Friday 31 May 2019

Gaza exit permits

I was listening to the Today Programme this morning - I’m not quite sure what prompted this story, but at about 7:45 Yolande Knell started to recount a tale about the plight of cancer sufferers in Gaza, when the phone rang. 

Who the hell phones you up for a non-emergency at that time of day? Better answer.  It was a damned robot speaking very fast on behalf of something I couldn’t quite catch, which sounded a bit like “Next” delivery, and without a pause it recited a long web address with a string of dots and forward- slashes and numbers - as if anyone could absorb all that code and type it all out on Google when they'd put the phone down and logged on.

On second thoughts it sounded more like NHS than Next, but I hung up. Also, the cat was furious because it hadn’t eaten all night and was absolutely starving.

Having answered the phone and fed the cat I returned to the radio, to hear the Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan telling listeners that “The Israeli Government are using healthcare restrictions to dehumanise the Palestinian people.”

I visited the West Bank......

Really you need to listen for yourself to properly understand the tenor of the item.  It seems that Israel is expected to show unreciprocated humanity to those who systematically dehumanise them at the risk of harming their own citizens. The complete absence of any basic context - eg., that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel by murdering individual Israelis and by any means it can devise, and that the PA operates a ‘pay for slay’ system. 

When the deputy Israeli ambassador Sharon Bar-Li tried to explain about Hamas’s tendency to put explosives into medical ‘tubes’ Mishal Husain reverted to the notorious ‘how many Israelis’ manoeuvre. ”How many of these tubes have exploded? she demanded - impliedly arguing that the Israelis should have let a few slip through before they could justify tightening up the security.

I didn’t catch enough of this item to hear the particular reason it was being aired. Is this currently in the news, or was it simply a gratuitous reminder of the BBC’s anti-Israel activism?

Thursday 30 May 2019

More Rory

Our ongoing Rorywatch season has so far seen John Simpson singing the praises of "passionate Remainer" Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart and then John Sweeney and Danny Shaw adding their very warm words about him too. Now Rory has got The Big One: Gary Lineker: 

A retweet of Rory's response...

...prompted this comment from our old blogging companion DB:

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Jon Sopel falls foul of the Corbynistas

I came in an hour or so ago tonight and spotted that Jon Sopel had been editorialising on Twitter about the expulsion of Alastair Campbell from the Labour Party:

True, of course, but hardly impartial.

Of course, Jon can editorialise about Donald Trump till the bison come home without incurring the wrath of a Twitter mob, but criticise Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party and the (far-left) hounds of Hell will be on you within minutes. As he's finding tonight. 

Here, for example (and one of the politest), is Ash Sarkar's Novara pal Aaron Bastani: "Did you comment on Heseltine’s suspension last week or do you only abuse your position at the BBC to defend friends from having rules applied to them?"

Is it wrong to be reaching for the (metaphorical) popcorn?

EU Elections Thread

Over at The Other Place Fedup2 is offering a prize "for the most biased comment by a BBC employee during the outcome of an election which should never have involved the UK – if it was a democracy". 

I feel inclined to follow suit, minus the offer of a prize - other and Sue and I's warmest regards. 

What gems of BBC bias are we going to get tonight? Will the BBC be spraying loaded labels around about right-leaning parties like there's no tomorrow (both tonight and tomorrow)? 

I do hope all our old BBC favourites are up and at, doing their thing. I've not seen poor Jenny Hill for a while. 

Anyhow, here's a fresh parallel thread to the present Open Thread for your (and my) thoughts on the BBC's EU elections coverage tonight. 

I suspect I'll be staying up. Even if this election shouldn't be happening here, I do love an election results night. So it might even turn into a live blog. (How exciting!)


I'm guessing there might by a hint of sarcasm in Andrew Neil's tweet here:

I suspect he's well aware that the BBC & Co. have not been widely covering it.

Monday 27 May 2019

The Latest Bank Holiday Weekend Open Thread

Theresa May may have stepped out onto Downing Street the other day and sobbed at the thought of the previous (magnificently-filled) open thread being replaced by a vigorous new open thread...

...but, chin up Theresa. Being replaced isn't all bad. Onwards and upwards. Fresh Welsh mountains to walk up, etc.

And, thus: Thank you as ever for your support and thoughtful comments.

