Saturday 23 July 2016

'Brexit Britain: One Month In'

Tonight's Newsnight Special - Brexit Britain: One Month In came after a day-long Newsnight event. 

We got an initial glimpse of that debate courtesy of a brief introductory selection of views from the famous, semi-famous and the I-don't-know-if-they-are-famous-or-nots, beginning with Owen Jones and Billy Bragg.

It had a bit of a pro-Remain bias in that two were pro-Leave (including Suzanne Evans), four pro-Remain and one was hard to judge (though I suspect from what she said pro-Remain). 

Then, however, came a well-balanced and interesting report on the Leave and Remain campaigns from Nick Watt. I've no complaints about that. 

The serious bias kicked in, however, with the frankly bizarre decision to have the first main discussion between two Remainers (Nick Clegg and Stella Creasy) and just one Brexiter (Kwasi Kwarteng). 

What on earth possessed Newsnight to imbalance it like that? 

Though not quite as bad as I expected, Evan did give Kwasi Kwarteng a harder time than either Nick Clegg and Stella Creasey (despite them being in the majority)...

...and he also did that thing (to Kwasi) which, alas, he often does these days [see 24:30] of restating a talking point in contradiction to his guest and then moving straight on without giving that guest a chance to reply.

And then came the audience! I'll let Evan spell that issue out in his own words:
I do just want to go to the audience here. We've got a lovely audience in the room. They've been at events through the day. Now I have to tell you, it was a first-some-first-served buy-a-ticket event so this is not like your usual BBC audience which was been constructed to be in some way balanced - and it is, we know from the rest of the day, overwhelmingly Remain. This is a West London venue. So it's a Remain...[laughter]"
Well, fancy that! A heavily pro-Remain audience for this day-long Newsnight event. Who'd have thought it? (sarcasm alert!). 

Evan went on to say that the audience had been displaying a lot of "Remainer grief" throughout the day and when he asked them if they wanted a second referendum about 40% of them (by his estimation) said 'Yes'. 

Couldn't Newsnight have staged its 'big Brexit event' somewhere more representative? (I'd have recommended Morecambe, which followed the actual result of the referendum very closely).

Oddly, two audience members were chosen to speak and one was pro-Remain (and had signed that dodgy '4 million' petition demanding another refendum) while the other was pro-Leave.

That's good, but (and here's the odd bit) the pro-Leave guy was, as Evan admitted, "slightly untypical" in being (a) open to a second referendum and (b) positively in favour of another referendum to endorse whatever Brexit deal is sorted out. 

Katie Razzall's "divided nation" report at least got us away from the views of West London. She was up my way (though she didn't drop by to see me). 

Her piece was fairly balanced in terms of featuring Leave and Remain voters across a swathe of the North West from Manchester to Blackpool (via the gorgeous Ribble Valley and lovely Lytham St Annes. 

It was curious though how often the Leave supporters were cast as being and asked about being "embarrassed" about how they'd voted.

And it was even more curious how favourably Theresa May was viewed, even among the Leave voters (including the chap in the soup kitchen in Blackpool).  

The second main discussion was hosted by Kirsty Wark.

Unlike the first discussion, it was balanced, guest-wise, between a Leave supporter (Dan Hannan) and a Remain supporter (Kirsty's former Newsnight colleague Paul Mason). 

Kirsty, however, can't be said to have been unbiased. She was even worse than Evan in 'taking the fight' mainly to the Leave supporter - i.e. Dan Hannan. 

That wasn't quite 'fair', especially as the audience was on Paul Mason's side. (The biggest clap of all came when Paul condemned "racist populism" after mentioning UKIP). 

And Kirsty did that thing she does and asked Paul Mason a helpful question of the kind she didn't put to Dan Hannan [see at 45:36]:
But Paul, when I talked about 'nature abhors a vacuum', you know, our revised growth figures - for this year 1.7, for next year 1.3 - you know, there may be an economic downturn which actually harms the very people who voted to leave.
She also asked about a second referendum.

With Evan promising to keep on scrutinising Brexit issue and a montage of clips of careers ended by the vote, that was that.

Conclusion? It could have been worse, but it was still strongly Remain-biased.

Update: I see that Dan Hannan didn't find his encounter with that Newsnight audience very fruitful:

1 comment:

  1. Evan Davies is a Remainiac. So that made it 3 Remainiacs v 1 Leaver.

    As for the audience, the BBC dispenses some incredible amount of revenue £5 billion I think each year...the idea they can't afford to produce a balanced audience is ludicrous.


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