An LBC radio journalist who used to be Theresa May’s head of broadcast in Downing Street pitched for an interview with a cabinet minister by revealing the questions he would ask beforehand and assuring them it would be gentle.
BuzzFeed News has seen text messages from LBC presenter Tom Swarbrick earlier this year when he was trying to get the senior politician on his show. BuzzFeed News has seen both sides of the conversation in the text exchange.
In the messages, Swarbrick outlines an earlier telephone conversation with the minister in which he says he has already told him the questions he would ask.
The presenter goes on to make assurances that the minister would be safe and the interview would be gentle.
The revelations will raise questions over whether there is conflict of interest in the former Downing Street head of broadcast now interviewing members of the government as a journalist.
Swarbrick, who presents a show on LBC on Sunday to Thursday nights, rejoined the station in March after a year-and-a-half working in Number 10. He had previously spent more than four years at LBC.
His unusual gamekeeper-turned-poacher return to journalism courted controversy amid complaints from industry veterans and opposition figures that it was inappropriate for someone so close to the government to be working as a journalist.
In June, just three month after he left Number 10, Swarbrick was granted an interview with the prime minister in which he asked his former boss about her NHS funding announcement. The interview received widespread criticism at the time.
A Number 10 insider told BuzzFeed News that Downing Street has been keen for ministers to take part in interviews with Swarbrick.
The source said: "Some in the cabinet felt very uncomfortable about the ethics of being interviewed by the PM's former head of broadcast."
Swarbrick and LBC confirmed the veracity of the messages to BuzzFeed News, but insisted the interview never went ahead.
Swarbrick said in a statement: "This is an example of political game playing, where only one part of a conversation has been leaked about an interview which didn’t even go ahead."
An LBC spokesperson said: “LBC has a long history and excellent reputation for holding people in power to account, of which there are many examples.”
Alex Wickham is a senior reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alex Wickham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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