Thursday, 12 December 2019

Election Thread

In preparation for the results rolling in, here's a special election thread. 

Open Thread

"We have been asking for hours now to give us a date, a time, for a new open thread. As of now, none has been forthcoming. There is no law, no Supreme Court ruling, that can force Sue and Craig to start a new open thread but..."

(interrupting) Oh for goodness sake, Andrew, stop moaning! Here's a new open thread.

Thank you for your support and comments.


I’m sick of seeing Jeremy Corbyn brandishing sheaves of paper to ‘prove’ the nastiness of the Tories. A bundle from Russia-with-love to prove that Boris Johnson is about to sell off our NHS to “Trump”. The evidence appeared to consist of a wad of thick black lines, the content redacted, obliterated and unreadable. But no matter. When today is over we might not have to see it again.

A few days ago BBC News featured a Corbyn rally (in Bristol, perhaps?) Corbyn, again waving papers before an adoring mob. This time, the front page of the Mirror featuring four-year-old Jack being “treated for pneumonia on the floor because there were no beds in Boris Johnson’s hospital.” Behind the anointed one, a comedy bobble-hat rose up, very slowly from beneath the podium to reveal the wearer - a photographer. Had the prospect of a Corbyn led “gov’ment” been less catastrophic, this slow-motion ‘photo-bomb’ might have added a moment of slapstick hilarity. I wish the intruder was an absurdist performance artist, but I expect the chap just wanted a shot of the great man from an unusual angle; the back of the head.

The confusion about the four-year-old boy-on-the-floor drags on. Speculation abounds. Who took the photo? Why was it taken in the first place?  The plea not to politicise it -  from the boy’s mother and from Jeremy Corbyn, whose very insistence that he wasn’t politicising it was effectively politicising it, something of which he must have been perfectly aware.

The assertion that the boy was ‘being treated for pneumonia’ on the floor, yet the drip was plainly not in use; but was it a drip or an oxygen thingy?  Whatever had happened, it was all due to callous Tory cuts. 
The editor of the Yorkshire Post has written some dubious hyperbole in the Guardian 
 “His mother, Sarah Williment, found herself in a moment of panic: her baby needed her. Moreover, her baby needed medical care from the amazing doctors and nurses at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) but such was the demand from patients, he had to be made as comfortable as possible – on a pile of coats on the floor – until a bed and care became available.
Is a four-year-old technically a baby? Well, I s’pose, to a parent, one’s adult offspring are still babies, at a stretch. 

Was he waiting for ‘a bed and care’ or had he already ‘had’ care? If he hadn’t been seen yet, who supplied the drip cum oxygen mask? P’raps they brought one with them from home? This is getting ridiculous now.
“With only good intentions, Williment contacted her local newspaper, the Yorkshire Evening Post. In times of trouble, people often turn to their local newspaper. In this instance, Sarah only wanted to others to see just how stretched the team at LGI was, and humanise the impacts of too few hands at the pump.
As you do when you think your child baby has pneumonia. I’m not going to go on and on, much as I could.  I must try going to my local newspaper in my time of trouble - but will the Western Morning News care that a bunch of antisemites are running the country?
Stephen Pollard is thinking what I’ve been thinking for ages. I can’t even remember if I’ve written about it before, but I’m pretty sure I have. Pollard, from his piece in the Telegraph:
"The truth is that I can now barely bring myself to contemplate what this election says about my fellow Brits' willingness to tolerate Jew-hate. Whatever share of the vote Labour ends up with, it's safe to predict that over a third of voters have no problem with the concept of installing as prime minister a man who is repeatedly labelled an anti-Semite, not least by those like Dame Margaret Hodge who have worked alongside him.
In 2017, it was possible to argue that they didn't know about all this. That's impossible now. The issue of Labour's anti-Semitism has been given a full and comprehensive airing both during and long before the campaign. 
[...]The worst of them all are the so-called moderate Labour MPs. In the four years since Mr Corbyn was elected leader many of them have tweeted and spoken a lot about solidarity with the Jewish community. But when an election was called and they had to make a choice, they chose – actively, consciously and unambiguously – to ignore the pleas of the Jewish community, and to side with the Jew haters. Their campaigning was not to stop anti-Semitism, it was to put the leading anti-Semites into power.
Momentum-inspired aggressive behaviour of the baying mob is spookily 1930s-like.

On an odder note, have you noticed, Jeremy Corbyn himself has succumbed to the fashionable Labour glottal stop. He suddenly started using the famous Labour Party pronunciation, referring to the organisation as The Labour Par’y.  

Might Angela Rayner impose the ‘silent T’  as part of Labour’s revolutionary educational policy: “Equality Rules for Dumbed-down Schools”?

Wednesday, 11 December 2019


Well, that's that settled then!

Has Laura K broken electoral law today?

Still talking of Twitter but getting back to BBC-related matters...

I see that #SackKuenssberg is trending on Twitter. (Isn't it always?).

