Ex-MP Burnside slams 'inneundo-driven' BBC interview with Jim Molyneaux's gay 'friend'
An under-pressure BBC has defended its journalism after it was slammed for broadcasting an extensive interview with a man who claimed he had a close relationship with late Ulster Unionist leader Lord Molyneaux for 30 years.
As former UUP MP David Burnside accused the BBC of demonstrating "poor editorial judgment", it also emerged that a controversial photo of Christopher Luke with Lord Molyneaux had been taken by a transsexual friend of the openly gay unionist activist.
The picture was snapped in a nursing home at a time Lord Molyneaux was suffering from dementia.
Kent man Mr Luke claims he shared a love "more wonderful than that of women" with Lord Molyneaux. He was interviewed for 20 minutes on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback show on Friday.
Former South Antrim MP Mr Burnside has expressed serious doubts about the claims and questioned the BBC's decision to give Mr Luke such extensive coverage.
"The BBC style of interview, encouraging Mr Luke in his innuendo about Jim's personal life, was of the lowest possible quality Press standards. The BBC especially should clean up its act if it is to be allowed to retain its charter," he said.
"The BBC is a taxpayer-funded public service broadcaster and showed poor editorial judgment in giving Mr Luke airtime to promote his claims."
Mr Burnside said Mr Luke "was constantly bombarding unionist MPs" with letters.
"Mr Luke has been around the fringes of the fringe of unionism on the mainland for 30 or 40 years," he said.
"He always seemed to have a Walter Mitty character.
"Jim Molyneaux was a great unionist leader and gentleman.
"Those of us who knew him will not allow people like Mr Luke or organisations like the BBC to besmirch his reputation and our fond memories of him."
In the interview, Mr Luke claimed he first encountered Lord Molyneaux when at a London meeting of the Conservative Monday Club in 1984.
Talkback interviewer William Crawley asked: "An amazing age difference, really, between you at the time - you were 17, he was 64. What was it that drew you to each other at that point?"
Mr Luke said they had shared a "David and Jonathan" relationship, which Mr Crawley repeatedly referred to as "intimate" before asking if they shared each other's flats - which Mr Luke denied.
Mr Luke said he wouldn't "mar" Lord Molyneaux with his own sexuality, but said they held each other in "deep affection".
Mr Luke agreed that while he is openly gay, he wasn't suggesting Lord Molyneaux was homosexual.
But Mr Crawley continued to press Mr Luke over whether the relationship was romantic. "Was it a sexual relationship? Can I put it bluntly like that?" Mr Crawley asked an emotional Mr Luke, who indicated the relationship was not physical.
But Mr Crawley continued: "You were in love with him, weren't you?"
Mr Luke described it as "a loving relationship" and he loved him as "a brother".
A BBC spokesperson said: "Our interviews are broadcast in the public interest and in a way which is consistent with our editorial guidelines. The BBC stands by its journalism."
The photo of Mr Luke with Lord Molyneaux was taken by trans activist Adrianne Elson, formerly called Adrian. She is from England but moved here after becoming involved with the UUP and later Ukip.
She admitted taking the photograph but declined to comment further, saying only that Mr Luke was "very worried about causing further hurt to Jim's family, and wants the matter closed".
The matter started when Mr Luke placed a public notice in the Belfast Telegraph in memory of Lord Molyneaux. In it he wrote: "Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. I love you more today than I did yesterday, but less than I will tomorrow."