Members shouldn’t interfere in the day-to-day casting decisions of the BBC, according to its Creative Director Alan Yentob. The debate kicked off after Arlene Phillips’, departure from judging ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, and her replacement by Alesha Dixon, former winner.
Phillips is 66 and Dixon is 30, prompting certain MPs to accuse the BBC of ageism. Ben Bradshaw of Exeter, and Harriet Harman of Camberwell and Peckham have been the most vocal about this decision, saying the replacement was “absolutely shocking”.
Ms. Harman expressed concern at the House of Commons last month, saying, “As equality minister, I am suspicious that there is age discrimination there.” Mr. Bradshaw stated that if age was a factor in the decision, it “would not be acceptable.”
Bruce Forsyth, 81, still presents ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, and Len Goodman, 65, is still a judge.
Both also commented on an expenses claim by Yentob, for a Christmas meal costing £1,600. The meal was in a pizza restaurant, was for BBC executives and was a company expense; this figure was published alongside other senior executives’ reports.
“In an environment in which ordinary people are struggling, it’s difficult [for MPs] to understand something of the convention that goes on in certain areas of business”, Mr. Yentob responded.
Mr. Bradshaw is the Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport and is one of the few openly gay Members of Parliament.
Ms. Harman is the Labour Party Chair and Leader of the House of Commons. In January, she hoped to remove MP expenses from the Freedom of Information Act; they would no longer have been available to the press and public.
This move was rejected by the opposition party, and led to an online campaign against the decision. The accompanying maelstrom of investigations and reports by the press; and scandals surrounding MP expenses is infamous.