Less than I week ago, we posted a piece here at ITBB outlining why we thought Duncan Weldon's Newsnight report on immigration was blatantly biased in favour of immigration.
David Keighley, writing at Conservative Woman, also found that report to be a shocker:
On planet Beeb only bigoted plebs worry about immigration
The BBC’s blizzard of election-related stories that spin immigration as a topic that doesn’t matter is impossible to track. Lift almost any stone and there’s another example.
A Newsnight feature last Thursday was billed by presenter Emily Maitlis as ‘a long hard look at the subject’. The full transcript can be read here.
This, it transpired, was a special piece of BBCspeak. It meant that Newsnight – led, of course, by former Guardian executive Ian Katz- was about to deploy its own form of spin to show in yet another way that those British plebs who support tougher immigration controls are deluded bigots and xenophobes.
David make a lot of good points, but the passage that really stood out for me was this one:
Next, Weldon turned to that old BBC device, the vox pop, a range of voices from members of the public. Many years ago, when I did my basic training as a BBC reporter in what is now the Langham Hotel, I was warned that these can never be – and should never be projected as – a balanced or objective view of public opinion. They are only ever a subjective snapshot.
Weldon apparently now works according to very different rules.
The sequence of three voices was gathered, selected and edited by him with all the subtlety of a jackhammer to show that those with views against immigration are bigoted xenophobes for no other reason that they hate foreign languages and shops selling foreign goods. On the other hand, his pro-immigration contributor made a reasoned response, making the point that immigrants are ‘different brains from different parts of the world’, who set up new businesses and who have a wide range of skills.
Weldon then said that if this selection of ‘public opinion’ (which this most certainly was not) was ‘nuanced’, the view of business was ‘fairly’ clear’...
Following my own post last week - and making use of every character of the BBC Complaints procedure's 1,500-character limit - I dispatched the following complaint to the BBC:
I want to complain about Duncan Weldon's pro-immigration Newsnight report.
He claimed that "public opinion is nuanced". No, it's overwhelmingly against mass immigration.
He then said that the view of business is "fairly clear", featuring the CBI saying immigration is a big help and really important for us (pro-immigration).
He then said, "It's often said that immigrants are coming over here and taking our jobs, but that isn't necessarily the case" (pro-immigration) and suggested that immigrants not only take jobs Brits don't want but that, by doing so, they create jobs British people do want to take up (pro-immigration).
Then he said, "Most academic surveys have concluded that there isn't actually a link between British unemployment and immigration" (pro-immigration).
He then said on wages that things are "more nuanced" and there's "academic disagreement" but, despite that, "there's broad agreement that the impact on the average is marginal" (pro-immigration).
And as for those surveys claiming that lower earners are adversely hit while higher earners are least adversely hit by mass immigration, well, he said, "the effects are small, and those most likely to be hit are those most-recent migrants" (pro-immigration).
He then said it's "a sign of success" that people want to move here (pro-immigration).
He then concluded that "despite what the academic work suggests" (pro-immigration) some people still feel "uncomfortable" about immigration.
Please account for this bias during a general election campaign.
The BBC Complaints department's response was surprisingly quick...though it becomes less 'surprising' after you've read it, given that it obviously took very little time and effort to write!
It runs as follows:
It runs as follows:
Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with regards to Newsnight on 22 April.
I understand you felt the programme was biased towards the opinion of pro-immigration.
All BBC editors should follow our election guidelines, which say:
"There is no area of broadcasting where the BBC's commitment to due impartiality is more closely scrutinised than in reporting election campaigns."
The guidance says journalists must "deliver to audiences impartial and independent reporting of the campaign, giving them fair coverage and rigorous scrutiny of the policies and campaigns of all parties".
It’s not always possible or practical to reflect all the different opinions on a subject during an individual programme or report. Instead, our editors are expected to cover the range of relevant and significant views on an issue over a reasonable period of time, usually a week during an election period. We don’t take a position on any view of any political party. We aim to make sure they are heard and to test them rigorously and fairly on behalf of the audience.
I will, nonetheless, include your feedback on our daily report which is made available to all senior management and programme editors. Your opinion is important to us, and is essential to the performance of our service. Please let me assure you that you are crucial in current and future decisions made within the BBC.
Again, thanks for bringing this to my attention.
Yes, she sounds really grateful for me bringing this to her attention, doesn't she?
What can really be said about this? It's nothing more than a perfunctory, cookie-cutter response that must have taken the lady from the BBC Complaints department all of 15 minutes to copy-and-paste from elsewhere. It doesn't even begin to be an adequate response, does it?
Merely parroting official policy and asserting that BBC editors carry it out doesn't in any way answer the point that this particular report was a heavily pro-immigration-biased piece for a senior Newsnight reporter. All the balancing out over time in the world won't change that fact or make up for it...
...unless Duncan Weldon (or another of his BBC Newsnight colleagues) does another report this week which just as heavily biased in the opposite direction.
And that ain't going to happen.
Couldn't agree more.ReplyDelete
The original Weldon report was incredibly biased. Just ask Migration Watch! :)
And this response is pathetically inadequate since it doesn't deal with the salient points in your complaint.
Out of interest: when you make your complaints do you just give your name or reference this website as well?
