Thursday 28 September 2017

Open Thread

A New Kind of Open Thread:

Extremely random thoughts

It's actually sounds like quite an interesting speech. (Other takes can be found here and here).

Of course, Nick thinks the BBC is pretty much getting it about right and that the BBC is much 'greater' and much more 'super' (one for Reggie Perrin fans) than mean, dodgy old social media, but he also cites an old Steve Hewlett programme on Channel 4 that deliberately set out to shine the spotlight on voices that go against the liberal consensus and suggests that the BBC might pursue that route. It sounded excellent.

A much greater plurality of voices is certainly desperately needed on the BBC. 

Naturally Nick doesn't point out that it is entirely typical that it was Channel 4 rather than the BBC which broadcast such a consensus-defying programme and that the BBC has (or had) no such equivalent programme to boast of, though I suspect he must have thought it as that was my first thought on reading that bit of his speech. 


BBC staff on Twitter (reporters, editors, presenters among them) have been in full tally-ho mode today against leading alt-left sites like The Canary and Evolve Politics after the former posted a falsehood about Tory Laura Kuenssberg. 

The Canary claimed she'd agreed to make a speech at the Tory Scum party conference. 

In fact Laura K had refused the invitation to make a speech (at a centre-right think tank fringe event). 

The alt-left, being caught red-handed, then rammed the brakes on but ended up skidding all over the place because they couldn't quite bring themselves to lose face by conceding that they'd cocked up, even though it was clear from their tweets that they knew they had cocked up. They wormed and wriggled and weaselled - as (alas) we bloggers too often do when we're caught out. 

I say 'we' but I'd like to think that whenever your actual we (meaning 'us' - me and Sue) get it wrong (as occasionally happens) we at least have the decency to admit it. 


Godwin's Law only embraces mentioning the Nazis, doesn't it? It doesn't mean that bloggers aren't allowed to make comparisons to Weimar Germany, does it?

Reading my Twitter feed over the last couple of days has made me think that there are elements in the Labour Party that would be better suited to Weimar Germany. 

As Sue wrote, why aren't the BBC going crazy about this?

For years-gone-by (at least until the party collapsed) every fruitcake utterance by even the most obscure UKIP councillor would receive bags of unfavourable coverage from the BBC but today's Labour's fruitcakes are vastly more numerous, much much fruit(cake)ier and far, far, far nastier. They are coming out with outrages almost by the hour, and yet the BBC isn't splashing their every foul utterance or misdemeanour - or any of them really. 

Why not?


The BBC certainly keeps them coming. 

Within the past couple of days alone we've had The Muslim cosplayer who uses the hijab in her outfits and Muslim woman 'touched' by anonymous gift (the gift was of 25 hijab-wearing dolls). The BBC also promoted the first of those stories on Twitter:
Oddly (as a Google search shows) there have been no such good-news stories about sari-wearing women from the BBC. 

Is the BBC guilty of hijabaphilia? (Answer: Yes). 


Via Mice Height at Biased-BBC you can watch a fascinating interview between the famous Milo Yiannopoulos and BBC Trending guru Mike Wendling. 

At the beginning of the YouTube video Mike states that his interview with Milo will form part of a Radio 4 'special'. He wasn't any more specific than that but I'm guessing that it's going to be a Radio 4 'special' on the alt-right. 

Milo probably has a point that the violence of the far-Left and Muslims is seriously underplayed by people like BBC journalists while the much smaller threat posed by the far-Right is vastly overplayed - and, to be fair, Mike didn't exactly give Milo grounds for disbelieving that with his questions.

It will be interesting to hear that Radio 4 'special' and compare it to this YouTube interview posted (and, presumably, filmed) by Milo and his friends. 

Incidentally, Mike has a new book out in April 2018 called Alt-Right: From 4chan to the White House. Hopefully, a sequel called Alt-Left: From The Canary to BBC Trending will be out in April 2019.


On tonight's BBC One News at Six George Aligiah posed the following question to a BBC reporter:  
Some people are going to say that the very fact Theresa May is defending the free market suggests Jeremy Corbyn has hit the spot?
The "Some people are going to say" is classic BBC of course, and it's a canny way of putting it. Call it 'degrees of separation' if you will. 

Some people doubtless will be saying that very thing (especially Corbynistas). 

George's question is an interesting choice of question though, isn't it? What do you make of it?


Here's one for The Canary crowd. The last chairpersonage of the BBC Trust Rona Fairhead has been given a peerage and made a minister in the present Conservative government.


Meanwhile for those getting ahead of themselves on Upstart Crow on the BBC iPlayer, there are some excellent jokes at the expense of Benedict Cumberbatch on the final episode of this excellent BBC comedy. (Their only decent BBC sitcom of recent years?)

Damned statistics

I knew I’d seen that image somewhere before.  Oh yes, here it is. (And here is a QT spreadsheet:)

Statistics are one thing; how they’re interpreted is another.  Julia H-B said she was fed up with being the only Brexiteer in the Q.T. village “most of the time”.

Guido says Julia H-B is right, and so does Craig, but not about “always being the sole Leaver on Q.T. panels”. 
Craig has found that she has been the sole Leaver only once, but she was correct in saying Remainers have dominated QT panels.

