The National:

It’s a small world, or so the saying goes, and smaller still if you are part of the Great British political establishment. So small, in fact, that it’s seemingly impossible for the national broadcaster to put together a programme on the most urgent issue of our time without having the Prime Minister’s dad on as a commentator.

This is what happened on Monday’s episode of BBC Newsnight when former Tory MEP Stanley Johnson appeared to share his views on how the UK Government should respond to a new International Panel on Climate Change report which the UN Secretary General described as “code red for humanity”.

This situation would have, somehow, been less odd if Johnson had simply been introduced as “Boris’s dad”, as though the whole thing was a televised parents’ night. Instead of circumspectly asking “have you tried to persuade the Prime Minister of this?”, presenter Kirsty Wark might instead have put to dear old Stanley: “And have you told Boris he needs to take more time over his homework and stop drawing inappropriate cartoons in the margins?”

READ MORE: 'Embarrassing': BBC panned for having Boris Johnson's dad talk about climate crisis

In reality, Mr Johnson Sr. was labelled as an “environmentalist”, giving the impression that he was there as an independent voice and not as someone who is evidently closely linked to the government itself. For those who are not familiar with the career of Stanley Johnson - a man with an impressive lineage dating back to the Ottoman government, and whose children have followed in his footsteps to work in politics and media - it bears pointing out that he has, in fact, authored several books on environmental issues and previously headed the prevention of pollution division at the European Commission in the 1980s.

The National:

But when your own son is leading the government whose actions you are being asked to critique, the conflict of interest is so blatant as to be laughable. That this was considered an acceptable choice by BBC Newsnight speaks volumes about the nature of the relationship between the elite minority who hold the balance of power in these isles and those who are charged with holding them to account.

Unsurprisingly, many people have expressed shock and anger at Johnson’s appearance as an “environmentalist” in this context, but the BBC stands by its decision, noting that the Prime Minister's father was among seven guests with “a range of views”.

And yet, this calls to mind another “controversy” surrounding BBC Newsnight which arose last summer and which was responded to altogether differently.

After presenter Emily Maitlis said Dominic Cummings “broke the rules” during his infamous eye-test road trip and described the public mood as one of “fury, contempt and anguish”, a backlash ensued, not least from Conservative politicians. The BBC quickly apologised, saying Maitlis’s monologue “did not meet our standards of due impartiality”.

And this was neither the first nor the last instance of BBC bosses being all too willing to apologise for the apparent missteps of its journalists where the “offended” parties were those in power.

The National: Naga Munchetty Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Earlier this year, BBC Breakfast hosts Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty (above) were reprimanded after Stayt joked at the end of an interview about the size of the Union flag in the backdrop behind housing secretary Robert Jenrick, and Munchetty liked some tweets about it.

Truly the kind of sentence that perfectly sums up everything that’s so painfully, embarrassingly wrong about this United Kingdom that you can hardly believe it isn’t satire.

Unfortunately it seems that concerns raised by those outside of the establishment are much easier for the BBC to dismiss than those coming from the very people its journalists should be able to put under pressure.

Today The National reported that analysis of all political stories reported on the BBC News at Six over a five day period in August found that only one report could be seen as negative about the UK Government - representing 9.1% of political stories. Earlier analysis of coverage in a week in July found that none of the nine political stories was critical of the government.

In comparison, eight of 20 stories on Reporting Scotland in the same week in August, and three of 11 stories in July, were critical of the Scottish Government.

Putting the hard questions to the government is what political journalists are supposed to do - in fact, their ability to do so is essential to a functioning democracy. If our public broadcaster is wary of doing just that at a time when we need it most, or finds itself confused about matters as simple as whether asking someone’s dad whether they’re doing a good job counts as “impartial”, we should all be worried.