No, I don't reference this website - and, come to think of it, I'm not sure why.Delete
Given the BBC Complaints procedure such a mention could only come in the box where you outline your complaint (in less than a certain number of characters). As you fill in your name elsewhere, a link could be made to this website.
That said, on my previous (solo) blog a fellow blogger linked to my blog's most detailed statistics only to be told that those were merely the opinions of "some blogger".
Still, especially given the character limit, such a link might be worth adding...
...if only to see it they still have such a low opinion of bloggers.
With my 'BBC Complaints Scars' hat on... I'd hazard a guess that while referencing elsewhere is a good way to get around character limits to rich seams of relevant fact, the BBC would find a way to deem this as a devious way to waste their time and an excuse to pull the plug totally.Delete
That said, key facts and quotes are always worth it if they will find them hard to digest.
And don't forget, once they are on the hook, the opportunity down the line exists for them to be forced to demand more detail that you will already have ready.
A potential downside is their quirk of loading on the volume to grind you down, but if you give back as good as they offer, they can suddenly claim it's all too much and pull the plug.
Hate to say it, but 'bias' seems to be their favorite. Just reach for the template, add a dose of weary belief in how right they are and... what can you do?ReplyDelete
"...warned that these can never be – and should never be projected as – a balanced or objective view of public opinion. They are only ever a subjective snapshot"
Clearly vox-pops have been weaponised by the BBC now.
Robin Brand has found a racist in Grimsby who epitomizes UKIP. Apparently. Anonymous of course.
The BBC controls who is located, who is invited, what they are asked and how that is all packaged and where published.
It is, of course, all subjective. Try and zero in on what guides this subjectivity and you will come up against the apparent reassurance of BBC 'editorial integrity'. Push harder and you will find they are telling you no more for a variety of weak reasons that equate to 'don't wanna'.
The ongoing notion that something, somewhere else, sometime may or may not balance a piece out of course is now a BBC excuse staple. And remains risible.
The trust and transparency just shines through, doesn't it?
Yes, you continue to be proven right about the "b' word".Delete
It's the word that bothers us most but, at the same time, it's also the word that the BBC grabs onto like a lifebelt: We say, "Their bias". They say, "Our confirmation bias!"
(As do their supporters).
Racist-hunting Robin has been making a few appearances on a UKIP supporting YouTube Channel that's posting some of the most 'impartiality-busting'-seeming News Channel interviews/reports. I'm thinking about posting some of them - but their editing can be a bit clumsy, thus leaving them wide open for attack from the BBC and their supporters.
Nick Robinson's unbelievably dishonest immigration special from last year was evidence that not only had the BBC not learned their lesson on this issue, but were doubling down on the bias and agenda pushing. They really, really don't care what anyone says. They know they're "right", and any who disagree is a racist. So you get lazy boilerplate responses and they don't even try to address your complaint on its merits.ReplyDelete
It happened so quickly probably because they were prepared, knowing they get racists coming out of the woodwork every time they talk about immigration. One can almost see the Beeboid eyes rolling every time a report like this hits appears on the schedule.
The initial response to a complaint to the BBC rarely if ever "deals with the salient points of a complaint " It is necessary to say you are not satisfied with the answer as the points you specifically complained about have not been dealt with. A further email to answer the second email will take longer and they will delay it as long as they can in the hope the you give up with the idea of pursuing the complaint to a further stage because it is no longer relevant as too much time has passed. But it is necessary to pursue it because it is too easy for the BBC to get away with it . At least get them to work and spend their money and resources into answering your valid complaints and perhaps even eventually acknowledging and admitting that your criticism is valid. If enough people pursued complaints attitudes at the BBC could be forced to change.ReplyDelete
I've got a couple taking the slow, painful 'second phase' route at the moment. The surprising quickness of the first (dismissive) responses has vanished.Delete
A rule of thumb is that the more you persist, the more they know they are cornered and, amongst many other hurdles, the longer each phase will take.Delete
The first couple are simply winnowing operations.
They will either issue a template, or ignore the point, or infer it's closed down as sorted, or all three, when for you it is not.
Once an ECU director is aroused from slumber things can get more relevant as they may actually read the complaint, but these guys are not above all the above tricks as well, with the odd notion that their title makes their 'belief' somehow final.
It seldom is. Which is why a bit of exposure, as we plan, may dump a swarm of flies in their ass milk bath.
I'm sorry but what is your definition of balanced, unbiased reporting? Whether or not each statement in a news report can be described as "pro-" or "anti-" and then at the end of the report you can tally them up and have them roughly equal?ReplyDelete
So what happens when the facts just aren't balanced? When the evidence clearly shows that your particular views are not backed by anything other than prejudice and wilful ignorance.
Let's go through your letter of complaint, item by item.
"He claimed that "public opinion is nuanced". No, it's overwhelmingly against mass immigration." - Survey which shows this please.
"He then said that the view of business is "fairly clear", featuring the CBI saying immigration is a big help and really important for us (pro-immigration). " - Yes, the CBI is in favour of immigration for a very long list of reasons they keep repeating every time they are asked. Your point?
"He then said, "It's often said that immigrants are coming over here and taking our jobs, but that isn't necessarily the case" (pro-immigration) and suggested that immigrants not only take jobs Brits don't want but that, by doing so, they create jobs British people do want to take up (pro-immigration). " - Is this factually incorrect?