And Dimbles was wrong about Nigel Farage: “Every time you've been on this programme you've been with Nigel Farage as far as I can see.”  No. Julia H-B has never been on the panel with Nige.

I just thought I’d mention it.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

"Never heard a single antisemitic word"

To reiterate a point I made in my earlier post, the following is from a piece in Tablet magazine by Yair Rosenberg, who probably doesn’t study the BBC as intently as some of us do….

“What he doesn't say - perhaps because he is genuinely unaware - is that the lack of acceptance that antisemitism is real and rife in the Labour Party is frequently shared by the BBC itself. “
…..he watched the interview between Jo Coburn and Ken Loach on the Daily Politics. 
I do hope it’s okay to reproduce a few large chunks of his article.
“Today, BBC anchor Jo Coburn interviewed noted filmmaker and Corbyn backer Ken Loach about this state of affairs, and he proceeded to unintentionally demonstrate just how dire matters have become. 
Loach began by forcefully denying the presence of anti-Semitism not just in the Labour party, but on the left in general. “I’ve been going to Labour party meeting for over 50 years,” Loach said. “I’ve gone to trade union meetings. I’ve gone to meetings of left groups and campaigns. I have never, in that whole time, heard a single anti-Semitic word or racist word. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist in society.” 
Awkwardly, Loach then followed up this assertion of anti-Semitic innocence by rattling off a series of extremely anti-Semitic claims. First, he declared that progressive Jews, including Labour members of parliament, were inventing anti-Semitic incidents for political purposes, to tarnish Jeremy Corbyn. “It’s funny these stories suddenly appeared when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, isn’t it?” he mused. His BBC interviewer Coburn countered, “Well, they would explain that perhaps Jeremy Corbyn has allowed the oxygen for those sort of views.”

I don’t know how Andrew Neil would have conducted this interview.  If he was on form he might have made his interrogee squirm. To be generous, Jo Coburn rattled him a little; but not a lot.  We’ve heard it all before. This is the theme-tune that Len McCluskey and Diane Abbott are fond of.  It’s a catchy liddle tune that goes something like this: “Accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are mere smears, designed to delegitimise Jeremy Corbyn.”

If you didn’t follow the link in my earlier post, do it now. (Apologies if you haven’t got access to the Spectator) William Cook says of the socialist filmmaker and his political opinions :
“I guess the point I’m trying to make is that great artworks are diminished when you know the artist’s politics. Sure, we can draw our own conclusions from a work of art, but that’s quite another thing. The best way for an artist to preserve the quality of their creation is to keep shtum.”
Rosenberg continues:
“But Loach’s ugly insinuation that Jews fabricate their own oppression for personal gain—a staple of anti-Semitic invective for centuries—was just the beginning. When asked by Coburn about a fringe session at the Labour conference where a panelist called for open “yes or no” discussion of the Holocaust, the filmmaker point-blank refused to condemn Holocaust denial, demurring that “history is for all of us to discuss” before going off on an unrelated rant about Israeli evil. Here’s the exchange: 
COBURN: There was a fringe meeting yesterday that we talked about at the beginning of the show where there was a discussion about the Holocaust, did it happen or didn’t it… would you say that was unacceptable?
LOACH: I think history is for us all to discuss, wouldn’t you?
COBURN: Say that again, sorry, I missed that.
LOACH: History is for all of us to discuss. All history is our common heritage to discuss and analyze. The founding of the state of Israel, for example, based on ethnic cleansing is there for us all to discuss. The role of Israel now is there for us to discuss. So don’t try to subvert that by false stories of anti-Semitism.”

“Yet in the span of two minutes on public television, this leading leftist light managed to (a) deny clear and documented instances of anti-Jewish bigotry, (b) claim that Jews fabricate anti-Semitism to manipulate others, (c) refuse to condemn Holocaust denial, and (d) justify such bigotry against British Jews with wild hand-waving at completely different Jews in the Middle East. 
Such extraordinary prejudice coupled to extraordinary lack of self-awareness perfectly encapsulates Britain’s left-wing anti-Semitism problem. After all, the first step to dealing with a problem is admitting it exists. But like Loach, too many on the U.K. far-left are not only unable to acknowledge anti-Semitism in their midst, but are actively complicit in it. Change will only come when such individuals accept Jews as authorities on their own experiences of prejudice, and start listening to Jewish accounts of anti-Semitism rather than dismissing them as bad faith fables.

A Gov’ment in waiting

“Let us do more to end the oppression of the Palestinian people. The 60 year occupation - gabble gabble gabble -  two state solution. ...the values we share are not served by building walls.”

Says Jeremessiah  Corbyn.

Or to be more precise, here’s a more accurate transcription from the Spectator:

“And let’s give real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people, the 50-year occupation and illegal settlement expansion and move to a genuine two-state solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Britain’s voice needs to be heard independently in the world. We must be a candid friend to the United States, now more than ever.
The values we share are not served by building walls, banning immigrants on the basis of religion, polluting the planet, or pandering to racism.” 

