Sunday 24 April 2016

Mark Mardell gets a glimpse of President Obama again

You shout me forth 
In acclamations hyperbolical...

Here's a flavour of what you missed if you didn't listen to this week's The World This Weekend...

We got Mark Mardell saying this of the Obama intervention:
The UK part of his farewell tour wouldn't even count as a long weekend, but it might prove the most important 50 hours in the referendum campaign so far. Here was one of the most popular and powerful politicians in the whole world pulling no punches.
We then got to hear an interview between Huw Edwards and Barack Obama (with no interruptions, naturally).

Then came Mark Mardell again:
So will the President have the influence he wants on the British electorate? While critics deride him as a lame-duck he is still a bit of a rock star to some, as I found out when I went down to his town hall meeting in London with young people where his entrance was, indeed, of stadium status.
MM talked to some of those attending. 
The youthful participants in that meeting came out, some still slightly giddy having shaken the presidential hand. 
He then said:
Of course, what any President of the United States says is important but this one perhaps strikes a different chord. Former advisor to the Labour leadership Ayesha Hazarika says part of that appeal, unavoidably, is as America's first black president. 
And this was his (leading) question to Ayesha Hazarika:
When President Obama started talking about the referendum several politicians - Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage - mentioned his Kenyan ancestry. How did that strike you?
She said it it "smacked of an unnecessary, weird undertone" that was "pretty unpleasant". She tied it into the "ugly strain of dog-whistle politics" and "smearing" in the London mayoral election. 

Mark Mardell's commentary continued:
It was a week when we could have been forgiven for being rather inward-looking, staring backwards at the past - a very British history-soaked week of pageantry, the anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the Queen's 90th birthday - time to revel in nostalgia for both the Elizabethan ages. And the Associated Press notes the President's political intervention was "wrapped in appeals to British sentimentality". But the blunt, unsentimental job he set himself was to send a wrecking-ball into the Leave campaigners' case.  
He then talked to Professor Simon Hix from the LSE, who said "it was a serious blow to one of the main pillars of the Brexit campaign". "Many of who are Atlanticists", added Mark. Yes, said Prof. Hix, "and it's a blow to them". He said Obama is "telling it pretty straight" and that the "onus" is now with the Brexit camp to explain what would happen.

Finally came an interview with Dr. Liam Fox, a Leave campaigner. Mark introduced him by recalling a letter he'd signed before the visit asking the US president not to intervene in the UK's EU debate. "Well, obviously he ignored that advice," quipped Mark Mardell. 

The interview itself was handled fairly though. The return of this question, however, was inevitable (given what had gone before):
Finally, what do you think of some of those your side of the debate - Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage - referring to the President's half-Kenyan ancestry. What did you make of that?
Liam Fox said people should stick to the issues and not personalise things. 

Mark Mardell always gave the strong impression of having a huge 'soft spot' for Barack Obama while acting as the BBC's North America editor. He must have enjoyed getting to see the U.S. president again here, and his commentary seemed to me to be far too sympathetic towards him again here - and far too unsympathetic to the Brexiteers.

In other words, typical Mark Mardell.


  1. What does being the first black President have to do with whether or not He's right about the EU? Isn't it racist to judge someone's opinion based on their skin color?

  2. Short of shouting into the microphone "I love Obama! He's so wise and all seeing!! I hate Farage and Johnson...they are such horrible racists!!! You've got to Vote Remain - otherwise we are going to turn into a fascist third rate banana republic. Oh God - please vote Remain!!!" he couldn't have made his views clearer.

  3. The BBC pro-Remain bias has been's come in so many forms: interruption bias, structural bias (nearly always leading with Remain themes and putting their arguments first, avoiding as far as possible balanced studio discussions, preferring to bring on "experts" to bolster Remain arguments), drip-drip bias (skewed analysis in reporters' introductions, use of "Europe" instead of EU, acceptance of government assertions), evidential bias (deciding that the Remain campaign's evidential reference points are more important than those of the Leave campaign), using Reality Check conclusions selectively to back the Remain campaign, putting across pro Remain points in non political programmes like arts and science, distorting the history of the EU (see your critique of Nick Robinson selective interpretation, and there have been examples of the EU as being described as the guarantor of peace in Europe when it was not set up until 1957 and then managed to allow war in both Yugoslavia and Ukraine), deliberating playing down of news that supports the Leave case e.g. the fact that many of the people undertaking terror attacks in Paris and Brussels had entered the EU illegally.


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