Sunday 11 May 2014

Is 'The Week in Westminster' biased?

There's been an amusing exchange about Radio 4's The Week at Westminster at Biased BBC this weekend, which I thought I'd reproduce here: 

Thoughtful says:
An unbelievable piece on radio 4 where the left wing New Statesman hack Helen Lewis is allowed to front a program talking about the Tory appeal to BME voters.
The amazing comment that ‘when the last wave of migrants arrived here in the 1960s and worked hard, settled down and integrated ! Integrated ??? So if that’s true why is there a need for multiculturalism to be invented?
Then it’s on to an explanation of the what the 30MPs who wrote a letter asking for renationalisation of the railways really wanted. This time a Tory is allowed to explain that they have used a specific single example of a franchised which failed because it was badly managed, and that all the others are managing quite well thank you.
This is supposed to be the week in Westminster and not an excuse to discuss left wing policies and dewy eyed dreams of revisionism and lies !
  • Scott says:
    the left wing New Statesman hack Helen Lewis is allowed to front a program talking about the Tory appeal to BME voters
    That’ll be The Week in Westminster, then, which is fronted by a different journalist each week, including from such hard left publications as The Spectator, The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times.
    Wow. Such bias.
    • Thoughtful says:
      You’ll probably find that the other correspondents stick to the subject a bit more instead of using the platform as a tool for political advantage.
      Having subscribed in the past to the FT I don’t believe it has any political bias, if it did it wouldn’t be a reliable source of information.
    • CCE says:
      Scott, I’m not sure if I have ever heard a review of the week in Westminster by anyone from the Salisbury Review or standpoint magazine. Perhaps you could check with the BBC and let me know as The New Statesman (that magazine with a proud history of apology for the blood soaked psychopathic regimes of the East Bloc) has a circulation so small that I can’t even find it and I would like to know why they selected them for the review.
      I heard it by the way and it was foaming marxist bilge………. But then I am a loony bigot because I sometimes post comments on this site.
      **Bless** (for the avoidance of doubt that **Bless* had nothing to do with undisclosed cultural practices in abattoirs)

That calls for a classic Is the BBC biased? investigation, doesn't it? Is The Week in Westminster a good place to look for proof of left-wing bias at the BBC?

All such investigations seem to begin with a list, so here's a complete list of all the presenters of The Week in Westminster and the publications they work for since the start of 2012:

17/5 George Parker, FT
10/5 Helen Lewis, New Statesman
3/5 Jackie Ashley, Guardian 
12/4 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
5/4 Isabel Hardman, Spectator
29/3 George Parker, FT
22/3 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
15/3 Steve Richards, Independent
8/3 Isabel Hardman, Spectator
1/3 George Parker, FT
15/2 Jackie Ashley, Guardian 
8/2 Steve Richards, Independent
1/2 Isabel Hardman, Spectator
25/1 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
18/1 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
11/1 George Parker, FT

21/12 Jackie Ashley, Guardian 
14/12 Isabel Hardman, Spectator
7/12 Steve Richards, Independent
30/11 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
23/11 George Parker, FT
9/11 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
2/11 Steve Richards, Independent
26/10 Jackie Ashley, Guardian
19/10 George Parker, FT
12/10 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
14/9 Steve Richards, Independent
7/9 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
27/7 Jackie Ashley, Guardian
20/7 Steve Richards, Independent
13/7 George Parker, FT
6/7 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
29/6 Steve Richards, Independent
22/6 Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
15/6 Tom Newton-Dunn, Sun
8/6 George Parker, FT
25/5 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
18/5 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
11/5 Anne McElvoy, Economist
4/5 Steve Richards, Independent
27/4 George Parker, FT
20/4 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
23/3 George Parker, FT
16/3 Steve Richards, Independent
9/3 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
2/3 Fraser Nelson, Spectator 
16/2 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
9/2 Steve Richards, Independent
2/2 George Parker, FT
26/1 Anne McElvoy, Economist
19/1 Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
12/1 Steve Richards, Independent

22/12 George Parker, FT
15/12 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
8/12 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
1/12 George Parker, FT
24/11 Fraser Nelson, Spectator 
17/11 Steve Richards, Independent
10/11 Iain Martin, Daily Telegraph 
3/11 Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
27/10 Steve Richards, Independent
20/10 George Parker, FT
13/10 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
15/9 Steve Richards, Independent
8/9 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
28/7 George Parker, FT
21/7 Steve Richards, Independent
14/7 Jackie Ashley, Guardian 
7/7 George Parker, FT
30/6 Fraser Nelson, Spectator 
23/6 Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
16/6 Steve Richards, Independent
26/5 Anne McElvoy, Economist
19/5 Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
12/5 Steve Richards, Independent
5/5 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
28/4 George Parker, FT
21/4 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
31/3 Steve Richards, Independent
24/3 Fraser Nelson, Spectator 
17/3 Jackie Ashley, Guardian
10/3 George Parker, FT
3/3 Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
25/2 Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph
11/2 George Parker, FT
4/2 Sue Cameron, Daily Telegraph 
28/1 Fraser Nelson, Spectator 
21/1 Jackie Ashley, Guardian
14/1 Steve Richards, Independent

How does that break down by publication? Well, the results are a little surprising (to me):

Daily Telegraph = 23
FT = 19
Independent = 19 
Spectator = 9 
Guardian = 8
Daily Mail = 6
The Economist = 3
New Statesman = 1
The Sun = 1

By presenter it breaks down like this:

  • George Parker & Steve Richards = 19 appearances each
  • Sue Cameron & Peter Oborne  = 11 appearances each
  • Jackie Ashley = 8 appearances 
  • Andrew Pierce = 6 appearances 
  • Fraser Nelson = 5 appearances 
  • Isabel Hardman = 4 appearances
  • Anne McElvoy = 3 appearances
  • Iain Martin & Helen Lewis & Tom Newton-Dunn = 1 appearance each

How to assess that for left-wing/right-wing bias then? 

Well, if we go off the political orientation of the publications, it gets a bit frought because there's a fair bit of dispute about where some stand. The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Spectator and the Sun clearly lie on the Right, while the Independent, Guardian and New Statesman clearly lie on the Left (and only the most hardcore left-wingers and right-wingers would try to deny that), but where do the Economist and the FT lie? They would (and do) both claim to be neither left nor right (though firm partisans on both sides assert they lean one way or the other from time to time), and if we go along with that the following stats result: 

  • Pro-right = 39
  • Pro-left = 28
  • Neither = 22 

If assessed by the apparent political orientation of the particular presenters, the results would be something similar, with the only question arising over Anne McElvoy, whose political orientation seems to lie on the left of the Conservative Party (so far as I can judge).

I don't think The Week in Westminster is the place to look for proof of left-wing bias (and don't tell Owen Jones about these results!).

How biased the presenters behave while presenting the programme is surely up to them, though the programme's production team is presumably meant to ensure that they tone it down if they go too far.

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