Alastair Campbell criticises John Humphrys on Brexit and fall in Today ratings

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Alastair Campbell has criticised John Humphrys (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Alastair Campbell has suggested that John Humphrys’ on-air manner and welcome of Brexiteers led to a drop in ratings for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The former spin doctor for prime pinister Tony Blair, who resigned during the Hutton inquiry, has criticised a “never-ending succession of hard Brexit advocates” on the current affairs show.

Mr Campbell has said there may be many reasons for the loss of 800,000 listeners from 2017 to 2018, but that Humphrys’ on-air style was one of them.

The Labour Party and Humphrys had clashed in 2005 following a speaking engagement where the presenter criticised senior politicians. Humphyrs and Mr Campbell were also involved in the debate surrounding the Hutton inquiry.

Mr Campbell has criticised “harrumphing cynicism that has come to be Humphrys’s stock-in-trade”, and urged Today to develop a younger, working-class, less metropolitan voice.

Writing in Radio Times magazine, the former Labour Party spokesman said: “While there are doubtless many reasons for the dramatic fall in Today’s ratings, with one million fewer listeners than 18 months ago, might the hectoring style and the crossing from tough questioning to opinionated, snorting sarcasm (other than for the never-ending succession of hard Brexit advocates, the Rees-Moggs, Duncan Smiths and David Davises generally given a chummier ride) have been among them?”

Mr Campbell, who has supported the Remain cause, criticised the reception of news that Humphrys would be stepping down in the autumn of 2019.

He has called interviews with the outgoing presenter, conducted by his long-time BBC colleagues, “giggly” and “flirty”.

BBC’s Humphrys wins broadcast award
John Humphrys has announced he will be leaving BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in the autumn (Jeff Overs/BBC)

The former spin doctor has called on Today to reform following the departure of Humphrys, and appeal to a less middle-class, middle-aged audience. He has urged the programme to treat the arts and sport seriously, and to steer clear of “gotcha” journalism.

Mr Campbell has suggested the BBC continues “moving or getting rid of some of the furniture”, and considers Emma Barnett or Shelagh Fogarty or Victoria Derbyshire as replacements for Humphrys.

The full piece by Alastair Campbell can be read in Radio Times magazine, out now.

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