Sunday 29 November 2020

Third Half (sic) of November Open Thread

Good evening. Tonight at ten. A new open thread, just in case the comments aren't working for you on old posts but still work on the latest one (as, very oddly, seems to be the case for some of us). 

Update: Problem now fixed. 

Thank you for your comments.

The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day.


Story time...

The first Sunday in Advent, for Christians, is when a candle is lit for a world wound in woe.

The first Sunday in Advent - the one on BBC Radio 4 today - give us a world wound in woe and woke, and no candle whatsoever.

Racism, transgender issues, the foreign aid budget, etc, were all present and correct.

In fact, the programme approached self-parody this week: It gave us 40 mins of the usual dreary, worthy, 'liberal' handwringing before ending with a very jolly chap singing Ding, Dong, Merrily On High! 

The programme climaxed in a show trial. 

A socially conservative Christian organisation was in the dock. (Not that anyone from the organisation was actually present. It was tried and convicted in absentia.)

What had that socially conservative Christian organisation done wrong? Well, it had put out a video which misgendered someone.

The unhappily misgendered trans man was duly interviewed by Sunday. 

He kindly granted that socially conservative voices shouldn't be silenced, but...

The "but" was, of course, that in this case - and all such cases like it - such people should be silenced. Or else. 

And then came a nice, waffling Anglican bishop. The poor man was hauled in and placed in the dock in lieu of the condemned-but-absent Christian organisation. 

The Bishop of Coventry, bless him, was completely incomprehensible. (Rowan Atkinson couldn't have made him up.) He bowed and curtsied to the unfortunate misgendered chap but said little else that made sense, and presenter William Crawley got frustrated with him.  

William's a true pro though. He stuck to Sunday's guns and pushed the bishop to condemn the head of the socially conservative Christian charity - a lady who also sits on the Church of England's General Synod. William's line of questioning was: Why is she still on the General Synod? Shouldn't disciplinary action be taken against her?

The bishop waffled and said nothing that anyone other than God could possibly understand. 
Sunday was truly outrageous today, suggesting any criticism of transgendered men should be silence in case it 'gives offence.'

It won the programme plaudits from a few Twitter folk though.

Meanwhile, this week's Sunday also contained yet another plug for a book written or co-written by someone from the left-leaning Catholic magazine The Tablet, of which Sunday's main presenter Ed Stourton remains a trustee. 

I've counted four such book plugs for senior Tablet folk, past and present, in the past couple of months. 

We've been here before

Still, at least the Advent edition of Sunday Worship that followed featured one of my favourite choral pieces - Ubi Caritas by the French composer Maurice Duruflé. Unfortunately, the reader talked all over it. So, to make up for that, here's the full thing - uninterrupted:

Saturday 28 November 2020

A missing detail

I'm seeing lots of underwhelmed, sceptical, even derisive comments on my social media feels about Priti Patel's deal with her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin to double the number of officers patrolling French beaches and to increase drone and radar surveillance in a declared attempt to stop illegal immigrants crossing the Channel. 

The BBC's report on the story is, of course, critical of Priti Patel too, but - being the BBC- their criticism comes from the opposite direction. 

Their online report quotes only one other person, a critic of Ms Patel: Bella Sankey, director of the pro-migrant charity Detention Action. 

Being sceptical of the BBC's bona fides, I looked her up. She was the Labour Party candidate in Arundel and South Downs in the 2019 general election. 

The BBC didn't mention that of course.

It's a very old story as far as BBC reporting goes. Not as old as Beowulf, but not far off.


One for Bella Sankey (see post above): November trees - the South Downs...

A tale of the BBC and two presidents

The BBC has spend most of this past month doggedly attaching phrases like "without providing any evidence" to headlines about US President Trump's claim of election rigging, so it's intriguing that they are adding no words of caution whatsoever to headlines like this this morning on the BBC News Channel: 
Iran's President Rouhani blames Israel for the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, saying his country won't be deterred from its nuclear ambitions. 
Shouldn't that be?: 
Iran's President Rouhani, without providing any evidence, blames Israel for the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, saying his country won't be deterred from its nuclear ambitions.

Moving on up

President Liz Bonnin

For some time now it's been quite evident that the BBC has been grooming Liz Bonnin to take over from Sir David Attenborough

She's a personable presenter and clearly knows her stuff, though with the BBC's obsessive pursuit of a very particular kind of diversity you can never quite rule out motives other than simple merit (of which she has plenty) for her rise. 

Of course, that obsessive pursuit is so pervasive now that the suspicion that merit alone isn't the key for someone's rise is far from being just a BBC matter. She's now also been made the first female president of the Wildlife Trusts, for example. Probably deservedly so - except that the newly-appointed vice-president of the Wildlife Trusts just happens to be another female BBC presenter of colour, Gillian Burke of Springwatch/Autumnwatch

The appointment of two BBC presenters to the top jobs in such a powerful, influential organisation (the Wildlife Trusts covers 2,300 nature reserves over 243,000 acres of countryside) obviously raises impartiality issues too. 

Liz herself says that she wants to use the position "to enforce the changes that must take place in order to secure a brighter future for our wild places,” which sounds rather like campaigning to me.

The appointments will raise questions about BBC presenters’ outside roles after Tim Davie, the director-general, warned he would fire stars who make major breaches of impartiality guidelines on social media.
Vice-President Gillian Burke
The impartiality issue is especially relevant as far as Liz Bonnin goes. A BBC One programme documentary last year, Meat: A Threat to our Planet?, has been removed from the BBC iPlayer after the corporation's Executive Complaints Unit ruled that it wasn't impartial. The ECU said that "viewers received a partial analysis of the impact of livestock farming on the global environment and biodiversity, based almost exclusively on intensive farming methods and of limited application to the choices open to UK consumers.  In the judgement of the ECU, this fell below the BBC’s standards of impartiality in relation to controversial subjects."

Of course, having a programme taken off the iPlayer for breeching BBC impartiality guidelines won't harm Liz's BBC career. She's set to narrate one of the next big BBC natural history series, Penguins: Meet the Family.

Fisking 'an Arabic speaker'

Talking about The Critic, I read a striking denunciation there yesterday from Oz Katerji. It was one last fisking, so to speak - of the late Independent foreign correspondent Robert Fisk. 

The piece's headline, Fabricator and fraudster, sums it up what Oz thinks of Mr Fisk - though he later adds "fantasist" as well. 

In a nutshell, Oz Katerji believes that Bob Fisk was an unethical anti-American/anti-Israeli propagandist who built a successful career by making things up and getting away it, and he's aghast at the "veneration" displayed in some of the obituaries of him. 