I knew the way the BBC has been behaving was reminding me of something. Yes, of course! It’s like the Arab Spring all over again. 
“The Labour Party is the gov’ment in waiting!" "Feel the euphoria!" "Jeremy Corbyn is the next PM.”

Recently I’ve held back a bit on the anti-Jew stuff that emanates from the BBC. I’m not sure that everyone is as interested in the topic as I am. The BBC certainly hasn’t featured antisemitism in the Labour Party (there isn’t any, you know) as much as, say, Sky. Sky featured it prominently all day yesterday. 

On the occasions the BBC has mentioned it, presenters like Jo Coburn and Emily Maitlis have been ever so gentle on their interviewees.
I’m not keen on rabidly adversarial interviewing. Repeated interruptions can all too easily make one sympathise with the victim. The aggressive, intrusive interviewing style has become so commonplace that pleas from interviewees are becoming almost routine: ‘Let me make my point’ or ‘if you could just let me finish one sentence’ they say, sometimes preemptively. I mean before an interruption has even occurred.

There much to be said for allowing a speaker enough rope to hang him/herself, which is fine if the interviewer or presenter is capable of making the occasional informed and intelligent interjection. That’s a long way from constantly interrupting and challenging every word.    Meritless (that’s my autocorrect but I’ll leave it in) let Shami Chakrabarti get away with a complete load of bollocks yesterday. As if it isn’t bad enough watching the baroness’s smug little countenance and listening to her pedestrian insights, we were invited to ’read my report’ as if her wretched report into antisemitism in the Labour party (there isn’t any) was some kind of definitive  decree and not a superficial, narcissistic whitewash.

 Take Len McCluskey. He was allowed to state that he hadn’t seen any antisemitism (ever) in the Labour Party. 

(Yet it transpires (allegedly) that he actually attended the controversial ‘fringe’ event that everyone but him acknowledges was unspeakably offensive.) 

More of the BBC’s favourite socialist filmmaker here:

Possibly fearing a reputation of last year’s embarrassment, Corbyn didn’t attend Labour Friends of Israel’s ‘final night’ event. He sent Emily Thornberry along instead.  She apologised, and lied, stating that Jeremessiah was too busy preparing for the Big Speech next day. Only he wasn’t.

Here is Karen Pollock in the Times (£) 
“We have elected Labour politicians suggesting that antisemitism has been “weaponised” – a suggestion that it is being used to promote some other agenda. 
And we even have activists handing out material at the Labour party conference quoting Reinhard Heydrich, one of the leading architects of the Final Solution. 
How many times do we need to explain the hurt and offence that it causes when people question the truth of the Holocaust? How many times do we need to explain that there are survivors – who lost their homes, communities and entire families - still among us, who register these comments with disbelief? 
How many times do we have to defend basic truths that should be considered sacrosanct?”

Some people do recognise what is going on
Labour council leader Warren Morgan for one. He wrote to the Labour Party general secretary:

Dear Iain,
I hope that you and the entire Labour team here in Brighton and Hove are enjoying your stay and that the facilities offered by the Brighton Centre are everything that you would expect from us. As a city we very much appreciate the business that Conference brings to our hotels, restaurants and shops. 
I am however very concerned at the anti-semitism being aired publicly in fringe meetings and on the floor of Conference. We have a significant Jewish community in Brighton and Hove, and I met with them only last week to discuss the anti-semitism already on our streets, causing them fear and alarm. We have the prominent activist and suspended Labour Party member Tony Greenstein here, who indeed was present at the fringe meeting where it was suggested that Holocaust denial should be allowed. His expulsion, in my view, is long overdue. 
As the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council I will undoubtedly face questions as to why we allow any event where anti-semitic views are freely expressed to happen in the city, particularly on council premises. As a Labour Party member I expect the enquiry announced today to take firm action; as Leader I will need reassurances that there will be no repeat of the behaviour and actions we have seen this week before any further bookings from the Party are taken. 
I must apply the same standards to Labour as I would to any other Party Conference or political event; whilst none of us can control what is said at meetings we do not run, I have to make the strongest possible representation on behalf of the residents of the city who are Jewish. We are a City of Sanctuary and I have to speak up against any form of racism as and when it is given a platform in the city.
Best wishes,

Finally, here is (Jewish vice president of the NUS) Izzy Lenga’s Tweet:

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Now you see it, now you don't

On the BBC News website's Home page it appeared under headlines such as 'Hate crime probe after man stabbed in neck on way to mosque' , 'Altrincham hate crime probe after surgeon stabbed outside mosque' and 'Altrincham mosque stabbing: Surgeon attacked in 'hate crime'. 

Today (this afternoon), a new report replaced yesterday's report and those headlines have changed to 'Altrincham mosque stabbing suspect charged'.

The story itself, however, has vanished from the BBC News website Home page and now appears in the lower reaches of the Manchester section of the website where few people are likely to read it.

Yesterday all of the BBC's updates to the story cited Greater Manchester Police officers saying they were treating the attack as a 'hate crime' and featured claims from "community sources" that the victim had heard " Islamophobic comments" at the time of the attack. 

Today - in that buried-away article on the Manchester page - the BBC reports that "a Greater Manchester Police spokesman said the force does not believe there was a racial motive to the attack".