Corbynistas are going absolutely mad and accusing her of breaking electoral law by revealing how postal votes are trending. Why? Because she said this on today's Politics Live?:
The postal votes, of course, have already arrived. The parties, they're not meant to look at it but they do kind of get a hint, and on both sides people are telling me that the postal votes that are in are looking pretty grim for Labour in lots of parts of the country.
Here's a flavour of the (politer) reaction:
  • Time for BBC to sack Laura Kuenssberg to protect it’s [sic] already ruined reputation. Broadcasters are not allowed to reveal postal votes before 10PM polling day as it influences the vote. Laura has proved to be a Tory machine.
  • Dear Tony Hall, DG. This must surely be Laura Kuenssberg'd [sic] final draft of her resignation: She has either 1) committed a crime under the RPA (punishable by imprisonment).2) Amplified another LIE from "Senior Tory Sources" without even student-level fact checking.
  • I have rung their [sic] Electoral Commission to complain about Laura Kuenssberg speaking on TV that The postal votes show it is ‘grim for Labour’ - I am so ANGRY!! Call Electoral Commission 0333 103 1928 & complain. We are NOT a Banana Republic. 
  • Not once in my life have I ever advocated someone losing their job. But Kussenberg [sic] must go. Her bias is obvious and deplorable and she is now breaking the law to undermine democracy.
The Electoral Commission itself has tweeted the following this afternoon: 

So, where does that leave Laura K?

She was, after all, only reporting what people 'on both sides' are telling her. Aren't those people the 'guilty' ones?

Or does her 'passing on' what they're communicating about the votes cast also constitute 'communicating information obtained at postal vote opening sesssions, including about votes cast, before a poll has closed'?

In other words, are her Corbynista critics right?

I'm beggared if I know. Do you?

Unfolding in the past few minutes on Twitter....

Guido Fawkes 26m: EXCLUSIVE Tory Activist Attacked with Acid in Barnet.
Dan Hodges 12m: Given what happened yesterday, people need to be careful of reports coming from Barnet until all the facts are established.
Dan Hodges 8m: Tory sources saying not yet clear what substance was involved in Barnet incident, but it wasn't acid.
Dan Hodges 1m: Appears the substance involved was perfume.
Update: And then came this:
Dan Hodges 9m: Appears the substance involved was perfume.
Isaac 4m: You got your info from this Shit blog, didnt you? (linking to Guido Fawkes).
Dan Hodges 3m: My info on what?
Isaac 2m: The so called Acid Attack.
Dan Hodges 1m: I didn't say there had been an acid attack. I said there hadn't been an acid attack. Could you please go back to the WhatsApp group and get your lines straight please.
(You may not be surprised to learn that Isaac is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn).

Another update: And then came this:
All of which, I think, calls for a cry of 'Good grief!'.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Game changers ?

Talking of interfering in ‘another country’s’ election, (as I was a moment ago) you might have noticed in our sidebar a little article by David Collier.  

It has been picked up by some of the press. Some but not others.

No. The BBC is still obsessing about the Alan Kurdi  “4-year old Jack” story.
"Jack Williment-Barr. The 4-year-old with suspected pneumonia forced to lie on a pile of coats on the floor of a Leeds hospital."
Will it be a game-changer? I suspect the BBC hopes so, now that Boris has riled them with veiled threats to do something or other to the Beeb if he gets half a chance. 

The way that stunt was set up and ‘run with’ won’t really help the reputation of journalists in the final reckoning. I hope. 

I haven’t been able to find the full facts surrounding this incident. And the other one, baby Lily. For instance, why was she “only covered with her mother’s cardigan?” Surely-to-God the parent had a brought a shawl or a baby-blanket with them? There are many unanswered questions. Banal but pertinent questions.

The ‘Islamist lobby’ has us on the back foot. Here’s why.

The ‘Islamist lobby’ has us on the back foot. Here’s why. I will be honest and admit I don’t really know why. But this has been allowed to happen somehow. All I can do is present a couple of examples.

On the Spectator website, Stephen Daisley brings us: Take it from this expert: Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite
“Yair Lapid is not mincing his words. One of the leaders of Israel’s main centre-left party broke with protocol this morning at a conference in Jerusalem to urge British voters not to elect Jeremy Corbyn.”
Many responses to this piece seem to agree that “interfering” in another country’s election is unbecoming, but more relevant to me is that there is also a disturbing assertion that whining about antisemitism is counterproductive. 

Yep. We mustn’t barge in and trample too heavily all over the Labour Party’s antisemitism problem because it will antagonise people! Oh, dear. Whose terms are we arguing on? 

That was number one. Now for number two:

Don't frighten the horses

On Sunday a rally against antisemitism took place in Parliament Square. Some celebrity speakers were invited, including Tracy Ann Oberman and Rachel Riley.  You might have read the post about this on Harry’s Place (you probably wouldn’t have heard about it elsewhere) but it’s not so much the rally itself that I’m interested in. (Did it do any good? I have no idea.) More worrying is the fact that one of the advertised speakers was dis-invited. His name is Col. Richard Kemp. 