The BBC was one of those who gave him what Oz would probably regard as a whitewashed obituary, with Jeremy Bowen  - a self-declared "admirer" - leading the eulogy. 

Oz Katerji puts the "veneration" of Robert Fisk down to the fact that "like him, they preferred to tell a story that was not true, because stories are often far more comforting than the reality."

One passage in the Critic piece struck me in the light of the BBC's obituary. The BBC, while saying how "highly regarded",  says, in passing: "Fisk, an Arabic speaker". Oz regards that as fake news:
So let’s separate the myths from the facts. Fisk did not speak fluent Arabic, not even after living in the Middle East for more than 40 years. Leaving aside the testimony of Arabic speakers who worked alongside him, his lack of basic knowledge of the language is contained multiple times within his own work, such as his inability to tell the difference between the words “mother” and “nation” in a well-known Ba’athist slogan.

One for the BBC's fact checkers?

Performing somersaults with gusto

An editorial at The Critic points out something that doesn't get pointed out enough: "No one in BBC management ever pays a price for the BBC’s mistakes — they just happen, like the weather".

(Poor hapless George Entwistle, who arrived as DG at precisely the wrong moment and lasted just 54 days, is the most obvious exception to the rule).
We know [the BBC] has been paying itself far too much for years because its defence now is that it’s no longer doing so. Yet if you boast about cutting Gary Lineker’s income, for example, by £400,000, who takes responsibility for having overpaid him so much for so long? No one. For years, the official BBC line on pay was: we can’t tell you what we’re paying ourselves because otherwise all our talent will be snatched away (by namelessly wealthy rival employers, they live in the next media village, you wouldn’t know them). Then it was obliged to tell us and the line became: we’re worth it. This was followed by, we’re sorry, our pay structure was racist and sexist — who did that? — but now it’s not: give us more money please.
On a related theme, there's an amusing story from Patrick Kidd in The Times today
For the Tory leadership contest 30 years ago this week, Radio 4 sent three wise men to follow the stars: Steve Richards with Michael Heseltine, Huw Edwards with Douglas Hurd and Robert Orchard with John Major. If only the IT hadn’t been in the hands of asses. The first technology failure came when someone played the wrong pre-recorded bulletin after the first ballot, announcing that Heseltine had won. At the second ballot the studio producer failed to hear Richards bellowing “Come to me now! Now!” in his ear and so missed Hezza’s concession speech, while Edwards was “apoplectic” that his magisterial analysis of Hurd chucking it in was binned because the radio car sent to relay his report couldn’t find anywhere to park. “It was all a serious cock-up,” Richards says. “As usual, those responsible got promoted.

"Do you ever feel that you are being played?"

For transcript fans, here's one featuring the BBC's economics editor Faisal Islam talking to Samira Ahmed on this week's Newswatch about the challenges of reporting government spending reviews and Budgets...

Samira Ahmed: Not everyone finds it easy to get their heads around those numbers, not only because they are large but, in the case of a Spending Review or a Budget, there are simply so many them. And as the report released by the Office of National Statistics on Wednesday found, a large proportion of people lack a basic understanding of economic statistics such as employment figures or the deficit and also mistrust official data. That is one of the challenges faced by Faisal Islam, who joins me now from our camera position upstairs in the newsroom. Welcome to Newswatch. Even if we are not in a pandemic, the spending review would be a huge task for you to process and explain, can you briefly talk us through how you go about doing that? 
Faisal Islam: In the days running up to it, we obviously try and scope out exactly what the broader parameters and exactly how much is going to be spent. You tend to get quite a lot of it pre-announced by the Treasury, a mixture of leaks, unauthorised, but also actually the announcements that are going to come on the following Wednesday happening during the course of the previous few days. We have to analyse there. There is a particular challenge there because you don't get all the information, so you might get a partial announcement, the full announcement is to come a few days later, so you have to be wary of exactly what is being communicated. 
Samira Ahmed: And, Faisal, you have already hinted at that one of the concerns that viewers have, which is how far you should be reporting government leaks and rumours put out beforehand. If you take the example of the cut in the foreign aid budget, which was definitely leaked well in advance, do you ever feel that you are being played? 
Faisal Islam: I think whenever you get a piece of information unofficially, you do have to process the motive for getting that piece of information, kick the tires on it, make sure that it isn't only being given to you in a partial way so that it will be reported in a slightly...with a lack of nuance. You have to be aware of the basis upon which information is turning up in your inbox or on your WhatsApp or your messages or occasionally by carrier pigeon. You have to be aware of why you are getting that information and how you report it. But I tend to find that actually it is worth just waiting a little bit until the official information comes out and you can fully assess the context of that government announcement. But I think it would be naïve to assume that you would never report these things in advance. These discussions and debates are happening in private. Good journalists would want to be in on that. But you are right to say that we should put a certain health warning on the quality of some of that information that comes through before it is official. 
Samira Ahmed: The Office for National Statistics this week reported that most people don't really understand very much about economic data and its terms, and I wonder if you shouldn't be doing even more to explain, to spell out the difference between say debt and deficit, some of these concepts, for viewers. 
Faisal Islam: Yes, and it think it depends on the outlet as well. But you are absolutely right. I would say that there are twin deficits, but this would run up against the problem, even in my answers, the twin challenges is probably what I should say, of complexity and controversy. And we need to be able to guide viewers, listeners, readers, through all of that. On complexity, it is true that we have to bear in mind some basic concepts for an economic audience or a political audience, such as the deficit, needs to be unpacked but I also think there is a challenge as well with brevity. If you try to explain with a sentence or a couple of sentences every single thing every time you said that, you would never actually say anything.
Samira Ahmed: The numbers that we are now talking about because of the pandemic are so huge - you know, the scale of borrowing - it can be hard for many of us to grasp. But equally, I'm wondering as an economist yourself, when you report that we're talking about the biggest debt situation for 300 years, is that actually a bit scary, even for you? 
Faisal Islam: Yes. I mean, I think you to bear in mind, it is not our job to scare anybody. It is our job to inform people. I think one was to communicate to that and give context to that is to give historical comparisons. You mentioned the borrowing as a proportion of our national income, the largest since World War II. Perhaps a better way, which is one that I tried to use to explain it, is that we have only seen this level of borrowing in world wars. So that gives you a letter idea of the scale of the crisis that the Government has dealt with. It's like a world war. You need to come up with ways of explaining things that bring alive a decimal point or a percentage and give some context to the challenge. But it is a challenge and it is not surprising that some would feel that this is daunting. It is daunting, but there are obviously ways through it. 
Samira Ahmed: Faisal Islam, thank you so much.