Why isn't that being splashed by the BBC? 

So when it sounds as if an 'Islamophobic hate crime' has taken place it's a major BBC news story but when (a day or so later) the police change their tune and say the attack doesn't appear to have 'a racial motive', then all the 'Islamophobic hate crime' stuff disappears from the BBC's reporting, and the story itself tumbles from public sight. 

If that isn't deplorable journalism I'm not sure what is. 

Unless I'm missing something here. 

Sunday 24 September 2017

Open Thread (bumped)

The doors of Morecambe's Midland Hotel swing open to welcome you to another Open Thread. Please come inside and partake of another cocktail (or whatever takes your fancy, at a price) in the rotunda.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Despite Brexit

Alan at Biased BBC poses me an interesting question: Was Charles Moore correct to claim, during his spat over BBC Brexit bias with Jonathan Dimbleby (and the usual booing AQ audience) on Any Questions today, that the BBC uses the phrase 'despite Brexit' "whenever there’s a business story on the BBC"? Or was Jonathan Dimbleby right to cast doubt on his assertion and demand proof?

Well, I have been half-keeping my eye on this ever since the referendum - and ever since people I like began claiming that the BBC was using the phrase 'despite Brexit' a lot - and I've found very few BBC News website cases where the BBC uses the specific form of words 'despite Brexit'. 

To the three headlines Alan quotes in his post (Obama: Special relationship remains despite Brexit; UK construction rises despite Brexit vote; and Siemens promises UK investment despite Brexit warning). I've only found one more: Ryanair raises passenger growth forecast despite Brexit

The fact is that there's been a heck of a lot of 'despite Brexit' reporting from the BBC but very little use of the actual phrase itself. 

As Alan notes though, that form of words isn't the only form of words used. He's spotted examples of that, and I've also heard many a turn of phrase that means or suggests 'despite Brexit' but never specifically uses the precise words 'despite Brexit', plus many a report that implies as much without ever using equivalent turns of phrases.

I've harboured the suspicion for a while (a sensible suspicion I believe) that the BBC spotted all the complaints about the BBC's 'despite Brexit' reporting in the weeks immediately after the referendum result - specifically the multitude of claims that the BBC was actually using that very phrase - and warned their staff against ever using that form of words again, knowing that people would be monitoring them closely for their use of that phrase and would make hay with any such evidence that they were using it a lot. (And if I'd found it, yes, I would have made hay with it!) The BBC is constantly doing things like that, with their endless style guides, memos and meetings about language.

Of course, there have been examples of the BBC using it on air and on official BBC Twitter feeds but the BBC is very good at enforcing language rules and their reporters/presenters are very good at following 'suggestions' when it comes to such matters.

So despite the vast amount of 'despite Brexit' reporting that the BBC has put out in the light of recent decent economic news (etc), Jonathan Dimbleby doubtless felt completely confident in making that challenge to Charles Moore, knowing that Mr Moore wouldn't be able to provide enough examples to back up his point if the challenge was confined to finding specific uses of the exact phrase 'despite Brexit'. 

Despite that, Mr Moore was correct in the broad point he was making.

Give the BBC any flotsam or jetsam to cling onto though - such as by claiming that the BBC uses the phrase 'despite Brexit' "whenever there’s a business story on the BBC" - and they will grab onto it and whack you over the head with it without mercy.

If that deflects attention away from the real essence of the point you are making, all the better for them.

P.S. For proof that Charles Moore is correct in the broad point he was making you only need to read News-watch's Today business news report which showed that pretty much everything they said amounted to things being 'despite' or 'because of' Brexit. 

A Brief Encounter with 'Today'

I thought I might actually listen to an edition of Today in its entirety today, following yesterday's post about its 'dumbing-down'. 

It was disappointingly political and hard-news-focused, with lots on Mrs May's speech and Moody's downgrading and Rohingyas and Uber and capitalism and universities and undocumented migrants. 

There wasn't a single science story on it and the only arts bit was James Naughtie interviewing a children's author. 

There was, however, the new Nature Notes section - something I wholly approve of. 

Today's Nature Notes featured Charles Smith Jones of the British Deer Society answering elementary-level questions from Mishal Husain that any Autumnwatch viewer would have been able to answer. Still, Mr Smith Jones volunteered the interesting fact that some stags are known to travel up to 50 kilometres to join in the rut. (After Brexit can we go back to miles please?)

Plus the programme ended with Simon Jenkins and Mr Bruce the Station Master plugging Simon's new book on English railway stations. I liked that. (And I like Simon's highly judgemental books on buildings). Near to me is Carnforth Station where Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson shared a Brief Encounter to the strains of Rachmaninov. The ticking clock is still there, and it's usually working

My highlight though was Today's Matthew Price, that ultra-emoter, doing a typical Matthew Price piece on the sad plight of undocumented migrants facing the government's "hostile environment policy". There were tales of woe, lots of voices condemning the government's policy and speaking up for the undocumented migrants, plus (as bonuses) a delightfully gratuitous contribution slamming Brexit as well as Matthew saying that the government was "insisting" something or other in defence of itself. And to add insult to injury, the 'balancing voice' got just a few seconds - and I do mean 'just a few seconds'. 

