Saturday, 1 June 2019

Alistair, thank you for that

Was Melanie Abbott channelling her inner Diane Abbott today?

I haven't listened to Any Answers in a while, mainly due to Anita Anand treating it as 'The Anita Anand Show', but I tuned in today to find a debut appearance as stand-in presenter from Radio 4 journalist Melanie Abbott.

As it was her debut and she's "very excited" about it, I won't rain on her parade too much. I preferred her to Anita, but some friendly advise really may be needed: (1) Don't interrupt so much (they're members of the public, not politicians); (2) Don't cut people off so abruptly as it sounds rude; and (3) Don't react like an over-sensitive hedgehog whenever a caller, in passing, criticises the BBC.

That latter exchange climaxed in a slight spat over the CBI's membership numbers, and it's worth quoting in its own right:
Melanie Abbott, BBC: (interrupting) Alistair McMillan in Glasgow, I'd like to come to you. So another...the deal should be put to the people again? What do you think?
Alistair from Glasgow: No, I don't think so because I don't...The thing is the whole...I rang in because I get rather annoyed with the hysteria that we hear from various panel members - and we heard it again yesterday - about chaos and catastrophe if there is a no deal. 'No deal' is a misnomer. It doesn't exist. There is no chance of us leaving in a no deal situation...
Melanie(interrupting) Why do you think that?
Alistair: Well, I run a business. We export to around 120+ countries around the world, including every one in the EU. We've marched up the hill twice now towards a no deal and the last time it was literally within 24 hours we were told that it would not be a no deal. I have been very impressed by organisations like HMRC...
Melanie(interrupting) So when you say there's no such thing you mean...
Alistair: Sorry?
Melanie: When you say there's no such thing as a no deal you mean you don't think it well ever happen?
Alistair: No. There's no such thing as a no deal because as we've found in the run-up to the two times when we were about to leave there are masses of small deals that have been done which actually give us what we need. And the only thing we needed on top of that would be an Article 24 agreement between the EU and the UK and things would basically then carry on as they are. The HMRC...
Melanie(interrupting) We haven't been told about these small deals that are being done....
Alistair(interrupting) I know. I quite agree with you. It's very frustrating. And I find it very frustrating that the BBC and other organisations choose not to report these. I have had...
Melanie(interrupting) But we've got a business organisation, the CBI, saying that we must have a deal to protect the economy. That's 190,000 members. Can they be wrong?
Alistair: Well, no, it is not 190,000. No, it is not. They have...
Melanie(interrupting) That's what it says on their website. 
Alistair: They have 2,500 members...
Melanie(interrupting) Do you think they're lying...
Alistair: (crosstalk) They have 2,500 members.
Melanie(crosstalk)...on their website about their members?
Alistair: Yes. They're not members. They don't have 190,000 members. They have affiliate organisations that have membership, which I belong to, but that doesn't mean they speak for me. There is no such thing as a no deal because there are masses of small deals and HMRC in particular have make sure, and also carriers...I have had guarantees from carriers that they will get our goods through because they've been working on getting this sorted out. The whole thing is that a lot of this is just hysteria, and the louder that these people call of chaos and catastrophe the more they seem to believe it themselves... 
Melanie(interrupting) Alistair, thank you for that.
Naturally, I thought I'd check. 

The BBC's Melanie was quoting from the CBI's 'About Us' page which begins, "The CBI speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses. Together they employ nearly 7 million people, about one-third of the private sector-employed workforce." 

Yet, according to Wikipedia, "The Confederation of British Industry is a UK business organisation, which in total speaks for 190,000 businesses, made up of around 1,500 direct and 188,500 indirect members." 

So who's right? The BBC's Melanie or businessman Alistair from Glasgow? 

Well, 1,500 direct members is roughly in the same tennis court as Alistair's 2,500 members figure - and surely sounds about right for the CBI's core membership number. The 190,000 businesses with the 188,500 indirect members is a much more nebulous concept. 

I can believe that the CBI is probably speaking for most of its 1-2,500 direct members but Melanie's claim that the CBI also speaks en masse for its 188,500 indirect members is far less believable. 

So I'm siding with Alistair from Glasgow. 


  1. Well I guess any large company is going to have hundreds of subsidiary companies - does that explain it?

    I couldn't agree with Alistair more. If you look into things, the EU and UK have both done a lot to ensure there is no "catastrophe" after the UK's exit: planes will fly, trade will flow, phones will work...

    The UK will then be in a much stronger position to negotiate a reasonable free trade deal.

  2. The CBI is good Brexit value, especially when ex-BBC Board Director Carolyn Fairburn is wheeled out and or quoted ad nauseam or challenge in her Remain advocacy.

    Except on a small BBC backwater inhabited by A. Neil, where she got slaughtered by a reality the rest of the BBC does not inhabit.