"Oh, I could spend my life having this conversation - look - please try to understand before one of us dies"

John Cleese, thinking about BBC executives

John Otto Cleese is displeased with the BBC's pandering to 'wokes':

I hear the BBC has apologised for a joke made in 2014. [Actually 2009]. I would like to apologise for the BBC in 2020. The executives are a craven clique of humorless jobsworths, none of whom are worth their salaries.

The irony about the occasion when the BBC withdrew the 'Germans' episode, was that no one was concerned about whether the Germans were offended! Why not? Presumably because people think of Germans as proper grown-ups who can take a joke. And, in fact, they love that episode. [Didn't the BBC actually withdraw it because of certain words used by the Major?]

So when wokes protest about humour involving certain groups, presumably it's because wokes don't regard these groups as grown-ups who can take a joke. Which seems to me to be very condescending. Perhaps the only people who really can't take a joke are the woke folk.

So if the wokes would like to provide us all with a comprehensive list of these frail people who require the wokes to protect them, I hereby undertake never to make jokes about the poor creatures again.

Friday 27 November 2020

Can things get any crazier?

We're well past the stage where even the daftest surrender to 'woke' sentiment by the BBC is beyond belief, but tonight's news comes close. 

The Sun reports that BBC football pundit Steve 'Tommo' Thompson has been suspended for describing a scuffle between two players as "handbags" - as in "handbags at dawn", one of those phrases footballers and football pundits have been using, week in and week out, for years. 

There were complaints. (From handbags?)

The corporation said, “After listeners raised concerns, Steve acknowledged some of his comments on air didn’t meet the standards we expect. He is taking a break but will be back in the New Year.” 

Is there no end to the BBC's pandering to this malevolent lunacy?

(Hope that doesn't offend the malevolent community).

Bottom of the League

This is the chart in Ofcom's latest annual report on the BBC that looks at public perceptions of impartiality, as highlighted by Broadcast:

The BBC is fond of cherry-picking opinion surveys when it comes to impartiality. They use them to defend themselves against criticism. But this one shows the BBC in 2019/20 as falling below Sky News, Channel 4 News, ITV and even Channel 5 when it comes to impartiality:

'Is impartial'
Sky News - 69%
Channel 4 News - 66%
ITV - 63%
Channel 5 - 61%
BBC TV - 58%

All of those figures might surprise you - they certainly surprised me, in that I wouldn't rate any of them as being that high on the impartiality front - but for the BBC to be bottom of the league, and behind Channel 5, must surely come as a heavy blow to the BBC.

The Papers


Good morning. Here is the news. Beginning with Jeremy Paxman in The Daily Telegraph:
For so long a world leader, the BBC has grown fat and metropolitan, increasingly scorning the views of the parochial people who are forced to pay for it. When given its head, the BBC can still produce brilliant shows like Strictly Come Dancing but, at an institutional level, it behaves more and more like an embarrassing relative deciding to dance with the kids at a wedding. It’s hard to resist the impression of smug people who think they know better than the rest of us. The consoling glory is that none of us has to tune in any more. 
No-one over the age of 55 who tries to watch BBC television or listen to its radio services will be surprised to learn, from Ofcom’s latest report on the Corporation, that people in their demographic are gradually giving up on it. As one in that age group, my own consumption of what the BBC offers is largely restricted to Radio 3, which shines like the proverbial good deed in a naughty world. 
Elsewhere, Radio 4 appears to have become Victim Radio, with an endless stream of programmes featuring people, usually from minorities, complaining about some injustice, usually inflicted on them by the state. This schedule of gloom is punctuated by profoundly unfunny Leftist comedians (I use that noun in its broadest, often unintentional sense). My wife likes Gardeners’ World, but that is becoming ostentatiously woke and in any case is now off for the winter. Other than that, little else appeals: the world our age group really wants to see on television is best represented on the Talking Pictures channel, whose success, believe me, is not coincidental to the BBC’s decline. 
Incidentally, in the same article, Simon Heffer laments the state of BBC drama and blames it on "the virtue-signalling of overpaid, self-righteous white executives", but BBC News is hardly immune from that. Head of Newsgathering Jonathan Munro, for example, recently said, "We don’t want all our editorial meetings to be dominated by what white people think" - despite some 85% of the UK population being white. He also complained that when he joined the BBC in 2014, every person on his team was a Caucasian male - including him. Their predecessors he'd previously blamed for creating “male, pale and stale” output. As others have pointed out, it's staggering how people like Mr Munro can say this kind of thing yet cleave to their own jobs, as if doublethink allows them to be doubleplusgood while all the rest are part of the problem. He's been in place for six years now. Why doesn't he lead by example and resign?

Anyhow, in The Times today we hear that "an influential group of peers" - The Lords' Communications and Digital Committee - is recommending that Ofcom has its remit expanded to cover the BBC News website and that it should also have a role in monitoring the accuracy and impartiality of social media posts from journalists employed by public service broadcasters. That will keep the ex-BBC folk at Ofcom busy!

Meanwhile, as Charlie noted yesterday, the papers are reporting that TV licence evasion accounts for one in three women's criminal convictions, according to new figures, with women being convicted for non-payment of the licence ten times more than men. There were 84,000 licence fee offences by women, representing 74% of 2019 convictions for this type of offence. One for Newsnight and Woman's Hour?

Thursday 26 November 2020

Only, just, controversial

I was reading some comments on Twitter earlier about last night's BBC One News at Six concerning the BBC's coverage of the Government's decision to cut the UK's overseas budget from the sacred figure of 0.7%.

Tweeter 1: I've just watched the BBC News item on cutting foreign aid. The opening clip shows food being dropped directly to the people. That's the image they want you to take in - not grants to NGOs and Governments. Manipulation.
It continued with such comments as:
Tweeter 2: Said exactly the same thing myself when I saw that last night. They also opened up with the comment ‘widely criticised policy’ as opposed to ‘widely supported’ which it undoubtedly is across the UK. Total bias yet again in the way they portray/report!
The latter was referring to longstanding polling evidence that the public supports cutting the UK's foreign aid budget - a public mood reflected in YouGov's latest polling (from yesterday) showing that 66% of the public support cutting overseas aid while a mere 18% oppose the cut.

Naturally, I thought I ought to see that BBC report for myself. Were they being unfair to it?

Well, no, they weren't. Far from it. This really is classic BBC. 

