The Jennifer Arcuri affair

Is the BBC’s failure to cover new allegations biased?

Even the most devoted Boris Johnson supporter would be hard-pressed to include “honesty and integrity” amongst the Prime Minister’s outstanding qualities. But those are precisely the words his newish press secretary, Allegra Stratton, chose and repeated as she fended off questions about her boss’ actions during his extra-marital affair with Jennifer Arcuri when London mayor.

Was the future PM treating his then wife with “respect” during the affair? He acted with “honesty and integrity.” When he took Arcuri on publicly funded trade missions around the world he acted with “honesty and integrity.” He even acted with “honesty and integrity” when he failed to declare the nature of the relationship, or about the relationship at all to the appropriate authorities.

Since Ms Arcuri decided finally to reveal to the Sunday Mirror that she and Johnson really did have the four-year affair that almost everyone, in the press at least, already knew about. The story has been widely re-reported in newspapers, online and by most broadcasters.

The BBC, however, has been conspicuously reluctant to report on these new disclosures, including the fact that businesswoman Arcuri had benefited from thousands of pounds of public money. Could this possibly be connected to the fact that the BBC’s new chairman, Richard Sharp, given the job by Johnson and the Tories, has donated more than £400,000 to the Conservative Party since 2001? Is it now actual BBC policy to be kind to Boris Johnson whenever possible?

The Prime Minister and his party are currently riding high in the popularity polls, with the pace of the coronavirus vaccination rollout boosting their public standing and leaving Labour trailing, unusual in itself at this stage of the parliamentary cycle. And despite other British politicians being forced out of office when scandals such as this are brought to light, the same will not happen to Boris Johnson. He gets away with what other politicians and public figures do not.

Bad behaviour, lies and bending the rules to suit the situation all seem to be accepted and expected from this prime minister. Johnson has been sacked in the past, by The Times in 1988 for making up quotes, and by the Tory Party in 2004, when he was shadow arts minister for, strange as it may now seem, lying about an affair. But that was then. Now it is different. Now Johnson rules – OK?

What our surveys show

Boris Johnson has never actually denied having an affair with Jennifer Arcuri, nor has he admitted one either. But when we asked our readers if they believed Arcuri’s claims that there was a sexual relationship during the four-year affair, the majority response was an emphatic “Yes”, with 21% declaring the revelations were “undoubtedly true” and a further 48% saying they were “probably true”. Just 24% did not believe Arcuri, with 14% saying the allegations were “probably false” and 10% “undoubtedly false”. The remaining 7% said they did not know.

An even higher majority, 77%, said that sexual or not, the relationship was sufficiently close to place an obligation on Johnson to declare an interest when Arcuri was awarded public funds and included on a publicly funded trip. Only 16% said there was no obligation and 7% said they didn’t know. There is majority concern over BBC reticence in reporting the story with 56% saying the Beeb should have covered the allegations. Of that number, just 27% were EU referendum “Leave” voters while 85% were “Remainers”. A further 32% said the BBC should not have covered the allegations, while 12% answered “Don’t know”.

 

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