Saturday 4 November 2017

John Humphrys - "I think we sometimes do lose touch with the population"

What interested me more about that Radio Times interview with all five present Today presenters was the section on Brexit - one part of the interview that didn't hit the headlines.

(There's no direct link to it as I can see, so the quotes here are taken directly from the dead tree version).

The Radio Times interviewer (Tom Loxley) posed them this question:
Jeremy Vine said recently that if you were listening to Radio 2, you wouldn't have been surprised by the Brexit referendum result. But if you were listening to Radio 4, you were shocked....that there's a metropolitan mindset on Today that means you got it wrong. You are out of touch with the country.
Now I have to say I didn't know that Jeremy Vine had made such a disobliging and frankly damning comment about his BBC colleagues over at Radio 4, but there you go. He did.

The reactions from the Today team to this question from the Radio Times weren't all the same.

Sarah Montague and Mishal Husain both straight leaped in, denying it and protesting their innocence, but John Humphrys immediately conceded that Jeremy Vine had a point:
Where Jeremy is right is that there's a disconnect between the people who run the BBC and a large chunk of the population. 
He put that down to the BBC's recruitment process which draws in too many people from a similar background. Thus:
...they tend to come with a set of liberal values that permeate their thinking, and therefore the thinking of the BBC - and for a while there's no doubt that the BBC had a strong liberal tinge. 
That, of course, implies (as he's said before) that this "strong liberal tinge" is now in the past, but he went on and said something which strongly suggests otherwise:
I noted on the morning of the referendum that in the BBC almost everybody who came in, above all, all the bosses, looked absolutely stunned. And I suspect if you walked into a cafe round the corner frequented by a rather wider mix of the population, there wouldn't have been that same sense of being utterly stunned. They'd have been maybe a bit surprised, but perhaps not even that. I think we sometimes do lose touch with the population. 
Well said John!

Nick Robinson wasn't having any of it though. Nor was Justin Webb. They were with Sarah and Mishal in taking the 'Not me, guv. We did just fine' line.

And then everyone (including John) agreed that they all park their personal politics "at the studio door", and that none of them knows how any of the others vote.


  1. Interesting read; interesting because the majority at the BBC table seemed to believe that they were in tune. In a sense they were as the their listeners were self selected 'liberals'. Why would a 'redneck' listen to Today?

  2. Isn't this quite incredible? You've got the most senior member of the Today team admitting that they are useless at their job, which surely entails being able to read the mood of the public. Even if you are the most liberal, the most assiduous reader of the Guardian among BBC staff you still ought to be able to distinguish reality from wish-fulfilment.

    I don't buy any of this carp. As always I refer people back to the "representative" voters panel on Newnsight which voted 9-1 in favour of Remain!!! Why did no one at the BBC express alarm when they saw this panel was something like 40%-50% made up of ethnic minority individuals - which alone was so out of kilter with the real population as to call into question how the panel had been put together.

    I wasn't at all surprised by the Referendum result. I based that on conversations with real people and what I read online - plus reading backwards as it were from what I thought were some very dodgy late movements in the polls (which suddenly narrowed as the day of voting got closer after they had done all the useful pro-Remain "negative" work suggesting there was a huge majority against leaving the EU).

  3. Humphrys has admitted something along these lines before. Not that it’s made the slightest difference.

  4. Monkey Brains - same here.
    I was telling people before the referendum that I wouldn't be at all surprised if Leave won (and the same with Trump's election).
    My political research beyond reading a few blogs was virtually zero - and I wasn't even surrounded by vocal Leave supporters - yet I was apparently more informed than the BBC's entire news department.


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