Tuesday 20 February 2018

On not trusting Mark Easton

If anyone knows who the blonde lady on the left is (and which party she represents) please let me know. She's a missing link in this post.

Last night's BBC One News at Ten featured a report from Mark Easton. 

I've long been in the habit of treating reports by Mark Easton with suspicion - especially if they've got anything to do with Brexit or UK regionalism (please see here for why I'm suspicious about his reporting on the latter. I class him as an advocate for UK regionalism rather than a neutral reporter on the issue).

This report dealt with both subjects, so I was doubly suspicious. 

In this mood, I thought I'd better transcribe the whole thing and then try to judge whether I'm wrong to keep on distrusting his reporting:

Newsreader: The leaders of nine British cities, among them Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol, have held talks in Brussels today with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. The city mayors insist they're not interfering with the UK Government's negotiations but they want to make the case for more European money and power to be devolved to the UK's regions and nations after Brexit. Our home editor Mark Easton reports.
Mark Easton: They've not been able to get a meeting about Brexit with the UK Government, but today the leaders of British cities, both those that voted Leave and Remain, travelled to Brussels to talk to the man on the other side of the negotiating table, the European Union's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.
Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council: Really important to emphasise that we're not here to undermine the Government's negotiations. Brexit is happening next year. The cities have got a really clear agenda in terms of how we can move things forward on behalf of our citizens. And we're here to start the ball rolling today. 
Marvin Rees is Mayor of Bristol, where almost two thirds of voters were for Remain. He believes local people want to be reassured that, in its talks with the EU, central government will reflect the concerns of this proud trading city.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol: The voices of cities, the voices of particular sectors, even, are not being heard, not being sought, and not being reflected. Our job, as city leaders, is to make sure that those voices are heard and that it's not just a Westminster Brexit. 
The boss of this precision engineering company says EU membership has protected quality and reduced red tape. The kind of Brexit Britain negotiates is vital, he says, for his business.
Andrew Varga, managing director of Seetru Engineering: Central government is very removed from our concerns. They don't have time to understand the detailed, very detailed issues that affect us. We are looking for a mechanism to get our voice heard. 
The argument of leaders in cities like Bristol is that Brexit is an opportunity to devolve power away from the centre. For local people to take back control from Westminster, as well as Brussels. For more than an hour, Michel Barnier listened to the concerns and the hopes of city leaders representing a quarter of the UK economy. But, for them, the Brexit negotiator they really want to talk to now is in London.
Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council: From this, we will go back to Government and say, look, we have an enormous amount to contribute to the discussions, to the negotiations. Let's get around the table and talk urgently, because the clock is ticking. 
Britain's Department for Exiting the EU says it does meet with stakeholders from local and regional government. But these city leaders say they want to make sure that power and influence over Brexit is not only in the hands of a Westminster elite. Mark Easton, BBC News, Brussels. 

To me this painted a picture of a diverse group of UK city leaders ("the leaders of British cities, both those that voted Leave and Remain") going to talk to the EU's top negotiator. All goes well, and M. Barnier "listens" to their "concerns and hopes". 

This is contrasted with their shabby treatment by the UK Government. As the report keeps on stressing, the UK government has (unlike the EU man) so far refused to listen to their "concerns and hopes". 

The report's point seems to be: Why won't the UK government listen to them?

Mark Easton's language is very striking. Note how he uses Leave language ("take back control" and "elite") and turns it against Westminster - the very parliament Leave campaigners wanted to restore sovereignty to. Even the random pro-EU businessman Mark brings in (for what reason???)  echoes this language ("Central government is very removed from our concerns").

As a result, the UK Government is made to look like the bad guy and M. Barnier a good guy.

Isn't this just Mark Easton pushing the cause of these nine city leaders? 17 words for the other side of the argument ("Britain's Department for Exiting the EU says it does meet with stakeholders from local and regional government") doesn't seem like proper balance to me.

More pointedly, isn't this just Mark Easton pushing his own views on regional devolution yet again?

Curiously, while writing this post, it struck me that it might be worth checking out exactly who these "leaders of British cities, both those that voted Leave and Remain", are - especially given Mark Easton's track record. I've believe I've identified eight out of the nine, namely the Labour leader of Leeds Council, the Labour leader of Birmingham Council, the Labour Mayor of Bristol, the Labour leader of Cardiff Council, the Labour Mayor of Liverpool, the Labour leader of Newcastle Council, the Labour leader of Nottingham Council, and the Labour deputy leader of Manchester Council.

I'm sure you'll be able to spot a pattern there!