I’m a fan of Col Kemp for several reasons - one being that his pro-Israel advocacy has the inbuilt advantage of (him) not-being-a-Jew.  This is the opposite of being an As-a-Jew. In the current climate of rampant Jew-bashing, any Jew who complains about antisemitism is automatically placed on a “they would say that, wouldn’t they” footing. (Whose terms are we on now?) 
Another good reason to admire Col Kemp and to accept the validity of his views is his formidable military experience, which gives him a unique understanding of Middle Eastern warfare and what drives it. He has huge respect for the moral and ethical standards of the IDF.

So why was he un-invited to speak at the rally? Because his outspoken views on Islam might ‘discredit’ the cause. Yes, suspend your disbelief - this really happened. Look at the video on Daphne Anson’s blog (and on YouTube) and weep. If you see this fearful timidity an insignificant example of ‘don’t frighten the horses’ I think you're mistaken. Tracy Ann and Rachel, admirable as they may be for speaking out, especially as they work alongside many lefty, anti-Zio luvvies, both still feel the need to tag “Islamophobia and all forms of racism” onto their campaigns against antisemitism. 

Whose terms are we on, again? If you look at the responses to the aforementioned article, you’ll find a mixed bunch of comments. Fancy having to argue over the no-platforming of a loyal ally, and all for the fear that he might offend someone by mentioning that a large chunk of the antisemitism they're rallying about emanates from within Islam. The ones who defend that awful decision are on the back foot - and there’s your embryonic blasphemy law for you. 

Source says

According to Buzzfeed's Alex Wickham:
Dominic Cummings and senior No10 aides have drawn up plans over the last few weeks re BBC licence fee. They are looking either abolishing it entirely or decriminalising non payment. Source says they want to relieve burden on justice system of chasing people who don’t pay. Tories pointing to the famous statistic that around 1 in 10 cases at magistrates courts are re the TV licence: 
— in 2013 nearly 200,000 were prosecuted. 
— 7 in 10 of those prosecuted were women. 
— 30 people a year jailed.
 — Tories say time/money better spent on more serious crimes.
Paul T Horgan of The Conservative Woman added:
All the prosecutions are private prosecutions conducted by Capita, paid for by the BBC. About 30 people a year are jailed for non-payment of the fines for not having a licence. The BBC refuses to disclose how much these private prosecutions actually cost.

Also sprach John Simpson

The flight of the young

The Times reports today that:

BBC viewing among young people is “dangerously close to the brink” as audiences switch to streaming services, according to an internal document. 
Leaked data shows that less than half of people aged 16 to 34 now watch any of its main broadcast television channels — BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four — in an average week. 
The reach of these channels among young viewers has fallen from 51.9 per cent to 46.6 per cent in a year. Only 40.7 per cent of people in the age group now watch BBC One each week, according to the document obtained by the trade magazine Broadcast. 
BBC executives see the flight of young audiences as an existential crisis, undermining the moral case for a universal licence fee.

How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels, that is the question.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Mark Easton sums up Mark Easton's view of the election

Here (h/t anonymous on the open thread) was the BBC's home editor Mark Easton giving us the benefit of his wisdom on tonight's BBC One News at Six:
Clive Myrie: With me as the BBC's home editor, Mark Easton. For some, the choice in this election seems stark and clear, yet, as we have shown there, clearly there are people who are still undecided about this election. 
Mark Easton: You know, I'm 
really struck by the number of people I've met who still say they haven't made up their mind who they are going to vote for on Thursday. The campaign itself, if anything, has deepened the sense of scepticism, cynicism, certainly not enthusiasm. The party leaders are not seen to be trustworthy, certainly not particularly likeable. I think, on the issues, people are generally fed up with Brexit. They want it out of the way, you know, whatever happens, one way or the other. They want to move on. We want to talk about other things. And on those other issues, real frustration, I think, that we are not talking more about the the health service, about crime, and housing, and climate change, the cost of living. The manifestos, I think, are often seen as a wish list, rather than a credible road map for government, and many of the voters I've met here today have said they are going to make their mind up in the voting booth itself, they are going to look down the card and make the decision, I don't know, based on their final instinct. In India, you know, they have a box on the voting card that reads 'none of the above', and I suspect if you had that here for this election, it would get a huge amount of support. 

Cakes, to have and to eat

The BBC's Editor of Live Political Programmes, a certain Rob Burley (who we may possibly have mentioned here before, from time to time, once in a blue moon), is issuing a heartfelt plea tonight:
Twitter, you can (and do) shout and abuse, but at least read my bio. Those shows are literally the only ones I can answer for. They don’t include the news or QT or Today. Just so you know you are wasting your time if you message me about them. Sorry.
His far-left critics aren't buying it:
Unless, of course, you feel the need to respond to comments/complaints about other shows or BBC news outlets. As you have done when it suits e.g. Remembrance Day “mistake” and Johnson (not) being laughed at editing “mistake”.
Much as I like Rob and admire the way he engages, his far-left critics here do have a point. Though there's never any excuse for abuse, and those who engage in such behaviour are a disgrace, he does sometimes have his cake and eat it by defending the BBC against criticism of programmes which fall well outside those mentioned in his bio. And if he does that then, surely, he lays himself open to being questioned about those programmes too, doesn't he?