Lies, damned lies, and BBC graphs

The tale this BBC tweet tells is exactly the same bit of spin that hardline Remainers have been putting out overnight:

I think it's fair to say that comments could definitely be going better. Here's a selection:

  • Errr, you can't compare apples and pears. The other parties were not standing on a single issue. This is either clumsy journalism or something a bit more sinister. 
  • I was under the impression both Conservative and Labour official position was to leave the EU.
  • Don’t let facts get in the way of a biased agenda and nice graph.
  • Anything to manipulate the agenda, eh BBC!
  • Problem with trying to offset The Brexit Party's gains by totting up votes for Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK and sticking them in the Remain column is that vote for The Brexit Part was unequivocally vote to Leave; vote for those other parties was about multitude of things.
  • Both Conservative and Labour support Brexit. Add them to the Brexit party vote and it’s a major win.
  • The BBC is embarrassing, so biased. You can't accept it, can you?.
  • Why are you saying this? The Conservatives are a pro-Brexit party. Their official position is Leave. May’s government tried three times to pass a withdrawal agreement. The Conservatives are a pro-Brexit party.
  • The graphic is misleading because it equates “pro-Brexit” with “pro No Deal”.  While a deal remains on the table that isn’t just misleading but dishonest.
  • I am definitely a Remainer, but I think its intellectually dishonest not to include the Conservatives in the pro-Brexit camp.
  • You use statistics like a drunken man uses a lamppost. For support rather than illumination.

This is dodgy. And probably not a worthwhile exercise. I’d guess you could pretty much allocate all the Tories 9.1% to pro-Brexit. That was their position in the campaign. As for Labour’s 14%? ~Search me!

P.S. And here's a more accurate chart:


Sunday 26 May 2019

More bias by labelling

Nina Warhurst

Talking of biased political labelling, and continuing with ITBB's much-loved Rorywatch series, this morning's Breakfast saw the BBC's sofa surfers discussing the Tory leadership contenders with Professor Jon Tonge of Liverpool University, one of their regular paper reviewers (and always worth watching). They went through them all, one by one, but when it came to Rory Stewart's turn, out came the biased political labelling from our BBC presenters:
Nina Warhurst, BBC: Let's move on to Rory Stewart, currently International Development Secretary, pretty moderate on Brexit.
Jon Tonge: The most moderate candidate of all.
However it's intended, the word 'moderate' is invariably a positive and always implies a contrasting negative - usually 'extreme'. Choosing to use it to describe the most hardline opponent of No Deal of all the Conservative leadership contenders (see what I did there, BBC?) betrays an opinion. It strongly suggests that Nina prefers Rory Stewart to the others because of his position on Brexit, doesn't it?


Ah, and here's the BBC political correspondent Jonathan Blake on the BBC News Channel a couple of days ago:
So [Boris Johnson] is setting out his stall quite early in this campaign...and it's not quite the gung-ho, No-Deal-or-nothing message that you might have expected him to come out with. So maybe he's trying now to appeal to more moderate members of the Conservative Party, and he does need their support. 
And what about the equally loaded language of "gung-ho, No-Deal-or-nothing message"? 

Bias by labelling

Mark Mardell's profiles of several Conservative leadership contenders today were actually quite entertaining, but he can't help himself. When he came to Steve Baker, he characterised him as "the hardest of hardliners among declared candidates" and "the purist's candidate". And, yes, there's that word again - 'purist'

Good news

The bottom of a plane (yes, really)

I saw a comment on Twitter earlier that said, "The BBC and Sky News gave Airbus headlines for weeks after it said it may pull out of Britain because of Brexit. Now they have said the opposite, great news for Britain, but not a peep from Sky or the BBC. Shameful liars". 

European planemaker Airbus wants to stay in the UK whatever the outcome of Brexit, as the country is "a very important pillar" for the company, new CEO Guillaume Faury said on Tuesday (21 May), amending negative comments made by his predecessor. 
In one of his first major media appearances since taking over in April, Faury stressed that the UK is “a very important pillar” for Airbus. 
For that reason, he said, “we want to stay in the UK”, regardless of the Brexit outcome and the future long-term relation between London and the EU, as he highlighted the high-skilled workforce and its research facilities in the UK.
“UK is part of Airbus and Airbus is part of the UK… and we would like to preserve that,” he said.
His predecessor, Tom Enders, warned in January that Airbus could take “very harmful decisions” for the UK as a result of a disorderly divorce.
The commenter on Twitter was right that Tom Enders's negative warnings about Brexit and Airbus's future in the UK post-Brexit were headline news at the BBC and Sky News. 24 Jan saw his comments as a main story on the BBC One's News at Six and News at Ten. The BBC News website also reported his views, and The Andrew Marr Show followed them up in February. Similar warnings from Airbus might leave the UK were widely reported in June 2018 

So why aren't new Airbus boss Guillaume Faury's far more positive comments getting similar headline coverage from the BBC and Sky News this week? Or any coverage for that matter?

John Bolton's moustache

It's not every day that a piece of facial hair gets a whole BBC Radio 4 Profile to itself, but the subject of this week's Profile was US National Security Advisor John Bolton's moustache. 

I'm joking of course, but only just. That moustache got plenty of mentions! 

