Sunday 19 November 2017

The Andrew Marr Show (featuring Rob Burley) - a Percy Grainger-style Ramble


As you know, there's nothing I love more on a Sunday...
...even more than my family and friends, Sunday dinner, not being at work, getting a lie-in, cats, Countryfile'Wine, Women and Song', Rod Liddle's Sunday Times column, Bells on Sundayand (above all) it not being Monday...
...than reading The Andrew Marr Show editor Rob Burley's Twitter exchanges with his viewing public. 

I'd like to do a Rufus Norris and turn them into a National Theatre play. (I'd supply the rhymes though, not Carol Ann Duffy).

Now there's no doubt that Rob is very loyal to the BBC and, yes, he can leave the odd tricky question hanging in the air which deserves an answer (such as this one, regarding a dodgy but allegedly explosive IPSOS Mori poll), but, to his continuing great credit, he does engage at length with many of his critics and tries to meet their criticisms - as befits the fact that he's also the editor of Samira Ahmed's Newswatch - and he does so with no little panache and plenty of good humour.

(And I know that some of you get as much of a laugh out of reading his Adam West-era Batman Zap! Pow! Bam! exchanges as I do.)

Reading his exchanges today, however, has been almost as wearying for me as it must have been for him. He's been at it for hours, batting off ridiculous criticism after ridiculous criticism.

They've been off the scale, craziness-wise. I've actually found myself seriously sympathising with a BBC editor. (Shock! Horror!). He's faced an avalanche topped with a tsunami topped with an iced cherry of beyond-belief-crazy complaints.

And his crazy exchanges have given me pause for thought on several fronts. 

I recently pledged to feature fools from 'my own side' in posts like this but the curious thing about Rob's 'feedback from the Twitter public' today was just how one-sided the criticism was. I wanted to, but I couldn't find any examples from 'my own side' to shame. The lazy beggars just haven't bothered.

I really couldn't find such examples. (I saw a comment on a blog elsewhere but that was the exception that, for me, proved the rule, and it was so tepid that it wasn't even worth shaming).

And I'm not special pleading here. Pretty much every criticism today came from the Left - or more accurately (from my researches) the far-Left (not that they'll see themselves as such). 

Where has the Right gone in its criticisms of The Andrew Marr Show? In my early blogging days, it was almost always the Right who slammed the programme but, nowadays, I see only a very few right-wing regulars each week on Twitter - less than a handful - criticising the programme (although, to do them credit, they do usually put a lot of effort into their criticism). And even other blogs of this stripe (so to speak) barely bother to drill into the Marr show's output anymore - and haven't done so for years.

Yes, newspapers (like the Sun) might occasionally fire a misguided missile in the programme's direction, but it's the far-lefties who are mainly leading the charge these days. 

What does this mean? And given that it's 'only Twitter', does it actually mean anything much? 

Well, it could mean, as the left-wing horde on Twitter argue so very vociferously, that The Andrew Marr Show is now a 'Tory' programme, and that Andrew Marr is 'a Tory'.

(Peter Hitchens, incidentally, entered into that very debate today:


The very curious thing about this though is that I heard Andrew's introduction this morning....
Good morning. It's Budget week. Crucial choices for the Chancellor, the government and the Tory party. We used to agonise about the level of public debt. Well it hasn't gone away - 88% of GDP, compared to, for instance, around 50% when Denis Healey went cap in hand to the IMF in 1976. We are up to our eyes in debt. And so the extra spending demanded by so much of the country - for welfare, pay, health, you name it - can only come from two places: higher taxes paid by you or yet more debt piled on debt. The Chancellor joins us this morning. But who is he? Is he "Spreadsheet Phil" or "Handout Hammond"? And his opposite number, Labour's Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, is demanding an emergency budget for Britain. But has this man ever seen a spending commitment he doesn't like? 
...and thought, "That's quite a right-wing statement (except for the apologia for Denis Healey!)". And I did think that John McDonnell got a tougher ride than Philip Hammond - more interruptions, more snarky remarks ("It sounds a bit like a magic card trick this"), etc. 

But it was Andrew Marr who picked up on Mr Hammond's "There are no unemployed people" 'misspeak': 

And the BBC quickly made a headline story out of that:

And I've noted plenty of occasions when Andrew Marr has gone after Tories much more than their Labour equivalents.

And didn't Tory-Trot Andy also say this?
But there is a real sense of cutting edge on the Labour side now, a real sense that the Conservatives are in their last days. The sense of self-confidence I suppose from McDonnell and Corbyn has been much stronger since the election than for a long time.  
This could mean that The Andrew Marr Show is genuinely - as BBC editors on Newswatch would put it - 'getting it about right'.

And, yes, I believe they certainly are getting it about right on their guest selection (and will produce figures to prove it if you really, really insist), and, yes, I think that Andrew Marr is much, much more conscious of the need to appear balanced than he used to be back in my intense monitoring days of 2009-10 when I found him so wanting.