"Then he said, "Most academic surveys have concluded that there isn't actually a link between British unemployment and immigration" (pro-immigration). " - Is this incorrect? And would you prefer it if academic surveys were not quoted in a serious political debate?
"He then said on wages that things are "more nuanced" and there's "academic disagreement" but, despite that, "there's broad agreement that the impact on the average is marginal" (pro-immigration). " - So are you disagreeing with the academic studies? And if so on what evidence?
"And as for those surveys claiming that lower earners are adversely hit while higher earners are least adversely hit by mass immigration, well, he said, "the effects are small, and those most likely to be hit are those most-recent migrants" (pro-immigration). " - So are you saying that this is not the case? If so, on what grounds?
"He then said it's "a sign of success" that people want to move here (pro-immigration). " - Not even sure how this is pro-immigration, but never mind. Is this incorrect in your opinion?
"He then concluded that "despite what the academic work suggests" (pro-immigration) some people still feel "uncomfortable" about immigration. " - 1) if the academic work suggests that immigration is not economically negative does that make the facts pro-immigration? 2) if the facts are pro-immigration, why would you want the BBC to report something else?; 3) Are you suggesting that some people are not "uncomfortable" with immigration? I just don't see what your point is here.
Of course the BBC response was curt and dismissive. How do you expect them to react to a complaint that effective is a poorly thought out tantrum against the BBC doing its job and reporting facts. Or do you think that it's necessary for the BBC to wheel in some guy with the opposite opinion based on no evidence every time they talk about the findings of a scientific / economic survey, in the interest of "balance"?
We get it. A lot of people don't like immigration. That doesn't mean that the sanitised "I'm not racist but..." so called 'economic' argument peddled by UKIP is based on anything like evidence. And if it is not, there is no requirement for the BBC to present that nonsense next to actual economic evidence.
A disgruntled immigrant
Dear Disgruntled Immigrant,Delete
Craig will have his own thoughts about your comment, but you took the trouble to frame your thoughts civilly, so without meaning to be patronising, your comment is welcome.
I could say your opinion is important to us and is essential to the performance of our service. Please let me assure you that you are crucial in current and future decisions made within the Is the BBC biased. (I couldn’t resist.)
Let’s deal with your first paragraph about ‘balanced reporting’ and the ‘tally’. The BBC itself is inclined to take the approach you describe. They use it to justify giving an equal platform to the good, the bad, Islamists and, e.g., subversives in general.
On the other hand, when it suits, they will deny a platform or block altogether those they deem beyond the pale, as in, say, ‘climate change deniers‘.
Since we’re talking about the state broadcaster, it has always been my contention that, when taking decisions about balance the BBC should consider the values of the country they represent, not lose sight of them altogether.
You ask, ‘what happens when the facts aren’t balanced?’” When the evidence clearly shows that your particular views are not backed by anything other than prejudice and wilful ignorance.”
That is the very question we continually have to put to the BBC. What happens when the BBC’s views are not backed by ‘anything other than prejudice’? To give a prime example, their woefully unfair treatment of Israel and the Middle East.
All we can do is blog about it, or go through the unwieldy complaints procedure, which is time consuming and apparently futile.
I’ll summarise your argument, as the BBC does.
You demand evidence from Craig in terms of surveys and academic studies that contradict those put forward in the programme. Your conclusion implies that in the absence of such proof, our negative attitude towards mass immigration is prejudiced and wilfully ignorant.
It seems to me that you are basing your critique on the premise that surveys and academic studies are infallible. You regard them as ‘fact’.
You will agree that statistics must be interpreted, and academic studies can be flawed. New studies continually emerge that abrogate previous studies. Old findings are reinterpreted, science evolves and views constantly ebb and flow.
Economics is not an exact science. Perhaps the CBI has a vested interest in a certain type of immigration, but less of an interest in the effects on society of other categories of mass immigration.
It’s not necessarily the case that immigrants ‘take our jobs’. Is this factually incorrect? That statement glibly covers too many factors to sum up definitively, but anyone who is aware of the zeitgeist, via blogs, or in general chatter amongst friends, strangers, Romans and countrymen will have heard examples and observed that there is a considerable tendency towards that belief, factually correct or no.
As for immigrants creating jobs British people do want, do they mean skilled, specialist immigrants, entrepreneurs and the like, of the type that no-one in their right mind would wish to exclude?
We would be happy to accept academic studies when quoted in support of an argument, but not happy to accept selected studies as the sole, conclusive, incontrovertible and factual evidence for it. We can view academic studies for what they are, no more, no less.
The point of Craig’s objection was that most of the evidence presented, if not all of it, was pro-immigration and backed up by selected polls, surveys and academic studies. It didn’t take into account the bleeding obvious. There is huge public concern about certain aspects of mass immigration, in particular where hostile, antisocial and culturally incompatible groups are concerned .
Look at this piece in the Guardian.
“Scapegoating groups such as Romanians, Bulgarians, Roma and Poles is foolish because we’re a country built on “the other”, said Professor Colin Thain. “There’s no such thing as an indigenous Brit.”
Would you say Professor Colin Thain recognises traditional British values in any way shape or form? He exemplifies the worst end of BBC’s approach I’d suggest. It’s nothing to do with scapegoating. It’s understanding the qualities that attract immigrants to Britiain, and then making sure those precious qualities are not overwhelmed or obliterated. I rest my case.