If Sarah Sands could kindly get rid of that kind of report it would be simply spiffing!

New Zealand matters

For some reason I've been watching the New Zealand election result with some interest today and found the BBC News website very reluctant to give any news on it. 

They didn't post any updates for nearly a day - unlike various newspapers, some of whom even ran live blogs. A couple of hours ago, however, the BBC did publish an update, though it's never made it onto their Home page, and has only ever been a minor item on their World page. 

It remains curious what interests the BBC, and what doesn't interest the BBC. 

'Complaints from both sides' - Part 659

Puppy showing bias

A very dear anti-Brexit friend of mine gave me a spontaneous lecture recently, telling me to open my eyes to BBC bias. 

"Why can't people see that the BBC does exactly what the Tories tell them to do?", she asked incredulously. "It's all government propaganda". 

"They are so biased over Brexit," she continued. "Whenever there's an interview, the pro-Brexit person is always allowed to speak without interruption while anyone who opposes Brexit is talked down by the BBC". 

"It's so obvious, the bias", she concluded, before re-asking in total exasperation, "Why can't people see it?"

There are obviously more people out there who think like this than I realised. They obviously aren't only on Twitter.


Those on Twitter, however, were sounding the same note about BBC bias this morning. 

One, listening to the same Radio 3 news bulletin that I listened to at 8 o'clock, fumed that the BBC was "lying" about Theresa May's speech by "saying the EU has welcomed it", calling it "state propaganda" from the BBC.

The newsreader actually said that EU leaders had given the speech "a cautious welcome" before quoting a further demand on the UK from one particular EU leader and then moving on to the story of Moody's down-rating of the UK's credit rating in part because of uncertainty over Brexit. Hardly pro-Brexit 'state propaganda' for the Tory government then!

The fact that both Radio 3 and BBC Breakfast put the Moody's story second was making such people even moodier, for example the woman saying that BBC Breakfast are living in a "parallel universe" because "Item 1" is "world welcomes TM's Florence speech" and "Item 2" is "Moody's downgrades". It's "BBC bias" you see because they didn't lead with the ratings agency being negative about Britain's post-Brexit prospects merely ran it second.

Others, of course, see the ratings agencies as a busted flush and see the BBC's heavy promotion of their views today as evidence of bias in the other direction.

This morning's Today on Radio 4 certainly didn't underplay the ratings agency story. It had two segments on it - one an interview with former BBC reporter Linda Yueh, the other an interview with Alastair Wilson of Moody's. And tonight's PM was still making a lot of the ratings agency story, carrying an interview with someone who used to work for Fitch.

And this morning's Today had a Remain-voting MP (Hilary Benn), a Remain-backing peer (Lord Bridges) and a Czech minister on to discuss Mrs May's speech - not exactly evidence of pro-Brexit bias either!

I'm guessing the same Tweeters won't be tweeting about any of that. (Or maybe they will, and still find a way to complain about BBC bias.)

It's yet more evidence that the 'complaints from both sides' fallacy is a fallacy. Years of incredibly detailed studies of Today have shown that the bias goes consistently in just one direction, and to a remarkable degree - and it's not the direction that people like my friend believe. Very far from it!

Let these examples stand as yet more proof of the true nature of the 'complaints from both sides' fallacy.


"According to recent polling, if a referendum were held today Britain would vote to stay in", Anita Anand told us on Any Answers today

And she didn't fail to repeat the point either. 

How much recent polling has shown that or whether (as I suspect after Googling around) it's actually just that one single BMG poll for the Independent (showing 52% for Remain, 48% for Leave) I can't say for sure but, regardless, our Anita was certainly making the most of that 'recent polling' today.

Where has JonDon gone?

Regular readers of this blog will, perhaps, be interested in the latest Jon Donnison news. 

I just heard him on PM reporting on the Uber story.

Yes, the great man has abandoned his beloved Gazan shore and his far-from-beloved Australian shore and been posted back to Blighty. 

I'm sure he'll be his usual 'impartial' self in London (and, yes, that's sarcasm). 

Friday 22 September 2017

Hot water

Adam Rutherford

A widely-reported BBC bias story this week concerned a BBC freelancer on Twitter - namely Inside Science presenter Adam Rutherford. 

Adam didn't think that Mr Stringer (a former analytical chemist) should be appointed to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee because of his 'sceptical' views on global warming, and urged his followers on Twitter to protest against the Labour MP's appointment. 

That's a striking affirmation of the BBC's policy - a policy many a BBC tweeter regularly ignores on all manner of issues. 

Listening to this week's Inside Science, Adam (in passing) mentioned his telling-off:
Some controversy followed with questions about the scientific credentials, the gender imbalance and some of the opinions of some of the members of the committee. As you may be aware this has been the source of some indignation from some of us in the science community. I got myself in some hot water earlier this week by tweeting about it. Setting that aside...
Inside Science then broadcast an interview Adam recorded "last week" (i.e. before the storm about his tweet) with the resolutely non-sceptical-about-global-warming, anti-Brexit Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, focusing on how outrageous both of them felt it is that there aren't enough woman on the committee, and on Brexit-related matters.

