Sunday 7 February 2016

Ishoos versus personalities

Andrew Marr's interview with UKIP's Douglas Carswell today was entirely dominated by questions about the structure of/infighting within the 'Leave' campaign(s), plus the personalities involved in that campaign. 

So much so that Mr Carswell didn't actually get any time to spell out his arguments in favour of leaving the European Union.

This made me realise that any attempts to monitor BBC impartiality in the run-up to the EU referendum simply by counting and comparing the numbers of pro-Leave and pro-Remain interviewees on a given programme over a particular period of time...

... could well be a fruitless exercise.

Last month's Newsnight had five interviews with 'Remain' supporters and just 2 interviews with 'Leave' supporters. Last week (the first week of February) saw an interview with one (overwhelmingly likely) 'Remain' supporter, David Lidington, plus two 'Leave' supporters, Kate Hoey and Steve Baker. 

Now that might be supposed to have balanced things out somewhat...

...except that both of the interviews with the pro-Leave politicians (Kate Hoey and Steve Baker) were - like Andrew Marr's interview today with Douglas Carswell - almost exclusively dominated by the same kind of questions: questions about the structure of/infighting between the 'Leave' campaign(s), plus the personalities involved in the campaign. (Kate Hoey's was entirely dominated by such questions, thanks to James O'Brien). 

Again, neither Mr Baker nor Ms Hoey had time to spell out their arguments in favour of leaving the European Union... marked contrast to the pro-Europeans (Alan Johnson, Ken Clarke, Carl Bildt et al) interviewed last month, all of whom got plenty of chance to speak up for the UK's membership of the EU.

It's to be hoped this trend doesn't continue.


  1. Pretty predictable partisanship from Mr Marr.

    For what it's worth, I think the Leavers should put David Davis forward as the lead voice of the campaign with strong supporting roles for Nigel Farage and Kate Hoey.

  2. As you said on the other thread, Craig, the "Leave Splits!" Narrative is everywhere. It certainly dominates the Spectator's Coffee House, which I imagine (no, I'm not imagining it) is why Isabel Hardman was brought in today. We know from too many different accounts to dismiss that BBC producers call up a prospective guest and essentially tell them the angle they're invited to take. It's up to the guest to accept and play along (or be ambushed in the process if you're on the wrong side of an issue).

    So Marr and his producer were deliberately preparing the audience to doubt Carswell before he even opened his mouth. Marr's opening question to him couldn't have been more pathetic. And it's not like when Andrew Neil obviously asks one of his reductio ad absurdum questions, when he's doing it only because it's part of the job. That's a valid excuse only when you do it to all your guests, not only the first one who disagrees with you.

    They (the establishment media and the politicians they play with) desperately need to control the narrative of this debate. Every side does, of course, but the weaker side is always going to be more desperate, and I think the Remain side is it. I mean, consider the arguments you hear from even the best of them: "Ha, ha, look at Leave, what a train wreck." and "The country will starve, no one will want to trade with us." and "Nobody has any idea what a post-Brexit UK would look like."

    They have no real defense for staying in, and they can't even seriously critique the reasons for leaving, so they have to discredit the messenger and deny there's any message.

    For an example of the latter I direct you to Eric Pickles' disgraceful performance with Andrew Neil today. You will never have been so disappointed in him. He looked really, really unhappy about doing it, too.

    1. You're quite right.

      I don't think there's an AGM of lefty-liberals where all this is decided. There doesn't need to be. Certain narratives appeal to lefty-liberals e.g. "all migrants are well qualified refugees in need of support" - which means if they can find an engineer with a family amongst the tens of thousands, they will feature that family.

      The various media outlets then follow each other, so you get the group behaviour. So it is they tend to highlight something like the small "open Mosque" event while ignoring the peaceful Pegida march.

      When it comes to the EU - as you indicate because the pro-arguments are so weak - they are greatly attracted to the spurious narrative about difficulties in the Leave campaign.

    2. ...also must say the Spectator Coffee House website has become a complete joke of late.

      They aren't obliged to be impartial like the BBC but they are obliged to address the "ishoos" if they want to be taken seriously. On the migrant crisis the only thing of note was Fraser Nelson's bizarre blaming of the Police and media in Sweden for covering up the misdeeds of migrants, which he in turn blamed for native Swedes being pissed off and supporting the Sweden Democrats. Otherwise, hardly anything of note on migrants.

      And when it comes to the EU, there is really nothing of substance at all. It's as if they don't like lying and choose silence rather than to repeat the EU remain fibs - even though they are clearly stayers. But silence on the biggest issue of a generation is hardly what you expect of our leading political magazine.

      At least Nelson has given up on those ridiculous closed-to-comment post-atrocity pieces with various misleading voices telling us "it was nothing to do with Islam". Even he can see that claim was wearing thin.

  3. It will.

    Unless, or more likely in spite of such MPs actually calmly pointing out the BBC's DNA corruption to Umbrella Corporation levels in undermining democratic process. If they get around to it. Which I suggest they do.

    Facts don't lie.

    1. I have my own conspiracy theory about why MPs won't be pointing out BBC corruption on the EU issue any time soon. All evidence fits so far.

  4. Yes, it’s just like the run-up to the G.E. when all they could talk about on the BBC was the forthcoming (inevitable) hung parliament. All that interested them was speculating on possible coalitions and alliances, and the entire ‘spelling out arguments‘ stage was virtually overlooked.

  5. Andrew Marr's technique is not new. There has never been a BBC interview with a UKIP spokesman without 80% of the time being taken up with questions about some obscure ex-member's views on race or homosexuality--or in one case, that Party's view on Paddington Bear, always ensuring that there was no time to discuss real issues. The same strategy is now been turned on the new leadership of the Labour Party. No interview is complete without the bulk of the time being an inquisition on party management.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.