A pair of BBC presenters have come under fire by a government minister after mocking Tory colleagues for their use of the Union flag during interviews.
BBC Breakfast hosts Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty laughed as they pointed out large flags have begun regularly appearing in the background of Zoom calls with the frontbenchers.
It followed an interview with housing minister Robert Jenrick in which Stayt commented on the size of the Union flag in the background.
“I think your flag is not up to standard size, government interview measurements. I think it’s just a little bit small, but that’s your department really,” he said.
Munchetty laughed and added: “There’s always a flag. They had the picture of the Queen, though”.
The row then escalated when Munchetty liked a tweet that praised their comments and said that “flag shaggers” would be up in arms about the incident.
The BBC said the on-air exchange was “light-hearted” and not meant to offend, while Munchetty has since issued a statement apologising.
It read: “I ‘liked’ tweets today that were offensive in nature about the use of the British flag as a backdrop in a government interview this morning. I have since removed these ‘likes’.
“This does not represent the views of me or the BBC. I apologise for any offence taken.”
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden criticised the presenter in a comment to the Telegraph.
“I’m concerned that what started as light-hearted banter became sneering which is not the BBC at its best.
“As I’ve said before, it is so important that the BBC reflects and respects the values of the whole of the UK.”
Conservative MP James Cleverly tweeted: “It’s not a small flag. It’s in the far corner of the room.”
Veteran former BBC presenter Andrew Neil waded into the argument, writing: “Sometimes the BBC forgets what the first B stands for.”
Jenrick also hit back, saying the flag was a “symbol of liberty and freedom”.
This came as the BBC announced it was shifting operations away from London.
Robbie Gibb, a former head of the BBC’s political programming and an ex-director of communications at Number 10, said: “On the day the BBC announces the welcome news it is moving more programmes out of London, this BBC Breakfast clip reveals a sneering and cynical attitude towards our monarchy and flag that shows it’s not just about where people are based, the BBC has a wider cultural problem.”
Around 400 employees, including 200 from the news division, will be required to relocate to Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds or Salford. Many of those staff voiced their unhappiness at the prospect of leaving London on social media. It is understood that some will quit their jobs rather than move.