It begins, as noted above, with the dubious contention that cutting overseas aid is "controversial" - despite all the polling evidence, which goes completely the other way:
BBC NewsreaderOne of the more controversial aspects of the spending review is the Chancellor's decision to cut - for the time being - the amount of money the UK gives in aid to poorer countries. Mr Sunak told MPs that to carry on spending abroad when we have a domestic emergency would be difficult to justify to the British people. Here's James Landale.
Of course, it might seem "controversial" within the BBC and its bubble, but that's the point of the comment above: The vast bulk of the public believes it's "controversial" not to cut overseas aid, and the BBC is, yet again, massively out of step with public opinion on this.

As the first commenter said...

Accompanied by footage showing food being dropped directly to the people, a senior BBC reporter then sang what virtually amounted to hymn of praise to British overseas aid: 
James Landale: For years, the sight of a plane delivering British food and medicine has brought hope to millions. The humanitarian assistance and development that can, for some, mean the difference between life and death.

Isn't British aid wonderful!

James LandaleBut now the Government has decided it's got to cut back. 

How  awful of the Government! 

After that first op-ed came a brief 'balancing' quote: 

Neil O'Brien MP, Conservative: This is not something anybody wanted to have to do, but the truth is the NHS and helping people who are unemployed has to be the priority next year.  

James Landale then 'contextualised' it. But just look at his language: 

James Landale: Last year, the UK spent £15 billion on foreign aid, about 0.7% of national income. Now the Government wants to cut that legally binding target to just 0.5%. That means spending only £10 billion on aid next year. This will leave the UK spending less in Germany on 0.6%, but more than France on 0.4%. 

The use of "just" and "only" there is loaded language, language that sends a message that 0.5% is both not much and not enough. 

It's not neutral language. 

A nod towards balance then followed, swiftly pursued by the first of James's onslaught of critics:

James LandaleThe aid budget has long faced questions about priorities, such as why some goes to India, with its own space programme. But those who work to reduce poverty and disease say today's cuts will bite deep, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Romilly Greenhill, One Campaign: Cutting aid will make it harder to get vaccines to people all over the world, harder to get the treatments people need and ultimately it will extend the lifetime of the pandemic. 

The onslaught continued: 

James LandaleThe Archbishop of Canterbury said the aid cut was "shameful and wrong".

The onslaught went on: 

James LandaleThe Foreign Office Development Minister Lady Sugg resigned, also saying it was fundamentally wrong. 

And on: 

James LandaleAnd her old boss, the man who enshrined the targets in law, was equally unhappy:
David Cameron: Well, I think it's a very sad moment. It's not just that we are breaking a promise to the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world - a promise that we made, a promise that we don't have to break - it's that that 0.7% commitment, it really said something about Britain.

And then came another op-ed, hymning UK overseas aid and raising concerns about the cut: 

James LandaleFor years, Britain's had a reputation as an aid superpower.  And that's got Britain a hearing on the international stage. It's opened door for ministers and officials here at the Foreign Office. The question is what impacts today's decision will actually have on that reputation just as Britain tries to carve a new role for itself after Brexit. 

And then, finally, came this more factual-sounding bit of reporting: 

James LandaleTo spend less on aid, the Government will also have to change the law. That means a long Parliamentary battle ahead. James Landale, BBC News.

Does this feel like impartial reporting to you? 

It doesn't to me.

Coda to the post above

An update to the post above: Wednesday's News at Ten ramped up the language yet further. It changed from this at Six:
One of the more controversial aspects of the spending review is the Chancellor's decision to cut - for the time being - the amount of money the UK gives in aid to poorer countries. Mr Sunak told MPs that to carry on spending abroad when we have a domestic emergency would be difficult to justify to the British people. Here's James Landale. this at Ten:
One of the more controversial elements of the spending review, was the Chancellor's decision to cut the amount of money the UK gives in foreign aid. The decision has been widely criticised, and a minister at the Foreign Office has resigned in protest. Mr Sunak told MPs that to carry on spending abroad when there was a domestic emergency was difficult to justify. Our diplomatic correspondent James Landale has more details.
The remainder of the report then ran as follows, relegating the one defence nearer the end and bringing the criticisms forward:
James Landale: For years, the sight of a plane delivering British food and medicine has brought hope to millions. The humanitarian assistance that can, for some, mean the difference between life and death. But now the Government's cutting back, to the fury of the man who championed aid in office.
David Cameron: Well, I think it's a very sad moment. It not just that we've... We're breaking a promise to the poorest people and the poorest countries in the world, a promise that we made and a promise that we don't have to break, it's that that 0.7% commitment, it really said something about Britain.
Last year, the UK spent £15 billion on foreign aid, about 0.7% of national income. The Government is now cutting that legally binding target to just 0.5%. That means spending only £10 billion next year. This would be less than Germany on 0.6%, but more than France on 0.4%. Those who work to reduce poverty and disease say these cuts will bite deep, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Romilly Greenhill, One Campaign: This is the last time we should be cutting aid. Cutting aid will make it harder to get vaccines to people all over the world, harder to get the treatments that people need and, ultimately, it will extend the lifetime of the pandemic. This is a little bit like cutting funding to the RAF right in the middle of the Battle of Britain. 
The Foreign Office Development Minister Lady Sugg was so unhappy she resigned, saying the cut was fundamentally wrong. But the aid budget has long faced questions about priorities, such as why some goes to India, with its own space programme. Questions that are harder to answer when the country's facing such an economic emergency.
Neil O'Brien MP, Conservative: This is not something that anybody wanted to have to do, but the truth is that the NHS and helping people who are unemployed has to be the priority next year. 

For years, Britain's had a reputation as an aid superpower. And that's got the UK a hearing on the international stage. It's opened door for ministers and officials here at the Foreign Office. The question is what impact today's decision will have on that reputation just as Britain tries to carve a new role for itself after Brexit. To spend less on aid, the Government will also have to change the law - and that means a long Parliamentary battle ahead. James Landale, BBC News.


Twitter folk will twitter. 

Ben Hunte, BBC: My family and I have been sent racist and homophobic abuse following the below screenshot of me being posted. I am fine - but I will let the police take over. If you disagree with my job, or with the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, or with wider LGBT-related decisions I am not involved in, please do not contact my family with hate. Please use the BBC’s complaints process. I am doing my job to the best of my abilities. I am proud of being a journalist and so grateful to those who share their experiences with me. Thank you ♥.

Laurence Fox, actor: Hey Ben, saddened to hear you have had abuse. It’s horrible and I know exactly how you feel. My view is that the BBC is increasingly identitarian and divisive and should be defunded. I believe in people, not acronyms. Loz x #DefundTheBBC

John Simpson, BBC: Deeply depressing that my excellent colleague, the BBC’s LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte, should have received racist and homophobic abuse in the wake of an unpleasant tweet by Laurence Fox which talked about 'defunding' the BBC. Fox should know better.

