Thursday 29 September 2016

Stuff the BBC hasn’t noticed

Shami Chakrabarti is set to join Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet as the Shadow Attorney General, it has been reported. Yes, it has been reported in the Telegraph, The Independent, the Daily Mail, New Statesman and Politics Home, but not on the BBC. 


Jackie Walker is causing quite a stir by making a fresh batch of antisemitic comments  so soon  after a remarkably swift reinstatement to the Labour party, having been briefly suspended for making antisemitic comments.  There is speculation that her (and her partner’s) long-standing friendship with Jeremy Corbyn might have something to do with it. 
(The BBC hasn’t noticed.)


Various tributes to Shimon Peres on the BBC have included some unpleasant and ill-informed content, but remembering all the negativity when Margaret Thatcher passed away I suppose one could say that the 93 year old Israeli elder statesman got off lightly. 
It was a surprise to hear one particular tribute that actually seemed straightforward and sincere. It was Giles Fraser on Thought for the Day. Who’d have thunk?

(Must have snuck it past the BBC while they weren’t looking)

Tuesday 27 September 2016

More on Chris Packham

A snipe. UK population down 89% in the last 25 years but still legally shot. "Why?" petitions Chris Packham

Courtesy of Alan at Biased BBCthere's more on the BBC Trust's ruling on anti-driven grouse shooting campaigner and freelance BBC presenter Chris Packham's "nasty brigade" comments about hunters and shooters in the BBC Wildlife magazine. 

Further to the Trust's rather ambiguous/mealy-mouthed 'clearing' of the Springwatch presenter (of whom I'm a great fan), the UK Press Gazette reports:
New editor of the [BBC Wildlife] magazine Sheena Harvey told the BBC Trust: “Coming to this magazine as the new editor and with a fresh eye, I will say that I feel some of the language used by Chris Packham in that column was somewhat flippant and the use of a phrase such as ‘nasty brigade’ would not have been let through had I been overseeing the content. 
“My aim for the future is to provide a platform for informed opinion, within the regulatory guidelines and with cogent factual and legal content, and to offer a right to reply in the next available issue to all parties concerned in the debate.” 
The BBC Trust complaints committee said: “The committee considered that the fact that BBC Wildlife Magazine’s new editor would not have allowed the term ‘nasty brigade’ to have been published, together with the fact that both complainants had been given a right to reply to it, meant that the issue had been resolved and no further action needed to be taken.”
Well, of course they "considered" it that way, especially as they'd said exactly that themselves.

None of which will stop Chris campaigning. Just four hours ago, for instance, he stated his support (on Twitter) for another campaign against shooters:


...a campaign he himself started:

I'm getting the impression that Chris Packham is refusing to accept any criticism here, and being very public about that refusal. 

Where will that lead him and the BBC? The BBC doesn't like insubordination in the ranks (even its freelance ranks).

Car crashes

Working full-time it's very rare that I get to see The Daily Politics. Having the afternoon off, I watched it today and very much enjoyed it. 

It will admit that I was a bit disappointed that Andrew Neil didn't start things off by saying:
Coming up, folks, we've got a hedgehog that can recite the Labour Party constitution backwards, the Tooth Fairy who acts as Tom Watson's personal dental hygienist, Britain's top unicorn-trainer.. and...(incredulously)..DIANE ABBOTT!!?!!"

He did interview Diane Abbott though and she beggared incredulity as usual, vaguely floundering around her comments last night about Brexit voters being racists and getting muddled about everything else. 

To describe it as a 'car crash interview' goes without saying (it's Diane Abbott after all), but we're all so used to those by now that no one - least of all Diane Abbott - even bats an eyelid any more. 

Is there anything she could say or do, however stupid, extreme or racist, that would ever lead to her downfall?

Shami Chakrabarti's 'car crash interview' with Andrew Neil today was a different matter entirely. She certainly did bat an well as squirming with discomfort throughout the entire interview. Her interview struck me as something of a disaster (for her).

Was her discomfort merely down to being unused to coping with difficult questions from the BBC? (AN's persistent probing of her 'report/whitewash' into Labour Party antisemitism and the 'coincidence' of her peerage certainly seemed to severely agitate her). Or was she manifesting signs of guilt and shame (as some have suggested on social media)?

If you watch it you'll also see a BBC reporter making some Corbynistas take the huff by asking them if they recognise certain Labour shadow cabinet members (with them complaining that such a line of questioning was a media conspiracy), and Nigel Farage and some Labour shadow cabinet member I didn't recognise talking about last night's Hillary-Donald debate, and (Blairites) Polly Toynbee and Steve Richards being the chosen journalist commentators and doing their usual thing.

What fun!

Freelance matters

Olivia Crellin

I don't usually make pronouncements about where I stand on subjects other than BBC bias, usually because my views are rather confused (and confusing). That said...

On the transgender question, I take a libertarian rather than a conservative view - or, probably more accurately, a classic liberal view (John Stuart Mill): i.e. Unless it harms others, I don't think it's anyone else's business. Thus, if, say, someone born a man wants to be a woman, or if someone born a woman wants to become a man, good luck to them. Everyone should be as happy as they can be if unhappiness doesn't generally increase as a result.