I am sorry you’re disgruntled by the way. I don’t think you need be.
Dear Disgruntled Immigrant,Delete
I will concede, looking back at it in the cold light of day, that my complaint went off half-cocked. It had a 'middle' but no proper 'beginning' or 'end' to put it in a sufficiently sensible context - opening it up to (a) dismissal and (b) a good fisking.
The point I was trying to make, but evidently failing to make, was that it's all very well Duncan Weldon cherry-picking all the best economic evidence in favour of immigration - and my little list wasn't disputing any of that evidence, merely trying to demonstrate the cumulative effect of all of those points (so some of your questions miss the point) - ...
...but his job as an 'impartial' BBC reporter is to follow the BBC editorial guideline that "We must do all we can to ensure that 'controversial subjects' are treated with due impartiality in all our output" - and there is no 'controversial subject' more controversial than immigration.
He didn't do that.
What should Duncan Weldon have done then?
Well, he should have balanced those points with, say, other academic studies which show negative economic effects from certain types of immigration - such as this, reported on Radio 4's 'More or Less':
"So between 1995 and 2011, on average each European immigrant put about £6,000 more into the public purse than they took out. Non-European immigrants, on the other hand, each took out about £21,000 more than they put in. There's also a lot more non-European immigrants in this country, which means when you look at both groups of immigrants as a whole - so European and non-European - they take out around £14,000 more than they put in."
In other words, some kinds of immigration are bad for the economy and some are good and, therefore, it's a good deal more 'nuanced' than Duncan suggested.
More 'complicating' points like this should have been included in his report, should they not, if Duncan was properly thinking about that pesky BBC editorial guideline?
Plus, as I'm sure you're aware - just as Duncan Weldon is doubtless aware - that groups like Migration Watch (whose track record of predicting trends is, whether you would care to admit it or not, second-to-none) have provided plenty of evidence contradicting some of the beneficial claims for European migration, thus suggesting that even that aspect of the debate (and it IS a debate) offers a much more mixed picture than Duncan & Co. seem willing to admit.
Plus, by focusing almost entirely on the positive economic benefits, the BBC reporter chose NOT to focus on the negative social impacts - on housing, the NHS, education, etc - i.e. on the things that are concerning so much of the public.
This 'Newsnight' debate wasn't - despite what you might expect from this thread - focused on the economic arguments for and against mass immigration. It was focused on the general argument. Now, yes, that Duncan chose to fix on the economic point and ignore the others might, of course, be because he's Newsnight's economics correspondent, but he was obviously asked to do what he did by the programme's editor Ian Katz, so maybe the charge of bias should have been focused at least as much on him.
The whole subject is one where many senior BBC figures have confessed to a pro-immigration bias in the past (and they always locate it in the past). There was a time, they say, when the BBC thought that "reality has a pro-immigration bias", but they realise now that they were wrong to be so arrogant and the BBC is now listening to the concerns of the public...
...a public who (to answer your Question One) are 70% against mass immigration (i.e. either want it reduced or stopped altogether). See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-31800374
(A disgruntled blogger)
It seems to me that you are conflating two things: a debate about values and the act of presenting facts.
When there is a debate about values, the BBC must allow all parties to explain their stance, mainstream and "subversive" alike, in their own words. The BBC does this very well. And if, for example, UKIP has not had a platform to put forward their values on the BBC, no one has. As have Anjun Chowdry, George Galloway, and a great succession of Israeli Ambassadors to the UK and indeed the whole gamut of US neocon policy makers. And then, rightly so, people are asked to defend their views. Everyone from Natalie Bennett to Nick Griffin have been given pretty much the same treatment.
Mr Weldon's report however, was not interested in the debate about values. It was a report on the facts of immigration. If there are no equivalent academic studies to contradict the conclusions from the best available studies on the matter, what did you want him to do? Cut to Dave from behind the pub with his opinion? Or invent academic studies with the conclusions necessary to validate your world view?
No one has said that academic studies are perfect. But if you are going to talk about facts, you must employ the best available methods to get at those facts: data and statistical analysis. Your two cents on the matter is irrelevant. As is your anecdotal evidence. As is my anecdotal evidence. You either use the best available data and the best available analysis that you have to draw your conclusions, or you must stop pretending to care about the facts. And if you have already made up your mind before you get the the conclusions from this process, then what you are doing just is prejudice and wilful ignorance. That is the very definition of those words.
It is quite irrelevant if the findings of the best academic studies available don't make "intuitive sense" or are not "bleedingly obvious" to you. Your intuition does not have a magical phone line to the facts or the consciousness of the universe. If you have more reliable evidence that you are wrong, you must accept it. Otherwise you will rightfully be accused of irrationality.
Finally, do please note that the vocalised opinion of someone quoted in the Guardian is not the same thing as the BBC editorial line. I'm not even sure where that came from.
I've seen the piece on the night, and have rewatched it just now.
Mr Weldon acknowledged all the anxieties that people have about immigration, through his vox pop.
Then he presented the "view of business" as as clearly positive, by talking to the CBI person. Which I have no doubt you will find reasonable.
The he goes on to say:
"Most academic surveys have concluded there isn't actually a link between British unemployment and immigration." - Are you disputing this?
