election night coverage. Photo: Jeff Overs/BBC

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The BBC’s announcement of its team that will be hosting its election night coverage predictably ticks many boxes.

Well-known faces will be dispatched to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with Jeremy Vine doing his graphic sequences from Cardiff, Kirsty Wark in Edinburgh, and Andrea Catherwood providing updates from Belfast. So far, so normal, from a BBC very keen to show that it gets about the UK.

There will also be input at other locations from Fiona Bruce, Victoria Derbyshire, Naga Munchetty, Nick Watt, and Alex Forsyth. Professor Sir John Curtice will also be in the studio in London to offer his expert insight into the exit polls and results.

But, unlike in previous elections, the studio in London will have not one main presenter, but two.

For decades, the BBC’s flagship presenting on election night was the undisputed domain of David Dimbleby, whose smooth class embodied the corporation’s Reithian ideals with apparently effortless authority. More recently, of course, Huw Edwards performed the same role. His sad but inevitable departure from the BBC in April left the broadcaster with a huge hole to fill – and a dilemma.

In some ways, the obvious person to fill this gap would have been Laura Kuenssberg.

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With the authority that comes from being a former BBC Political Editor, and the current presenter of its Sunday morning political discussion show, she might have been expected to be brought in as the main face of the corporation’s election night coverage.

She will feature. But the fact that she will be sharing the role with Clive Myrie is interesting – for the high-level unease it arguably suggests about her performance in recent years.

I have written extensively in these pages previously about Kuenssberg’s shortcomings as a political journalist through election campaigns, the EU Referendum and its aftermath, and the Coronavirus pandemic

She was too close to power. Too reliant on access to the people in power. And often too unwilling to check what she was being told by them was true before she jumped on air and amplified it – a real problem when the people feeding her lines were the likes of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.

Senior figures within the BBC, including former Director-General Tony Hall and the current incumbent Tim Davie, were keen to have a figure like Kuenssberg in the role because, I have argued, they wished to appease successive Conservative Governments antithetical to the very idea of public service broadcasting.

Kuenssberg still has her supporters within the BBC hierarchy, including, of course, Sir Robbie Gibb, a former director of communications for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, who sits on the BBC’s Board and has questionably been given a role ensuring impartiality. For him, I suspect, Kuenssberg would have been a shoo-in to be the face of the BBC’s election night coverage.

But the BBC has felt the need to temper her presence on the set with Myrie, a journalist who has earned respect and admiration for his reporting from international hotspots including, of course, Ukraine.


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I worked with Clive Myrie in Iraq in the mid-2000s. We were there together when the BBC’s bureau in Baghdad was struck by a rocket. He comes from the school of reporters who check facts, on the ground, even when that is hard or dangerous. He doesn’t see his job as parroting a line given to him by a mendacious government quicker than ITN could.

He is, of course, a well-known and trusted presenter of the 10 O’ Clock News , and has also fronted other high-profile programmes including Mastermind, and Have I Got News For You. He’s good at his job, and people like him. But there appears to be more to his selection for the role than that.

At some level, I believe that in selecting Myrie as joint presenter of its election night coverage, the BBC is hoping to remind its viewers that it has a fine tradition of truthful and authoritative journalism, something that Kuenssberg alone – I suggest, based on my considerable observation of her work – would not have been able to deliver.

Having a figure such as Laura Kuenssberg in such a prominent position during the chaos and upheavals of the past 14 years of Tory rule helped the BBC appease its implacable Conservative enemies. The question remains: what role will she be given if and when that Government is consigned to history – and how much damage will have been done in the meantime?

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