Sunday 23 July 2017

Andrew Marr, BBC bias and Brexit - A Short Study (Part Two)

Last Sunday, ITBB carried out a short analysis of the Brexit-related questions/comments put by Andrew Marr during all of his one-to-one political interviews over the previosu three editions and found, though if wasn't entirely black-and-white, there was a clear and significant anti-Brexit bias taken overall. It's only right-and-proper then to round that off by subjecting these weeks questions to exactly the same scrutiny.

So, do these show a pro-Brexit or an anti-Brexit bias, or no bias either way? 

As before, I'll add my own verdicts in italics after each list and ask again, "Do you agree with them?"


Questions to Liam Fox:
  1. If the first round of Brexit talks in Brussels has been tough and gruelling, it hasn't dampened the spirits of the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. He's in the US for talks about a possible free trade deal, which can be discussed but certainly not signed until after Brexit. America is already the UK's second-largest trading partner, although we currently export more than we import. So when I spoke to Dr Fox from Washington earlier on, I asked him whether we might see more American goods and services coming into Britain. 
  2. The kind of thing that we could get out of this in terms of people watching the programme, consumers, is cheaper food in our supermarkets? 
  3. Right, let me turn to the big area of discussion in Britain recently, which has been transition arrangements with the EU as we prepare to leave the EU. You were talking yourself of these being weeks or months, and then suddenly you have fallen into line with the rest of the Cabinet and said no, a two-year transition period as the Chancellor wants would be completely acceptable. Is that the furthest ambition, I mean is it two years and not a day more or could it be three years? Could it be four years? What's your thinking? 
  4. 36 or 48? 
  5. So, any transition period, in your view, must end by the time of the next British general election? 
  6. So, it could be three more years in your view after the next election? The reason I'm pushing this point is that during that period, we could still be paying into the EU, we could still be under the ECJ, we could still be accepting, to all intents and purposes, being inside the single market rather than alongside it, and to a lot of people that would not feel like Brexit. And you know very well there are people around who want to use the transition period as a way of trying to subvert or avoid the Brexit decision itself.
  7. Looking at the last couple of weeks, particularly in the last week at Michel Barnier's body language and what he has said about our negotiating position, it seems to me that the politics are beginning to get in the way, as it were. Are you worried about the tone that's coming out of the EU? It does not sound friendly at all. 
  8. One of the things that EU negotiators say again and again and again, particularly in private, is that they are not sure who is actually in charge of the British government. Until we have settled the question of who is going to be Prime Minister throughout the period and into the next election, they find it very difficult to know how to negotiate. Is it not time for the Conservatives to think again about who your leader is going to be as we go through this process? 
The questioning here (to a pro-Brexit interviewee) was broadly pro-Brexit. Last week I noted that of the 57 questions/comments put across 7 interviews not one put a positive point about Brexit. The opening questions here did do that, and the sixth question raised concerns that many pro-Brexit people might share. So this provides counter-evidence to the findings of my survey last week. 


Questions to Jeremy Corbyn:
  1. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, believes he can become Prime Minister later this year. That depends, of course, on a Tory meltdown in Parliament. But what would it mean for the British economy and our negotiations to leave the European Union? He joins me now. You've got a reputation as a straight talker, clear answers. There was one issue on which you won't give a clear answer. When you're asked if you'd like to see us leave the single market, you can't tell us.
  2. But to be absolutely crystal clear, we leave the single European market because we leave the EU?
  3. So we have to leave the single market?
  4. OK, that's clear.
  5. Some of your colleagues have also made it clear that to get that we would have to accept some version of free movement of people once we've left the EU, a different free movement of people, but some kind of free movement of people. 
  6. Absolutely. So we're outside the EU but to get full access to the single market we accept that there's free movement of people from the EU coming to us and vice versa?
  7. Right, but you wouldn't be stopping people at the borders, asking for their visas? 
  8. So how do you stop that? Under your plan how do you stop that happening?
  9. To be absolutely clear, you don't stop people coming from Latvia or Poland who want to come and work here, you don't stop them at the airport or the border and say, 'Let's see your papers'?.
  10. Sorry, just going back to my original question, would you allow everybody who wanted to come here to come or stop them at ports and airports? 
  11. So if we don't need any more plumbers, you go home again? 
  12. But I'm still slightly unclear. If there was, for instance, some Polish plumbers and we decided we had enough plumbers in our country, would they be stopped and told that had to go home again or allowed in any way?
  13. Can I ask about the customs union because that is another big area? Is your current thinking that we could stay inside the customs union or we would have to leave the customs union entirely? 
  14. Coming back to the Rebecca Long-Bailey remark about having your cake and eating it, I mean there is a choice to be made about the customs union. Inside the customs union we'd have more access to European markets than outside it but if we don't leave it then we can't make these free trade deals with the rest of the world, so basically on which side of the fence do you jump? 
  15. A lot of people watching this are trying to work out whether Jeremy Corbyn is going to save them from Brexit and it sounds very much as if that's not your view. Can I ask about your deep view of the EU. You were brought up, as it were, under the influence of Tony Benn who always saw the EU as a kind of bankers' conspiracy, anti-democratic. He was fundamentally as a British parliamentarian against it. Are you? 
I really can't say that there was any anti-Brexit or pro-Brexit bias on display here. The questions were trying to clarify where Mr Corbyn stood on certain key points. 

Conclusions: Last week I wrote:
Andrew Marr didn't ask all of his questions from just one perspective and there is evidence here of some impartial, 'devil's advocate' questioning. But they were fairly rare moments, and...
(a) Most of the questioning did come from the anti-Brexit part of the political spectrum, despite all but one of the guests being a declared Remain voter, and there was a strong measure of consistency in the viewpoint from which the questions were put. 
(b) The impartial, 'devil's advocate' questioning from the pro-Brexit standpoint came across as halfhearted, perfunctory even, especially in comparison to the often detailed and pointed questions put from the anti-Brexit/pro-'soft Brexit' standpoint.
So, yes, I think overall that Andrew Marr did display a significant degree of bias against Brexit/a 'hard Brexit'.
This week, the evidence points the other way, thus balancing things out somewhat.

It would be good to think that more care was being paid because of last week's study here.

As ever, please feel free to disagree.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, Craig, my comments more appropriate to this post are on the one above.


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