"The picture on wages is more nuanced." - which it is, as you yourself want to argue.
He then goes on to say that according to recent research it looks like people in the lower income brackets do see some pressure on their wages, while those in the higher income brackets seem to benefit - but that study found that the effects are small and those who are most likely to be affected are themselves recent migrants. Are you disputing this fact?
The he goes on to show the figures on immigration. Which is simple statement of facts.
And then he suggests that for some people, immigration is more than just the number. Which it is. There are also issues of identity and community cohesion, at the very least.
So I'm still not sure what your issue is here. The programme started with a 15 minuted interview with Nigel Farage. All the other issues about pressure on services, and the fiscal effects of immigration had already been discussed earlier in the programme. Quantified and everything.
I’ll just go and find out what Dave from behind the pub thinks. ;-)
You may not be aware of this but that interview with Nigel Farage proved especially controversial. Quite a lot of people felt it seriously failed the 'impartiality' test. So using that as a counter-point might prove somewhat 'controversial' too.
I'd be interested to hear your evidence for saying. "All the other issues about pressure on services, and the fiscal effects of immigration had already been discussed earlier in the programme. Quantified and everything." Are you quite sure about that? If you are, please explain.
As for those vox pops, the starting point for this post was David Keighley's criticisms of Duncan's use of those vox pops which you think "acknowledged all the anxieties that people have about immigration". David lays out the case against your position. I don't think he's wrong. In the spirit of question-asking, why do you think he's wrong?
My point, as I said before, is that I'm not disputing what Duncan Weldon said. I'm disputing the way he skewed the argument to favour the pro-immigration side of the argument by cherry-picking the best arguments in favour of immigration and avoiding the seriously complicating points. Duncan's blink-and-you'd-miss-them concessions to the other side of the argument were, if I may say, hardly as prominent (to put it very mildly) as you're suggesting.
I take it you're conceding my point about the public's opposition to mass immigration, given the polling evidence I provided?
It's always interesting to hear a take on something that so differs from your own take on it. Yours differs a lot from mine. How could we move towards some form of agreement?
I'm not sure how the fact that some people will have found the interview "controversial" is either surprising or relevant to your point. For one, UKIP has a very vocal 'true believer' element to it, in the same way the SNP does. So whenever you question the way their leaders present or distort facts (whether it is about immigrant criminality or Scotland's fiscal position), the 'true believers' cry out "conspiracy!" and stop engaging in any debate about facts, studies or anything of the sort.
And note that both Cameron and Miliband get the the same questioning. Every single interview they have had where the deficit was mentioned, they got asked about the IFS analysis that their figures for their respective manifestos are bull*. Because they are. But of course, nobody finds it surprising that Cameron and Miliband are interrogated like this. It's only when journalists question people who "say what all of us are thinking", like Farage, that somehow that looks unfair.
But the treatment Farage got was in no way dissimilar to the treatment anyone else got. Certainly not worse than what Cameron and Miliband got at the hands of Paxman, for example. And he was rightly picked up for equivocations in just about every set of statistics about Romanian / Bulgarian criminality that he invoked. He got the right figures from independent police crime surveys, but he then expressed those statistics as if they measured something they did not in fact measure. I'm sure you'll be familiar with those debates about his loose usage of statistics. Is it unfair to call him out on that?
Then Farage was given the platform, in the Evan Davis interview at the beginning of the show, to say:
"Uncontrolled mass immigration has led to increasing division and ghettoisation" - this is one of the the best arguments against mishandled immigration, but it is not an economic one (so would not have been covered by the Weldon piece).
Immigration has had an effect on "primary school places, healthcare provision, wage compression" - debatable, but at least in the case of wage compression the Weldon piece did acknowledge that.
(in case you are wondering why I am saying that pressure on public services is debatable, is not because the pressure doesn't exist. It's rather because I would attribute short-term pressures to a long history of underinvestment in capacity in the provision of public services, going back to the 80s at least. Since most academic surveys, except those of Migration Watch who are after all an explicitly partisan pressure group, say that migrants have not had a worse fiscal footprint than native Britons, one could make the argument that the government could have, indeed should have, invested the revenues gained from immigrants to appropriately expand provision for public services. That is the true failure of "the political elite". In my humble opinion.)
Then Evan Davies allowed Farage throughout the interview to deny having said stuff to Fox News, without further insisting on the point, leaving Farage to effectively control his own message (which one would do out of politeness, but is at least, lax journalism). He did not challenge the UKIP policy solutions to anything, but did question the tone of UKIP's position towards immigration.
Farage did in fact concede that he and his party used a tone in this debate that was, shall we say less than kosher?
So the bottom line is that Farage was allowed to present his argument about integration and the fiscal burden unchallenged. You are right. I was mistaken. These issues were not discussed on the basis of proper evidence, and were not "quantified and everything". Farage was given a free ride on those.
So the integration argument and the fiscal argument aside, the Weldon piece discussed the economic argument (which you will note is in fact different to the fiscal one, because the economy and the budget are two different things). Again, was the Weldon piece an inadequate survey of the economic side of immigration? If so, please provide your evidence.
Also, please note that Weldon's argument was not even pro-immigration. It was a challenge to the idea that immigration is economically bad for the country. That's really not the same as saying "let's have more immigration please".