Fans of BBC hatchet jobs will need to give this a listen, as it's fine example of the form. I'll just quote its opening passage: 
US news reporter: Is John Bolton the most dangerous man in the world? 
Mark Coles: Hmm. Good question! John Bolton,  Donald Trump's National Security Advisor, has been upping the ante with Iran of late, threatening military action - a tactic some fear could lead the two countries to war. "The new Dr. Strangelove", the Washington Post branded him this week. But to others he's an American patriot - a tough-talking hero, albeit one with a slightly silly moustache.
My ears pricked up at this passage from John Peel-impersonator Mark: 
[John Bolton] developed ties with a number of controversial groups, like the right-wing Gatestone Institute, which some have accused of anti-Muslim bias.
You'll see the Gatestone Institute on our side-bar. For the BBC though, it seems, it's "controversial" and "right-wing" and, oh no!, "some" have accused it of "anti-Muslim bias". We'll have to remove it then. (Not).

"Research by the BBC has discovered"

Colletta Smith

If you watched BBC One's News at Six on 14 May, you may have seen the following report, based on BBC "research": 

Newsreader: For years now the Government has encouraged us to install smart meters to monitor our gas and electric usage. Now research by the BBC has discovered that more than 2 million of these devices are not working. That amounts to £1.7 billion being spent on meters that are not doing the job they're supposed to. Our Consumer Affairs Correspondent Colletta Smith has the story. 
Advert: I want to live in a world where we still have polar bears. We all want to make big changes to help our planet. 
Colletta SmithThat's what more than 14 million of us have tried to do by installing a smart meter. We are under pressure to get one. You might have seen the advert or been called or emailed by your energy company. But things aren't working out as perfectly as you might think. We've discovered that 2.3 million smart meters installed in homes across the UK are not working. That's 15% of all smart meters which have now turned dumb or not been connected. 
Andy: So I'll show you where the smart meter is. which is in this little box outside. 
Andy's meter was only put in a couple of months ago but it's never worked. 
Andy: It's a nice shiny new meter but it doesn't actually work if you press any of the buttons. A useless piece of plastic in the house. A meter that I can't read any more. I'm just feeling very frustrated. They don't seem to have the slightest interest once you have had the box ticked that you've had the actual smart meter installed in, whether it actually works and is doing the job for me, the customer. 
And Andy's not alone. I've been in touch with people across the country, like Bridie from Halifax, who's raging that her meter is often on the brink. And like anyone who switches, Judith in Cambridge and Mark in Marlow found that their meter stopped working when they changed supplier. 
Mark: It only works with the people who fitted it. How smart is that? 
The government say work is under way to make sure devices stay smart when switching. Energy UK, which represents energy companies, adds that 800,000 second-generation meters are now being installed. But even those meters aren't able to switch between providers so for now more than two million useless boxes are adding to the clutter of our kitchens. Colletta Smith, BBC News. 

What you may not have seen though is the following 'correction and clarification' posted on the BBC website:
Friday 24th May 2019: BBC News at Six, BBC One, News Channel and News Online, 14 May 2019 
In a report about smart meters, we said up to £1.7 billion had been spent on installing meters that are not working as they should. 
This figure is wrong and should not have been included in the report. It was calculated from the overall projected cost of the entire smart meter project rather than the cost to date, and did not take into account the fact that the roll out of smart meters is less than half way through. 
We also said that the second generation of smart meters are not able to switch between suppliers. In fact, the second generation of smart meters should be able to function with a different supplier.
 Oh dear! Definitely not 'smart reporting' from the BBC there! 

The BBC censors part of the story again

Germany's antisemitism commissioner Felix Klein has warned Jews not to wear skullcaps "everywhere all the time" because of the rising tide of anti-Jewish attacks in the country. He didn't specify what places and what times would be risky though. 

This grim news is one of the lead stories on the BBC News website this morning:

The BBC report focuses on the "rise in popularity of far-right groups" as the reason why antisemitism is on the rise, pointing the finger specifically at "the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD)". 

The BBC avoids, however, all mention of attacks on Jews by Muslims, despite a huge debate being sparked in the country last year after a 19-year-old Syrian asylum seeker attacked two yarmulke-wearing men in broad daylight in an attack seen as being antisemitic. 

Other media outlets don't censor this part of the story. The Guardian, for example, has published a report (via Agence France-Presse) which says:
Klein said that while the far-right was to blame for the vast majority of antisemitic crime, it was apparent that some Muslims were also influenced by watching certain television channels “which transmit a dreadful image of Israel and Jews”.
How is it acceptable for the BBC to simply refuse to report this part of the story?

Saturday 25 May 2019

Watch this space

Louis Philippe de Pear

ws...breaking news...breaking news...breaking news...brea

Via the eternally-alert DB, here's some heart-warming mutual grooming between the editor of Channel 4 News (Ben de Pear) and the editor of BBC Two's Newsnight (Esmé Wren):

"From now on we will be cooperating on stories and presenters. Watch this space", says Channel 4 Ben.