Laurence Fox: Hey John. Nice to meet you. Do you believe the BBC should have a dedicated LGBTQ correspondent? Where do you stand on safe spaces for biological females? Do you have a position on trans children? Really interested to have a discussion. 

Adrian Hilton, academic: Deeply distressing that [another] Laurence Fox should be on the end of abuse, reproof and damnation in the wake of this mistaken tweet by John Simpson News, which presumably was meant to target [actor] Laurence Fox. Simpson should be more careful.  

John Simpson Apologies to the Laurence Fox I tagged — turns out he wasn’t the character whose anti-BBC tweet stirred up various homophobic & racist types to abuse my colleague Ben Hunte. The mistake is mine, but the offence lies elsewhere.

John Simpson: [to the correct Laurence Fox this time]  I think you’d do better to express your regret that a tweet of yours should have led people who support you to abuse my colleague.

Maybe Tim Davie should just tell them to get off Twitter, and enforce that call?

A BBC ruling

We learn today that the BBC has docked comedian Jack Whitehall's Live at the Apollo routine about dwarfs...from 2009...after two grumpy people complained. 

The BBC, clearly not happy about his antique comedic turn either, ruled that, although audiences aren't dopey and know all about Jack Whitehall’s slightly bashful stage persona, it is not OK "to take a stereotypical view of dwarfism itself".

It won't be re-broadcast. 

However sleepy you're feeling tonight, this ruling is clearly not to be sneezed at: It's a serious sign of where the BBC is these days. 

"We must be aware that audiences may find casual or purposeless stereotypes to be offensive", it says.

...and statistics

I read a piece by Matthew Moore in The Times yesterday noting those ex-BBC folk at Ofcom's findings that the BBC is starting to lose support among its most loyal viewers and listeners - older viewers. 

For the purposes of this blog though, it was the following which stood out for me:
Only 54 per cent of adults believe that the BBC provides impartial news and around 20 per cent rate the corporation badly for impartiality.
I must admit that I was surprised at those figures. Matthew thought they reflected badly on the BBC, but I found them unbelievably high (with the emphasis on 'unbelievably'). 

Even that dubious 54% wasn't high enough for the BBC evidently. I smiled on reading their own write-up. It didn't mention the impartiality findings at all, and just stuck to the identity stuff (as ever).

Today I read an interesting new angle on the Ofcom findings from Broadcast. Its headline reads Impartiality: BBC News slips below C5. It adds that the BBC is also now behind ITV and Sky News and Channel 4 too as far as public perceptions of impartiality go. 

Crikey! Goodness knows how to unravel those findings!

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Second Half of November Open Thread


Time for another Open Thread, for when the last one reaches its natural end. Thanks again for your comments and for keeping us going. You are continuing to build up our archive of BBC bias.  


Earlier in the day, the busy BBC News Press Team also risked cautionary words from Sergeant Wilson by tweeting the following
The reports online and in The Sun about Question Time audience numbers are untrue and the figures are wrong. Question Time achieved a healthy 1.3m viewers on 1 Oct and 1.4m on 19 Nov, a great performance by the team given the pressures of the pandemic. 
Even without looking at what The Sun said about Question Time audience numbers, it's hard not to agree with the huge upwell of comments in reaction pointing out the bleeding obvious: A 1.3-1.4m audience is pitifully small for a programme that Wikipedia reckons has an average 2.7m audience and which famously topped over 8m when Nick Griffin of the BNP was on. 

And bringing the pandemic into their defence surely crashes them into the buffers and requires the emergency services too: Many pointed out, quite reasonably I think, that with a captive lockdown audience supposedly turning to Auntie in the wake of Covid-19, viewing figures should have skyrocketed - especially for what the BBC considers to be its main forum for public debate. 

Going for Bronze

The BBC News Press Team is busy today: 
BBC News Press Team: The BBC has come in joint 3rd place in The 2020 EU Media Poll! 🥉The poll by  BCW Brussels &  SavantaComRes surveyed EU decision makers on the most influential media for providing the news and information needed to make informed decisions.
You'll be pleased to know that the BBC shares joint 3rd place with the pro-EU Economist, though both are beaten by the pro-EU Financial Times

I'm not sure quite what it is about the pro-EU Financial Times and the pro-EU Economist that so endears them to EU decision makers, but it's probably the same thing that endears the BBC to them too. 

Whatever it is, it's good to know that the BBC is held in such high esteem by the EU's movers and shakers and that they value it for is its ability to allow us all to make "informed decisions" - informed-by-the-BBC-decisions - on EU matters.

Were I at the BBC and concerned about preserving a reputation for impartiality against well-founded charges of pro-EU bias however, I'm not sure I'd have quite so proudly touted this award. 

They surely needed a Sergeant Wilson to say, "Do you think that's wise, sir?"

No greater love

Mr Addict has a point, doesn't he?

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Jon Sopel takes umbrage after somebody is "sarcastic" at his expense

After listening to Jon Sopel on this morning's Today, Tim Montgomerie put finger to mobile phone and tweeted:

Tim Montgomerie: Could the BBC's Jon Sopel have been more gushing about Biden’s team?

That didn't go down well with Jon Sopel: 

Jon Sopel: Just woken up to this Tim. What utter crap. Have just listened back. I say they are small c conservative, technocratic, unflashy and more diverse. I use no adjective - approving or disapproving. I’m asked what stands out. I answer. Without any gush.

Tim Montgomerie: You’ve endlessly critiqued Trump (often fairly) but critical faculties have been suspended over Biden. You would have found many negative things to say if you’d been asked what stood out about Trump nominees. It’s always Democrats good-Republicans bad on the BBC.

Jon Sopel: Just not good enough Tim. I was neither complimenting nor disparaging. You asked sarcastically if I could have been more gushing. Just give me one example where I ‘gushed’. If you can’t maybe  you’d reconsider the tweet. 

Tim Montgomerie: Any half-decent report would have referred too how this was a throwback to the Obama years when Russia, China, Syria and Iran were all emboldened. Instead you gushed about how diverse it was. No apology from me.


I think we can adjudicate as to who's right here: I've transcribed the section in question and I think it shows that Tim Montgomerie is absolutely spot-on in his criticisms of Jon Sopel. 

For starters, let's take Jon's claim "I use no adjective - approving or disapproving". Really? What about "very reassuring" and "incredibly smart"? 

And, yes, Jon did "gush about how diverse it was", while using contrasting adjectives about the first Trump cabinet: "white, old and wealthy". 

It's a sign of where we are that Jon Sopel could say what he said today and think it's outrageous that anyone would find it biased. What he said is biased!

