Concerns raised over MPs hosting political TV shows during general elections

Regulators have been urged to consider preventing MPs hosting political television programmes during a general election campaign.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman said there would be “something wrong” with Conservative ministers being interviewed by their backbench colleagues on television at the same time that they are running “very political campaigns”.

Both he and his party colleague Kevin Brennan asked for the Electoral Commission to look closely at the issue and prepare guidance on what is deemed acceptable.

The SNP’s Owen Thompson, responding on behalf of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, noted Ofcom is responsible for regulating broadcasters and providing guidance on impartiality.

He added the Electoral Commission would be happy to meet the two Labour MPs to discuss their concerns.

Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson’s Real World programme first aired last month, making him the latest in a string of Tory MPs to host a GB News programme.

His party colleagues Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, Esther McVey and Philip Davies also host shows on the channel.

Tory former culture secretary Nadine Dorries hosts a weekly chat show on Talk TV, although she is planning to stand down as MP for Mid Bedfordshire at some point.

Speaking in the Commons, former minister Mr Brennan (Cardiff West) asked: “Is the (Electoral Commission) preparing any guidance about this new trend we have for members of this House who may be candidates at the next election being given their own TV programmes, on some of these new news channels, interviewing members of the Government from their own benches in the lead up to a general election?

“What is the Electoral Commission doing about that?”

Mr Thompson (Midlothian) replied: “It’s an excellent question. The committee has not discussed these matters with the commission as yet.

“The Electoral Commission does not have a role in the regulation of political and news programmes, with Ofcom being responsible for regulating broadcasters and providing guidance on impartiality.”

Mr Sheerman (Huddersfield) added: “Could the commission look closely at the fact that members of this House have television programmes? I was invited on a television programme to two members of this House – I didn’t accept the invitation.

“There is surely something wrong with members of this House asking questions at the same time that they’re running very political campaigns on television.”

The next general election is expected to be held in 2024.