In response DB tweeted, "According to the editor of Channel 4 News he'll be collaborating with BBC Newsnight on future stories. Two broadcast outlets, one metro-left narrative."

Hmm. What's going on here? 

The reason Andrew Neil is stepping down

A kindly Jeremy Corbyn supporter tweeted Andrew Neil the other day to say, "Who watches this crap?", in response to a Twitter ad for BBC One's This Week (my favourite of the BBC's politics shows). 

This naturally provoked Mr. Neil, who replied, "Over 1m. At midnight. Four times audience share of Newsnight. But they are forced to. Or their licence fee is doubled". 

Those figures, if correct - and, given that it's Andrew Neil, they very probably are -, don't reflect well on Newsnight, do they?

A Brexit-supporting Twitterer then sent Andrew his warm regards, along with a suggestion: "Brilliant Andrew! Please don't go but instead lobby to move program to 7pm BBC2. Then see how many tune in!"

Andrew replied: "That’s a very good idea. But the reason I’m stepping down after 16 years and regularly getting 1m audience at midnight (no other show gets that on weekdays) is that the BBC didn’t want to move it to an earlier time. BBC2 at 7pm would be fine with me. We could get 2m!".

What a good idea! Scrap Newsnight and put This Week on a 7pm each evening instead.

Anyhow, in honour of Mr. Neil, here's his intro to this week's This Week - some two hours after the polls closed in the UK this Thursday. It contained some decent jokes:
Evenin' all. Welcome to This Week, on the day Britain voted in the European elections. We won't get the results until Sunday. But the polls have closed, so we can  now go back to saying whatever we want. Except that word came down from various BBC Yentobs and Ofcom jobsworths pointing out that the rest of Europe had still to vote - I mean, who knew? - and that we had to be careful not to say anything that could swing things "sur le continent". Now, I bow to nobody when it comes to estimating the influence of This Week. But really? I mean, really? For a start, it's already a quarter to one on the European mainland. Sensible folks are asleep. Second, we're really not big in Estonia. Or the Czech Republic. Or Luxembourg. Actually, nothing's big in Luxembourg. I wish it were, but it's not true. Now, we do have a viewer in France. But I don't think Molly the Dog has a vote. As for Slovakia and Slovenia? Well, we don't do well in countries beginning with S, as our Scottish ratings illustrate. But before we move on let me just say this - London Calling Lithuania, London Calling Lithuania. The Blue Cow Jumped over the Yellow Moon. There, that's fixed the voting in Vilnius. 

Give Emily a cookie

Talking (as we were) of Emily Maitlis, Newsnight's new main presenter, here she is (h/t MB) in the Guardian simultaneously speaking her brains and signalling her virtue in a feature headlined The book that changed my mind:
Back to Black by Kehinde Andrews has made me reassess my view of reparations for slavery. I used to think the idea of compensation seemed bizarre, undeliverable and risked reinforcing victimhood. It has become a live issue in the US among democrats in the 2020 presidential race, and through Kehinde I’ve started thinking about it more dispassionately and with greater openness and curiosity. I actually felt the shift happening.
She was surely right first time.

Incidentally, I presume the small-case 'd' in 'democrats' there was a time-honoured Grauniad error rather than anything to do with Emily? 

Anyhow, seriously, how 'BBC' is that? Well done, Em. Go collect your cookie from the Cookie Monster!

Confession time

I've been blogging about BBC bias, on and off, for nearly ten years now, and I think it might be starting to skew my political priorities. 

This week's European elections may or may not have transformative effects on UK and EU democracy, but none of that matters to me anywhere near as much as the fate of Change UK's lead candidate in London - ex-BBC megastar Gavin Esler - because I really, truly, madly want him to fail. Hopefully very badly. 

I know I should be ashamed of myself, but if my dream comes true and he loses I'll be cracking open my bottle of Jane Garvey 1997 Vintage Champagne overnight on Sunday night/Monday morning. 

I will now say two dozen Hail Marys. 


Following on from the previous post, and as MB outlines elsewhere, note how Emily Maitlis (on last night's Newsnight) misrepresents what Mark Francois said when she recalls the interview later in the programme. The early exchange went as follows:
Emily Maitlis: He says he is. So he has your vote. You know that there is, erm, Steve Baker, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, all pretty much from the same wing of the party on this one, but you would choose him over Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab? 
Mark Francois: There is a slight difference which is, on the third meaningful vote, the crunch one, Steve still voted against the withdrawal agreement, as did I, and Boris and Dominic folded.  
Emily MaitlisSo he's the purer...he's the pure one there? You wouldn't back somebody who folded?  
Mark FrancoisI would argue he was the more consistent
As you'll see, it was Emily who brought in the words 'purer' and 'pure' with Mark Francois then refusing to use her form of words and choosing 'more consistent' instead. Yet later Emily said this:
When she took on that job, we were just discussing, we thought before the referendum that, you know, being a member of the EU or not was a technical choice. It was about negotiations and trade deals. And now it has become identity-defining. It's become about moral values, about the purity...we heard Mark Francois talking about whether Steve Baker was more pure than Boris Johnson. It has become so defining. 
No we didn't Emily. We heard you taking about purity, not him.

