BBC programme criticised for portrayal of Melton over Brexit

Melton Borough Council deputy leader, Leigh Higgins, pictured being interviewed on BBC2's Newsnight programme EMN-200502-113736001
Melton Borough Council deputy leader, Leigh Higgins, pictured being interviewed on BBC2's Newsnight programme EMN-200502-113736001
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BBC’s Newsnight programme has been criticised for implying that many Melton people voted to leave the EU because they were concerned about immigration.

The borough council’s deputy leader, Leigh Higgins, who was interviewed for the report, said afterwards he was unhappy with the unsubstantiated viewpoint he felt it portrayed.

Reporter Ben Chu visited the town because recently-released figures show the borough had one of the highest proportionate increases in its foreign-born population in the 10 years to 2015 - the programme reported that it had risen from two per cent to eight per cent in that time.

It comes after 58 per cent of Melton borough residents voted to leave the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Mr Chu stated in his report that ‘the high leave vote was motivated, many people say, by a concern about immigration’.

But interviews he did with local people, Councillor Higgins said, did not bear this out.

Councillor Higgins told the Melton Times: “It was interesting to note that this claim seemed to have no evidence base to it at all and in the piece not one of the people Newsnight interviewed mentioned immigration being a motivation in their vote to Leave the EU.

“I said on the programme that our community had a long and proud history of people making Melton their home and that the Polish community had a strong connection and was now in our DNA, not because of the EU but since the Second World War and I would not see that changing upon leaving the EU.

“Watching the people interviewed in the piece I felt proud that Melton showed that not only is it a nice place to live but we are, as we’ve always known, a tolerant and vibrant community.”

The Newsnight programme, which was aired on January 28 in the run-up to the UK officially leaving the UK on Friday, visited Melton Livestock Market to talk to farmers, who rely on workers from overseas. Interviews were also done with residents who had moved to the town from eastern Europe.

Councillor Higgins added: “Yes, we voted to leave the EU, many people voted that way based on sovereignty reasons not immigration. But while Newsnight tried, it seemed, so hard to make it about immigration, it clearly did not show in the video piece.”

The Melton Times contacted Newsnight about the comments made by Councillor Higgins but we have not yet received a response.