Mishal Husain: What about the future Biden team, Jon? More names emerging. Who are the most striking to you, and what do they suggest about the new administration?

Jon Sopel: I suppose you'd say Tony Blinken becoming the Secretary of State. I think a lot of Europeans will find him a very reassuring figure. He's an internationalist. He's outward-looking. He supports the rights of refugees. It is a return to a normalcy of US foreign policy that has been a consistent line, if you like, since the Second World War that was broken with the Trump administration. So I think Tony Blinken is one. Jake Sullivan? I think incredibly smart, young National Security Adviser, who was a very close advisor to Hillary Clinton. And Janet Yellen, who was Chairman of the Federal Reserve, becomes the first woman to be Treasury Secretary. And I think what you're seeing in these appointments is a sort of small c conservatism. They are technocrats mainly. They are not flashy big name egos who will cause Biden trouble. It is all part of his bid that "I am here to unify the country, to get on with the job, and I want people who are capable to deliver it". In that sense you would say 'small c conservative'. But in another way you would say 'quite radical', because there is much, much more diversity. There will be the first woman who's going to be Director of National Intelligence. As I said, first woman who is going to be in charge of the Treasury department. There is going to be someone who is from a Cuban exile background to be Head of Homeland Security. And so you see a very different picture than the one that was gathered round Donald Trump's first cabinet table. which was white, old and wealthy. And I think Joe Biden is bringing in a much more diverse group. 

More of the same

Both News-watch and us here at ITBB have been watching the watchers for a while. 

It's the same old song.

There's former BBC World Service boss, editor of Panorama, Newsnight and the BBC's elections coverage Peter Horrocks for starters - a very familiar name to BBC watchers. 

Then there's former Controller of BBC2 and BBC4 Kim Shillinglaw. 

And Dekan Apajee, who worked for the BBC from 2002-2012.

And Rachel Coldicutt, who has been "working at the cutting edge of new technology" for the BBC among others.

The two others, Anna-Sophie Harling and Tobin Ireland, don't appear to have any BBC connections.

I bet the BBC is intensely relaxed about these latest appointments.

Heckling the BBC's Dominic Casciani


The BBC's Dominic Casciani has been putting the case for Shamima Begum to be brought back to the UK. 

It's a point of view many hereabouts agree with, but I don't think a senior BBC reporter should be arguing it.

Of course, he'd probably say he's 'only reporting' it. But I'm going to post a transcription of his report. The transcript is in bold and my comments are in italics and parentheses. I don't think he's 'only reporting' it at all.

What do you think? Isn't this advocacy?


This is the story of how a 15-year-old girl ran away from home [beginning with a everyday family tragedy that everyone can relate to, a child running away from home]became an international terrorist [the balance!]and how her fight to return raises a fundamental question about justice[Does it really? Or does it mainly raise it for those who want her brought back? And what precisely is that fundamental question?]

On a cold February morning in 2015 [A version of 'the pathetic fallacy'? Reinforcing the sadness of 'the child running away from home' story that we know so well], Shamima Begum left her home, here in Bethnal Green in London for the final time. She secretly flew to Turkey with two friends, and within days they'd been smuggled into Syria. They'd fallen for the propaganda [Shamima as victim, passively 'falling for' something. What about the vast majority of Muslim girls who didn't 'fall for' it? Isn't this disrespectful to them?] of the self-styled Islamic State group.

The militants told a well-crafted lie [reinforcing the 'They'd fallen for the propaganda' line]. 'Be part of our utopia' they said. Till you're shot or decapitated for disagreeing. And every Brit who joined them encouraged others to follow. [She's a Brit, reminder! And they all did it!] 'Leave your decadent western lifestyle behind' they said. 'Marry a foreign fighter, have babies!' And within a few weeks, Shamima Begum went from GCSEs to jihadi bride.

This Dutch fighter, seven years older, took her as his own[Again the passive tense, her as victim]It wasn't going to be happy ever after[A phrase encouraging sympathy for her. What about her victims?]

The regime began to collapse as an international coalition bombed it to bits. Both Shamima's friends [note 'Shamima' not 'Begum' - Dom using her first name] are now believed to be dead. Her own babies, a boy and a girl, died within weeks of each other. [Shamima's children's tragically brief lives, Shamima as victim too]. And as 2018 ended, her thoughts finally turned to home and the country that she'd rejected [the other bit of balance]

[Clip of Shamima Begum saying, "I just want forgiveness really, from the UK. Like, everything I've been through, right, I didn't expect I would go through that and, you know, losing my children the way I lost them". [She famously say some unrepentant stuff too. This reinforced the woes outlined in the previous paragraph]]

Shamima Begum survived the fall of the self-styled Islamic State. Her third baby, born in the squalid camp that was now her home, didn't. [Shamima's children's tragically brief lives. Shamima as victim too]. And back here at Parliament, her interviews caused uproar.

[Clip of Sajid Javid saying, "They hate our country and the values that we stand for."

Shamima [first name again] said she wanted to come back home, but ministers said she was still a threat. And so they used an exceptional power to deprive her of her British citizenship. And that meant she could never get back in. That's been used more than 150 times against other terrorism suspects. Men like these:

[Clips of Jack Letts, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexandra Kotey]

But this is where it gets legally complicated. The government took away Shamima's  [first name again] British citizenship because of her heritage. They said she could ask Bangladesh for a passport, but Bangladesh doesn't want her. She could even be hanged if she turned up. It was all going to end up in the courts. 

Shamima Begum is fighting to remain British. [Makes her sound patriotic!] Her lawyers say she's prepared to face justice, but she can't defend herself from a dangerous refugee camp in Northern Syria. [The case for the defence continues. Moody black-and-white images of the refugee camp projected to enhance the message].

And in July of this year the Court of Appeal ruled that "...The only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom..." [The defence wins a battle].

In short, fairness and justice must outweigh national security concerns, and that's why the case is now here, at the Supreme Court. [The case for the defence continues. Where's the opposing point of view: that the security of the British public should be prioritised?].

Under the law we're all entitled to a fair hearing before a judge, whether we're good or bad[Who's 'all' as far as British law applies, and where does that apply? To declared non-British citizens in Syria? Is he paraphrasing here, or advocating?]

[Where's the other side, the case for the prosecution? Why is only one side of the argument being reported?]

But does that mean that the government should help Shamima Begum leave her camp to take part in this legal battle in London? Well, only the Supreme Court can now decide that. And its answer to that fundamental question of law is far bigger than the fate of Shamima Begum alone. [What is that far bigger question? We're still no nearer in learning precisely what it is. Daren't Dom state it straight out lest the public take exception to it?].