However, I then become conservative again wherever children are involved, as I believe that the traditional family is, broadly-speaking, much better for children and that we ought to be very cautious about encouraging family situations that are likely to be less good for children. 

And that's why I worry about such unblinkingly liberal articles as this BBC Magazine report:

and its corresponding report on last Thursday's From Our Own Correspondent with its heroic (website) talk of the transgender parents "challenging some local assumptions"...

...especially when the 'counterbalancing' criticism of the transgender couple in that report comes from those who think they have been too traditional regarding family structures and too conciliatory towards the Catholic Church. 

If there's one bit of BBC bias that surely no one can disagree with, it's that (except in certain special circumstances, usually regarding Muslim sensibilities), the BBC is heavily socially liberal in outlook. And this kind of article only feeds that impression.

And there's another issue with this piece (and its radio equivalent), as noted over at Biased BBC
After trawling through the piece, there is something at the foot of the article that caught my eye: “This article was made possible through a grant to the author from the One World Media foundation.” A BBC employee is being PAID by a third-party special interest entity to write a blatantly biased material (that was pitched to them: 2016 Production Fund | One World Media) to push a specific social agenda
The reporter in question, Olivia Crellin, who is "passionate about social justice, women's issues, mental health and long-form journalism", is actually a freelance reporter (which, as ever with the BBC, complicates matters). She mainly works for the BBC World Service though. As noted at B-BBC though, her BBC report was funded by an external organisation with a mission statement which smacks rather more of the 'Social Justice Warrior' than the 'impartial BBC' (though it fits very well with the BBC's actual reporting):
One World Media’s mission is to support strong vibrant and independent media that empowers citizens, promotes justice and contributes to international development.We believe that the media can be a powerful force for good. It provides valuable information, increases cultural understanding and contributes to global fairness and justice. Our vision is of a world where every country has free and plural media providing accurate information and high-quality content.
So the questions remains: Should the BBC be involved in such activities? And would they ever promote the results if they advanced a socially conservative position? (I think the answers there are: 'Only if the resulting report is presented in as impartial a way as possible {unlike this report}' to the first question, and 'No, that's extremely unlikely to happen' to the second question).

You couldn't make it up!

Sad news...

As Jon himself would surely say, "It's political correctness gone mad!"

Even sadder...

Mitch Benn, The Now Show's hilarious in-house singer-songwriter (widely acclaimed as being almost as funny as Leonard Cohen), has also got the chop.

James O'Brien repents


According to the UK Press Gazette, occasional Newsnight presenter James O'Brien has said it's time for journalists, like him, to stop talking about Nigel Farage and Diane James as if they are "a pimple on the backside of British politics":
The media, myself included, now have to stop talking about Nigel Farage and UKIP like they are some sort of pimple on the backside of British politics.
He went on:
I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve made a conscious personal and professional decision to leave the scepticism at the door and will now treat this party, this man and this woman as I treat all politicians – with a degree of cynicism but not as some sort of aberration.
And questioning the negative media reception to UKIP's policies (including the BBC's), he said: 
Try this on for size. "We have let immigration spiral out of control and it's having a serious impact on public services and harming the poor". What’s not to like about that? Why is that even controversial?
He added: 
I used to call it racist, quasi-fascist. Parking all that language, it’s over, it’s finished, it’s meaningless.
Praising Nigel Farage’s qualities, he said:
You see a strength in the man, a lot of other people would have buckled under the sheer weight of abuse he has received from from the media and establishment, including me. You’ve got a former leader who really does appear to represent a profound alternative to the notion of business as usual. Why has that been treated so negatively?
Why indeed, James?


Note for readers who don't click on links and are feeling worn out after a hard day's work: James O'Brien was actually talking about Jeremy Corbyn. Of course. (Most of the words above were his).

Who would have expected a London-based left-wing shock jock to publicly recant and declare his admiration for Our Darling, Our Guiding Star (as Seumas probably calls him)? 

Sunday 25 September 2016

Labour today

Not BBC-bias-related but still extraordinary (and well-sourced):

Sunday Morning Live

I blame Sue. 

It's the only thing I blame her for, but leading me into regularly watching those ghastly Sunday morning BBC One religious programmes placed in between Andrews Marr and Neil is something definitely to be held against her! 

(Please imagine a whole row of 'smileys' extending towards infinity).

Today's Sunday Morning Live (the better one of those programmes) discussed whether British soldiers should be immune from vexatious prosecutions, whether the young are disadvantaged by the old, and whether Islam should be more British (there's almost always a Muslim question). 

There was also an interview with Christian Olympic boxer Nicola Adams (though her interest in Muhammad Ali seems to have interested the programme more)...

Nicola Adams and the BBC's Samanthi Flanagan

...and, to end, a song "inspired by the refugee crisis" from Deacon Blue.

The programme had Frederick Forsyth on and the Daily Express claims that "Naga Munchetty LOSES COOL as Frederick Forsyth defends UK troops while 'ISIS play victim'". 

What actually happened was that Naga completely misunderstood Freddie's point. He was saying that British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were facing an enemy that - unlike the conventional Argentinian army during the Falklands War - doesn't wear military uniform, thus making it easy for such people to pretend to be civilians and then go on to make vexatious claims against the British army. Naga didn't register that and wrongly assumed he'd said that the British soldiers facing accusations weren't wearing uniforms and, thus, challenged him on that (without, I think, 'loosing her cool' at all).