And then Jenni Russell of the Times took up her misrepresentation and ran with it:
We are just about to get a lot further into the mire. We we watch Mark Francois just now talking about purity, you're back to issues of faith and identity and religion, and the people that I talk to have become so categoric about where they belong, either as Remainers or Leavers. It has caused all kinds of splits between families and between friends. I think these identities are running horribly deep. 
MB's closing question surely gets to the crux of the matter here:
Re Maitlis - is it no longer important if a BBC presenter (a) knowingly lies about something saidabout 15 mins earlier or (b) is so incompetent that she forgets what a guest said on a matter of crucial national importance in direct response to her question just 15 mins earlier?

Question Time, with Emily Maitlis

Although they won't all make sense without the context of the replies and what preceded them, this list of Emily Maitlis's questions and points from last night's Newsnight will give you a clear sense of the angles being pursued throughout. 

The Robert Buckland interview

  • I began by asking for his reflection on the Prime Minister's resignation.
  • She spoke today about compromise and it is fascinating that half of your party think she compromised too much and half believe she compromised too little. What do you think she did?
  • Do you think the next leader then should be more willing to compromise? 
  • So, as you will know, Boris Johnson clarified today, in his terms, we will leave on the 31st of October with a new deal or with No Deal. Does that sound like a man who's being realistic, who is telling the truth? 
  • So it sounds like you think Mrs May's red lines were drawn too early and too fast. 
  • But you see the candidates now. They are hardening behind No Deal. Should you be telling the country now we just have to get used to that? 

The George Hollingbery interview 

  • I think very few people feel they know Theresa May all that well, and moment of the day was perhaps when her voice cracked, and we wondered whether that in or out of character for the woman that you know. 
  • What are the moments that really hit her soul most, because she does seems to have this extraordinary ability to just get up the next morning and carry on?
  • She coined that whole phrase of 'the nasty party', and here it was being enacted over her and on her and, when you look at the way the Conservative Party acts, it feels like you knife all your leaders, whether it's Churchill or Thatcher or, you know, the bastards going for Major, what's happened to May. I wonder this is just all a pattern... 
  • What would she say is her biggest mistake, when she's talked to you about where things went wrong? Was it that she didn't compromise, that she drew the red lines, that she listened too much to Mark's group, the ERG? What would she say she did wrong? 
  • But you accept she was the one who put herself in a position with no majority and she didn't succeed on any of her goals? 
  • I mean, she has very little legacy to point to at all. She tried to talk of the seven things she wanted to be judged on, of those burning justices. She failed to make significant progress on any of her own goals. She even listed an enquiry into Grenfell as a triumph. I mean that's...
  • But she doesn't care how she's seen? 

The Helen Whately interview

  • 0.27% of the electorate will be choosing our next Prime Minister. The average age is around 70. I wonder if that makes you feel good and democratic?
  • Well it's not just a responsibility, it's your rules. You set these out, and we now have to see them enacted. 0.2% of the population. It's never been done before
  • Come on! 
  • Would they.command the confidence of the country? Would you encourage them to take this to a general election then to get that? 
  • Which is wishful thinking. But Helen, you know you could end up with a leader, I mean, this is exactly the scenario that we can anticipate, you could end up with a leader who is chosen by 0.27% of the electorate who does not command majority of MPs or does not command Parliament, and we could end up in a place where Parliament then has a vote of no confidence, and you've heard a constitutional crisis that brings them down.
  • That's for the party, or that's for Brexit, but that's for a small wing of Brexiteers now, you know, people who say it's going to be a deal or no deal, and seem now to be finding their ground within the Conservative Party when they say that, and cabinet members as well. 

The Mark Francois interview

  • Mark Francois, your friend, Steve Baker, said that due to overwhelming support, he would run. He know has your support? 
  • Sorry, just to clarify. He is now running, so you are supporting him? 
  • He says he is. So he has your vote. You know that there is, erm, Steve Baker, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, all pretty much from the same wing of the party on this one, but you would choose him over Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab?
  • So he's the purer...he's the pure one there? You wouldn't back somebody who folded?
  • So would you argue that Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, haven't shown enough backbone to become the next Tory leader? 
  • So where is that split now with the ERG, because that's going to be pretty crucial?
  • They wouldn't want an unelected or unopposed Boris Johnson? 
  • What about the rest of the cabinet? You could say at this point, we don't need any Remainers or once-Remainers in the cabinet, so take out the Hammonds, take out Amber Rudd, take out Gauke and Lidington. Should there be a place for them in the next cabinet? 
  • What would you like to see?
  • You would use the word 'execute'. You would accept it was your group, essentially, that knifed her, that got rid of her?

