Sunday 27 December 2015

Right-Wing Papers, Paddy, Climate Change and Clemency

Nicholas Right-Wing Papers

It's not yet New Year, but my blogging resolution for 2016 - if I can maintain it (and if I can keep on blogging) - is to go back to the starting point of this very blog and "say it how it see it, without fear or favour" (ever so politely, of course).

In that spirit...

I was watching last night's paper review on the BBC News Channel and, entirely correctly, the first subject up for discussion was the terrible flooding afflicting many of Morecambe's neighbours - to our immediate north, east and south (though not west, as that's the Irish Sea). 

The BBC presenter was Nicholas Owen. 

Now it might be my because of my intense long-term focus (shall we say?) on BBC bias but whenever I see Nicholas Owen I don't think of his long and distinguished career at ITN or even his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing. 

No, without fail, whenever I see him on the BBC News Channel I recall the single occasion when I saw him (on that very BBC channel) calling certain newspapers "the right-wing papers". 

("I bet he'd never call the Graun, the Indie and the Mirror 'the left-wing papers'", I thought).

Thereafter, whenever I see Nicholas Owen, and before I can even remember his name, I always think "Oh, it's Right-Wing Papers!"


Unfortunately for someone (whether it's for him or for me), that really is true.


Anyhow, Right-Wing Papers was presenting the paper review on the BBC News Channel last night and his first guest (agony aunt Anna Raeburn) was talking about the devastating and widespread nature of the floods "to an extent that we haven't seen for years and years and years" (as, indeed, we haven't) and wondering whether the authorities have really done enough, as they claim, in advance of the floods.

Right-Wing Papers, turning to his other guest (Robert Fox of the Telegraph), chipped in, "but the climate's changing, isn't it, and that's the real problem, surely, isn't it?"

Mr Fox ignored Nick's question and, like Anna Raeburn, worried about our "first-line responders" instead, comparing our "very, very fragile" civil defences to other European countries, such as Italy (which I hope isn't the case). 

To those who don't believe in man-made climate change (believing climate change to be overwhelmingly natural) or who think that the dangers of man-made climate change have been grossly exaggerated, this will seem like another classic example of engrained, knee-jerk BBC bias on the issue. 

It seemed pretty 'knee-jerk' to me too, as I watched it.


Paddy O'Lunacy

Now, in stark contrast to that, the next discussion I heard on the subject (on the BBC) was on this morning's Broadcasting House on Radio 4.

Paddy O'Connell was giving Conservative minister Liz Truss a medium-temperature grilling over the government's responsibilities regarding the floods, preceded by talk of cuts to her department's funding.

Despite pressing her (mildly) on those 'cuts', Paddy didn't mention climate change once. Instead he called the floods a "once-in-a-lifetime" event. 

Now, from listening to Feedback, I'm pretty sure that Paddy's refusal to mention 'climate change' there and his assertion that these floods are nothing new will inevitably result in complaints from AGW-believing activists to Uncle Roger Bolton.

Would that be a case of 'complaints from both sides' proving the BBC to be impartial?

Hardly. The BBC's position on this is in doubt to no one except the most hardline online (or offline) eco-warrior.

But, still, it would be a complicating factor for 'people like me' who blog about BBC bias, wouldn't it?

According to 'us', the BBC is always propagandising in favour of the 'warmists', aren't they?


This kind of thought was provoked by something else I heard on this morning's Broadcasting House. 

For several years I was Paddy O'Connell's sharpest critic (if I say so myself!). I supplied post after post, piece of evidence after piece of evidence, gotcha after gotcha, proving him - and his programme - to be left-wing-biased. 

I'd often cite examples of him forcefully countering and then cutting off critics of the then-Labour government of Gordon Brown - hence my re-christening of his programme as 'Gordcasting House'.

I occasionally look back on those posts and I think they still look wholly kosher....


....(to the disgust of at least one reader over the years!) I've pointed out before that I've failed to see any evidence of egregious party political bias on Paddy's part over the past two or three years - if not necessarily his programme's part, or (on his part) other kinds of bias (such as over matters related to the migration crisis or the 'Arab Spring', etc).

In fact, I've seen example after example of Paddy (very probably playing devil's advocate) sticking up for UKIP or the Conservatives against his guests. 

Frankly it's all been pretty disconcerting - if rather pleasing. 

Was I wrong about Paddy in 2010? Or has Paddy seriously sharpened up his act and given up his previous left-wing bias in favour of strict devil's advocacy (party politics-wise) and - dare I say? - BBC impartiality?

I don't know. I really don't. For my sake, I strongly hope it's the second option there.

And it may well be...

...and, pleasingly for me, I think it is and that I'm safe here. (Woo-hoo for me!! - if I also say so myself!)


Well, I think Paddy has become a much better presenter, in the round, over the past five years. I enjoy listening to him now. I like him personally, and I like listening to his programme. I think he's become the 'consummate professional' in fact, and that BH has become much less 'agitprop' over the years....and if you disagree with me about that then I disagree with you over this (even if I might agree with you about much else).