"That makes him Jewish"

One of the first tweets I saw after getting home from work today was this:
Stephen Daisley: Labour’s candidate in West Dunbartonshire, Jean Anne Mitchell, responded to Nick Robinson’s questioning of Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitism by highlighting the BBC presenter’s Jewish heritage. She shared a post about his ethnicity to a WhatsApp group.
We watched the BBC Leadership Debate chaired by Nick Robinson. Throughout the debate we felt that Robinson gave Johnson an easy time, allowing him to avoid answering the audience’s questions and instead giving him free reign to attack Corbyn. We thought he was biased. And then we Googled him. His mother was born in Shanghai, where her German-Jewish parents fled during the 1930s. That makes him Jewish.
The paper continues [with my comments added in parentheses and italics]:
Contacted by the Record, Mitchell said she had shared the message “for information purposes, nothing more” and was “absolutely” not endorsing it. 
["For information purposes, nothing more". Seriously? Jeremy wept!]
She said: “I’ve got so many Jewish friends and I would never, ever, ever to do anything that was in any way anti-semitic.” 
[The "Some of my best friends are..." defence, usually descried by the Left as the inevitable starting phrase for racist bigots].
After being read the section on Robinson’s Jewish heritage, she said: “I did not read that message properly. I was tired, I had been out campaigning all day. I came in, I sat down, I watched the debate, I came in and I shared that with the group because it was to do with the programme. 
[Poor thing! She was so tired she missed the 'That makes him Jewish' bit that was the message's concluding point.]
She also said: “I am really, really troubled that someone in a candidate group has actually let that be shared outwith the group. That is really pretty alarming.” 
[Eh? Is that the main thing that's troubling her? And what exactly is troubling her here? That an antisemite in her group let it be shared "outwith the group"? Or that a whistleblower within her group blew the whistle?]
Wake up BBC!

If anyone spots the BBC reporting this, please let us know. This is a star BBC presenter after all that the Corbynista antisemites are going after.

Rob praises Jo, and plays his joker

I see that Rob Burley's been busy today. Here he is, for example, - oh Rob! - taking out and waving the old, tattered 'complaints from both sides' card:
I reckon Jo Coburn has eaten her Weetabix this morning. Absolutely brilliant and super tough political interviewing. The usual complaints on here from both Labour and Conservatives that she is in some way biased. You guys need to get your story straight, you can't both be right!
That arose after today's Politics Live

Here's a complaint for 'our side' about that very edition of that very programme, posted btl (below the line) at Guido Fawkes today:
I honestly think that the Tories are so far ahead in the polls partly because the public have been exposed to the absolute rancid and breathtaking bias of the BBC during this election campaign. Everything from the tone of the interview, the type of questions and implications, to the selection of facts, is entirely dependent on which party the interviewee represents. Earlier today on Politics Live McDonnell was allowed to spout his nonsense about having a 4 day week effectively unchallenged. But in the space of a few minutes what that Tory went through was tantamount to a police investigation. He was hounded, sneered at, and it was implied several times that he was just an outright liar. Heck, he wasn't even treated like a normal human being, but more like a pathetic and inferior dog who should learn to behave himself. I think people have started to wake up to this disgusting organization. Privatize it now.
I've watched it myself now, and done a bit of counting and comparing. But the counting  and comparing is complicated by the fact that we're partly comparing chalk and cheese. 

John McDonnell took part in a one-on-one interview with Jo Coburn from outside the studio. It lasted over 9 minutes, and Jo interrupted him just 6 times. 

Paul Scully for the Conservatives, in contrast, was in the studio with Jo, and her three other guests, and their discussion was free-flowing and hard to time. Jo interrupted him 31 times (over 5 times more often than Mr McDonnell). Her other guests also repeatedly interrupted him. And Joe, the programme's fact-checker, appeared mid-interview, to add to Mr Scully's misery by telling viewers that he was factually wrong. 

More subjectively, I myself felt that Jo gave John McDonnell the gentlest of nippings while going after Mr Scully like a Hammer House of Horror hell-hound. She was, of course, pursuing the scent of the BBC's "Can we trust the Tories?" angle, and trying very hard to make Mr Scully look like a liar with all sorts of pre-primed statistical grenades and booby-traps. 

(The mild-mannered Mr Scully seemed to take it all in his stride. However sour Jo became towards him he just went on placidly, like a cow eating grass). 