The John Sergeant, Jenni Russell and the John Crace discussion

  • I'm going to start with you, John, because you saw Margaret Thatcher at her most vulnerable, literally placing the mic before her as she was coming to her end, how does that day compare to this one? 
  • Jenni, did you see this as a hounding or as somebody who had underdelivered and overstayed?
  • There are a lot of those phrase and I think John we didn't really know her character. She had been at the Home Office without anyone really knowing what she was like. You were the one who coined this phrase the Maybot. Was that something you thought would stick or was it something you thought was pushed too far? 
  • Sorry, do you think it occurred to everyone that it was meaningless drivel? Did we buy the whole Brexit means Brexit and no deal and a bad deal and... 
  • We did think there was a plan, didn't we? 
  • When she took on that job, we were just discussing, we thought before the referendum that, you know, being a member of the EU or not was a technical choice. It was about negotiations and trade deals. And now it has become identity-defining. It's become about moral values, about the purity...we heard Mark Francois talking about whether Steve Baker was more pure than Boris Johnson. It has become so defining. 
  • Do you think it became like that because of the way it was approached in those May years or do you think it was always going to be like that? 
  • I feel like touching wood at this point.
  • I think that's really hopeful. I think that's really extraordinary. 
  • How many are we on? Four Conservative Prime Minister toppled by the Europe question. Can any PM survive this? 
  • I want to ask John, do you think she has changed the nature of what it means to be a Prime Minister, and whether people can learn something from it? That we got into that spin of the Prime ministers who had to know about popular culture, had to have a favourite band, had to know the X factor contestants. She just sort of said no, I've got an important job to do, I once ran through a field of wheat and that was it. She was very, very sure she didn't have to pander to that sort of side of personality politics. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? 
  • So does that mean that people will be happy to have somebody like Boris Johnson, with, you know, an exoskeleton, everything on the outside, we know everything we could possibly know, or think we do, about Boris Johnson already, and that will somehow be more acceptable to an electorate? 




So, with Robert Buckland, the themes were the need for compromise, the character of Boris Johnson and the 'hardening' of the Tory candidates over No Deal. Note the Boris-bashing pull of her question here.

With George Hollingbery, the themes were Mrs May's character, the character of the Conservative Party, the need for compromise and Mrs May's lack of a legacy. That strange question - "She coined that whole phrase of 'the nasty party', and here it was being enacted over her and on her and, when you look at the way the Conservative Party acts, it feels like you knife all your leaders, whether it's Churchill or Thatcher or, you know, the bastards going for Major, what's happened to May. I wonder this is just all a pattern..." - provoked a couple of points in my mind: (1) Theresa May didn't "coin" the phrase 'the nasty party'. She said, "You know what some people call us - the nasty party. I know that's unfair. You know that's unfair but it's the people out there we need to convince" and (2) Churchill wasn't knifed out of office

With Helen Whately, the overriding theme was the smallness of the Tory electorate and whether it's democratic for someone else to take over as a result. (Gordon Brown's ascent to the premiership anyone?)

With Mark Francois, the themes were who he will support, and whether he and his group are after purity in the cabinet (i.e. against compromise), and whether the ERG knifed Mrs May. Emily was, in my view, trying to paint him as extremely uncompromising (with a pun on 'extremely' intended). 

With the panel at the end, it was back to Mrs May's character and her style of government, Mark Francois's pursuit of purity, what "We" thought about EU membership and how we should see our PMs. Emily was free with her thoughts here, openly disagreeing with John Sergeant's non-apocalyptic view of the true depth of the Brexit 'divisiveness' that Newsnight so often dwells on.


Perhaps the most striking thing Emily Maitlis said there was this - the "we" point:
When she took on that job, we were just discussing, we thought before the referendum that, you know, being a member of the EU or not was a technical choice. It was about negotiations and trade deals. And now it has become identity-defining. It's become about moral values, about the purity...we heard Mark Francois talking about whether Steve Baker was more pure than Boris Johnson. It has become so defining. 
Doesn't that just crystallise so much about how "we" (Emily & Co.) think? From what she says, "we" never really considered the "identity" aspects of EU membership. Many opponents of the EU, for decades, have placed that - questions of nationhood and sovereignty - at the very front of their reasons for wanting to leave the EU, but Emily seems to have just become aware of such concerns, "now". Isn't that what she's saying here? 