The main 'Muslim spokesman' today was Sunday morning BBC One regular Ajmal Masroor - someone they seem to have on speed-dial.  He did 'lose his cool' when Freddie Forsyth pointed to the new problem (for the UK) of inter-Muslim killing, following the killing by a Muslim fundamentalist of an Ahmadiyya Glasgow shopkeeper who'd wished his Christian customers a 'Happy Easter'. Ajmal went mad, ranting that that was just one case in several million. 

Alas, there was no Douglas Murray or David Vance on today's programme to point out to Imam Masroor that there have been other cases - such as the horrific murder of the elderly Sufi Jalal Uddin in Rochdale by another Muslim fundamentalist fanatic. 

Nor was there anyone to challenge Ajmal Masroor on his assertions (beyond SML), reported in the Times last week, that the murdered Imam Uddin was a "sinner" engaged in "voodoo" practises "totally forbidden in Islam", and, thus, guilty of a "grave sin" - though he also called the murder "barbaric". British Sufis, the Times reported, have called Mr Masroor's comments "a theological justification" for murder, and the Quilliam Foundation has agreed with their concerns.

And yet the BBC saw fit to invite the self-same Ajmal Masroor on today, as they've done so many times before.

And no one - no one at all - challenged him on what he'd said about the late Jalal Uddin, bludgeoned to death in a children's play area by a British Salafist.

Was no one at Sunday Morning Live even aware of the row over Mr Masroor's comments this week? (I'm sure Douglas Murray and David Vance would have been aware of that).

James Harding gives 'a truly balanced' overview of the BBC's Brexit coverage

James Harding's expression whilst writing his Garudian piece

The BBC's Director of News, James Harding, has written an article defending the BBC's Brexit coverage against all comers - in, of all places, the Guardian. 

(Cries of "You couldn't make it up!" resound in the air.)

The Graun's headline is: A truly balanced view from the BBC: don’t blame us for Brexit.

"It is easy to dismiss these critics as regular BBC bashers or sore losers. But the BBC has no business being complacent", says Mr Harding, whilst penning an article which defends everything the BBC has done regarding its Brexit coverage. 

(More cries of "You couldn't make it up!" resound in the air.)

Now, for 'balance' (BBC-style 'balance'!), Mr Harding does concede, in his final paragraph, "We plainly do not get everything right. We make mistakes and, I hope, move quickly to grip them". 

He doesn't, however, it should be swiftly noted, cite even a single example of any such mistake!

(The cries of "You couldn't make it up!" become deafening). 

One swallow

Amid all the relentlessly knee-jerk anti-Trump stuff being poured out by the BBC, day in and day out (whether entirely justified or not), came a striking exception this week in the shape of John Gray's latest A Point of View - a typically free-thinking take on the whole Trump phenomenon that's well worth a listen.

On Sarah Champion, TherAYza May and Geology

The aforementioned Sarah Champion MP appeared earlier on today's Broadcasting House

She was on to discuss the Labour Party's present position.

The segment itself was pretty balanced. There were three guests (all Labour of course): (1) anti-Corbyn Tessa Jowell, (2) pro-Corbyn activist Stephen Low and (3) anti-then-pro-then-anti-again-then-pro-Corbyn-again Sarah Champion. 

It was all rather amicable, except perhaps for "kinder, gentler" Mr Low calling Dame Tessa an "establishment figure" (though he did preface that by saying "forgive me for using the term", which, of course, makes it all right!). 

Unexpectedly, however, the discussion began with Jonny Dymond (standing in for Paddy) asking Miss Champion about the revelation (this week) that she'd been arrested and cautioned by the police in 2007 after a violent row with her then-husband. 

That has some political resonance because Jeremy Corbyn made her his Shadow Home Office Minister for Preventing Abuse and Domestic Violence last year (thus entering 'You couldn't make it up' territory).

Though widely reported in the press (from the Daily Mirror to the Times), I'd previously heard or seen nothing about this story on the BBC (and I've checked the BBC News website very carefully to make sure of that corner of the BBC's vast output), so well done to BH for at least raising the subject. 

Here Jonny asked her if she should keep her job, after a campaign group had complained that a man who'd behaved as she'd behaved towards her then-partner would have been sacked. Miss Champion. in response, said she should keep her job and defended herself strongly, and Jonny then moved straight on, thanking her (without further questioning).


Incidentally, Jonny Dymond himself had earlier apologised. He said sorry for mispronouncing Mrs May's name 'TherAYza' rather than 'TeREEza'. 

In fairness to him, however, he's far from being the only BBC presenter to have mispronounced her name. (I keep hearing them do it). 

He is the only one to have apologised for it though (so far). 


And while I'm on about BH, the paper review told us that Geology is the course that results in the highest earnings for graduates. The lowest-earning subject is Psychology (which it's been for some time, if I remember rightly - replacing the old lowest-earner Sociology). 

The cited Times headline was 'Geologists hit gold with best graduate pay'. I'd have preferred 'Geology rocks!' (I won't give up my day job).