As regards  'complaints from both sides', there's no equivalence here, so that argument collapses. Jo Coburn sent John McDonnell to heaven and Paul Scully to hell. Jo's Weetabix consumption revealed interviewing toughness towards Mr Scully alone.

But, being ITBB, here's a thought in counterpoint: Had the situations been reversed and Mr McDonnell been in the studio with three other guests and Mr Scully outside the studio in a one-on-one interview with Jo Coburn, would these stats have swung 180 degrees in the other direction?

Who can say? Counterfactuals can only ever be guesses. 

I very much doubt it though. The BBC - possibly out of fear, possibly not - seems incapable of properly taking John McDonnell to task. 

Corbynista Twitter

I'm hearing reports that the BBC's political editor has hacked a horse to death with a machete. I've made no effort to establish whether they're true or not, but I've typed it out and shared it with tens of thousands of followers anyway.

First thoughts from the BBC

Just for the record, I thought I'd transcribe how Boris's remarks about the BBC licence fee were reported on the BBC News Channel this afternoon. The BBC's Alex Forsyth was the report given the task of extemporising off-the-cuff responses (to coin a phrase). Note the little touches of editorialising along the way:

2.25 pm
Well, this is a campaign which so far, from the Conservative perspective in particular, has been very tightly controlled, because they entered this campaign thinking that they were the frontrunners to win it and they didn't want to do anything to disrupt it. So, a big part of it has been about trying to keep it to the core message, a focus on Brexit, and that was the thrust of what the Prime Minister came out here to do, coming to Labour Leave-voting seats. But two things have come up which you might have said were slight unexpected. The first one, as you say, an announcement, or at least the suggestion, that Boris Johnson would consider in the future, if he were to be re-elected Prime Minister, of getting rid of the licence fee. He said it was something that had to be looked at and reconsidered, that perhaps it wasn't the right way to justify funding the BBC in the very long term. He said he didn't want to make up policy off-the-cuff but then he went on to suggest that perhaps this is something he might look at, and that isn't something we've heard in that way from the Prime Minister before. 

3.07 pm
But there have been two things that have come up which have distracted from that. The first, as you say, that off-the-cuff, if you like, suggested policy announcement that Boris Johnson would look at the licence fee, the the way the BBC is funded, in the future, where he to be re-elected. First time we've heard him go that far on that

4.13 pm
Yeah, you might have considered this to be unexpected. Boris Johnson during that press conference was asked a question by a member of staff who was working at the road haulage company that he was visiting, and this was a question about the licence fee. And Boris Johnson gave an answer which, as I say, wasn't pre-briefed. Nobody was expecting him to say it. But it certainly might not have been entirely unwelcome, because it is the kind of answer which may play well with the voters that Boris Johnson is trying to target. This is what he said when he was asked about the licence fee. [Clip of Boris Johnson]So, that is the Prime Minister saying that he didn't want to talk about policy off-the-cuff and then seemingly doing just that. And so we've had two narratives emerging today which were not expected at the beginning when we thought the focus would continue to be on Brexit. One around the TV licence fee, which might not prove entirely unpopular with the people that Boris Johnson's trying to persuade,...

"How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels, that is the question"

This happened this afternoon at a Conservative election event in the North East:
Audience member: Why don't you abolish TV licence fees? 
Boris Johnson: For everybody? Well, I don't think at this late stage in the campaign I'm going to make an un
funded spending commitment like that. But what I certainly think is that the BBC should cough up and pay for the licences for the over 75s,  as they promised to do. At this stage we are not planning to get rid of all TV licence fees, though I'm certainly looking at it. And what I will say is that I'm under pressure not to extemporise policy on the hoof, but you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a TV, a media, organisation still makes sense in the long term, given the way other organisations manage to fund themselves. That's all I will say. I think the system of funding by what is effectively a general tax...isn't it? Everyone has a bears reflection, let me put it that way. How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels, that is the question. 
Isn't it just!

Sunday, 8 December 2019


Following though, as a blog like this must do, I think that Andrew Bomford's The World This Weekend report on Labour's nationalisation plans was well-balanced, with plenty to annoy both sides and plenty to think about. 

Then, at the programme's climax, came a discussion involving Nicola Adam of the fabulous Lancashire Evening Post...

... (I never myself read it these days, but it's a local paper for local people up 'ere, and the BBC usually ignores it, so go local girl! Me and Tubbs are rooting for you!)... Iain Martin of The Times, and Professor David Egerton, "an historian and author of The Rise and Fall of the British Nation" (a Corbynista academic, by the sounds of it). 

