Sir Keir Starmer has corrected the parliamentary record after attacking Boris Johnson over reports that he had criticised the BBC’s coverage of the war in Ukraine.
The Labour leader withdrew comments made at Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, in which he said Mr Johnson had “accused the BBC of not being critical enough of [Vladimir] Putin” and challenged him to repeat that accusation to the corporation’s reporters in Russia and Ukraine.
Mr Johnson had reportedly attacked the BBC at a meeting of Conservative MPs on Tuesday night, at which he also said the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, had been “less vociferous” when criticising Putin than when addressing the Government’s Rwanda asylum seekers plan.
Downing Street denied that Mr Johnson had criticised the BBC in that way, instead pointing to more general observations he had made about the conflation of illegal immigrants and Ukrainian refugees in the broadcaster’s reporting.
“I did not say that the BBC was harder on the asylum policy than it is to Putin,” the Prime Minister told MPs. “I made no complaint whatsoever about the BBC’s coverage of Ukraine and I want to make that absolutely clear.
“All I said was I thought the policy was misconstrued on the BBC and by some parts of the clergy. That’s what I said. By the way, I had just come off the phone to Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who was making that exact point to me.”