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Nicky Campbell dubbed Brexiteers ‘insurgents storming the Bastille’ before EU referendum


Nicky Campbell is a popular radio host who is one of the BBC’s core presenters. He has hosted BBC Radio 5 Live’s breakfast programme since 2003, but regularly makes appearances on its sister channels. Recently, he addressed his family history on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ on BBC One, and delved into his past after explaining he was adopted as a child.

Mr Campbell has also spoken out about his direct access to the public through his radio programmes, as listeners are often invited to phone-in.

When recalling the memorable week during which Britain voted to leave the EU by the tight margin of 52 percent to 48 — stunning many Brits — he explained how he had actually been anticipating such a result.

Writing for The New Statesman after the historic vote, he said: “We [at Radio 5 Live] pride ourselves on reaching far beyond the confines of metropolitan England.

“The referendum’s result surprised no one here.”

He continued: “The numbers of people texting and calling have been phenomenal.

“For the sake of unimpeachable balance, we had to make sure that Remainers and Leavers had equal airtime and the statistics show that we succeeded.

“This wasn’t always the easiest of tasks, because before polling day most of the fire and fury came from the Brexiteers.

“They were the insurgents. They were storming the Bastille.”

Mr Campbell is referring to one of the most essential events of the French Revolution; the Storming of the Bastille, July 14 1789.

An angry mob stormed the prison of Bastille in Paris as the building was seen as a symbol of the monarchy’s totalitarian rule.

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As a BBC employee, Mr Campbell has to maintain complete neutrality during his programmes.

However, he has found himself in hot water in the past over the Scottish independence movement over the years

He once asked one listener: “How much do you value and cherish this extraordinary and successful Union?”

The caller, Barbara, replied: “Immensely Nicky, I am afraid I do not have a political or even an intellectual point to say here.

“But I can say that my late father was a Scot through and through and through.”

She continued: “He would be turning in his grave at the thought of his beloved Scotland — and I also love Scotland from the bottom of my heart — being separate from England and Wales.”

Speaking back in August 2019, she concluded: “I just want to forget about Brexit and get on as a united country or what is best for our country.”

Mr Campbell told her it had been a “splendid call”, and even claimed: “It’s the best call we’ve had in weeks.”

But, he was then criticised by the pro-independence party, the SNP, which currently has the majority in the Scottish Parliament.

An SNP spokesperson complained to the BBC, and said “it seemed a bit odd”.

A BBC spokesperson subsequently responded: “During the pace of a live phone-in, callers are built up to express their views and to encourage provocative debate.”

Brexit has been entwined with the issue of Scottish independence by the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon ever since the 2016 vote.

Back in 2019, Ms Sturgeon claimed Brexit had triggered the calls for IndyRef2 when speaking to Mr Campbell during 5 Live.

She said: “If the Brexit vote hadn’t happened, maybe we wouldn’t be talking, right now, about having another independence referendum quite in this timescale.”

The first referendum on Scottish independence took place in 2014, with 55 percent of the electorate voting against breaking away from the UK.



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