So is that why Righties are so marginal to criticism of the show today? Because, being fair-minded (fingers crossed), they no longer see it as a big problem (even though they may instinctively still dislike it)?

Now, of course, being 'marginal' doesn't necessarily mean 'wrong', and we've featured criticism of The Andrew Marr Show over the years (despite being far less ideologically right-wing than some of you think we are).

Could this be 'complaints from both sides' territory then?

Not necessarily, of course. One side's complaints could be grounded in truth; the others in complete nonsense. And these complaints from 'the other side' today have been groundless (considered over time especially) and, often, frankly semi-unhinged (no offence!). Plus, as I said earlier, those criticisms have very largely come from the far-Left - people who may be particularly ideologically-minded. 

Another funny thing that struck me (in the non-amusing sense of 'funny'), however, is that the way that the Left complain about BBC bias these days is often uncannily similar to the way the Right used to complain about BBC bias.

Change a few names and details around and they could be exactly the same people complaining. It's quite uncanny at times - and it's something fiery partisans from either side are very unlikely to notice. 

As someone who's read and written blogs about BBC bias for nearly a decade I know the language and thought-processes backwards, especially as one who shares them at times, so - stepping back - I've been staggered at the closeness of language and thought-process between parts of the Right and parts of the Left when it comes to attacking the BBC over bias - especially the conspiracy theories about the BBC being in the pockets of the Tories or Labour (to taste), or (at least) acting in their respective opposing party's interests. 

Again, that doesn't necessarily mean that the BBC isn't in conspiratorial cahoots with either of the big UK parties. It just means that one conspiracy theory at least must be wrong.

And none of that precludes the possibility that, due to the BBC's selection process, BBC employees might be much more likely to vote one way than the other (a very real possibility in my view), or that they are (unconsciously or semi-consciously) engaged in a groupthink willing-to-power of one of the big parties.

Another thought: The fact that I'm being nice to The Andrew Marr Show here will no doubt (if they ever notice it) be used by the far-Left as evidence that the programme is indeed biased towards the Right. 

That's the world we live in. That world's motto?: 'You can never be considered fair-minded in this world unless you reinforce our worldview'.

In that spirit, let me state that I find The Andrew Marr Show these days to be free of egregious bias. I think both Rob Burley and Andrew Marr are genuinely trying to be impartial. And I approve this message.


And for those longing for a bit of Rob B action on Twitter, here are some of the latest gems:

Mark Phillips: Contrast the interview techniques. @johnmcdonnellMP speaks and #Marr butts in relentlessly but hammond vomits compulsive lies and he gets free rein to spout drivel. Tory loving bbc showing true colours again
Rob Burley: Codswallop
Mark Phillips: Don't like the truth do you, tory boy in denial.
Mark Phillips: Lest we forget this little gem from our 'genius Chancellor'. 1.4million must be figment of our imagination then...
Rob Burley: As pointed out by, err, Andrew Marr.
Peter Martin: To err Is Andrew, to forget divine
Mark Phillips: For all of err, two seconds right at the end. When it could have been centrepiece of whole interview
Rob Burley: It couldn't be the centrepiece because we didn't know he was going to say it Mark.
Mark Phillips: He could've laboured the point and made some capital out of this but #marr ignored it
Rob Burley: No he returned to it Mark. How can he both refer to it, mention the 1.4m AND "ignore" it?

Ken Chisholm: Happiness breaking out all over says #Marr What planet is he on? #marrshow 

Patricia Ann Innes: #Marr aggressively interviewed John McDonnell, pressing for exact figures but he’s pussyfooting round Philip Hammond letting him espouse the usual Tory lies about unemployment etc
Rob Burley: I think this is how you perceive it because you like McDonnell more than Hammond.

T!: Watching #marr and it looks like Hammond knew all the questions he was going to be asked. Your state-owned broadcaster at work.
Rob Burley: T! Has a conspiracy theory for you all . .p.s it's b******* . . .
Phil Allan: If it had been Nicola on there, she'd have been bushwhacked with tricksy, sly "unscripted" questions designed to undermine the Nat cause of course. The sooner we have RT as our main source of news the better.
Rob Burley: You ok Phil?