Clemency Burton-Nepotism

This morning his BBC colleague, Radio 3's Clemency Burton-Hill (daughter of that great BBC stalwart Humphrey Burton) was sounding off at considerable length, and with some fervour (in 'impartial BBC presenter' fashion), against the Tories over their knighthood for Tory election strategist Lynton Crosby when Paddy intervened................:
Paddy: I suppose the point is, made by Dan there, that the system of rewarding in politics is absolutely the point of the honours system. That's going back for fifty...
Clemency (interrupting): No, I think the point of this is about rewarding....
Paddy (interrupting): No, well I know you...this report is...
Clemency (continuing):dedicated public service...
Paddy (continuing): ...but I think...
Clemency (continuing): ...did Lynton Crosby perform a dedicated public service?...
Paddy (interrupting): in dispute, but have people been awarded honours in politics before who are close to people who have won elections? The answer is 'yes' to answer that question, but just...I get the sense that you are don't like it here but the answer is 'yes', it has been. But can I move on on that note?
Now, that is exactly the kind of thing I'd had used against him in the past if he'd been doing in against a critic of Gordon Brown's Labour Party, and yet here's Paddy now, doing exactly the same thing against a (fellow BBC) critic of David Cameron's Conservative Party, implying that all government parties have done it before (as, indeed, they have! - especially New Labour).

Is this proof that Paddy O'Connell is a paragon of BBC impartiality, after all I used to say about him? Or, as I've now said, proof that he's mended his ways?


Another feature of this edition of BH was a deeply involving discussion about the recent Afghan War - and our soldiers' continuing role in Afghanistan. 

It featured an officer who served in that war and the proud father of one of the fallen heroes of that war, neither of whom disrespected our military's role in Afghanistan and both of whom were willing to countenance (if needs be) further British military involvement there, against the Taliban and Islamic State. 

Paddy didn't once seek to undermine their views. He just coaxed them into giving their views - just as a proper BBC interviewer ought to do.


I'd hope that no one would object to me saying that I think Paddy O'Connell has seriously upped his game in recent years or that I think that Paddy has also proved himself to being seriously trying to be unbiased. 

(His scepticism about the honours system and his interest in 'the cuts' (at the expense of the present government) may have somewhat shown his genuine {lefty} views though - and you are welcome to make much more of this than I have, if you so choose!). 

Similarly, I'd hope that no BBC defender would object to me having changed my mind about Paddy. 

Of course, Paddy was engaging in what might be called a 'blue-on-blue' incident with BBC Radio 3's Clemency Burton-Hill there. Clemency was doing what 'people like us' would expect a BBC person to do. Paddy attempted to counter her.

Given Right-Wing Papers's 'climate change' interjection and Clem-from-BBC-Radio-3's 'Tory bashing', maybe Paddy was simply proving himself to be the exception to the rule (at least on party political matters).

An 'exception to the rule' is rarely a good thing for a rule-bound organisation - and the BBC is notoriously nothing if not a rule-bound organisation...


And on that bombshell, good night!....

...and as both Sue and me are, variously, likely to be away for the next few days...

....and just in case neither of us have time to post anything before 2016 begins (and for a day or so after)...

Happy New Year!


  1. Sorry, just can't agree with you about Paddy O'Connell. Just because he is a generally efficient hider of bias doesn't mean he is any sort of role model for broadcasters.

    At 19.20 he offers a biased question along the lines of "when does loss of life become waste of life" (put to a bereaved parent!).

    This is a philosophical question that only a completely PC operator like Paddy O'Connell would reduce to a self-serving invitation to emote.

  2. I take your point about that question. It didn't seem right to me either when I first heard it - especially, as you say, as it was put to a bereaved parent. It was (temporarily) a 'WTF?' moment for me too.

    To be fair to Paddy O'Connell though - and as I also thought at the time - it was just one question, and a question some listeners might also have been wondering about in the circumstances, so I can understand why Paddy felt it his 'BBC interviewer's duty' to at least ask it.

    Plus, the bereaved parent (who wasn't a recently bereaved parent thankfully) didn't appear to find the question in any way distressing.

    Quite the reverse in fact. He actually seemed to want to actively engage with it.

    And, his cause - to gain public recognition for his son's heroism - has been helped by Paddy's programme over the years. He's been interviewed several times by 'Broadcasting House' on the issue. And Paddy openly congratulated him on succeeding in his campaign yesterday.

    And, above and beyond that, the rest of the interview was far from what I expected from the BBC too... I'm afraid (afraid?) that I'm going to have to stick with my first feeling that Paddy's recent attempts to hide his own biases is, at least, a sign that the lad is seriously trying to live up to the BBC's original ideals.

    Have I persuaded you? Should the BBC Complaints Department - or 'Feedback' - send me an application form to join them on the dark side? May the farce be with me?

  3. OK, you've persuaded me perhaps we should exercise a bit of Clemency when it comes to Paddy.


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