I've noted before how Inside Science does sometimes seem to take on a campaigning role on various issues. Though Adam Rutherford went too far even for the BBC on Twitter (by directly attacking a Labour MP), his programme often 'goes too far' for me on air in the way of pushing agendas, despite often being very interesting. I doubt even this will make that change. 


Anyone you recognise?

Recognising people, including obscure politicians, is a handy tool for a blogger. I wish I could do it more often. Thankfully though, others remain on the alert

Populism stalking Europe

Stephanie Flanders

I was driving to work this morning an heard a voice I recognised as being very familiar but couldn't immediately place. 

Thankfully someone very soon called her 'Stephanie' and it immediately clicked from her low, dusky voice that it must be Stephanie Flanders - the former BBC economics editor who left to work for Goldman Sachs and who campaigned vocally against Brexit during the EU referendum.

She was guest-presenting Today today (and yesterday). 

Chatting about Mrs Merkel this morning to like-minded Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, she talked about "populism stalking Europe" in the light of certain recent European elections and referendums, and got Neil to go along with her assertion that "And, of course, her belief in Europe...I mean, people who are wanting her somehow to put Britain...her, sort of, liking for Britain...ahead of the future of Europe are going to be disappointed". 

Sarah Sands on Brexit bias

Sarah Sands

A copy of The Spectator awaited me when I got home today.

(That's not news. It always arrives on a Friday. Unless it comes on a Saturday that is, or isn't delivered at all.)

Among the first of its items this week was a 'diary' by Sarah Sands, the new editor of Today, laying out her stall.

(The Speccie hasn't posted it online yet, so the transcription below is from my own fair hand). 

She's proud to be moving the programme away from its heavy, grim-hospitals-and-even-grimmer-prisons-led news stories towards more of a newspaper-like programme with daily puzzles and much more science, art and fashion. 

To be honest, I'd rather have far more science and arts stuff than Today trying to set the nation's agenda.

I've had more than enough of the BBC trying to set the nation's agenda, thank you very much. 

So Sarah, please don't listen to these criticism. Please don't stop dumbing Today down! (How about an astrology section, and a daily cartoon featuring a droll cat or a whimsical dog too?)


Mrs May (if you didn't recognise her)

As an outsider to the BBC, Sarah Sands might have been hoped to bring a breath of fresh air to Today. Her Spectator diary comments suggest to me that it's going to be business as usual regarding the BBC's Brexit coverage - something not helped by the well-known fact that she was pro-Remain in the EU referendum. 

Here's the bit about Brexit in full:
On Brexit bias, tone has become almost as important as argument. I notice that cheerfulness can grate on some, who regard it as political comment. When the Australian high commissioner asked on the Today programme why Brits were so gloom, it was categorised as an anti-Remain intervention. It is true that whoever came up with the word 'Remoaners' delivered a lasting blow. The Brexiteers own optimism just as Remainers claim reason. 
I want to try to tell the story of Brexit through concrete examples rather than positions. We looked at the fashion industry the other day and the designer Patrick Grant made a simple case. When he is making a suit, he imports parts from different countries. He can order a zip from Italy overnight. If he deals with America, he has to fill in a great pile of forms. He dreads the additional regulation. Boris Johnson wrote in his 4,000-world article that was meant to have been a speech (journalists so hate wasting material) that leaving the EU would lessen regulation. Can he explain to Patrick how?
There are three things I want to say about that: 

(1) She is well aware that Today faces huge pressure over anti-Brexit bias so, seemingly playing the 'complaints from both sides' game, cannily cites an example from the other side (a transparently silly example of course). 

(2) So Brexiteers are associated with feeling/emotion ("optimism") while Remainers are associated with logic ("reason")? In Sarah's mind too?

(3) The one "concrete example" of Brexit stories she cites raises a negative angle on Brexit. Why not a positive angle? 

Does Sarah Sands inspire you with confidence after reading those two paragraphs?

Updating an update

Nigel juxtaposed on an image of Broadcasting House

News-watch have pursued the matter with great diligence (with us tracking their pursuit closely), helping prompt Nigel Farage to hand-deliver a complaint to the BBC about the coverage - especially about Newsnight's promotion of an unfounded and shocking smear at his expense. 

Thankfully, some parts of the British media have given space to people critical of their reporting of this story but it appears that the BBC is, characteristically, digging its licence-fee-funded heels in and refusing to acknowledge any errors on its part. 

The BBC have apparently "vehemently defended" their reporting, describing their coverage of the Harlow killing as "fair" and in line with what other media organisations were reporting (as if that's a proper defence from the BBC! 'Most trusted media organisation in the world', eh?) 

The false assertions and smears in the BBC's reporting have been listed several times. (They are summarised here). They are not in doubt. 

And the BBC have failed to respond to the charge/fact that the true facts of the killing were, as David at News-watch notes, "reported at a much lesser level (primarily on the Essex pages of the BBC’s regional website) and without sufficient acknowledgement that the race-hate angle (imposed sensationally on the story by them) had been discounted" - in marked contrast to the original reports which "had been blasted at headline level on their most-watched BBC1 bulletins and BBC2 Newsnight".

