Saturday 29 April 2017

"Little Tim"

If there's one bias that even BBC insiders will sometimes admit to it's that the BBC has a strong social-liberal bias - though, of course, that's also true of many broadcast media journalists well beyond the BBC (though we don't pay for them via a compulsory licence fee).

One of the odder events of last week seemed to manifest that: namely what Stephen Daisley at The Spectator called "the cruel hounding of Tim Farron" over his views on gay sex. 

Though it was Channel 4 News (in the form of Cathy Newman) and ITV (in the person of Robert Peston) who really set this fox running, the BBC sounded the tally-ho too, most strikingly in a report/interview with Mr Farron by Eleanor Garnier which appeared on BBC One's News at Six last Tuesday. The report's introduction was accompanied by this photo of the 'shame-faced' Lib Dem leader:

The tone of the reporting was of Tim Farron finally 'fessing up after "having declined to answer the question" or having "refused to answer this question" despite being asked about it "again...and again":
It's taken him almost two years, since becoming the leader of the Lib Dems, to clarify his position. But the pressure has increased since the election was called. 
- and it was explicit about his Christianity ("Mr Farron, who's a Christian...", "the Lib Dem leader, a committed Christian...", "your Christian belief"...). 

Plus the questioning was accusatory:

  • So, what's changed in the last 48 hours that you are now able to say that you don't think gay sex is a sin, yet for the last two years you have very blatantly swerved the question? 
  • So you were either misleading people before, or you are misleading people now. Which is it? 
  • Isn't it just that it is your Christian belief, and you didn't want to admit it? 
  • So this is blatant electioneering? 

Some have wondered, doubtless reasonably, whether a non-Christian politician would ever be asked such questions (especially the third one). 


Tim Farron, of course, got called all sorts of things last week - "bigot", "homophobe", etc - but at least someone at the BBC was prepared to stand up to him - though naturally not over the gay sex issue.

And the word which broke the camel's back for that particular BBC presenter? Alex Deane's use of the word "little" to describe the Lib Dem leader on last night's The Papers on the BBC News Channel. 

Martine Croxall took great exception to him calling Mr Farron "Little Tim"; indeed, she gave him such a prolonged, schoolmarmish dressing-down that she might as well have just told him to go and stand in the corner and stop being such a naughty political commentator. She just wouldn't let it go. (Alex took to Twitter straight after and began, "Well, that was weird".)

Though it might well make you cringe, you can watch the whole thing unfold by clicking this link to the programme (if I can get it to start at the right time).

It's well worth watching. I've never seen anything quite like it before. 

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