[No mention of claims she was a strict member of IS's brutal morality police. Or that she's said to have sewn suicide vests for terrorists. Seriously, why not?]

[Doesn't the appeal to the emotions, helped by the deliberate use of moody photography, reveal Dominic Casciani's hand.]

Saturday 21 November 2020

Skewing the story. Setting the agenda

Talking of last night's Newsnight, it certainly went in hard against Priti Patel and the PM. 

This was its introduction:

Kirsty Wark: Our Home Secretary is an unintentional bully. So if she really the best person for the job? Should Boris Boris Johnson have shown her the door? I'll be asking a former Permanent Secretary, a professor of law, and a Tory MP.... 
Good evening. Today, Boris Johnson chose to ignore, in fact reject, the verdict of his independent advisor on ministerial standards on a bullying inquiry into Priti Patel. The result? No matter that the Home Secretary was deemed to have sworn and shouted at junior civil servants, and was concluded by the report to have broken the Ministerial Code, she is still in her job, while that advisor, Sir Alex Allan, has resigned. She survived because the report says the bullying could have been "unintentional" and Priti Patel wasn't ever given feedback about her behaviour at the time. Tonight that has been flatly contradicted by Sir Philip Rutnam, her former Permanent Secretary who resigned in February claiming he was forced out because he exposed her bullying behaviour. So should the Home Secretary still be in her job? Here's our Policy Editor Lewis Goodall.

Lewis continued in the same vein: 

Lewis Goodall: The gloomy corridors of power in Westminster are groaning with irony even more than usual. It's Anti-Bullying Week, which just so happens to coincide with a controversy over one of the most senior members of the Government allegedly engaging in bullying behaviour of her own. There had long been whispers that Priti Patel could be unpleasant to her civil servants across several departments. This culminated in the resignation of her Permanent Secretary, the Home Office's top official, Sir Philip Rutnam in February, accusing her of the same. The Prime Minister's Independent Adviser on Ministerial Standards, Sir Alex Allan, was asked to look into the allegations. His conclusions have only just emerged. Allan says that Patel, in the way that she treated her civil servants, did break the Ministerial Code, the rule book for ministerial conduct - albeit, perhaps, unintentionally. "My advice is that the Home Secretary has not consistently met the high standards required by the Ministerial Code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect. Her approach, on occasions, has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals." Any breach of the Ministerial Code would typically lead to a ministerial resignation or dismissal. But Patel has been spared. 

Priti Patel: I'm sorry that my behaviour has upset people. And I've never intentionally set out to upset anyone. I work with thousands of brilliant civil servants every single day, and we work together, day in, day out, to deliver on the agenda of this government. 

This is because Boris Johnson said today that he does not agree with Sir Alex Allan's findings, that she has not engaged in bullying behaviour and, ergo, considers the matter closed. This morning, Sir Alex Allan promptly resigned in response. It is very unusual. In fact, I think this is unprecedented. Certainly it is unprecedented for the Prime Minister's Adviser on Ministerial Standards to resign. 

Catherine Haddon, Institute for Government: It is very unusual. In fact, I think this is unprecedented. It's certainly unprecedented for the Prime Minister's advisor on ministerial standards to resign. It's unprecedented for the Prime minister to say that he thinks his minister has not breached the code, when his adviser has said that, actually, he thinks there has been a breach going on here. 

It is especially embarrassing for the Prime Minister that the foreword to the Ministerial Code is written by, well, the Prime Minister himself. It says, there must be no bullying and no harassment. It is then followed a couple of pages later by point 1.2, which says that bullying will not be tolerated. But, for Patel's future, what matters is the politics and political support in the Tory Party. And there, unlike the rest of Westminster right now, she's home and dry. 

Andrew Bridgen MP: There's huge support on the Conservative backbenches for the work she's doing. She's a tough and forceful Secretary of State in a very difficult department. And she's delivering on our manifesto pledges. I think, as far as most of the backbenchers are concerned, and most of my constituents, we'd like to see more ministers like Priti Patel, not less. 

We should say that Sir Alex Allan's findings were not entirely uncritical of the civil service either. He said they were slow to respond to the Home Secretary and to do what she wanted. But for a minister to have been independently adjudged to have broken the civil service code, and for no consequences to follow from it, does mean that there are two much bigger questions now in play than that of Priti Patel's future. Firstly, what is to disincentivise a minister in the future from breaking the code? And, secondly, with Sir Alex Allan's resignation, what is left of the system to enforce it? 

Sir David Normington: We have always relied on the Ministerial Code being upheld by the Prime Minister of the day. I mean, the system does make the Prime Minister judge and jury. But in the past, prime ministers have always acted when there has been a breach of the Ministerial Code. And that's why, in a sense, this is a much more serious moment than previous ones, because the Prime Minister seems to have gone against what would have happened in the past. 

In this year, so many iron laws on politics have been broken in Westminster. One where the metal has softened most of all is the question of when ministers or political figures should resign. With the Ministerial Code's power now seemingly weakened, we are no further forward with the answer. 

In the subsequent two-against-one interview (two against Ms Patel, one for Ms Patel, with the one for Ms Patel getting interrupted a lot - the same old story!), Conservative MP Keiran Mullan observed that Lewis Goodall's report had "brushed aside" as a minor side issue something he considered "equally damning": Sir Alex Allan's criticisms of the Civil Service for its "lack of leadership" and its "lack of willingness to support Ms Patel. 

He certainly wasn't wrong about Lewis brushing it aside. I've highlighted in yellow the bit where Lewis did just that.

If you recall, Sir Alex had some remarkable things to say about the Civil Service

The home secretary says that she puts great store by professional, open relationships. She is action orientated and can be direct. The home secretary has also become - justifiably in many instances - frustrated by the Home Office leadership's lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in the Department for International Development (Dfid) three years ago. 

The Civil Service itself needs to reflect on its role during this period. The Home Office was not as flexible as it could have been in responding to the home secretary's requests and direction. She has - legitimately - not always felt supported by the department. In addition, no feedback was given to the home secretary of the impact of her behaviour, which meant she was unaware of issues that she could otherwise have addressed

This conclusion needs to be seen in context. There is no evidence that she was aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the time. The high pressure and demands of the role, in the Home Office, coupled with the need for more supportive leadership from top of the department has clearly been a contributory factor. In particular, I note the finding of different and more positive behaviour since these issues were raised with her.

This highlights how the BBC can set and shape the agenda. 

