Belfast Telegraph

Angry Burnside complains over 'insinuating' BBC interview on Molyneaux

By Lesley Houston

A former MP angered by BBC Talkback's "innuendo heavy" interview about Lord Molyneaux's relationship with a gay activist is poised to take the matter up with the Culture, Media and Sport Minister.

David Burnside, ex-Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim, slammed the broadcaster's decision to air claims by Englishman Christopher Luke that the late peer and former UUP leader's love for him was "more wonderful than that of women".

Mr Burnside said he was copying a letter to the BBC, in which he voices outrage at Mr Luke's claims, to John Whittingdale.

Mr Burnside believes the corporation contravened its own guidelines on privacy.

Among the BBC's principles on privacy are: "We normally only report the private legal behaviour of public figures where broader public issues are raised either by the behaviour itself or by the consequences of its becoming widely known. The fact of publication by other media may not justify the BBC reporting it."

And: "When gathering personal information from contributors, audiences and other members of the public, we must be clear about how we intend to use it. It must be handled in accordance with the guidelines issued by Information Policy and Compliance."

The tone of the interview prompted Mr Burnside's complaint.

"The BBC style of interview, encouraging Mr Luke in his innuendo about Jim's life, was of the lowest possible quality Press standards," he said.

"The BBC is a taxpayer-funded public service broadcaster and showed poor judgment in giving Mr Luke airtime to promote his claims."

Mr Luke is gay, but did not suggest during the interview with William Crawley on Talkback that Lord Molyneaux was also homosexual.

The scandal follows a public notice placed in this newspaper by Mr Luke on the anniversary of the peer's death which stated: "I love you more than I did yesterday but less than I will tomorrow."

A photograph also surfaced showing Mr Luke and Lord Molyneaux at a nursing home, when he was suffering from dementia, taken by a transexual friend of Mr Luke's.

The corporation has already defended its journalism.

It said the interview had been aired according to its editorial guidelines.

But Mr Burnside claimed the BBC exercised "poor editorial judgment" over the 20-minute interview.

During the exchange the presenter asked Mr Luke if his relationship with the late Orangeman and one-time vice-president of the Conservative Monday Club had been sexual.

"Was it a sexual relationship? Can I put it bluntly like that," Mr Crawley asked an evasive Mr Luke, who seemed to suggest the relationship was not physical.

Crawley further asked Mr Luke what Lord Molyneaux, who he met in 1984, meant to him.

Noting that Mr Luke was much younger than Lord Molyneaux, 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, something Mr Crawley repeatedly referred to as "intimate" and "personal" and asked 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" and shared a "brotherly love".

Mr Crawley quizzed Mr Luke a number of times over whether the relationship was romantic, and probed him over whether perhaps Lord Molyneaux could not have taken the relationship where he wanted.

"You were in love with him, weren't you?" he asked.

Mr Luke described it as "a loving relationship" and said he loved the peer as "a brother".

Mr Burnside was abroad last night and unavailable for further commment.

Belfast Telegraph

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