If you want examples of arguments in favour of immigration:
- ageing native population and the need for an inflow of working-age individuals to keep the pension system afloat (this is actually one of the main drivers of the welfare bill). I'd personally say that raising the retirement age is a much better way of going about this one, but go tell that to your wizened UKIP voters, or indeed Conservative voters.
- the increase in population and the correspondent economic growth will make Britain the largest country in the EU by 2030 (give or take a couple of years), both in terms of population and thus representation in the EU Parliament and in terms of the economy. If you don't like the fact that the EU is run from Berlin, immigration into Britain is the best way to change that. (I do realise that UKIP want out of the EU, but nonetheless)
- and of course, the fluffy multi-culturalism stuff which I guess won't appeal to you, but some people are rather keen on.
That's what a pro-immigration stance looks like. Weldon saying "oh well, there is no evidence for a link between immigration and British unemployment" is not a pro-immigration argument. It's just saying that one of the reasons invoked by the argument against immigration is not, according to the available evidence, true. Or indeed many of the economic arguments, with the exception of the pressure on wages issue where the situation is a bit more complicated. That is all.
The reason why all of this is important: in a sense, the UKIP position does capture a fundamental truth. This entire debate is a consequence of a politically correct culture. But actually, the problem of political correctness is not one that the politicians and the BBC "liberal elites have". It is a problem that the white working classes who have been left behind since the 80s have.
Specifically, most of these people do not care about the economic argument. That is completely irrelevant. As is the fiscal argument, to a very large extent. The relevant point is this: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/half-of-ukip-voters-say-they-are-prejudiced-against-people-of-other-races-10062731.html
But you can't just say that, or if you do, you get publicly executed like Nick Griffin was on Question Time a few years ago. That's the problem that we are having. And it is nice of Mr Farage to come along and cloak the issue and frame the debate in terms of the numbers. And that is why nobody but the "liberal elite" cares when he gets his numbers wrong.
So this is what we can agree on: a lot of people do not want immigration. I hope you will also agree with me that the reasons they invoke, the economic and fiscal arguments, are facetious - and not based on fact, as far as we can tell.
If we can agree on that, then we can talk about the values of inclusive liberal multi-culturalism vs. national pride revival and Englishness. (note that Britishness is an imperial and self-consciously liberal post-imperial identity, so talking about British national / ethnic identity like the BNP did is just plain silly)
Thank you for responding so thoughtfully.Delete
The fact that some people will have found the Nigel Farage interview "controversial" certainly wasn't relevant to my original point. If you recall, however, it wasn't me who first brought it up. You introduced it, did you not, to try to show that 'Newsnight' had in fact gone beyond the economic arguments in Duncan Weldon's report, even to the extent of featuring an interview with the UKIP leader? It, thus, became relevant - as I see you acknowledge when you argue that, on second thoughts, Evan Davis was far too soft on Nigel Farage. You're finding it "controversial" too now, it seems.
That said, I agree with you about the UKIP (and SNP) 'true believer' point. A lot of that happens. Plenty of UKIP people are posting dubious claims of bias on social media outlets, just like the SNP 'true believers'.
As I've mentioned before on this blog, I won't be voting UKIP in the general election (I will be voting Conservative) and most assuredly don't consider myself a 'true believer' as far as UKIP is concerned. That said, sometimes they have a point about BBC bias against them. Some people at the BBC clearly don't approve of them (you doubtless think rightly). You are, however, correct to assume that I share some of UKIP's positions on the subject of immigration.
I've written a few pieces about those Evan Davis leader interviews, which you're welcome to peruse:
I certainly don't agree that Evan Davis was consistent, whether in tone, style of interviewing or subject matter, between Cameron and Miliband - though, yes, there was a smattering of common questions between them.
I watched the full 30-minute interview on BBC One, and I'm afraid I beg to differ with your contention that Nigel Farage wasn't challenged on his views on integration (whatever you think they are).
The questioning of Nigel Farage was so starkly different that it makes claims of 'bias' understandable. It was much more personal and far more rife with interruptions, Everything was challenged, every point charged at first-class (indeed, luxury) prices. And it gave less than three minutes to economic matters. The rest of it concentrated on whether UKIP was full of posh people, on whether UKIP's tone is all wrong, on whether Mr Farage approves of the new 'Paddington' film - much of it laden with implications of semi-subterranean racism. No one else got that - not even the nationalist Nicola Sturgeon.
That said, checking some of Evan and the UKIP leaders' disagreements about the context of his 'ghettos' and 'no go areas' comments in the wake of 'Charlie Hebdo', Nigel Farage's comments clearly extended - despite what he said - beyond their original French context into the British context - and, boy, Evan certainly pursued him on that and publicly registered his disagreement with Farage over it. (I know you see it otherwise. One of us - or maybe both of us - could be suffering from confirmation bias here.)
I would certainly agree with you that the idea that "uncontrolled mass immigration has led to increasing division and ghettoisation" is one of the the best arguments against mishandled immigration. If Duncan Weldon's cherry-picking piece hadn't largely concentrated on the most helpful economic arguments, it's one 'Newsnight' might have fruitfully developed that night - which was the starting point of our discussion.
Sorry for the need to split comments due to character restrictions, so it's a CONT from me too...Delete
My evidence that Duncan Weldon's piece was an inadequate survey of the economic side of immigration was presented earlier on, but to expand on it...