"At one point I put my hand up, like I was back at school"

Now, there's a bit of 'history' (as they say) between Dan Hodges and the BBC's Rob Burley (responsible for Politics Live), so that might have been behind Dan's tweet here. But the Brexit Party's Martin Daubney joined in the subsequent exchange, and commented on his own experiences of appearing on the BBC - and such comments are always interesting:
Dan HodgesPolitics Live is basically turning into the political version of Jeremy Kyle.
Ed Mackrill: I stopped watching it after Jo Coburn and a panel of Remainers spent the entire show trying to get Martin Daubney to say something the Guardian could use for their next front cover the following day.
Martin Daubney: I've spent the past four years being the "token Leaver" on TV panels. You get used to that, but at least you get a say. But on Politics Live this week I could barely get a word in from 11.15-1pm... At one point I put my hand up, like I was back at school. 

"Fallen among fundamentalists"

The transcript in the post below, from last night's Newsnight, is of a report by the Prince of BBC political profilers, Michael Cockerell. It came with elegiac strings and plainchant (Pange lingua gloriosi corporis mysterium - 'Tell, tongue, the mystery of the glorious Body'). Its closing lines might prove controversial. Who exactly are the "fundamentalists" who did for the "dutiful woman"?
Theresa May will very soon join the pantheon of former British prime ministers. Mrs May was a dutiful woman who had fallen among fundamentalists. Her legacy is to leave a country as divided as at any time since Cromwell.

Transcript: Michael Cockerill's 'Newsnight' piece on Theresa May, 24 May 2019

Emily MaitlisIn the end, then, a bloody, brutal decapitation. A woman forced to metaphorically walk the plank and brought to the brink of tears. It was Theresa May herself who used that phrase - the Nasty Party. Ironic to see her fate played out by a ballot box of votes she never even saw opened. The grey suits of the men and women in shadows long plotting to bring her down. Few feel they knew this Prime Minister well. Perhaps that was the problem. Her friends were a tight bond - but there were many more left outside. So what do we know of her? And how will this extraordinary patch of British history be remembered? Michael Cockerell looks back at her time. 

