Tuesday 12 April 2016

'Newsnight' on sovereignty

A full review of last night's Newsnight special on sovereignty and the EU referendum will follow over the next day or so, but here are some initial points... 

- Evan Davis's opening report from the 'micronation' of Sealand - a disused WW2 Maunsell naval platform in the the North Sea, just outside British waters - featured a balance of 'talking heads' but was heavily skewed towards Remain in Evan Davis's commentary, beginning with using Sealand's sovereignty as a starting point [something I'll try and spell out at a later date]. 

- Tellingly, Evan Davis made it very clear during his report that one of his four 'talking heads' was pro-Remain and two others pro-Leave. Sir Stephen Wall, however, was merely introduced as a diplomat, despite being as pro-Remain as Peter Mandelson. (On his Twitter feed he even describes himself as a "pro-EU activist".)

- The audience panel of eight voters, chosen for a discussion about sovereignty and the EU referendum, quite astonishingly broke down (in an opening show of hands) 7:1 in favour of economic concerns being more important that sovereignty when it considering how to vote in the EU referendum issues. When asked later if they felt 'British' or 'European' having listened to the discussion, four went one way, four the other [which doesn't seem likely to be representative of the British public to me, even if the British public eventually votes to stay in the EU]. Of the five voters who spoke during the final discussion, all five appeared to be of the 'Remain' persuasion. And another vote, at the very end, on whether economic concerns were more important than sovereignty went 6:2 in favour of economic issues. Quite how Newsnight allowed such a 'stacked' panel to be chosen for such a programme is beyond me.

- Chris Grayling v Peter Mandelson. and an 'expert' panel of Siobhan Benita and Francis Jacobs v Marina Wheeler and Robert Tombs. That seemed balanced enough. I'm not sure where Vernon Bogdanor stands from his brief contribution.

- Clive Coleman's report used a British bulldog called Queenie as a prop, which was 'dumbing-down' at best.

Update: Not quite sure how I managed to miss it, but Vernon Bogdanor (who replaced Francis Jacobs later in the programme) made it very clear when he stood in his brief contribution. He's for Remain,


  1. Siobahn Benita seemed a very odd choice for an "expert". She is a politician. She stood for Mayor of London. And her expertise seems of somewhat "controversial" kind - I think there was some suggestion that Rabidly Remain Gus O'Donnell was in some sense promoting her candidature. He certainly did so after he stopped being Cabinet Secretary.

  2. I was surprised that Davis stated the voter panel had been chosen by a polling organisation as being representative of voters in the UK. How that panel was representative is beyond me.

    Of the eight people on the panel one was from Southern Ireland (going by his accent) and a second appeared to be from Eastern Europe. In other words 25% of the panel (remember supposed to be representative) was not born in the UK. Does that speak the levels of immigration that we have experienced in the UK? or another example of the BBC stacking the cards.

  3. Sir Stephen Wall, however, was merely introduced as a diplomat, despite being as pro-Remain as Peter Mandelson. (On his Twitter feed he even describes himself as a "pro-EU activist".)

    Rule #1 in effect, as usual. As for the audience panel, they will have answered questions beforehand as part of the selection process. No surprise at all how they stack up. Ian Katz and Newsnight stopped caring ages ago. They now seem to be adolescents doing this to thumb their noses at (The Man/The Right/White Van Man/conservatives/delete as applicable).


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