Sunday 6 March 2016


Time to move away from yesterday and onto today as The Spectator says that Andrew Marr has provoked a big 'BBC bias' stooshie over his interview with Boris on this morning's Marr Show

According to Mr Steerpike, various "Leave activists" (on Twitter) have accused the BBC presenter of being biased against Brexit because of the high number of interruptions during his interview with the London mayor. Andrew Marr has responded (on Twitter) saying: 
To those saying I interrupted BJ too much... It felt like being a fly heckling a steamroller, or twig trying to intervene with a waterfall.
I suppose I ought to watch it before commenting.

Update: Having now watched it, comments about it can be found below.


  1. Sopel and Marr engaged in their own pro-EU bias, or in this case, anti-Out bias, when they presented Gove and Boris's statement that the EU's foolishness is fueling neo-Nazi movements in Europe, and makes it harder to track terrorists coming in with the waves. This is factual. There are many news reports - including on the BBC - full of hand-wringing over the rise of the far-Right. In fact, there's a post today on this blog about BBC mewling over the 'darker side' of Germany. Yet Sopel and Marr present this as merely equivalent scaremongering from Out.

    More pro-Remain attitude from Marr when interviewing Mervyn King. Gentle at first, but it got more obvious as the interview went along. King was shrewdly diplomatic, and Marr and the BBC will probably claim him as an Out guest, tipping the balance, no bias here, move along.

    Wolfgang Schäuble: "We have not invited the refugees".

    A lie. Marr didn't call him out on it, of course. The most telling moment was when Schäuble dodged the question about Turkey joining the EU and having open border access to Britain. The next question set him up to do the usual conflation of local continental immigrants over decades and third-world Muslims coming in vastly greater numbers in a dramatically shorter time span. Game completely given away. This was followed by another ball teed up for Schäuble to whack out of the park, this time on how a Flexcit-type situation is a disadvantage, the usual talking point about having no influence but getting all the negatives, etc. And finally, the scaremongering. Everybody would hate Britain and there will be punishment, a weaker Europe is bad for Britain, blah, blah, blah.

    I guess Marr was just there to ask him leading questions and let him talk, not to engage or challenge any of it. It came across as a pro-EU propaganda session more than an interview.

    By the time we get to Boris, the pro-EU arguments had been set out so thoroughly and explicitly, it was almost as if he was there to defend against Schäuble, King. To be fair, Marr's first interruption was necessary because Boris was rambling and had stopped explaining anything coherent. Then it got bad.

    One thing is clear from this: Marr was challenging Boris as someone who believed in the other side, not as a journalist merely challenging his guest, just doing his job. It's obvious when Marr disagrees as opposed to sees a hole in his guest's argument and follows it up. I started to tune out when both Marr and Boris started trying to spin Gerard Lyons' words to their own ends.

    Marr did catch Boris on being dishonest about the Single Market, though. There is a difference between what it once was and what it has become (was always meant to be), but he didn't explain that at all and just danced around it. Boris not a successful voice for Out when he acts like that. More babbling from Boris, more interruptions and accusations from Marr.

    Marr will think it was a successful take down, of course, especially by ending with making it all personal about Boris versus Cameron.

    How many shows in a row is it now where it's all pro-EU, all the time? Agenda? What agenda?

    1. I don't look to Boris for forensic logic. His great value is that he is a great big golden labrador of optimism bounding around the place and for that reason the stayputters can't control him. I want Boris to fire off arguments left right and centre without too much follow up and I want him to launch into his verbal flights shooting up the lumbering EU freight trains down below, carrying their loads of tendentious soundbites.

    2. Yes, as Janan Ganesh described it later, he does 'retail politics' and not the hard stuff. But if Boris doesn't make a coherent point on a key issue, and obviously dodges questions and appears slippery, he won't change any minds. Surely the campaign must change minds as much as keep people from changing theirs. Boris was fairly unconvincing at times, and appeared evasive. I doubt he changed a single mind.

  2. That's an interesting point about Jon Sopel and Andrew Marr jointly dismissing Michael Gove's remarks that EU incompetence has helped fuel fascism as an "apocalyptic" example of "Project Fear".

    How is it their job (being supposedly'impartial') to pass judgements like that?