On Chris Packham

I suppose I ought to write something (as others are doing) about Chris Packham being cleared by the BBC Trust for calling those involved in hunting "the nasty brigade" and demanding a ban on driven grouse-shooting in the BBC Wildlife magazine.

The (two) complainants argued that Chris had broken BBC impartiality guidelines (the BBC Wildlife magazine being bound by those guidelines) and had a conflict of interest (being a campaigner against driven grouse-shooting).

Now, I've seen some of Chris Packham's videos on the subject and there's no doubt about it: He is a campaigner on the subject.

The BBC Trust cleared him because he was considered not to be working in "news or policy output", and because the article was labelled as "opinion" and a right to reply was offered - duly given in the magazine's next edition - and because Chris is a freelance presenter and not a BBC employee, meaning he's "open to associate himself with wildlife charities without being in breach of the guidelines".

That said, the BBC Trust suggested that he and his BBC bosses "assess regularly and formally" his campaigning to make sure it doesn't undermine the "impartiality and independence" of his BBC broadcasting, and the BBC Trust told him not to use the phrase "the nasty brigade" in the future.

Hmm. So the BBC Trust did see some problems with what Chris Packham wrote for BBC Wildlife.

The status of freelance BBC presenters is a definite 'grey area' when it comes to BBC impartiality. It remains troubling.

In Chris's defence, however - and, admitting in advance my own possible bias as a very loyal Springwatch/Autumnwatch/Unsprung viewer - I've closely observed how careful he is, when presenting those high-profile programmes, to restrain himself when in comes to controversial topics. 

He's even cited BBC impartiality guidelines at times as to why some Unsprung discussions have remained within certain confines and then stuck to those confines.

Yes, he may well have been hinting there at his own dissatisfaction with those guidelines, but stick to them he still did.

To end, here's a drawing of a hen harrier (Chris Packham's main concern when it comes to driven grouse-shooting):

A Modest Letter

In fairness - and following on from both of the last two posts...

This morning's Broadcasting House also feature a satirical squib from The Now Show's Steve Punt that inevitably outraged the Corbynistas on Twitter.... least one of whom chose - in their usual "kinder, gentler" way - to rhyme Steve's surname in a James Naughtie-like fashion, whilst not forgetting to add the word 'Tory' in front of it.

In some respects, Mr Punt's joke - a 'draft letter' - could be seen as being on any Labour 'moderate' who (Sarah Champion-like) goes crawling back to Jeremy Corbyn for re-admittance to Labour's shadow cabinet (having previously resigned), especially now, in the light of his latest internal triumph. But (and this might not be mutually contradictory!) all the biting bits of Steve's satire were at the expense of Mr Corbyn, his cause and his supporters, and there was a very striking (and obvious) undercurrent of 'Blairite' messaging too. 

Here's a very brief sample:
By now I hope you can see that I have been cruelly misrepresented by the sinister forces of the Establishment that have conspired to prevent socialist revolution by brainwashing the voters into consistently not voting for it for the last 71 years. 
You may notice that in the paragraph where I ask the question, 'Can a man who openly despises the military, the financial sector and the concept of 'profit' be put in charge of a trading nation with NATO membership and a service sector providing a third of the tax base?', the anonymous hackers have then deleted the second sentence, 'Nobody but a tool of the capitalist system would ask such a question, denying (as it does) the inevitable triumph of the workers' revolution.
 As you can see, Steve Punt wasn't quite as subtle as James Naughtie there. 

A Jim Naughtie joke

Meanwhile, over on BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House this morning, the famous James Naughtie was indulging in a spot of drollery at the expense of a certain Donald J. Trump whilst discussing the upcoming US presidential debates.

Jim's comic timing was impeccable...unlike, perhaps, his BBC impartiality:  
He may have the easier job. All he has to do is to appear reasonable, charming and to avoid the impression of ignorance on anything that matters. (Pause). What could possibly go wrong?

"Well look, I think - I think I’ve given you a pretty - a pretty fully and fair answer there, Andrew"

Today's paper reviewers, including Isabel Hardman

Marr told a Soft Brexit Vs. Hard Brexit lie this morning about one side wanting "a complete block on immigration", full stop, and Isabel Hardman nodded in agreement. 
The relevant quote from Andrew Marr runs as follows (from 15:53), leading on from his earlier question, "Behind this there is a really, really difficult choice in front of the country, which is being characterised as 'Hard Brexit v Soft Brexit', Explain Isabel!":
So it's a question of whether we try and get out very quickly and don't be part of the Single Market, have a complete block on immigration, or do we do it gently and more softly. That is the big argument inside the party, isn't it?
This is a complete misrepresentation, for sure.

And as for David's other point...
Other than that, it was more appeasement of Corbynistas to mitigate all the complaints they've obviously been getting. 
...well, that's been my impression too from what I've seen and heard of the BBC (so far) today. 

I've never heard so many Corbynistas on the BBC before...

...(I'd say, alluding to Tennyson, that there's been 'Corbynistas to the left of me, Corbynistas to the right of me', but they could only ever really be 'to the left of me'. Boom, boom!!)...

...and certainly not such a balance of Corbynistas and Labour non-Corbynistas before.

