This happened in the House of Commons yesterday:
Brendan O'Hara, SNP: Last night I tuned in to the BBC 10 o'clock news to get the latest on this terrible disaster, and I was absolutely appalled when a presenter informed me that around 30 migrants had drowned. Migrants don't drown. People drown. Men, women and children drown. So will the Secretary of State join me in asking the BBC News editorial team and any other news outlet thinking of using that term to reflect on their use of such dehumanising language and afford these poor people the respect that they deserve?
Priti Patel, Home Secretary: Even during the Afghan operations and Op Pitting I heard a lot of language that quite frankly seemed to be inappropriate around people who were fleeing. So yes, I will.
I refer the honourable lady to Melanie Phillips: “Pass the smelling salts: the BBC is right. Why is the Home Secretary endorsing an attack on objectivity?”
As Melanie say, Brendan O'Hara's argument is “tendentious” and “absured” - a “manipulative piece of verbal mischief”. Migrants' is “a neutral and objective term” - “the one term that accurately covers all these different categories of people making these unlawful Channel crossings”. He's seeking to “reframe” the mass illegal crossings of the English Channel as “a decontextualised humanitarian challenge which no-one with a heart could possibly resist. And he is requiring the BBC to assist him in doing so.”
As for Priti Patel's reply, Melanie writes:
So because she heard inappropriate language about Afghans, the Home Secretary is going to complain to the BBC for its use of wholly appropriate language to describe a different group of people in a different situation?
Why is Priti Patel endorsing this attack on BBC objectivity — the very quality which the BBC is usually rightly accused of lacking? Why is she thus giving implicit succour to those who exploit the accelerating crisis in the English Channel — a crisis which she and Boris Johnson have failed to resolve — to denigrate those who wish to uphold the integrity of their country’s borders and the rule of law?
The BBC is often very wrong, but on this occasion it is absolutely right. When a Conservative Home Secretary takes up a position to the left of the BBC, something has gone very badly awry with British politics.
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