Michael CockerellBeing Prime Minister is always a lonely job. But few have been lonelier at the top than Theresa May. And today, Mrs May finally surrendered to the inevitable. But it was all meant to be so different. 
CLIP Theresa May: My pitch is very simple, I'm Theresa May and I think I'm the best person to be Prime Minister of this country. CHEERING AND APPLAUSE.
She won the Tory leadership on a walkover and became an immediate target for the satirists. 
Jan Ravens (actress and impressionist): When she became Prime Minister, and she went out on the steps and made that speech about, you know, people who are just about managing, and, you know, people who are born poor, and all those, you know, and suddenly, she sort of revealed herself to me, and it was partly the voice and partly the sort of physicality. Because she was so held, you know, she was so tense. 
So, who was this enigmatic figure who climbed to the top of the political greasy pole? She grew up an only child in Oxfordshire, her father a vicar. She went to Oxford, where one of her friends was Alan Duncan, who became one of her ministers. 
Sir Alan Duncan MPShe was straitlaced, undemonstrative. Cautious. She was always... I always sensed she was a bit sort of... "I dare not say this in case I go slightly of line." 
She met Philip, her husband, at Oxford, where she told friends that she wanted to be the Tories' first woman Prime Minister - but was profoundly miffed when Margaret Thatcher beat her to it. And then, she lost her parents in her 20s. Her father in a car accident, her mother shortly after from multiple sclerosis. 
Chris Wilkins (former Downing Street Director of Stategy): She was in many ways potentially quite a lonely person, obviously losing her parents in the way that she did and being an only child. And I think, given that background, she has never been somebody to really sort of open up massively, or reveal much about herself. And I think that sort of impacts the way she operates quite a lot. 
After Oxford, she came up against the young Philip Hammond as they both sought selection for the plum Tory seat of Maidenhead in Berkshire. 
CLIP Theresa May: I think what the people here in Maidenhead were looking for was the person that they believed would be the best constituency Member of Parliament, and obviously, I think they've made the right choice tonight. 
But that safe seat gave her little experience for the tough campaigns to come. David Cameron appointed her Home Secretary - traditionally the graveyard slot for aspiring prime ministers. Yet she thrived, taking a hard line on immigration and the police. But May often felt that she was being upstaged by her charismatic rival, Boris Johnson, the London Mayor. When they both went to the scene of the London riots in 2011, Mrs May, the Government's senior law and order minister, could scarcely get a word in edgeways. She left Boris to play to the crowd. And politically, she kept her head so far beneath the parapet that David Cameron would refer to her as "the Submarine". 
Chris WilkinsShe will sit in a room longer than anyone else, she'll know more detail than anyone else, she will literally wait for other people to talk themselves out, and she will still be sitting there and you still won't know quite what she thinks.  
Jan Ravens: We were doing Dead Ringers on the radio, and I said, we've got to do Theresa May, she is the Home Secretary, you know, there are few enough powerful women, let's do her. But of course, the trouble was, she never said anything! You know, she sort of... I think she had this policy of sort of, you know, saying nothing and waiting for the posh boys to screw it up.  
CLIP David Cameron: I expect to go to the Palace and offer my resignation. We will have a new Prime Minister in that building behind me by Wednesday evening. 
When the Prince of the posh boys resigned after his calamitous referendum decision, Mrs May, who had campaigned as a Remainer, was first off the mark to put her kitten heels into Cameron's shoes. At her leadership launch, she was determined to differentiate herself from the Bullingdon Boys like Boris and Dave. 
CLIP Theresa May: I know I'm not a showy politician. I don't tour the television studios. I don't gossip about people over lunch. I don't go drinking in Parliament's bars. I don't often wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me. APPLAUSE 
That pitch helped win her the keys to Number Ten - after the favourite, Boris Johnson, was stabbed in the back by his own campaign manager, Michael Gove. A clear omen of bloodstained troubles ahead. 
Michael CockerellAnd how difficult a task or was it that she inherited, in terms of getting a withdrawal deal and getting us moving in an orderly exit? Sir Alan DuncanIt was a sort of... turbo-charged hospital pass! I mean, it is the worst set of circumstances to inherit, on coming into Number Ten. 
The job in front of her was the most daunting challenge in Britain's peacetime history - to unravel 40 years of integration with Europe. It would require supreme levels of diplomacy, charm and persuasion, that were not necessarily her strongest suits. 
Katie Perrior (former Downing Street Director of Communications): Half the time, these conversations take place in the corridors, and it's a quick, you know, grab them and say, "I need you on my side, don't let me down, you promised me this..." And of course, Theresa May doesn't do any of that. And so, they find a person really difficult to communicate with, they don't know where she's at, they don't really know what she wants, and they haven't seen enough of an effort to win them over.  
CLIP Theresa May: During the Conservative Party leadership campaign, I was described by one of my colleagues as a "bloody difficult woman". And I said at the time, the next person to find that out will be Jean-Claude Juncker. 
The President of the European Commission was less than impressed by Mrs May's approach to Brexit negotiations. Faced with deadlock, and 20% ahead of Jeremy Corbyn in the polls, she called a snap election. 
CLIP Theresa MayI have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion. 
This uncharacteristically bold decision turned out to be the biggest mistake of her career, as the campaign each day vividly displayed her shortcomings. 
CLIP Theresa MayNothing has changed. Nothing has changed. 
Michael CockerellWhy do you think that campaign went so wrong for Theresa May? Katie Perrior: Gosh, we haven't got enough hours in the day to talk about why that campaign went really wrong! But in a nutshell, we had a candidate that was not used to having the spotlight on her, that had never been the star of the show - she was made the star of the show.  
Chris Wilkins: I remember one moment, midway through the campaign, in a meeting, where she said, "I just hate this campaign. I'm being told where to stand, what to say, I'm even being told what to wear."  
Sir Alan Duncan: I think she made two or three mistakes. One was to think that you can have a cult of personality when you don't really have much of a personality. 
She lost her majority, and her authority... 
CLIP Theresa MayI will repeat what I said before. 
...and even her voice. 
Jan Ravens: It's her worst enemy, her voice, really. It's always giving up on her. And I think that's because she's got this voice that's diplophonic. Michael Cockerell: Diplophonic? Jan Ravens: Diplophonic. It's two voices at the same time. So it's kind of going "urgh", so if you try and do that voice, you're on your throat the whole time. 
She was ritually dismembered by the EU, but insisted, like the Black Knight in Monty Python, "It's just a flesh wound." And at home, where it used to be claimed that loyalty was the party's secret weapon, now disloyalty was its default setting. 
Sir Alan Duncan: The thing to remember about politics is it's 90% luck. Michael CockerellAnd how much of a lucky general do you think she's been?
Sir Alan Duncan: She's been a very unlucky general. But I don't think anybody could necessarily have done that much better. I think if any of the candidates who stood against her had won, I think it could have been far more of a helter-skelter, chaotic, disastrous journey. So, although every day has been painful, at least she's been rational. 
The candidates will now get another chance. The vicar's daughter faced sexism and misogyny, but she fell short as Prime Minister not because she was a woman, but because of the woman she was. 
Katie Perrior: When I criticise Theresa May, it's not because she's horrible or she's evil or she doesn't care. On the contrary, she does care. She is a caring person, she wants to do the very best by people in Britain. But she's failed to communicate that over the time.  
Sir Alan Duncan: I suppose when she said, you know, to, "What's the worst thing you've ever done?" "I ran through the cornfield..." Michael Cockerell: "Through a field of wheat." Sir Alan Duncan"I ran through a field of wheat."If you had just added the word "naked" at the end, I think we'd have all thought so much more of her. 
Theresa May will very soon join the pantheon of former British prime ministers. Mrs May was a dutiful woman who had fallen among fundamentalists. Her legacy is to leave a country as divided as at any time since Cromwell.