The final one, I presume, must represent Glasgow City Council, but I can't find any evidence that the SNP leader of that council, Susan Aitken, was present. (She's certainly not the mysterious blonde in the photo at the top of this post. Ms. Aitken doesn't look anything like her - unless she's dyed her hair, lost some weight and changed the bone structure of her face). 

Shouldn't Mark Easton have made at least some kind of nod towards telling his audience that these are local leaders every one of whom belongs to parties opposed to the UK government (mainly if not entirely Labour), and that their criticism of the UK government could perhaps be seen in that light too? 

Hmm, so, no, I'm not giving up on feeling suspicious about Mark Easton's reporting any time soon then. I think this report absolutely reeked of a BBC reporter's personal agenda-pushing.

What do you make of this report? Do you agree? Am I wrong?. (If I'm missing something, please let me know).


And, thanks to Humourme in the comments below, we now know that the mysterious blonde who met Michel Barnier is Olivia Blake, Labour deputy leader of Sheffield Council.

So, yes, every single one of Mark Easton's apparently diverse "leaders of British cities, both those that voted Leave and Remain" turns out to be from the Labour Party.

And that makes BBC News at Ten's claim that the leaders of nine British cities were involved with the meeting with M. Barnier, among them Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol, FAKE NEWS!

SNP-run Glasgow (the tenth of Core Cities ten citiesweren't involved. (I knew it!!!) .And, yes, it was Labour-run cities all the way...

...something Mark Easton 'forgot' to mention.

(Apologies for the crazy Blogger emphases here!)

Further Update: This gets fishier and fishier...

A very reliable source has informed me that Mr Varga "is not random at all" and that he's been "flaunting and touting his anti-Brexit views on the BBC" for some time, including on Today....

...and I've been given a transcript of a Today interview from October 13th last year which shows Mr Varga sounding off against Brexit very strongly - e.g.:
Lucy Burton (BBC): And is this something you blame entirely on Brexit? It sounds like it . . .
Andrew Varga: Yes, yes, no, no question.  No question. These are...this is uncertainty at the moment, it’s all due to uncertainty at the moment.

It's striking that it's only been the Guardian, various local papers and the BBC who've made anything much of this story.

That makes it all the more intriguing. 

Mark Easton trotted over the Channel with these exclusively-Labour Party 'Core Cities' folk (without telling BBC viewers that every single one of them was Labour).  His report showed him reporting from Bristol in connection with the Labour Mayor of Bristol's gripes about a "Westminster Brexit" before both him and the Labour Mayor Bristol re-appeared, across the English Channel, in Brussels, and his report ended with the words "Mark Easton, BBC News, Brussels". 

Hmm, so Mark Easton was obviously involved in this even before they went to Brussels.

So the obvious questions about Mark's involvement here are: (a) But how involved and (b) why? And (c) how early and (d) who instigated it?


  1. "I've long been in the habit of treating reports by Mark Easton with suspicion"

    He is the BBC's equivalent of commissar for ideology in the Politburo in on one of thoses places Corbyn used to visit on holiday. He lays down the ideological lines to be followed by BBC staff. He was chief architect of the "left behind" myth used to explain the Brexit defeat and make Brexit unpopular by association with the lumpenproletariat (clever move in a country as obessed with class as the UK).

    The regionalist component of Markist-Eastonism is very important. Firstly it breaks up England (a generally Conservative country) into several discrete parts, the better to control. Secondly, regionalism dilutes nationalism and thus facilitates EU control. Thirdly, by helping break down nationalism, it facilitates what Easton is really interested in: no borders PC multiculturalism.

    1. Very true. His biggest push for English regional devolution came in the wake of the Scottish referendum and the mooted idea of an English parliament to balance the Scottish parliament. He pulled pretty much every trick in the book to discredit the idea of an English parliament. He was campaigning not reporting. It's one of the worst cases of BBC bias I've heard.

      If anyone wants to explore how he did it, it's all here:


  2. That really is a disgraceful omission from his report. An example of either truly bad reporting or a deliberate attempt to mislead/obfuscate. I know which one I lean towards...

  3. It’s the BBC, on Brexit. What is not to trust?

    1. The assertions, the questions, the editing, the camera angles, the still photos, the graphs, the quotes, the historical summaries and the pixels on the screen. That's what not to trust! :)

    2. Ah.... yes.... but.... apart from those...

    3. ...as Evan Davis might interject...

  4. https://twitter.com/_oliviablake?lang=en

    The blonde on the left appears to be the deputy leader of Sheffield CC. Olivia Blake.


    1. Thank you so much, Humourme! Much appreciated.


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