Saturday 17 November 2018

Views on 'Newsnight'

Oh. Some people didn't think much of last night's Newsnight:

John Sweeney, Newsnight: The Westminster bubble is seething with Brexit news. But never mind them. They are silly and they are boring. Tonight I report for BBC Newsnight from the Lincolnshire Riviera - well, Boston - the leaviest leave town in Britain on what the real people think.
Sunder Katwala, British Future: This is a very flawed media idea of 'real people' - always choose outliers as more 'authentic' (We are all 'real people'!). So much coverage of Boston - 3/4 Leave. Yet Basingstoke (52,000 voted Leave, 48,000 voted Remain) rarely used to test the mood. The poor people of Boston, Lincs can barely get out of their front doors to go about their everyday lives without tripping over national & international camera crews conducting anthropological studies of why Britain voted Leave. The story of how & why Britain voted how it did may be better explained in the many 52-48 places – from Stratford-upon-Avon to Swansea in South Wales, from Knowsley on Merseyside to North Somerset, from Bedford to Basingstoke's 52k Leave to 48k Remain. If Remain had got 51%, would Newsnight go to 70%+ Remain places like Cambridge to find out "how the real people think"? Obviously not: would be absurd. This Boston, Lincs version is another form of metropolitan othering of Leave places, in an overcompensating bid for empathy.
John Denham, former Labour minister: And Basingstoke would be so much more interesting: had high levels of A8 migration but not like Boston; has working class voters who’ve done badly in past years (but not 52%) and many comfortably off middle class Leavers (who are never talked about in the media analysis).
Sunder Katwala: My colleague Jill Rutter had the right prediction re Steve Barclay being the Brexit Secretary, where I thought it might be Robin Walker. She met him in Wisbech, during her migation research, thinks he is impressive. Newsnight - flagship BBC programme - going with the fairly silly point that "very very few people" have heard of the new Brexit Secretary. Given that people moan about the high profile of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage etc it then seems odd to regard it as a problem for the government to have appointed somebody with a low media, public profile but a solid, relevant professional background. 
Sunder Katwala: Newsnight running a segment on how British politics is almost always binary, as role of oppositions is to oppose (citing the wartime coalition WW2 & Iraq war as rare exceptions). This is not true of many of the most historic votes in parliament:
  • (1) First place, most important decision ever taken by a British govt. A cross-party vote in War Cabinet, not Commons. May 1940: Clement Attlee & Arthur Greenwood back Churchill in a 3-2 vote against Halifax & Chamberlain to reject Mussolini's offer to mediate peace with Hitler. 
  • (2) British entry to Europe/EEC (White paper, Oct 1971 on principle of entry). Heath has majority of 30, so15 rebels can wipe it out. 39 of his own MPs vote against. 69 Labour MPs vote for the government (against a 3-line whip) and 20 abstain. Government majority 112.
  • (3) Repeal of the Corn Laws, 1846. 106 Conservative MPs vote with Prime Minister Robert Peel, 222 vote against him, on third reading. Wins 327 to 229 (majority 98) with Whig votes. But loses an Irish coercion bill and resigns. His party out of office for a generation.
  • (4) The Parliament Act 1911. The two neck-and-neck 1910 elections wipe out Liberal landslide of 1906, so  government needs Labour and Irish votes in the Commons and (finally) grudging Tory 'hedger' votes in House of Lords to finally remove the absolute veto of the upper house.
  • (5) Perhaps most controversially, the 1931 budget. Ramsay MacDonald's Cabinet is split 11-9 on the budget, and submits its resignation. He then forms a National Government with Conservatives and Liberals. They go on to win 554 seats vs 52 for Labour in a snap election. 
Anne McElvoy, The Economist: God no, not Boston Lincs again BBC Newsnight! Broadcasters might occasionally go sometimes go somewhere else that voted for Brexit.  
Alex Stewart, Tifo Football: Sweeney's stuff on Newsnight is an affront to basically everything. I hate people who try to be funny about serious stuff in an effort to lend 'personality' to news. Especially when they're not funny. 
Seán: He's also taken on a weird, cod Peston cadence to his voice. All a bit weird that piece.
Alex Stewart: Did you see him chasing people around yesterday to ask them the same stupid question? Peston would never run.
Seán: I didn't. He's not in good shape. I've seen some of his investigative stuff before and I quite liked it, but I think he's disappeared up his own posterior. Pienaar he ain't!
Alex Stewart: Such disappearances seem to be a theme on Newsnight


  1. Quite impressive work there but not from John Sweeney. I didn't hear the programme but I can imagine the cod Peston cadence as part of the cultivated eccentricity and throwaway swagger of the man.

  2. Why are they going anywhere? We've had the vote. We were told by all the party leaders, all the participants in the Referendum debates, HM Government, and all the media it would be THE decisive vote that would take us out. Why are the BBC revisiting it? Unless they are part of the Blair-Adonis-Mandelson-Campbell-Clegg-Soros-Macron front to revisit the vote?


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