THE UK Government is deliberately attacking the BBC in order to “get themselves more favourable coverage” in its broadcasts, the shadow culture secretary has said.

Speaking in the Commons, Labour’s Lucy Powell said that coordinated efforts to undermine the broadcaster’s credibility, question the licence fee, and impose cuts were all part of Tory efforts to keep their “foot on the BBC’s throat”.

The comments came during an urgent question on the UK Government’s role in upholding the impartiality of the BBC, put in the wake of the controversy around football pundit Gary Lineker.

READ MORE: Kirsty Strickland: Gary Lineker row is profound act of self-harm by BBC

Lineker was suspended by the BBC, sparking a wider staff walkout, after he tweeted that Tory immigration rhetoric was reminiscent of language used in Germany in the 1930s. After a weekend of turmoil and stripped back sports coverage, the corporation backed down.

Powell said the Tory government had its “fingerprints all over” the Lineker affair – which she said had “exposed how susceptible the BBC leadership is to government pressure” – and criticised Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer for missing the Commons debate.

Powell said: “What does she [culture minister Julia Lopez, who was there in Frazer’s stead] think it looks like to the outside world that a much-loved sports presenter is taken off air for tweeting something the Government doesn’t like?

“It sounds more like Putin’s Russia to me.”

The National:

The Labour MP went on to say that the UK Government “has pursued a deliberate strategy of undermining the BBC to keep it over a barrel to get themselves more favourable coverage”.

“It was on full display overnight and I’m sure it will be on full display here today,” she went on. “Threaten the licence fee, cut its funding, undermine its credibility. All in pursuit of keeping their foot on the BBC’s throat.”

Tory MP Andrew Percy later pulled Powell up on her comparison to Putin’s Russia, saying it was “beneath her”.

The National: Julia Lopez

Responding, Lopez (above) said: “I also think it was distasteful to compare the Government’s actions or otherwise to the Putin regime, I think it is a disgraceful comparison to make, and I think it is way off the mark.”

She further insisted that “at no time has any of us as ministers sought to influence the BBC’s decision on [Lineker’s] case in any way”.

Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson was one of a few dozen parliamentarians from the party to sign a letter to the BBC over the incident.

In the letter, the 36 Tories said Lineker’s comments were “certainly out of keeping with BBC impartiality guidelines, and presumably the terms of his contract with the BBC”.

In the Commons, the issue of BBC chairman Richard Sharp’s links to former prime minister Boris Johnson were also brought up.

Powell said Sharp holding the role had “seriously damaged the BBC’s reputation”, and LibDem MP Jamie Stone called for him to go.

READ MORE: Libel case brought against Lee Anderson following 'defamatory allegations'

Stone said: “The Minister has said that she will not instruct Richard Sharp to go, but would she accept that his continuation – his lingering on as chair – does nothing for the reputation of the BBC, that really he should reflect on his position and consider accordingly.

“And secondly, while the Minister claims that the process of his appointment was transparent, many of us in this place – including many members opposite, feel that it was very far from that indeed and should be looked into.”

Lopez claimed that Sharp’s appointment had been “fully transparent”, but added: “Things that have subsequently come to light are under investigation – and I'm afraid I cannot comment on that investigation.”