There were two Corbynistas on Marr, two Corbynistas on The Sunday Politics; a Corbynista and a Corbynista-friendly MP on Broadcasting House....and all (including Jeremy Corbyn himself) were given a surprisingly gentle handling by their BBC interviewers (unlike the tough grillings that faced John McDonnell on ITV's Peston and Sky's Murnaghan.

That said (in an amusing echo of the kinds of comment I've seen so many times over the years from the other side of the political spectrum), there were plenty of Corbynistas seeing a dark 'BBC bias' conspiracy over the many technical glitches during Andrew Marr's interview with Jeremy Corbyn today. 

Boris (as you can see)

Andrew Marr's interview with Boris wasn't exactly a toughie either, but it certainly wasn't without its 'angles', such as:
For the economy to carry on growing and us to have a really good post Brexit boom we do need of course lots of skilled migrant workers with specific skills still coming into the country. You always said that you were about the only politician in the country prepared to stand up and say, ‘I am pro immigration.’ Are you still pro immigration?
"Yes sir, I am", replied Boris before saying that the numbers are too high, Mr Marr persisted:
But for the economy to carry on growing we need considerable numbers into the construction industry, the NHS, banking, the universities and a lot of those will come from the EU, so people who voted Brexit thinking that was it - no more immigration from the EU were completely wrong. Which leads me to the tens of thousands promise which, in this context, seems barmy. 
Andrew then pursued - as you'd expect from a Remainer - the famous '£350 million to the EU' figure, which he duly 'fisked' in his question to Mr Johnson [another Mr Johnson - Paul Johnson of the IFS - would doubtless approve!]:
A lot of people voted for Brexit because they saw the adverts suggesting a lot of money coming to the NHS. Now the 350 million was much discussed. If you drill into Vote Leave figures it’s perhaps nearer a hundred million pounds a week coming net. Andrew Lansley, has suggested that by the end of his parliament the NHS should be getting about £5 billion a year as a result of us quitting the EU. For all those people who looked at the posters, listened to people like you, watched the broadcasts and think the NHS is definitely going to get a really substantial amount of money per week as a result of us leaving the EU, can you pledge, as a member of the new government, that will happen by the end of this parliament, providing we’ve left?

Jeremy Corbyn on "anti-Semitism, any form of racism" (again)

Guido Fawkes has an absolute shocker of a story from this week's Labour conference, demonstrating continuing antisemitism in the Labour Party. If you've not already seen it I'd urge you to take a deep breath and read it. I'd say 'Unbelievable!' but, alas, it really isn't anymore. 

Meanwhile, here's a brief exchange on the same subject from this morning's The Andrew Marr Show
Andrew Marr: Let me put to you something that Lord Mitchell - who has just resigned from the party in the Lords - has said today. He said, first of all, that he has to go because he thinks Momentum, 'Corbyn’s people', he says, ‘have the Labour Party by the throat’ is his expression. But he then goes on to say something quite disturbing... 
Jeremy Corbyn: Has Lord Mitchell ever met anyone in Momentum? Has he ever spoken to anyone in Momentum? 
Andrew Marr: I haven’t asked him, I have to confess. But he also says this, and this goes back to, I know, issues in the past. He says, ‘I think it’s very difficult if you are Jewish and you support Israel to be a member of the Labour Party.’ That’s disturbing that he thinks that, isn’t it? 
Jeremy Corbyn: It’s unfortunate he would say that, because it’s not a fair comment. And I would hope that he would reflect on that because clearly there are diverse views within the party on issues in the Middle East, but there’s absolute unity in the part of opposing any form of anti-Semitism, any form of racism, in the party. That is very clear. 
Andrew Marr: Let me move on to big policy issues. 

The Matter of the North

And still still catching up...

Well, I actually enjoyed Melvyn Bragg's 10-part series The Matter of the NorthSo there!

He may have overstated his pro-Northern case at time, especially in his bullish opening rant, but his walks around many of the landmark places of the North, often waxing lyrical, and his fine cast of academics and famous Northerners kept me engaged pretty much throughout - especially as Melvyn himself was just so enthusiastic about things. I even found inspiration for some days out: I would now dearly love to visit Whitby Abbey and might well pencil in a visit to Maryport's Senhouse Museum, with its rather striking Celtic artefacts (including this big fella):

Melvyn got so personally involved with some of the Northern stories he told that he ended up breaking from the Labour Party position on the death penalty at one point, wishing that William the Conqueror had been boiled alive in oil for what he did to the North during his infamous (and truly disastrous) 'harrowing' of the region. 

Some controversy has arisen (in certain quarters) over the political nature of some of the later episodes and, yes, Lord Bragg's Labour Party affiliation wasn't hard to discern from time to time - but not often and rarely intrusively...

...well, at least until the final episode that is, where sensitive issues like the Miners' Strike, the death of Mrs Thatcher and the Brexit vote came up. Lord Bragg really did compare the effects of Mrs Thatcher and the 1980s on the North to William the Conqueror's devastation of the region:

In the 1980s the mining areas saw what might be called the 20th Century version of William the Conqueror's wasting of the North. The truly alternative culture that came with those communities was largely swept away in one generation as the pits were shut. 

thus ignoring the (probably inconvenient) fact that massive numbers of mine closures and mass redundancies had occurred under previous Labour governments of the 1960s and 70s (significantly more in total than occurred under Mrs Thatcher).