Owen Jones: Just the Chancellor of the Exchequer there, erasing 1.4 million unemployed people out of existence, no biggie.
Williamos: I was willing #Marr to say 'yeah but record amounts of in-work poverty', lol like f^uck he would say that
Rob Burley: lol you missed when he said there is a problem with low paid jobs and wage stagnation
Williamos?: In an entirely different part of the interview.  I was talking about in context of the employment figures, consciously allowing Hammond to crow on about record job creation unchallenged when in work poverty is so high is typically #Marr i'm afraid
Rob Burley: But he talked about the quality of jobs and wages Williamos6, he just factually did!
Williamos: and anyone with a brain could see that Marr was instructed via ear-piece to pick up Hammond on his claim of no unemployment, otherwise he would have called him out straight away as opposed to ten minutes later
Rob Burley: Thank God we have you there to reveal the process. Think Andrew couldn't quite believe he'd said it, "instructed" is an odd choice of word but maybe says something about your position on the world. Presenters have earpieces yep.
Williamos: Come off it, 'couldn't quite believe he'd said it' more like hoped to let it slide until someone said 'hey andrew you better mention that outrageous claim that there's no unemployment,  otherwise you know,  twitter might just go nuts about pro-tory bias in the BBC.
Rob Burley: "Hoped to let it slide" - crazy conspiracist nonsense. Where are you on the moon landings?
Williamos: as i'm a rationalist i know we landed on the moon, they left retro-reflectors on it, any one with the equipment can detect photons coming back if you fire lasers at the moon. Empirical proof. Harder to get that with BBC as they can claim bias is purely in the eye of the beholder
Rob Burley: It's not that you think we were biased that I am complaining about. That's your opinion. It's the insinuations that we have an agenda - wanting to let the unemployment comment slide (despite bringing it up again) etc. that is a conspiracy theory.
Williamos: I'm sorry but I believe the BBC has an agenda to make the Corbyn govt look as bad as poss. Take the BBC running on the Six the fact that Corbyn needed to use his i-pad to look up a figure and every 30 mins bulletin on r4 when no mention of the fact Hammond had got the price of 1)
Rob Burley: Corbyn isn't in government.
Williamos: haha had a feeling you might pick me up on that, semantics dear boy, you know exactly what I mean
Rob Burley: Sorry. 

Controversialink‏: Sp where do you get your stats about there’s over welming happiness in the Uk From? Your mates in the Tories, The Westminster bar, Or Maybe the mushrooms that grow around the Tory Magic Money Tree
Controversialink‏: Thanks Rob That says it all
Rob Burley: Glad to be of service.

etc, etc.


  1. I;m not surprised that as Marr puts it Corbyn and McDonnell are overbrimming with cutting edge self confidence, given the easy ride from the BBC. Tonight, Kemal Ahmad, Economics main man told us "all" McDonnell has to do is promise to raise taxes to pay for better services. Really? Is that the extent of the BBC's analysis? Why should we believe that capitalists will continue to feel happy putting their money in London when the government is run by a Mad Marxist and a Mad Maoist dedicated to ever higher taxes? Why does the BBC think that will continue?

    1. With their economic policies Corbyn and McDonnell remind me of the bird-man festivals at Bognor or Ifracombe. With colourful rhetoric the participants describe their planned flight and demonstrate the attractive flying machine referring to its grace, poise and efficacy.

      And then the time for the flight arrives, and the ensemble of pilot and their tacky creation is exposed in an unforgiving cruel way - plummeting into a near vertical trajectory into the sea, without even the hope of a dead cat bounce. Shortcomings in concept and design there for all to see.

    2. That's a brilliant analogy Anonymous...let's hope someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg picks up on it. I can just hear McDonnell describing the efficacy of his bird-man design in those familiar avuncular tones. "My design has the biggest wings, the brightest plumage and the most papier mache, but more than that I am the most athletic person in the competition and my legs will carry me to a launch speed approaching 100 MPH. That's what the people of Brighton expect, and that's what they're going to get."

    3. See Open Thread for image of Corbyn and McDonnell as their economic policies are about to be stress tested.

  2. These days instead of watching the Andrew Marr Show I prefer to read about here. The hapless TV viewer of any channel involuntarily pays BBC to manufacture the gun, buy Marr's bullets whilst 'off the payroll' Craig aims and fires.

    That's entertainment.

  3. I think it was Einstein who defined foolishness trying the same thing over and over seeking a different result?

    Maybe it was insanity?

    Whatevs, it seems to fall into eccentric vs. madness territory, which is more a time/money issue. Like BBC editorial integrity in many ways.

    Maybe one reason there is a fall off in one side of questions from both sides because he seems only to answer the nut jobs from one, and ignores the more rational?

    I know that this too is a question, but may stand a better chance of debate here than anywhere the BBC controls the edit.

    Still, I persevere.

    Glad to be of service.

    1. "Maybe one reason there is a fall off in one side of questions from both sides because he seems only to answer the nut jobs from one, and ignores the more rational?"

      Then again "You ok Phil?" and "Corbyn isn't in government" didn't appear to require much grey matter.

      Perhaps the dafter the easier to brush aside?

    2. 'twas ever thus.

      I wonder if one could pop in an FOI to ask if the BBC has a unit dedicated to ensuring criticism from all sides is 'balanced'.

      I doubt they would answer. Well, any more than they do.

      He asked me to get back to him.

      Now I am, he seems awful busy elsewhere.

    3. It's one of those quotes that has been misattributed. Einstein never said "the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". But the source of the quote is unknown. Probably just one of those things that emerges from office chat and then gets quoted in a seminar.

    4. Meanwhile, I await the clearly busy Mr. Burley to get back to ME.

      Otherwise I may lose inter... hey.. hang on....

    5. A week is a long time. But I will give him that until I continue what has become a curiously one-way debate already.


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