Welsh Conservative leader calls on Ofcom to investigate Gary Neville World Cup comments on striking workers
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives has written to Ofcom to ask them to investigate whether former England footballer Gary Neville broke their impartiality rules in claiming that workers in the UK were being exploited.
Andrew RT Davies said the comments were “of a party political and partisan nature” and it was “completely inappropriate for them to be aired as part of coverage of a major international sporting event”.
During ITV’s coverage of the World Cup final, Neville – a Labour Party supporter – said: “We should detest low pay, we should detest poor accommodation and poor working conditions.
“That is something we can never, ever accept that in this region or in any region – and it is just worth mentioning we’ve got a current government in our country who are demonising rail workers, ambulance workers and – terrifyingly – nurses.”
He added: “We can’t have people being paid an absolute pittance to work, we can’t have people in accommodation which is unsavoury and disgusting.
“That shouldn’t happen here (in Qatar) with the wealth that exists. But it shouldn’t happen in our country, that our nurses are having to fight for an extra pound or an extra two pounds either.”
In his letter, Andrew RT Davies said that Gary Neville had directly compared workers’ rights in Qatar to those in the United Kingdom, and said the UK Government were “demonising mil workers [and) ambulance workers and terrifying nurses”.
“It is clear that these comments were of a party political and partisan nature. It was therefore completely inappropriate for them to be aired as part of coverage of a major international sporting event.
“Even if the comments were deemed suitable, no attempt was made by the presenter or any other pundits on the programme to challenge the views expressed or offer an alternative point of view. As such, requirements for political balance were clearly not met.
“I would therefore be grateful if you would investigate this case. Furthermore, I would be grateful if you would take steps to ensure coverage of future sporting events in the United Kingdom is not used to push political agendas, and that broadcasters are reminded of their responsibilities.
“Thank you for taking the time to consider my concerns, and I look forward to hearing from you.”
Media watchdog Ofcom said on Monday evening that it had received 441 complaints about the comments.
A spokesperson said: “We are assessing this content as a priority and have asked ITV provide us with details about the broadcast to inform that work”.
Yesterday Rishi Sunak also hit back at former England footballer Gary Neville’s comments.
The Prime Minister told broadcasters: “I don’t think that’s right at all.”
“If you look at our track record and my track record, as chancellor, I’ve always done everything I can to support our NHS and indeed, the wonderful people who work in it.
“I grew up in an NHS family. I spent my life working in my mum’s pharmacy, when I was younger. And if you look at what we did during Covid, we provided enormous support to the frontline at a time, when it comes to pay, when everyone else in the public sector experienced a pay freeze.”
Mr Sunak, speaking during a visit to Riga, said: “The one group that was singled out for special treatment were the NHS workers, rightly, who received that support but also beyond that for nurses, in particular, we’ve put in place nurses’ bursaries when they’re training to become nurses.
“The unions asked for a training budget once they qualified and again, as chancellor, we put that in place, to give nurses the support they need.
“So look, I know things are difficult at the moment for people up and down the country with inflation. Of course I get that. That’s why we’ve put an enormous amount of support in place for people’s energy bills.”
He said that the Government wanted to find a “sensible way through” on pay.
The Government faces a series of industrial disputes with NHS staff including nurses and ambulance workers as wages fail to keep pace with high inflation.
Earlier, Mr Sunak told the Daily Mail: “I think when most people are tuning in to watch Gary Neville they want to hear about the football and watch the football.
“They don’t want to discuss politics.”
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