Campaigning GP Dr Phil Hammond has been sacked as a BBC presenter after revealing he is planning to run against Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees-Mogg at the next election.
Dr Hammond, who presented Saturday Surgery on BBC Radio Bristol, was fired hours after announcing he plans to stand against Rees-Mogg in his North East Somerset constituency.
In a statement today, Dr Hammond claimed he had told the head of BBC Radio Bristol of his intentions weeks ago and was told “it should not be a problem” until the election itself.
But the BBC have now said standing in an election was “a conflict of interest”.
Dr Hammond, a Private Eye columnist, released a statement on his personal website today saying he was “very sad and a little puzzled” to be leaving the station, which he had presented on for 12 years without any complaints of political bias.
Well that was quick. I’ve been sacked by @bbcrb for announcing my intention to stand for @NHAparty against @Jacob_Rees_Mogg. Thanks @thinktwink @RMegi, the loyal listeners & the fabulous team at Dr Phil’s Saturday Surgery. It’s been a hugely enjoyable 12 years.
— Dr Phil Hammond (@drphilhammond) August 21, 2018
The statement, written in the third person,said: “The dismissal came after Dr Hammond tweeted on August 21 that he had been endorsed by the National Health Action Party as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate at the next general election for his home constituency of North East Somerset (sitting MP Jacob Rees-Mogg).
“Dr Hammond added that he was a believer in progressive alliances and would stand aside if a stronger candidate declared. He was sacked the same day.
“Dr Hammond had previously announced his intention to stand on BBC 1 (Sunday Live, July 29) with no comeback, and had told the head of BBC Radio Bristol, Jess Rudkin, of his intention. He was advised that it should not be a problem but that he would have to stand down during purdah. Because the date of the next election is very hard to predict, Dr Hammond decided to declare his intent early to be completely open and transparent.”
Dr Hammond said: “I strongly suspect whoever made this decision has never listened to any of my broadcasts. Such a sudden decision smells strongly of fear.
“There is no political bias on the Saturday Surgery, just three hours of health and happiness with some live music. I shall really miss the fantastic team at BBC Radio Bristol and all the loyal listeners. It’s been a hugely enjoyable 12 years.”
The National Health Action Party is a minor party which grew out of the movement opposing the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. It has no representation at any level, and its previously best-known celebrity supporter was the comedian Rufus Hound, who sparked controversy by claiming David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt wanted poor children to die.
Rees-Mogg has a 10,235 majority in North East Somerset, and Dr Hammond said: “I have promised to give this my best shot, although I’ll somehow have to leapfrog my sitting MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, first”
He is a familiar face on TV after presenting five series of Trust Me, I’m a Doctor on BBC2, and also presents Music Group on Radio 4.
On his decision to stand, he said: “My philosophy is that ‘health for all’ should be the political consideration and ambition that overrides all others.
“Without health – our freedom to live a life that we have reason to value – then life itself seems pretty pointless.
“And politicians should relentlessly focus on adding value to all our lives rather than settling their petty personal rivalries.”
A BBC spokeswoman said: ‘Impartiality is at the heart of our journalism.
“Active political involvement is an area covered by our editorial guidelines.
“Standing as a candidate in an election is a conflict of interest and someone seeking election is unable to continue in this type of editorial role.”