I thought I'd transcribe all of Jonny Dymond's questions, as I've focused in closely on this edition of The World This Weekend and was curious about what he'd ask:

  • (To Nicola) Nicola, let me start with you if I may. We're constantly being told that the north is the area that will probably decide this election - this Tory ambition to break the so-called red wall, these constituencies that have been held for so long by Labour. Is that sense of importance, that focus on the north, felt up in the north?
  • (To David) David, it's not just the north that's feeling that way, is there (sic)? There is, er, er... malaise, a concern about turnout, for you?
  • (To Iain) Iain, what strikes me, and has struck me for weeks, is we have these very different visions of what the country might be after the election from Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, particularly with Conservatives and Labour, and yet the discussion, the debate that they're been, has been largely focused around claims of antisemitism in the Labour Party and these three words - Get Brexit done - and whether or not he'll do an interview, and the Conservative Party. It's been a curious debate, hasn't it?
  • (To Nicola) Nicola, do you get that sense of exhaustion with politics? Even a shrug of the shoulders, a bit of despair about the whole business for where you are?
  • (To Iain) Iain, Iain, you wrote this week - and I did engage with your article - that they'll hang a portrait of Nigel Farage - Brexit Party leader - in the National Portrait Gallery one day. This general election was presented as 'the Brexit election'. Is that the case? Is it still the case?
  • (To David) David, whether or not there's a picture of Nigel Farage in the National Portrait Gallery - a beer in one hand and a fag in the other - the Brexit Party is struggling, isn't it? It say four MEPs desert it this week and it appears to be bumping along the bottom in the polls. Is it over?
  • (To Nicola) Nicola, is the Brexit Party over in the north?
  • (To Nicola) OK, Nicola, I want you to tell me, can anything shift in this last week and will you please call the election, briefly.
  • (To Iain) Iain Martin, one last push? Any chance of a change? Call the election!
  • (To David) And Professor David Egerton, you're a professor so you must get this right, do you think things can change in this last week and can you call it?

Let's channel my inner Prof Mike Berry of Cardiff University here and look, professorially, at the BBC presenter's questions there.

Does this list of questions prove, as per my imaginings of far-left Prof Mike Berry's response to answering this question, that BBC Jonny really is a Brexit-supporting, Faragist Tory? 

No, to be fair, it doesn't.

Fans of Nigel Farage will doubtless note that BBC Jonny didn't just openly invite two people unsympathetic to the Brexit Party to slam the Brexit Party, he also, himself, actively played ringmaster to the chorus of mockery towards Nigel Farage. 

All of which is to expected from the BBC.

But please just look again at this:
(To Iain) Iain, what strikes me, and has struck me for weeks, is we have these very different visions of what the country might be after the election from Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, particularly with Conservatives and Labour, and yet the discussion, the debate that there's been, has been largely focused around claims of antisemitism in the Labour Party and these three words - Get Brexit done - and whether or not he'll do an interview, and the Conservative Party. It's been a curious debate, hasn't it?
Why does Jonny think that "claims" of antisemitism in the Labour Party form part of "a curious debate"?  Aren't they, in fact, absolutely central to the debate? 

Questions of Character

The World This Weekend's final leader profile focused on Jo Swinson today. 

On impartiality grounds, I prefer Jonny Dymond to Mark Mardell, and, to do him credit, this profile struck me as being much fairer than anything Mark Mardell would have produced.

Yes, we heard from an impressed former teacher of Jo, her still-friendly former colleague David Laws, and her supportive present advisor Olly Grender, but we also heard kindly criticism from the Economist's Anne McElvoy and somewhat sharper criticism of her tactics from Professor Andrew Russell of Liverpool University - and Jonny's narrative filled in the gaps with all manner of interesting pros and cons.  

For the purposes of this blog, however, I must admit that I'd have preferred this final profile to have come from the pen of Mark Mardell. 

I've laid out the bias in his 'A Question of Character' profiles over the past few weeks and would have liked to cap it all with his Jo Swinson 'A Question of Character'. 

(Tellingly, Jonny D didn't used the pompous, Mardellian 'A Question of Character' phrase today. I don't blame him!). 

You can find our previous posts here:

My overall conclusions on this could be based on many things, but I'll stick to the most tangible:  i.e. the layout of voices featured in the four profiles over the series: 

The Nicola Sturgeon profile was 4-1 in sympathy with the SNP leader. 

The Jeremy Corbyn profile was 3 fulsome supporters. 1 not-very-hostile (left-wing) critic and 1 sharp (centre-left) critic.

The Jo Swinson profile was was 3 fulsome supporters, 1 not-very-hostile critic and 1 sharp-but-not-entirely-unkind critic.

The Boris Johnson profile was 3 fulsome critics and 2 not-wholly-supportive (pro-EU) supporters.

The imbalanee here could hardly be clearer.

Or could it? 

O passerby,  unless you listen to it all yourself and see how carefully and (I hope) fairly I've laid out my case in recent weeks, then why wouldn't you refuse to believe me? So please listen and read. The case is clear and, I think, the case is now closed. 

So much so that I'll put in a complaint to the BBC. And several other complaints too. 

On which subject, my most recent complaint has been subject to two 'sorry, but we're still considering the matter' holding emails. I'm stiill waiting, and its been dragging on for weeks. I suspect they're very, very busy at the moment and I know my complaint wasn't an easy one for them to bat off - and I don't think this one will be either - but onwards!