It didn't mention the academic findings that non-EU immigration has been a significant economic drain on the UK economy for starters - something that's surely a relevant but complicating point?
As for the positive benefits of EU migration, they may - pace those lobbying (yet uncannily shrewd) types at Migration Watch - be less glowing than some people are willing to admit but, yes, there does seem to be a significant economic boost from EU migration. As you will have checked out my 'More or Less' link you'll know that that boost is outweighed by the cost of non-EU immigration. Duncan Weldon's reporting of the academic research about the former whilst ignoring the same academic research about the latter is something I've written about before:
When you write, "Also, please note that Weldon's argument was not even pro-immigration. It was a challenge to the idea that immigration is economically bad for the country", well, that's where I came in (rather ineptly).
I don't think it's a BBC reporter's job to challenge the idea that immigration is economically bad for the country. They are meant to be impartial, not advocates. If Duncan were doing what you say he's doing, wouldn't he be in contravention of the BBC's editorial guidelines on 'controversial' subject areas? I'd say he would.
On the point of UKIP's appeal being linked to "a problem that the white working classes who have been left behind since the 80s have", yes, there may be some truth in that. However, recent newspaper reports have shown that UKIP's appeal extends well into the middle and professional classes, so it doesn't appear to be that simple.
Ha, that last paragraph of yours could have come straight out of the mouth of Evan Davis during his interview with Nigel Farage. You really are singing from the same hymn sheet here. His 'Paddington Bear' bit was exactly about positing the values of inclusive liberal multi-culturalism as a patriotic counterweight to what he presented as some old-fashioned, out-of-touch view of Britishness (though I bet Evan would have loved to have used the phrase "national pride revival and Englishness", if he'd have thought of it), and hinting at a certain something behind Nigel Farage's "hate" for multiculturalism...later pursued (by Evan) over Mo Farah.
Given the figures showing overwhelming public disapproval for the levels of immigration we've been experiencing (a point you appear to have conceded), Evan's attempts to push fluffy multiculturalism and Duncan's attempts to challenge the idea that immigration is economically bad for the country are all very well, but they aren't supposed to be what the BBC is about. The BBC is supposed to be unbiased on such matters - however frustrating that must be for people who think reality is on their side.
If we can agree about that then neither of us will go away disgruntled.
I guess we will have to agree to disagree about the treatment that Farage got. I maintain that the questions were fair. You seem to interpret them as an attack. But they were no more an attack than anything Miliband or Cameron, and Farage was given every opportunity to respond. In my view.Delete
I will also maintain my objection to your argument about Weldon "cherry-picking". Once again, the basis of the distinction is that between the economic and the fiscal picture. Every single instance of 'economic' issue that you argue should have been mentioned by Weldon is in fact a fiscal issue, and it is a separate debate. It is a question of who puts what in, and how much do they take out of the public purse. In the same way that the coalition's "fixing the deficit" is not an economic policy, but rather a fiscal policy. The deficit is about the state of the government's books. The economy is about employment levels, wages distributions, the flexibility of the labour market, output and productivity levels and so on. The distinction is fundamental and one that has been ignored by both the media and the government coalition at everyone's expense.
On that distinction, again, there is no evidence that non-EU immigration was economically an issue. It might have been a fiscal drain (on the Migration Watch figures only, and mostly on the basis that non-EU migrants had more children than natives / EU migrants), but economically there is no evidence that that kind of immigration affected core productivity, native employment rates, wages (well, with the caveats discussed before), etc.
(Also as an aside, while we should discuss these issues frankly, you must admit that it is somewhat odd to find yourself effectively saying that the figures show that EU immigration has been a fiscal positive and non-EU immigration a fiscal negative, given the arguments about immigration that Farage wants to make - which are the exact opposite. )
Then, when you say "I don't think it's a BBC reporter's job to challenge the idea that immigration is economically bad for the country. They are meant to be impartial, not advocates. If Duncan were doing what you say he's doing, wouldn't he be in contravention of the BBC's editorial guidelines on 'controversial' subject areas? I'd say he would.", I think you are just plain wrong.
It is a BBC reporter's job to be an advocate of the facts as we have them (or as good a grasp of them we can get from academic studies / surveys). Neither the BBC nor any broadcaster should be 'impartial' on the facts. They should be impartial on people's values, I agree. But facts are facts. If we don't care about them, then why bother watching the news at all?
Then: "On the point of UKIP's appeal being linked to "a problem that the white working classes who have been left behind since the 80s have", yes, there may be some truth in that. However, recent newspaper reports have shown that UKIP's appeal extends well into the middle and professional classes, so it doesn't appear to be that simple. "
No, it's not that simple, but that is nonetheless a huge driver of UKIP support. If I could actually quantify this (which I can't, obviously), I'd like to test whether it is the main driver. I suspect it is. And I also suspect that much of the support UKIP gets from other strata of society feeds of this kind of English revivalism that emerges out of this same phenomenon. But I can't quite figure out how one would go about testing that kind of hypothesis, so I will leave it at the level of idle speculation, and you are free to disagree.