A prominent correction, an apology from Newsnight (and John Sweeney in particular), maybe even a Panorama special hosted by an open and fully contrite John Sweeney admitting to all the BBC's errors over the reporting of this story, are what is needed.

The BBC should take a good hard look at itself over this.

In Between

In Between

Newsnight hasn't done an Israel/Palestinians feature for quite a while but last night's edition plugged a new Palestinian film opening in cinemas here this weekend - a film that has apparently upset socially conservative Muslims in Israel whilst simultaneously 'showing' that Israeli Arabs are treated as "second-class citizens" in Israel, even in liberal Tel Aviv

Is that a case of the BBC having their cake and eating it?

The film's director Maysaloun Hamoud spoke to Kirsty Wark and was almost as hard to understand as Kirsty.

That said, Maysaloun's English is a good deal better than my Arabic, which barely extends beyond 'Allahu Akhbar', 'jihad', 'kuffir', 'taqiyya' and various words for headscarves. 


I do like Upstart Crow, Ben Elton's formulaic, old-fashioned but warm and funny comedy centred on William Shakespeare starring David Mitchell.

But, of course, obviously, naturally, it goes without saying, et cetera, et cetera, there were a fair few jokes bashing Brexit, trashing Trump and trumpeting immigration. 

It wouldn't be a BBC comedy without such things these days, would it?

Little bit of politics there, little bit of politics. 

Sunday 17 September 2017

Mark Mardell Goes to Swansea

Dylan Thomas, quoted from by Mark Mardell today

Mark Mardell was back on The World This Weekend today. Surprisingly, the much-travelled Mark didn't go to Florence for his final item. His jaunt this week was merely to Swansea - that "ugly, lovely town". 

Still, the programme faithfully followed the by-now-painfully-familiar format which I've outlined so many times I could probably sketch out Mark Mardell's pieces for him in advance.

First came the anti-Brexit angle announced in the programme's introduction:
Mark Mardell: Welcome to The World This Weekend. This is Mark Mardell. Boris Johnson is rebuked by Cabinet colleagues for an ill-timed intervention on Brexit. The Foreign Secretary was promising to spend more money on the NHS after we leave, but what will happen to poorer parts of the UK which got buckets of cash from the European Union? I've been to Swansea.
Voice 1: My fear is that Brexit will be used as an opportunity not only to grab powers back from our National Assembly but to reduce the amount of investment that we are getting in Wales as well.
Voice 2: Cutting edge projects, like rail electrification, like Swansea Bay Lagoon, are going to be burned on the altar of Brexit.
Mark Mardell: We'll hear what the Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has to say about that. 
Then came the usual heavily one-sided report from Mark Mardell where - despite Wales (including Swansea) voting Leave - MM simply presented us with a string of voices worried about/critical of Brexit. The one exception was a Remain voter who thinks things it won't make much difference to the success of his business one way or the other. If a single one of those voices voted Leave in the referendum I'll eat Mark Mardell's hat (if he's got one). 

Finally came the final scene of the usual The World This Weekend script - the 'balancing' interview. This was the Remain-voting Conservative minister Alun Cairns, now cast as the pro-Brexit 'counter' voice to all of these Brexit doomsayers. As always happens at this stage, the interruptions started flying in as Mark questioned the minister from the perspective of those featured in his report. 

Job done for another week. Repeat again next week. 

Oh, Boris!

Andrew Marr certainly got himself a headline-making scoop this morning, getting Amber Rudd to agree that Boris was behaving like a "back seat driver", as well as getting her to talk about him as if he was an overexcited child, or dog. ("Aww, Andrew, he's soooo full of enthusiasm and energy, bless him! And he can be reeeally entertaining too!", she almost said - several times). 

Boris was certainly the main story this morning for AM's programme. Andrew's introduction began as follows:
It's strangely easy to forget, but as a country we are under attack. The Parson's Green bomb was the fifth terrorist attack this year and the police say they have foiled another half a dozen serious plots. You'd think that would dominate today's front pages - but no, Boris Johnson has lobbed a verbal firework into the Brexit debate and snaffled the headlines. Oh, Boris! 
Well oddly, today's front pages, contrary to what Andrew said, were actually dominated by the Parson's Green terrorist attack. The Observer, the Sunday Express, the Daily Star on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror led with it. The Sunday Times led with tuition fees, not Boris, but actually put the Parson's Green story first on their front page. The Sun on Sunday and the Sunday People went with their own stories. Boris only led the Sunday Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday. Oh, Andrew!

Jokes on Sunday

(Mostly garnered from this amusing corny Twitter feed. One I heard a few times on my holiday in Spain. Can you guess which one?)

  • Took the shell off my racing snail. Thought it might speed him up. If anything, it made him more sluggish.
  • My wife accused me of being a transvestite. So I packed her things and left.
  • Have YOU had to walk 500 miles? Were you advised to walk 500 more? You could be entitled to compensation. Call the Pro Claimers now!
  • A Muslim strip club in Benidorm. The Muslim stripper comes out. The crowd gets rowdy. Suddenly someone cries out, 'Come on love, show us your face!'. And then the chant goes up, 'Get your nose out for the lads!'
  • I went to the doctors with hearing problems. He said, "Can you describe the symptoms?" I said, "Homer's a fat bloke and Marge has blue hair".
  • My wife told me women are better at multitasking than men. So I told her to sit down and shut up. Guess what? She couldn't do either!

