Brexit divisions ‘have infected Covid reporting’, says Sir Christopher Meyer

The former UK ambassador to Washington is the latest guest on The Telegraph's Planet Normal podcast, hosted by columnists Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan
The former UK ambassador to Washington is the latest guest on The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, hosted by columnists Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan

Former Chair of the Press Complaints Commission Sir Christopher Meyer has warned that Brexit allegiances and “the poison of anti-Boris sentiment” are influencing the media’s coverage of the pandemic.

Sir Christopher, who led the body for six years, told The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast (which you can listen to on the audio player above) that “the Brexit wars are still being fought and they infect everything, and they have infected, I think, Covid reporting.”

In an interview with Telegraph columnist, Liam Halligan, the former British ambassador to the US said he’d noticed a “leaning towards alarmism”, because “it makes a great headline”. Sir Christopher acknowledged that to provide successful coverage of the coronavirus crisis, reporters needed “some basic training as a statistician”.

Speaking on the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration as America’s 46th president, the former diplomat also urged the Government to stop using the term “special relationship”, as he said its overuse had made it “a husk of a thing”.

The former ambassador to the US said the ‘special relationship’ phrase is one he has “really disliked, abhorred for a good quarter of a century”. “Longer than that, ever since I was posted to Washington in the early nineties and then later on became an ambassador.”

He said: “It’s a phrase that has exhausted its usefulness. Now it’s become a husk of a thing, which the Americans use to beat us around the head.” Sir Christopher added that Woody Johnson, Washington’s former ambassador to the UK, “cannot make a speech without referring to the Special Relationship, even if he’s talking about the price of potatoes”.

“We need to get rid of this idea of a special relationship”.

However he cautioned that this was not to say there weren’t areas between the UK and America which are very close, but warned “if you start from the position of there is a Special Relationship between Britain and US, and it’s suffering now because we’ve had a row over this or that you’re going to skew your analysis”.

Subscribe to Planet Normal, a weekly Telegraph podcast featuring news and views from beyond the bubble for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your preferred podcast app.

Join Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan to discuss the media’s pandemic coverage and the latest Planet Normal episode in the comments section of this article at 11am on Thursday 21 January.

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