Also, Melvyn did argue for a federal England in this episode (backed by Ed Cox of the left-leaning think tank IPPR North), with the North having the status of a country within a country (like Wales or Scotland). He also mentioned a cross-party group which is advocating that.

One critic of the programme claimed that this was an example of the BBC biased backing 'independence' for the North and supporting the break-up of the UK (the way, he claimed, that the BBC "backed" the SNP, the IRA and Cornish separatists). It wasn't really. Lord Bragg is pro-union (signing an open letter against Scottish independence for example), and that cross-party group (which ranges from Graham Brady, Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey to Baroness Wheatcroft, Menzies Campbell and Peter Hain) is advocating federalism as a way of keeping the union together in the light of the Brexit vote, not splitting it apart.  (So maybe this is actually one for the cybernats to complain about then!)

And, finally, there was the Brexit question. 

The same critic of the programme mentioned above wrote, "Bragg suggests that those who voted for Brexit were the stupid and ignorant folk, a sort of peasants’ revolt against their betters." 

That's not at all fair (or true) though. Those words were actually spoken by one of Melvyn's experts - Professor Robert Colls of De Montfort University - and Professor Colls was a Leave supporter himself during the EU referendum campaign (arguing the left-wing, anti-globalisation case for Brexit). He was, in fact, criticising the kind of people who make such insulting comments. (Such insults depress him.) Neither (the Remain-backing) Lord Bragg nor Prof. Colls were even remotely insulting about Leave voters here. The charge is baseless.

The one bit of actual bias on Melvyn's part there was his (narrative) suggestion that the North might well suffer economically from Brexit, but he merely said that and passed on. I don't think it's one to get particularly hot under the collar about. 

Something more on Question Time audiences

Still catching up...

Andrew Marr's interview with Morecambe-born Labour leadership failure Owen Smith (two weeks ago) contained an interesting comment from the unsuccessful Mr. Smith:
Andrew Marr: Owen Smith, your fundamental pitch is that Jeremy Corbyn is less electable than Owen Smith. What possible evidence do you have of that? He has been getting huge crowds all around the country. He’s been addressing massive rallies. And when it comes to something like the BBC’s Question Time everyone pours over him at the end to get selfies, not, I’m afraid, to you.
Owen Smith: Well, they did actually afterwards. And I was quite interested to see some of the Facebook pages from them saying, "We conned the BBC by saying we were Owen Smith fans only to turn up to big up Jeremy". But the truth is, of course, you can’t mistake mass rallies for a mass movement. The Labour Party has to win back two million votes.
Well, if true, that's likely to be far from the first time anything like that's ever happened with a Question Time audience!

More speculation

It will probably come to the stage soon when hardly anyone trusts official statements or media reports in the immediate wake of incidents which initially look (to the viewing public) like terrorist attacks. 

The "Hispanic" suspect in the Burlington mall attack, for example, turns out not to be "Hispanic" after all. 

I saw comments all over social media yesterday disbelieving that official police claim and all the mainstream media reporting of the story, and asserting instead that the man "looked Muslim" and would turn out to be a Muslim. Well, the man's name is Arcan Cetin and he's reported as being a legal immigrant, originally from Adana in southern Turkey. The police are still saying his motive is unclear. 

The BBC has reported this update but, unlike some other news accounts, doesn't register the point that the earlier widely-reported police claim that the suspect was "Hispanic" was wrong.

Saturday 24 September 2016

A man of principles and honour

I don't watch Question Time these days because I always seem to be asleep by 10:45.
Of course I could catch up next day.  I did so yesterday out of mild curiosity after noticing that Question Time was to have an unusually balanced panel. (Having dropped a controversial guest at the last minute and brought in Caroline Lucas instead.) 

The only thing I've got to say about it is that there was strange and wonderful diversity-of-audience as well. A genuine mixture. It was heartwarming to see Caroline Lucas getting a cool response and Jacob Rees-Mogg a comparatively warm one. He’s a bit of a pin-up these days, in a retro, shabby chic, kitsch, ironic kind of way.

Dimbles (D) said next time they'd be in Boston, 'A strongly Leave' area. (I must say the people who decided to separate voter trends by area have a lot to answer for. I thought it was supposed to be a yes/no referendum, not a rerun of the G.E.) If everyone had just accepted the result in the proper spirit of referendums and left it at that we wouldn't have to go through all this "We Londoners/Scots/ Educated People voted Remain so we should be allowed to remain" malarkey.

Anyway, this all pales into insignificance in the light of today’s historic vote for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour’s forever leader, and I must say my heart is still sinking. As I said to Craig, my trepidation about Brexit is down to a deep concern over the exact nature of the “we” who will be taking back control of ‘our country’. 
Don’t forget, they all laughed when Hitler first reared his unelectable little head, and I know, I know, gratuitously mentioning Hitler immediately turns one into Ken Livingstone.

Anyway, despite this I listened to Any Questions last evening, which will by now have gone out on its Saturday slot and anyone listening to Radio 4 will know that there won’t be the usual Any Answers this week because of the aforementioned cataclysmic event. 

