Friday 23 March 2018

Agenda piled upon agenda

A tweet tonight from Guardian columnist (and former political editor of The New Statesman) Rafael Behr...

...crystallises a feeling I've already expressed on this blog about the BBC's reporting (though Rafael himself wasn't specifically talking about the BBC there).

Go back in time to 2015 - and the years before that - and you'll find the BBC pouncing on and making a fuss about pretty much every social media slip made by even the most obscure UKIP council candidate. 

Never mind how obscure those UKIP people were, such stories were generally made 'BBC News website front page headline news'. 

Yet now, when every week brings allegation after allegation after allegation against the Labour Party of social media 'crimes' at least comparable - and often much, much worse, and frequently involving antisemitism -,  next to none of this Labour stuff is being made a fuss about by the BBC, and next to none of it is getting the full 'BBC News website headline news' treatment either. 

I think this is serious. 

In the decade or so leading up the EU referendum the BBC was pretty relentless in pushing stories in support of the idea that UKIP was 'full' of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", and yet now, when the Labour Party demonstrably is 'full' of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", the BBC is holding back. 

And, of course, it's not just UKIP. Think of the BBC's promotion of the mob attack on Toby Young. 

Is this a result of pro-Corbyn bias on the BBC's part? Or old-fashioned general pro-Labour bias? Or is it because they're absolutely terrified of the Corbynistas?

(I suspect the latter). 

And given that so many of the recent Labour Party examples involve antisemitism, is it because the BBC doesn't think antisemitism is a serious problem - unlike 'Islamophobia'?

(I suspect that too).

So what will provoke the BBC into giving Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party the same treatment it used to give UKIP?

Mr Corbyn sacking Owen Smith for backing a second EU referendum maybe?

Well, I'm looking at the BBC News website's new main main story (published within the last hour), Jeremy Corbyn sacks Labour's Owen Smith over referendum call, and its opening paragraphs only quote people supporting pro-EU Mr. Smith (Owen Smith himself, Lord Hain, Anna Turley and Ben Bradshaw).

And the extraordinary story of Jeremy Corbyn and the antisemitic mural is now raging online this evening, with Jeremy Corbyn's responding and even Boris Johnson and the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg getting involved (on Twitter), but the BBC News website is (so far) staying clear.

Well-known Labour MPs - from Luciana Berger to Lisa Nandy to Harriet Harman - are piling in.

It will be very interesting to see if, especially with Laura K involved, BBC One's News at Ten covers the latest intense outburst of antisemitism accusations against Jeremy Corbyn (Labour leader, possible next PM).

Already one of the BBC's finest is registering his alarm (and, note, he's leading with the 'Labour voters' "instincts" on Brexit - meaning those Labour voters who voted Remain):

Agenda piled upon agenda?

Interesting times, alas. What to make of them? What will happen next?

Update (21:42): Oh, a small print article has just popped up on the BBC News website's front page below the main headline. It appears to have been published 15 minutes ago.

It's prominently placed but so small that you'd easily miss it:

Update: 22:22: Yes, BBC One's News at Ten did mention the antisemitic mural row. John Pienaar alluded to it, in passing, in a piece about Owen Smith's sacking. The mention was short, easy to miss and context-free and, thus, so cryptic that I suspect hardly anyone listening to it would have had much of a clue as to what the mural story was about.


  1. Yep, the BBC adopted a careful strategy with UKIP for several years: highlighting and exaggerating anything negative in social media posts or interviews by any of its members (not just officials) in, as you point out national news, otherwise not giving their policies any publicity and subjecting their senior leaders to aggressive interview techniques on the rare occasions they got before a BBC mike.

    The odd thing is that the policy was somewhat changed in 2017, at the very time when polls suggested UKIP were on the ropes. The reason? The BBC were concerned (rightly as it turned out) that the Tories would be picking up lost UKIP votes. The Conservatives got a 5% boost.

    To my mind, this proves that the BBC's approach to UK political parties is highly calibrated. In the 2017 campaign we also saw them being v. kind to the Lib Dems at the outset before they realised they were making no headway.

    The BBC's current approach to Corbyn is ambivalent I think. There is still the dream they have of getting Corbyn out of the way and electing a soggy-left globalist like Chukka who will then campaign strongly against Brexit. But on the other hand, they can see that is increasingly unlikely and so they protect Corbyn much more now from negative stories.

  2. The response amongst Corbynistas to even the mildest of criticism is on a hair trigger. Are the BBC scared? It does look that way. Since the non event of the Corbyn hat “scandal” I realise that Communist Party parallels are now blasphemous, but there is something frighteningly Red Guard-like about this weird cult. I also believe that many of them, perhaps not at the senior level in news and current affairs, but at the intermediate level and certainly in other departments like comedy and drama are Corbynistas.

    The incredible cowardice shown by the BBC towards Labour Party anti-Semitism is fuelled by not merely a fear of Corbynistas, but by a fear of being seen to oppose anyone who they see as anti-Zionist. Anti-Semitism BBC style.

  3. I think the BBC have much more reason to be scared of the Corbynistas than the Conservatives. It doesn't take a leap of imagination to see a scenario where John McDonnell announces the iniquitous licence fee is going to be abolished and replaced by a disbursement of government revenues overseen by an "independent" panel of Corbynistas who will then monitor BBC output and internal practices.


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