EMILY Maitlis, the former BBC anchor and Newsnight host, has said there is an “active  agent of the Conservative party” on the corporation’s board.

Maitlis raised her concerns about the position of Robbie Gibb – the BBC board member for England – during the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

The top journalist claimed that Gibb, who is the brother of Tory MP and former minister Nick Gibb, was “acting as the arbiter of BBC impartiality”.

But who is Robbie Gibb?

Gibb, an outspoken Brexiteer, was appointed to the BBC board in April 2021. He was made the board member for England. Non-executive members for the nations, such as Gibb, “are appointed by HM The Queen on the recommendation of ministers”, according to the BBC website.

At the time of his appointment, the BBC’s media editor, Amol Rajan, said it “clearly strengthens the BBC's links not just with Westminster, but with the Conservative Party specifically”.

Robbie Gibb’s brother Nick (below) is the Tory MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. He was a minister under Boris Johnson until September 2021, having previously been in both David Cameron and Theresa May’s governments.

The National:

Robbie Gibb himself also worked closely with multiple top Conservatives over decades.

He worked as chief of staff to Tory life peer Francis Maude between 1997 and 2000, when Maude was shadow chancellor, and also supported Michael Portillo in his 2001 bid to become the leader of the Tory party.

One former Tory party official and donor who reportedly knows Gibb well told The Telegraph in 2017: "He worked for Francis Maude for a long time and has been in and around the Conservative party. He is very bright. He is a tiger."

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Gibb also worked in No 10 as Theresa May’s director of communications for two years from July 2017.

The BBC’s reported at the time of his appointment that Gibb “had a successful 25-year career” at the corporation. This saw him work as head of BBC Westminster and editor of live political programmes, as well as deputy editor of BBC Two’s Newsnight.

At the time of his appointment to the BBC board, Gibb also worked as a senior communications adviser for the consultancy firm Kekst CNC and as a director of The Jewish Chronicle. He was said to be set to continue in those roles.

So Robbie Gibb’s the “arbiter of BBC impartiality”, but is he impartial himself?

While Gibb has been vocal about the need for impartiality from those working at the BBC, he tweeted about his support for Brexit while still in the corporation’s employ.

The National:

After being made a member of the board, he “liked” tweets from a Conservative MP – Andrew Bowie – calling the SNP a “shambles” and saying he was “pleased” they would not be in power for much longer.

Gibb has also written scathingly of the BBC in recent years, accusing it of having been “culturally captured by the woke-dominated group think of some of its own staff” in a Telegraph article from 2020.

In that same piece, Gibb wrote: “It seems BBC bosses were so fearful of causing offence to woke activists who claimed the song [Rule, Britannia!] was racist, they ended up outraging the vast majority of the public who are proud of their country, its heritage and its traditions.”

Gibb was also reportedly heavily involved in raising funds for the GB News channel.

According to reports in The Mail on Sunday in 2017, it was Gibb who was keen on getting Andrew Neil – its short-lived chair – involved with the channel.

Gibb was also one of the people who tweeted in anger after Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty mocked Tory minister Robert Jenrick for having a Union flag in the background during an interview.

He said the BBC Breakfast clip revealed “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”.

Has he faced controversy in the past?

In July 2021, there were calls for Robbie Gibb to be removed from the BBC board after it was reported that he attempted to stop Jess Brammar – the former HuffPost UK editor and deputy editor of BBC Newsnight – from being appointed to oversee the BBC’s news channels.

Gibb reportedly tried to block the appointment because he felt it would damage the UK Government’s “fragile trust in the BBC”.

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Is Robbie Gibb the only person with links to the Tories with a powerful role at the BBC?

Far from it. Richard Sharp, a Tory donor who has given over £400,000 to the party and previously worked with Rishi Sunak at Goldman Sachs, is the BBC’s chair. He was given the role by Boris Johnson in early 2021

Tim Davie, a man who previously ran for the Tories in local elections and was deputy chair to a local Conservative party, became BBC director-general in 2020.

There was also outrage in November 2021 after it emerged that a Tory donor and former prospective MP candidate was directly involved in selecting the next BBC board member for Scotland.