If Newsnight only wants to focus on questioning and criticising the behaviour of Priti Patel and Boris Johnson and chooses to put to one side Sir Alex's damning criticisms of the Civil Service for poor leadership, a lack of responsiveness and and unwillingness to support a senior cabinet minister - something that surely matters massively in a democracy and is a huge story in its own right - then the focus on Priti Patel and Boris Johnson's failing will be all Newsnight viewers are going to hear about and think about. 

It fatally skews the story though, doesn't it? 

BBC humour

More comedic stylings (bullying?) from Emily, Jon and The Zurch:

Go-to people


Nine long months ago, before the days of lockdown, we looked at Lewis Goodall's intriguing propensity for using the Institute for Government in his Newsnight reports on UK politics/government. 

Over four such Newsnight reports in a row Lewis had included four 'talking heads' from the Institute for Government, and that seemed a lot. 

I wrote:

This is one to watch, perhaps. Maybe they're just absolutely fantastic and fabulously independent-minded, but the Institute for Government is one of those 'respected', 'independent' think tanks that came across as anti-Brexit over the past few years.

It was founded by strongly pro-EU Labour peer Lord Sainsbury, and its board is striking in its centre-left-leaning, Europhile composition with four parliamentarians past and present belonging to Blairite Labour, one to the Lib Dems, and one to the Conservative Party (David Lidington, who resigned in anticipation of Boris Johnson becoming PM).

It sounds a very BBC outfit, doesn't it? 

I'm intrigued to see if Lewis Goodall keeps up this heavy involvement with the Institute for Government over time. What will it mean if he does?

As our eye then went ,massively off the ball, I didn't follow through on our intention of seeing if this was significant or not, and - for a long while - tried to completely ignore Lewis Goodall. 

Re-entering the fray, I saw my first Lewis Goodall report in a while last week. It was on UK politics/government and featured Georgina Wright from the Institute for Government. I rolled my eyes.

Last night's Newsnight also featured a report on UK politics/government and featured Catherine Haddon from, yes, the Institute for Government. I rolled my eyes again.

If Lewis goes on like this, my eyes could roll so much that they'd fall out of their sockets.

The issue remains: Is this significant? Does it matter if Lewis relies on the Institute for Government so much?

ITBB has learned...

ITBB has learned that Robert Colville of the Centre for Policy Studies was a 'talking head' in a BBC News at Ten report last night. He tweeted this about it: 
Just watching my News at 10 appearance on public sector pay freeze. Introduced with 'The BBC has learned that...' this could happen. By reading the front pages of the Times, Mail and Guardian this morning?
The relevant bit ran as follows:
The BBC has learned that millions of public sector workers in England, including teachers and police, could face a pay freeze next year. There are 5.5 million public sector workers, but it's thought that NHS staff may be exempt from the measures.
The BBC's use of 'The BBC has learned that...' has been a standing joke for some time of course. 
The report itself by Faisal Islam contained a fair range of public and private sector voices disagreeing with each other but ended with Faisal saying, "As the economy continues to suffer, the bulk of the tough decisions on tax and spend are to be put off, but not for public sector workers", thus making it sound as if public sector workers have been particularly hard done by.

Critics say


Here's a transcript of the coverage of Wednesday's BBC News at One regarding the Government's 10-point plan for a "green revolution", including plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-driven cars from 2030. 

The section centred on a report by the BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin - a Birtian "inhouse pundit" if ever there was one,  and a reporter who rarely hides his likes and dislikes. 

Here, for example, you can see that he likes electric cars, renewable energy (especially windfarms), insulated houses and government spending and dislikes petrol-driven cars, HS2 and nuclear energy. 

The whole section is classic BBC, firmly on board with resetting the agenda to tackle climate change but also criticising the Government for going nowhere near far enough:

Newsreader: New cars and vans powered wholly by petrol and diesel will be banned in the UK from 2030. That's just one of the announcements made by the Prime Minister as part of his 10-point plan to create jobs and address climate change. Among other measures in his so-called "green revolution" - Greater investment in electric cars, including expanding charging infrastructure and extending grants to make vehicles cheaper. Plans to quadruple the amount of offshore wind power - enough to provide energy to every home in the UK. Greater investment in nuclear energy, with a focus on smaller-scale nuclear plants, and measures to make homes and public buildings warmer and more energy efficient. While the plan has been welcomed by environmental groups, critics say the £4 billion allocated is far too small for the scale of the challenge and some of the plans, they say, have already been announced. Our environment analyst Roger Harrabin reports. 

Roger Harrabin: The end of an era for the petrol engine and its planet eating emissions. You will still be able to drive an existing petrol or diesel car after 2030 but you won't be able to buy a new one. The future is electric. Some people fear the cost of electric vehicles but perhaps there's no need to worry. 

Stephen Norman, Vauxhall Motors: For a period of three to four years because of the massive saving on fuel cost of electric over petrol or diesel, the monthly cost is no greater. Certainly, it's not cheaper but it's not greater. 

Roger HarrabinCharging your electric car is a major issue. Finding one of these in some places it's like finding a unicorn. The Government is spending £1.3 billion to expand the charging network but that is just over 1% of what it is spending on high-speed rail, HS2. Nuclear energy is getting public money, £500 million of it. The Prime Minister wants jobs at the giant Sizewell C plant in Suffolk. Small kit-style nuclear reactors being developed by Rolls-Royce will get subsidy too, even though there's no solution yet for nuclear waste. Offshore wind will play a key role, producing enough electricity to power every home by 2030. Ministers hope it will support up to 60,000 jobs. Cities in the north-east should benefit. The Government wants them to become new technology hubs for making wind turbines and creating the clean fuel, hydrogen. 

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI: We absolutely back the ambition. We do need to see more detail on how we help businesses and households make this transition but having this strategy is exactly what we need to see, to help us on the road to a greener economy. 

Roger HarrabinNew house-building will have to play its part. From 2023, all homes will need to be built with so much insulation that they don't require a gas boiler. Heat pumps will enter people's lives. In Wales, a zero carbon device extracts heat from sea water to warm a stately home. Tiny versions will heat millions of people's home using warmth from the water or air or soil. The Government will need to help with the cost. Together, the drive for zero carbon will transform society. 

Katie White, World Wildlife Fund: I think in terms of making progress and resetting this agenda, it's an exciting day, in terms of getting us back on the front foot. Is it enough? No, of course it's not enough and we will be looking next week to the Chancellor, in terms of what is coming out of the spending review. 

Roger HarrabinAs the new policies cut emissions, so the Prime Minister's road building plans will increase emissions. Critics say he should stop policies driving on the wrong direction and invest far more in putting the nation on track for a zero emissions future. Roger Harrabin, BBC News.