Small things add up

On the theme of today's The World This Weekend, Jonny Dymond (standing in for Mark Mardell) went to Milton Keynes for the election. He talked to some of the candidates. I'll quote his questions to each of them:

1. Charlynne Pullen, Labour candidate for Milton Keynes North
- In your manifesto you have some really serious commitments to housing in general and social housing in particular. The government, it seems to be saying, will be back and will be back big time when it comes to accommodation for citizens, both in both Milton Keynes and the rest of the country.

2. Catherine Rose, Green Party candidate for Milton Keynes North:
- You would have very rigorous new standards for energy use in new properties and you would also want to see a lot of new properties built and old properties refurbished. 

3. Ben Everitt, Conservative candidate for Milton Keynes North:
[After Ben says, "To put it bluntly we'll build more affordable housing"]. 
- I don't see that in your manifesto. The others put numbers on affordable housing, and commitments. You put numbers on the houses you want to build that will not help people in Milton Keynes on too low incomes.
- You'd like to see a Conservative government build, fund, allow, more council houses to be built?

4. Aisha Mir, Liberal Democrat candidate for Milton Keynes North
[No questions. Just her views].

You'll doubtless spot that the Lib Dem got a free run, and the Labour Party and Green Party candidates were asked about their policies in terms I suspect they won't have minded one bit. Only the Conservative Party candidate was challenged and contradicted, and found himself on the end of a negatively-framed question (about how his policies won't help the poor).

Yes, it's a small thing, but small things add up.


The report's main theme was the housing crisis in Milton Keynes, with the 'right to buy' policy being placed centre stage by Jonny as the main culprit. 

Population growth and immigration wasn't mentioned. 


The headlines midway through today's The World This Weekend ran as follows:
The party leaders are pushing their key general election pledges with the Conservatives focusing on plans to reduce low skilled migration. Boris Johnson has once again insisted there won't be checks for goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain under his Brexit deal. Labour is highlighting its promise of free personal social care in people's homes, while the Liberal Democrats are concentrating on their plan to spend £50 billion on infrastructure projects outside London. 
My ears always prick up at the BBC's use of the word "insisted" as (to me) it usually implies 'over-defensive pleading by someone the BBC thinks is wrong'.

But the BBC went even one better than that today. 

"Boris Johnson has insisted" evidently wasn't enough for them, so they gave us an added, world-weary-sounding "once again" in addition.

The result: "Boris Johnson has once again insisted".

It's language that's carefully chosen. And it's chosen (I think) to project the BBC's view that Boris is wrong - and, possibly, a wrong 'un.

Don't mention the IRA!

On at 'At last!' thread, MB wondered if Andrew Marr raised anythiong today about John McDonnell's pro-IRA past and praise of dead IRA volunteers. 

To which I replied, no, he didn't. 

If you look back through the programme's archive of transcripts you find 26 transcripts from 25 appearances (since October 2015) and if you click into all 26 of them - as I've just done - and search for 'IRA', guess what? It doesn't appear. 

Yes, in 25 separate interviews with John McDonnell over the past four years, the phrase 'IRA' has never passed Andrew Marr's lips. Not even during their first-ever encounter

Isn't that remarkable? 

Quelle Surprise!

This comment merits a post of its own:

stewgreen8 December 2019 at 12:26  
Every time we point out the hourly lefty bias of the BBC the leftmob shout "Look the Berry Report from the Cardiff School of Journalism shows that there is no lefty bias in the BBC".
So Berry who finds no left bias in the BBC now tweets: 
"There is no antisemitism crisis in Labour. There is a small number of people who hold antisemitic viewsand Labour has robust system to deal with them." 
Strangely he's been ratioed. 46 people clicked like vs 99 who clicked reply to disagree with him. 

Cue a reprise of this from 2013:
I come with my own biases, of course - but then so does the report author tasked with promoting the report to the world - Dr Mike Berry 
He's associated with the Glasgow Media Group - a  40-year old left-wing campaign which, according to Wikipedia, "claimed that television news was biased in favour of powerful forces and actors in society and against less powerful groups such as the organised working class". He's co-authored several books with hardcore anti-Israel activist Greg Philo, head of the Glasgow Media Group, alleging pro-Israel bias on the part of the BBC. 
Someone who co-writes book after book attacking Israel and the "pro-Israel" BBC seems to come from a not dissimilar mindset to that of the leftist Media Lens website (which naturally approves of Dr Berry's work).  
And with that of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party.

Another pause


Andrew Marr: You're Security Minister and Justice Minister, can I ask you... 
Brandon Lewis: I'm not Justice Minister, sorry. 
Andrew Marr: OK. Security Minister, I beg your pardon, and you are party chairman.

Update: As MB points out below, it was a double 'Ooops!' because Brandon Lewis isn't party chairman either!  (That's James Cleverly and Ben Elliot).

So Andrew Marr got it wrong not once, but twice. 

