Craig Murray believes BBC reinforces party system

Independent frustrated by outsider status

Independent frustrated by outsider status

By Alex Stevenson

The former ambassador standing in today’s Norwich North by-election has hit out at the BBC for being excluded from televised debates.

Craig Murray, who resigned from being Britain’s ambassador to Uzbekistan over extraordinary rendition, is standing as an independent in the poll triggered by the resignation of Labour MP Ian Gibson.

He and seven other fringe candidates were not included in a live audience debate broadcast on BBC1 in East Anglia on Monday. Only the three main parties, together with the Green party’s candidate, were involved.

Mr Murray told he believed the BBC and corporate media were responsible for reinforcing the role of political parties in the elections process as a result.

“The corporate media and especially the BBC play a major role in entrenching the role of political parties,” Mr Murray said.

“We have been banned from appearing from on televised and radio debates between the candidates because we’re not a political party, in effect. That’s completely wrong. It limits the field of debate.”

Mr Murray, who as Uzbekistan ambassador is believed to be the only candidate standing who has visited Afghanistan, opposes the Afghan war. He argued it would result in “more terrorism, not less terrorism” but was frustrated by not being able to press the point home.

He added: “People are being denied interesting debate and facts. And the field of debate has been defined by the BBC and the corporate media to exclude us. That’s plainly wrong.”

Listen to’s full interview with Craig Murray:

While not expecting to win the poll, which he admitted would come as a “huge shock”, Mr Murray said his aim was to get a “decent vote” and by so doing encourage more independents to stand at the next general election.

“I would say that if you work very very hard you can get your message across,” he advised. “You have to slog.”

Among the achievements notched up by his campaign is what he believes to be an electoral first: persuading the Royal Mail to distribute a DVD rather than printed material for his official election literature.

Every candidate in an election is permitted to use the Royal Mail but none had previously attempted to use a DVD rather than a leaflet.

Ingo Wagenknecht, Mr Murray’s elections agent, told the video had been put together and distributed in less than two weeks.

And while the Royal Mail had taken a day and a half to approve the DVD, it finally did so and made history as a result.

“We’ve done this because we’re fed up with the bias of the BBC only covering the unaccountable self-centred parties,” he said.

Mr Murray himself remained focused on differentiating himself from the mainstream political parties.

He won applause at a hustings event held on the eve of today’s by-election when he stated: “You don’t have to vote for a political party. You can vote for a person.”

And he elaborated on this theme in his interview with

“The major point I’ve been making is that they should compare somebody who had the extremely coveted job and perks of a British ambassador but resigned on principle with the squalid behaviour of members of parliament of all parties and the MPs’ expenses scam,” he said.

“You’ve got professional politicians who are just in it for the money against somebody who has shown he’s willing to give up a lot of money and give up a fantastic lifestyle on a point of principle. That’s the contrast I’ve been trying to bring home to the voters.”