One thing that I will say however, in conclusion, is that you seem to have gotten my last point wrong - and in potentially a telling way. In that remark about the clash of values I did not make any attempt to endorse the values of "inclusive liberal multi-culturalism" or to challenge the values of "national pride revival and Englishness". I'm not sure why you thought I was using these terms in a loaded way to signify endorsement or criticism. I was actually actively looking for neutral terms to describe two sets of values.
It is obvious from what I had written before that I have a preference towards one set of values, but I find it very odd that from "If we can agree on that, then we can talk about the values of inclusive liberal multi-culturalism vs. national pride revival and Englishness" you took away that I was "positing the values of inclusive liberal multi-culturalism as a patriotic counterweight to what he presented as some old-fashioned, out-of-touch view of Britishness". All I was saying is that we seem to be using the economic and (conflated) fiscal arguments as a proxy war in a debate about values, and we should have the decency to admit that we don't really care about the figures. We should have the debate at the level where we are having the disagreement: at the level of values.
I said that was telling. I hope this is not true, but that kind of reaction to a neutral statement smacks of a Farage-style paranoia that any time someone like me mentions the notion of English identity, it is somehow evidence that the "liberal cosmopolitan elites" are out to silence and oppress you / your kind. Which is silly. I hope you understand that if I wanted to attack / mock / disparage that set of values with that statement, I would have referred to:
"inclusive liberal multi-culturalism" as "common human decency"
"national pride revival and Englishness" as "petty, parochial small-mindedness".
And we can totally have that kind of debate about values, but that is quite independent of what Newsnight did in their 22 April programme. And the fact that they did not do that does not amount to bias. Your criticism effectively amounts to complaining that the BBC did not frame the debate in the way you wanted it to. But the BBC does have a charter which says that it has a duty to report facts, whether or not you like them, and whether or not they are framed in a way that tickles your fancy.
Yes, we certainly will have to agree to disagree on the Farage interview.ReplyDelete
And it looks as if we'll also have to agree to disagree on whether BBC reporters should see it as their job to challenge the idea that immigration is economically bad for the country - as I think you're plain wrong too. (Obviously not about the BBC not having to be impartial about the facts, but that's a rhetorical flourish no one could disagree with).
If the BBC dropped its impartiality guidelines and gathered reporters with varying outlooks from across the political spectrum and allowed them to advocate whatever view of reality they see fit to advocate, well, yes, your position would be fine; however, the BBC hasn't done that yet, so its impartiality guidelines still apply and, according to those guidelines, BBC reporters should not advocate for a particular position, especially on a controversial issue like immigration (by, say, cherry-picking the best 'economic arguments' and ignoring the complicating 'fiscal arguments' - even if we accept that Duncan's report should have been that narrowly focused in the first place, which I don't). You may very well be right in principle, and I wouldn't necessarily disagree with you, but that's not what the BBC claims to be about at present.
Your interesting fiscal/economic distinction is one that the BBC doesn't seem to make, intriguingly. Duncan Weldon is their 'economics correspondent' and Robert Peston their 'economics editor and neither feels in any way inhibited from talking about fiscal matters such as the deficit. In fact, it appears to be an integral part of their brief. (The BBC doesn't have any 'fiscal correspondents' or a 'fiscal editor' either.)
Like most of us, rightly or wrongly, the BBC seems to treat the two pictures as part of the same thing - 'economics'. So, although it may have helped you to continue maintaining that I've provided no complicating evidence that Duncan Weldon should have reported, it's not a distinction that really matters, is it? It may matter to economists, of course, but if the failure to appreciate that particular distinction is good enough for the BBC, much of the media and treasury ministers (and their shadows), then it's good enough for me too I'm afraid. Sorry.
That evidence, by the way (which I linked to indirectly), shows that European immigrants make a positive contribution of £6,000 to the public purse, 'native Brits'' make a negative contribution of £11,000 to the public purse and non-European immigrants make a negative contribution of £21,000 to the public purse. Immigrants (as a whole) make a negative contribution of £14,000 to the public purse. Those figures on the overall fiscal drain from immigration come from a UCL study, not Migration Watch.
As I said earlier, I agree with some of UKIP's positions on immigration - 'some' being the operative word. Your puzzlement may be because you were making assumptions about my views. Skilled migration from the EU is fine both in principle and practice but the sheer numbers (especially after 2004) and the suddenness have caused real problems. Unskilled migration is the thing that needs controlling - and that's where I would agree with UKIP. (We're straying from the subject of BBC bias somewhat here, but that always seems to happen on forums like this.)
Some people will have found Duncan Weldon's piece to be unexceptional and fair (though, polling-wise, as we've discussed, not that many possibly), and some will have found that it tickles their fancy...and then some!...but I'm not buying the economics/fiscal get-out clause and still think this was a deeply one-sided report from a BBC reporter who ought to be adhering to those pesky BBC guidelines and maintaining an impartial manner when reporting controversial matters like immigration.
@Annoymous - My main complaint with immigration is precisely that it is making UK one of the biggest countries (by population) in Europe and this is causing problems on our finite resources, which cannot be compensated by increased investment in infrastructure without a substantial negative impact on the British environment and decrease in quality of life. I'm talking food, water, energy supplies, housing... How much of our green space and natural wildlife habitats are going to be bulldozed to make way for all the housing, schools, healthcare resources, etc. needed for all the extra people?ReplyDelete
It always amazes me how people on the left can claim to be environmentally conscious, yet support mass immigration.