Before I start on Any Questions, let’s just mention that Shami Chakrabarti appeared on last night’s BBC News with her colours firmly nailed to the mast. She hoped and believed that “Jeremy” will win, and then she said something about ‘mugging a decent 67 year-old man in cold blood’. You couldn’t make it up.

Well, I transcribed the whole A.Q. section devoted to antisemitism, apart from the last bit which got awfully long-winded and I feared I had bitten off more that I could chew -  so I skipped the dullest bits.

Jonathan Dimbles began by asking:
“Do you like being called Baroness Chakrabarti of Kennington?”
“No” replied Shami in a very sullen voice.

Here is the question:
"Andrew McMillan: Is it right that Jeremy Corbyn, supposedly a man of principles and honour should preside over a party where a Jewish Labour MP feels the need for personal protection when she attends her party’s own conference?"

Tim Farron was given the first shot at this question. You’d need to read the transcript to get the full effect, but do bear in mind that the Lib Dems are the party of David Ward and Jenny Tonge. Predictably, Mr. Farron (or Gollum as he is affectionately known) banged on about racism of all kinds.

Next in line was a young Sikh lady called Harsimrat Kaur (me neither) who wears a very tall turban, beehive style, oddly reminiscent of the ‘Bomb’ in that oh so provocative Mohammed PBUH cartoon.  She has experienced racism too, particularly on social media, and she criticised the leader of the party for not standing up for Ruth Smeeth.

Jonathan turned to the good Baroness:
"Shami Chakrabarti of course, many of you will know that you produced - wrote a report for Jeremy Corbyn the issue of allegations of antisemitism within the party."

“So I’ve had a pretty miserable summer looking into this pretty awful subject” 
she began, evidently feeling sorry for herself. Poor her. Oh, not for the opprobrium she got for her whitewash, as one might assume. No, it’s antisemitism (and all other forms of racism) that has made her miserable. 

“There is some antisemitism, no question, and there is also incivility and toxicity and misogyny and all the things we talked about, and it’s not unique to any one party, but my view is that we don’t have a competition about this” 
she continued, now well into her stride. Hang on, it wasn’t a competition till Shami and her cohorts brought Islamophobia into it. 

Throughout this and all her other answers, she does her best to herd the conversation away from antisemitism and towards anything else she can think of, which clearly demonstrates that she really doesn’t get it.  Doesn’t even want to. 

Now we know that she’s a devoted, nay besotted Corbynista, out and proud, how can anyone take her ‘report’ seriously

Full (ish) transcript over the page:


Another joke (though not one you're likely to hear on The News Quiz)...

A Brexit Collection update

Regular readers may recall an earlier post on BBC Radio 4's Brexit Collection.

Radio 4's Brexit Collection is a gathering-together of Brexit-related programmes, presumably intended to act as a showcase for the station.

All the items were listed and described in that post and, taken in the round, offered such an overwhelmingly negative take on Brexit that I ended by writing:
My ruling? The exhibits exhibited here by the Defence are the most damning gathering of exhibits I've ever seen. The BBC has gifted the Prosecution. The verdict is beyond reasonable doubt: The BBC is guilty of bias. Case closed.
If you've reviewed them too (and are being fair-minded) I really don't think you could possibly disagree with that (if I say so myself). The overall level of overall bias (against Brexit) was absolutely astonishing.

Six more exhibits have since been added to the Collection (some of which we've already written about here at ITBB):

Emma Jane Kirby's Brexit Street reports for PM
Front Row's The Cultural Response to Brexit special
Anne McElvoy's How We Voted Brexit
Gus O'Donnell's Brexit: The Leavocrats

All - except for (Remain-supporting) Anne McElvoy's fine and completely fair documentary - had an anti-Brexit bias.

Regular readers will know all about Brexit Street and its ongoing painting of untypical Leave voters as racist morons (one of the most skewed and wrong-headed pieces of BBC reporting in a long time).

Another strong Remain supporter, Gary Younge of the Guardian, got two half-hour programmes to focus on claims of post-Brexit racism, without providing much in the way of actual direct evidence. (David Keighley and Ken MacIntosh both slammed this colossal smear on Leave supporters over at The Conservative Woman.)

A further strong Remain supporter, David Aaronovitch of The Times, was more subtle on his two-part The Briefing Room (a companion episode looked at Remain voters), though his expert guests inclined towards Remain and towards a thesis which, controversially, connected Leave voters with people who wanted hanging and flogging (yes, both!). The Remain supporters got more time and much less 'scrutiny'.

And, finally, Front Row's discussion wasn't without a couple of Brexit-friendly (left-wing) guests (for balance!), but had a panel heavily loaded against Brexit....the worst, I'm ashamed to say, being Morecambe's very own Wayne Hemingway, who pretty much called for riots to keep us in the EU....and, not unusually for the BBC, an audience that was even more loaded against Brexit. It pretty much amounted to one big sigh about Brexit.

So, all in all, that's another avalanche of anti-Brexit-biased BBC broadcasting to swell the already vast snowy plain of anti-Brexit bias found in BBC Radio 4's Brexit Collection. 

Except for those two A Point of Views from Roger Scruton and John Gray, the whole thing provides clear proof that the BBC has a severe post-Brexit bias on the subject of Brexit, against Brexit.