And the biggest joke of all...

  • If you don't have a TV licence, you could get sent to prison...where you can watch TV all day, without needing a licence.

Sunday Morning Live

In other Sunday morning-related news, Sunday Morning Live had a very odd discussion on the question, 'Is religion dying out in Britain?' It was odd because there were 5 religious people on the panel (or on the video screen) who think it isn't and just one humanist who thinks it is. 

You can usually tell who's putting the 'unpopular' view on a BBC programme like this though, even when the panels are balanced. They tend to get challenged more by the presenter. Here the chap who thinks drinking alcohol is far less harmful than some people claim found himself on the receiving end of Sean Fletcher's sharpest challenges and, later, Kathy Gyngell of The Conservative Woman got the full interruption treatment from young Sean for espousing socially conservative views on the family. She also endured Sean telling her that people on Twitter will be thinking, "You are from another era", as they heard her views. (Charming!)

The Sunday Politics

The swallows must be getting twitchy. Autumn will soon be upon us, and all the Sunday morning political programmes are now back.

The Sunday Politics looks much the same, except for having a new presenter - Sarah Smith.

Smiley Smiley Sarah Smith

She may have to work on her wit and whimsy lest she makes it a glum watch every week. Dullness doesn't make for enjoyable viewing.

Will she prove as even-handed as Andrew Neil? Only time will tell, but she seemed even-handed enough to me today...

...with one possible exception: It will be interesting to see how she handles Labour Party interviews, particularly if there turns out to be a pronounced difference in how she treats hard-left and centre-left Labour interviewees. The pro-Corbyn interviewee today certainly got much tougher treatment than the New Labour interviewee. We'll see if that's a one-off over the coming months.

Also on the subject of The Sunday Politics...

Thinking again about Julia Hartley-Brewer's complaint on Question Time that she's "the sole Leaver on the BBC panel...most of the time" (which wasn't true about most of her QT appearances), that must have come about, in part, because of her appearances on The Sunday Politics where the three journalists on the panel each week almost invariably consist of 1 Leaver and 2 Remainers.

Indeed, scanning through the episode list for 2017, there have been 25 editions this year. Only one panel has been 'two against one' in favour of Leave. The other 24 have been 'two against one' in favour of Remain.

That's a striking imbalance.

Even the dodgy defence that Andrew Neil is assumed to be a Leaver and, thus, somehow balances it out (dodgy because AN was scrupulously fair on the Brexit issue) will surely no longer hold now that AN is gone, and I doubt anyone seriously believes that Sarah Smith is a closet Leaver.


This is curious. Both Sky News and ITV News are still leading their websites with the latest UK terrorist attack:

The BBC News website, in contrast, has relegated the story down its running order. (It's now a lower priority story than a piece on James Bond):

Meanwhile, and perhaps not coincidentally, Mail Online's main headline at the moment is:

Now, the Mail report is more cautious than its headline and adds caveats like "If true", but the question remains: Why is the BBC demoting the importance of this story at the moment? Is it because of where it could be heading?

Update 8.40: The story has now returned to the top of the BBC News website:

Saturday 16 September 2017

A blast from the recent past

Regular readers of our little blog will perhaps recall our previous posts about the BBC's eloquent Central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe and his many impartiality-busting reports about Hungary and the migrant crisis (and Brexit). 

His support for non-European migrants illegally entering Europe and his disdain for those who oppose their coming (the Hungarian government, the bulk of the Hungarian population, many Hungarian churches) is something his BBC reporting has never bothered to disguise. 

I've not heard him for a while but there he was on today's From Our Own Correspondent and a warm breeze of bias-filled nostalgia wafted across the Danube towards me like a memory of Tokay (a false memory as I've never been lucky enough to sample any).

I listened to him bang on about the migrant situation again this morning - his voice lowering as he described the baddies who oppose the mass entrance of people with names like 'Mohammed', his voice lifting as he described those making it through Hungary's tough anti-migrant measures (including some he's happy - on what didn't some like very long's acquaintance - to call his "friend") and those helping them do so.

And those Christian churches who don't want to bring in those migrants en masse are failing to show Christian charity, according to the BBC's Nick today.

If you read BBC Nick's Twitter feed (which he doesn't link to the BBC, despite his own website saying he's been the BBC's Central Europe correspondent since 1996), you'll see that he's no more impartial there. He's pro-immigration, anti-Brexit, Islamophile, pro-Soros, anti-Orban, etc, etc. 

If you then read the detailed posts we've posted about Nick Thorpe, you'll find most of those views reflected in his official BBC reporting. 

Were I an editor on a programme like From Our Own Correspondent alarm bells would ring over concerns about bias every time Nick Thorpe was asked for a piece. Evidently, those alarm bells don't ring for the team behind From Our Own Correspondent.

Maybe, it's his eloquence and mellifluous voice. Or maybe it's just the BBC being the BBC.