Strength in numbers

Sky's Lewis Goodall, soon to join Newsnight, has recently tweeted this:
Our old friend, the Number 10 source, is unfortunately right. It has been a bad election for the broadcasters because we don’t work together. If we change and do so for the next election, it’ll be better for us and (more importantly) our viewers: the voters. Let’s set up a debate/interview commission (as Sky has been calling for all year) and offer a programme of programmes across the networks with which leaders and parties can negotiate and accept or decline as a package. Strength in numbers.
Blog favourite Mark Lees replied:
I don't care whether broadcasters "work together" I just want broadcasters to present all sides of the debate in a fair way. In fact, less collaboration between broadcasters may help to avoid groupthink and media bubbles.
I agree with Mark. 

"At last!"

Today's The Andrew Marr Show certainly wasn't the white-knuckle ride that last week's edition was. 

Andrew seemed much calmer today.

Not so some of his viewers though. John McDonnell's repeated claims that “We’ve done everything, I think, we can possibly do” concerning antisemitism in the Labour Party has aroused some anger:
Karen Pollock, Holocaust Education Trust: I’m afraid this isn’t true. It just isn’t true. That is the tragedy but also the danger. 
Sam Freedman, Education Partnerships Group: It just a complete lie. I can't describe how angry this makes me.
John McDonnell remains an compelling performer though, and I suspect many will have been 'taken in' by his 'passionate sincerity' at the end:
We've always got to learn lessons, of course we have, all political parties, it isn't just the Labour Party. I want us to be a shining model. I apologise to the Jewish community for the suffering we've inflicted on them. I say to them we are doing everything possible. We are going to learn more lessons and we want to be the shining example of anti-racism that the Labour Party should be, and I hope I come out of this now having in this, gone through this horrible, horrible period, we come out of it now actually showing respect to the Jewish community and tackling this issue and enabling the Labour Party to tackle anti-Semitism in wider society. 
One who did seem to be 'taken in' was Andrew Marr himself. After Mr McDonnell reached his peroration there, Andrew slapped his thigh and said, with a dramatic flourish, "At last!", before thanking the shadow chancellor for talking to the programme - as if John McDonnell had finally done the right thing.

Slippery tongues

Now to the front pages, mostly pro-Conservative stories of one kind or another, as you would probably expect. The Sunday Times, 'Exposed, the secret Labour files of shame', and that's about anti-Semitism. The Labour Party rejects almost everything in that story. And then suggesting that Boris Johnson is ten points ahead and in sight of winning the election campaign. The Sunday Express has Boris...he's is in almost every single newspaper, Boris Johnson, writing different pieces, or very similar pieces, for each newspaper. And he's pointing like Kitchener, 'Brexit is now up to you'. The Telegraph, the most pro-Conservative of all the papers, and it's a tough one to call that, 'Tories unveil strict limits on unskilled migrants'. That's a big announcement today on a three tier Australian style points system for immigration. The Observer, not a pro-Conservative paper, 'Calls grow to stop Johnson with tactical voting as the race tightens'. We'll talk a lot about tactical voting because thats's going to become more and more important as this week unfolds. And then, finally,The Mail On Sunday. 'Save us from a Friday the 13th horror'. It's pretty clear what they think that is. And again that the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Nazi hunting organisation in the States, warning that Britain will become a pariah state if Boris Johnson becomes prime minister. Now, those, as I say, are very, very pro-Conservative...if Corbyn becomes prime minister...Those are very, very pro-Conservative papers. If you look online it is a very different prospect. So one of the things we may talk about is the gap between the old media and the new media and whether it really matters. 
That 'slip of the tongue' drew a swift tweet from former Sky foreign editor Tim Marshall:
Ooops. Marr reads out Mail headline but says Simon Weisenthal Centre fears a Boris Johnson win when it actually says a Corbyn win. Needs a quick correction/apology Rob Burley.
In fairness to Andrew, he did quickly correct himself (though without an apology).  


Mr Marr's introduction today:
Good morning. Now, look, for once I can bring you some good news. By this time next week it will all be over. We'll have a result. The journey to that result has felt at times pretty foul. The deceit, the pomposity, all those numbers too swollen to comprehend, but it matters so much. This might be your last chance to choose Britain's course for five years. In the end the verdict may come down to which of two propositions - get Brexit done or end austerity now - hits home harder. But after all the interviews, all the debates, all the speeches, there are still big questions to which we haven't had proper answers. It's almost too late to get them. It's not quite too late. 
Do Labour's really ambitious, really expensive plans add up? John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, is with me. Does this election signal the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom? 
The SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, is in the studio too. And as for the Conservatives, "Get Brexit done". Really? And what about the trust factor? The Security Minister Brandon Lewis is with us as well. 
Reviewing the news this morning, the former Labour MP for Ashfield, Gloria De Piero, Britain's best loved pollster Sir John Curtice, and the Daily Mail's Sarah Vine. 
I see he's sticking with the "trust factor" angle as far as the Conservatives go.