And it's a bias that evidently isn't fading with time....

The latest Radio 4 Brexit special (not yet included in the Brexit Collection) came via this week's In Business - the first post-Brexit edition of the programme to tackle the issue of Brexit.

And what angle did they choose?:

And, yes, it was largely negative about the Brexit vote and the possible consequences of Brexit.

Quite where the idea of 'BBC impartiality' can be found in the vast majority of this I'm at a complete loss to say.

Lies, damned lies and the BBC

This week's Feedback featured an interview with Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, one of the four panellists on the BBC Trust's latest impartiality review - one looking at the corporation's use of statistics (and, largely, giving the BBC a clean bill of health). 

When Mr Johnson and Roger Bolton turned to the question of the EU referendum, it wasn't hard to guess where the BBC might take Mr Johnson's call for the BBC to be "braver" in the future: 
Roger Bolton: But you go further than that. You say 'braver'. It's not a question of just being informed, to explain things. It's being braver. Some people would say that would mean you're going to editorialise. 'Go on, tell us what you really think?', that sort of thing, And that's not  really the BBC's job. [Not that doesn't stop lots of BBC reporters from editorialising anyhow!]
Paul Johnson: Well, you can be brave by saying that something is highly likely to be true, as opposed to not. So if you look back at previous reviews that the BBC Trust have done - e.g. the reporting of climate change - there was a period during which what was reported was, you know, 'On the one hand some scientists think this. On the other hand some scientists think that' [Really? That's not how I remember the BBC behaving. They always seemed to be talking about the '97%' or the 'consensus' in the years before that impartiality review], and the braver thing to have done would have been to say, 'Well look. the vast majority of scientists think this thing, and there are these very tiny minority on the other hand who think the other and, therefore, we're going to say, you know, on the huge balance of probability, one thing is true and not the other'. And, actually, there are quite a lot of things were that is terribly important because simply telling people, 'Somebody says this. Somebody else says that', doesn't help inform.
Roger Bolton: Well, that's just what some people have said. There is...the idea of 'false balance'. But, I mean, it's alright talking about that in theory, and maybe it's OK talking about science, but when you're in the nitty-gritty of politics, such as the referendum campaign, and one side, for example, says...talks about the £350 million that we're going to get back [how typical of Roger Bolton to have chosen that particular stat rather than, say, the Treasury's '£4,300 worse off' claim!] then, you know, the BBC journalists are thinking, 'What do I do here?' Do you think they treated that issue properly?
Paul Johnson: Not in all circumstances, though - let's be blunt - the £350 million number was simply untrue, just straightforwardly untrue.
Roger Bolton: And you would like the BBC journalists to say, 'It's untrue'?
Paul Johnson: And there are...
Roger Bolton (interrupting): Would you like the BBC journalists to say, 'It's untrue'?
Paul Johnson: There are some places where they come very close to doing that, particularly in the 'fact check' part of the website [indeed they do - far too much so for some people], where it comes very close to doing that. More often it refers to the number as being 'disputed' or 'uncertain' [or 'controversial'] or what have you, and I think it should have been clear that this is a number that is not correct.
Roger Bolton: My thanks to Paul Johnson from the Institute of [sic] Fiscal Studies, whose statistics are always reliable.

All of which reminds me of something from an edition of The Andrew Marr Show a couple of weeks ago where former BBC DG Mark Thompson and Coco the Clown made their return after an earlier joint appearance on Eadio 4's The Media Show.

Again, it wasn't hard to figure out which side of the Brexit debate Coco was intended to represent (especially given the previous discussion about experts and people being fed up with them, a la Michael Gove):

Andrew Marr: And, of course, referendums change things completely, because here on the newspaper review, and all the rest, we had to balance Brexit versus non-Brexit in every case. 

Mark Thompson: So referendums present, I think, very difficult, possibly even, under the current rules, insuperable problems for broadcasters. You have imaginary parties. They’re temporary, they’re going to cease... 

Andrew Marr: In and Out, yeah. 

Mark Thompson: In and Out. They’re going to cease to exist the day that the vote happens, and yet you’ve got to treat them as if they are exactly equally balanced in the polls. And in a sense, if...if one side, you know, produces an eminent, you know, economist, the other side produces, you know, Coco the Clown, they’re sort of treated as if they’re somehow equal. So I think there may be a case for looking at the rules for how referenda are...are covered broadcasting.

In other words, Coco the Clown on one side shouldn't be accorded the same respect as the eminent economist on the other - a repeated call which continues to echo the gripes of aggrieved Remain supporters like Timothy Garton Ash, Roy Greenslade, and Feedback listeners who wanted the BBC to rubbish every 'clownish' Leave claim and to treat one side differently from the other if the BBC feels that side was right and the other wrong on any particular point....

....rather as Evan Davis did week in and week out during Newsnight referendum coverage anyhow!! (and it was always the Leave side which got the sharp end of the stick from Evan)...

...and just as Paul Johnson was calling for on Feedback.

If such people ever get their second referendum you can bet your bottom euro that they will lobby like maniacs to get the BBC's rules of engagement changed, and this BBC Trust impartiality review will doubtless help them down that road.

Just imagine a BBC that's even more off the leash 'next time around'!