    It was especially ironic coming on the day when the Slovak elections saw 8% going to a new Neo-Nazi party (in addition to the old fascist party that's already in parliament there, and won 8.6%).

    I think you are spot on about the interruptions. People are making a lot of that. The Vote Leave campaign counted 57 interruptions against Boris and 23 for Dave. I counted something very similar (slightly more for both).

    But - as you say - Boris does waffle more than David Cameron. (And Nigel Farage waffles much less than either of them. In fact he's so crisp in his answers that, however hard they try, BBC interviewers find it harder to interrupt him).

    Both Andrew Marr and his defenders (such as the Daily Mirror) have already played this card. And so will the BBC Complaints department. So people aren't going to get very far taking his line if they complain....though they may well still win in the court of public opinion. People take notice of interruptions (consciously or otherwise).

    I had a look at Gerald Lyons' report:

    The relevant bit starts at p43. Anyone who reads it will realise that both Andrew Marr and Boris were indeed guilty of spinning here. The BBC man chose an especially 'selective' quote and made Boris look foolish as a result by denying it.

    I'm sure they will try to put Mervyn King down as pro-Leave, but he was extremely careful not to allow Andrew Marr to do that. His arguments did mount up to a solid case against the EU though.

    Oddly, the exchange quoted at the Spectator - which was early on in the interview - was actually quite light-hearted. They both laughed. It really turned into a 'heated' slog later on.

    1. I don't necessarily have a problem with Marr and Sopel pointing out if a particular campaign tactic is fearmongering, per se, as that's their job. But this is clearly a falsehood they're pushing. I don't know if they realize they're telling a lie or they're letting their ideology blind them to it. I expect it of Marr, not so much of Sopel.

      Boris deserved to be interrupted only to keep him on topic and from repeating himself. As always, Andrew Neil gave the perfect example of how to politely do just that later on when Carswell was repeating a talking point instead of answering a new question. But Neil doesn't have an agenda other than to challenge his guest, which he did. I have to rethink my understanding of EU payments now.

      I'm not surprised the Spectator played it only as a struggle to control the interview's agenda, rather than as Marr so obviously being pro-Remain. Framing it as a struggle for control also lets Marr get away with claiming that he was simply being a challenging interviewer, just doing his job. It also emphasizes Boris's slipperiness over the validity of any points he may have made.

      The Spectator main writers other than Fraser Nelson are essentially Cameron/Remain mouthpieces now. It's not a good look for them, and I wonder if people aren't mentioning it to Nelson at Notting Hill dinner parties.

  3. Just the usual residual bias and frequent hectorings that anybody who dares to stand against BBC worldview will get.
    No worse than usual-we expect nothing more,seeing that the BBC are funded by the EU to peddle their "impartiality".
    Noted at the end that Marr openly admitted that he seeks tittle tattle and bitchslapping spats,as opposed to actually finding out what the issues are.
    The BBC seem to enjoy the mud wrestling, the greased postures of no-marks and never-were`s....far better to dribble on about Eton and pitchers of warm spit than debate what REALLY counts.
    The BBC is just TV Quick for those who don`t read.

  4. Hard to imagine Andy being so flustered at the notion of interrupting BJ.

    You'd need a heart of stone....

    1. So long as he doesn't have to choke on another apology, he'll be fine.

  5. OT, but it looks like my procrastinating over perfecting my Complaints site(s) has been 'trumped':

    Maybe yet be worthy of complementing, though.

    1. Great minds think alike, Peter! It does show that others think such a site is urgently needed - and two such sites would be even better.


    Radio 4 Costing the Earth will be looking next week at the effect of...well I think they said "the Referendum" on the environment (but that's not going to have much effect is it apart from all the trees that go to make the ballot papers)...nevertheless I predict full on anti-Brexit bias along the lines of "All EU legislation on the environment will be junked and we will go back to smog, raw sewage in the sea and mass culling of badgers."

    1. Thanks for the heads-up. If that programme isn't biased against Leave I'll eat George Monbiot's biodegradable hat.

    2. It's amazing how many Remain campaigners are saying that staying in the EU is the environmentally friendly choice. Because thousands of Eastern Europeans moving here has been great for our countryside...

      Freedom of movement = more fuel-guzzling movement

    3. Shunting between two cities always seemed poor on the carbon front too.


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