BBC’s Chris Mason defends interview with angry ex-Labour voters after left-wingers erupt

Hartlepool: Expert discusses by-election result

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The BBC Political Correspondent received backlash following a televised interview with two voters in Hartlepool on May 9. In the clip, Mr Mason is seen discussing why the two men are disappointed with Labour and what went into their choice on which party to vote for in last week’s elections.

Malcolm Gretton, one of the frustrated voter, tells Mr Mason that his family’s commitment to Labour went back several generations, with the loyalty being passed down by his father.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Gretton said: “Now we’re getting to a stage where you can sort of think for yourself.

“We’ve had enough of Labour, they’ve just wrecked it – everything.”

Mr Gretton then tells Mr Mason about the basic things he feels Hartlepool is lacking because of Labour, noting the absence of a court and jail in the town.

Following the interview, the clip went viral on Twitter after being shared by a man named Nick Jones, being viewed over 1.6 million times so far.

It has resulted in hundreds of tweets complaining that Mr Mason should have pointed out errors in what the man was saying.

One said: “@ChrisMasonBBC could you not have pointed out to these two gentlemen that it is the Conservative Party that has been in charge for the last 11 years, not the Labour Party, rather than just nodding along with them?”

A second added: “Just googled this. Hartlepool Hospital A&E was closed in 2011 under a Tory led government and Hartlepool magistrates was closed in 2017, after 7 years of Tory government. I genuinely don’t understand how Labour is blamed for these?”

Another said: “I hadn’t seen that? Does Chris Mason point out that these are the consequences of 11 years of Tory government?”

The segment’s response has forced Mr Mason to defend his handling of the interview online.

Replying to the viral tweet, he said: “Nick, if you’d included the whole sequence, you’d have also heard a passionate Labour supporter who was devastated and a BBC colleague who talked about austerity put it in local context. I also set out the broader argument repeatedly all day —

“Granted, I could have repeated the point my colleague had just made, but I was there to understand why voters had changed their minds, not hold them to account for doing so. There’s a subtle but important distinction there journalistically.”

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In a third tweet, Mr Mason added: “There’s a subtle but important journalistic distinction between holding to account&seeking to understand why someone has changed their vote. Also, earlier in the same report, we heard from an upset existing Lab supporter & a BBC reporter who talked about austerity.”

The interview follows the Conservative’s historic win in last week’s by-election in Hartlepool, which saw the Tories win the constituency for the first time since its creation in 1974.

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