OBAMANONICS

It’s the sheer infantilism of it that offends. The BBC glowingly reports that…

US President Barack Obama has said there is an “emerging consensus” that European countries must now focus on growing the State and the number of State workers jobs and growth.

Speaking after the G8 summit of some of the world’s leading economies, he said the US was confident that Europe can meet its challenges. President Obama said leaders had made good progress on a range of issues.

Obama said the meeting had been a success.

Well, when it comes to growth, Obama speaks with authority, having grown US National Debt by 50%. Still, that’s a mere trivial detail for the BBC so moving on…

The BBC’s Paul Adams at Camp David says both that communique and Mr Obama’s speech showed the US and French position had won out over Germany and Britain’s pro-austerity stance.

I wonder what “won over” means, Mr Adams? I heard Merkel state that Greece must honour the financial commitments it has made. Is that an example of a chastised German leader. I think that the BBC is running with the meme that “growth” (uncontrolled State spending, borrowing and taxing”) is the way forward and they will use this to beat poor hapless Cameron over the head between now and 2015. In the meantime, Balls and Miliband are now pretending that Labour did NOT wreck the economy and that “growth” is their favoured policy. This cannot end happily but the BBC are quite prepared to to look under the petticoats of this growth phantasm lest they catch a glimpse of the financial recklessness that dare not speak its name.

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THE BOUNTY HUNTER…

Poor old Labour Peer Lord Ahmed. Having gone a bit under the radar since that unfortunate business when he was  jailed after being caught sending and receiving text messages at the wheel minutes before he was involved in a fatal crash on the M1 – he suddenly pops up again – this time allegedly offering a $10m bounty for the capture of US Presidents Obama and Bush. The BBC does cover this, in it’s on the news site here, but I have to say that I thought it merited a degree of coverage on the Today programme. After all, it’s not everyday that a member of the House of Lords calls for the arrest of US Presidents as war criminals. Sadly, Today had not time for this story although I suppose this is no surprise when it has more important matters to pursue such as Ed Milibands “courageous” call to cap party donations at £5000.  One could be forgiven for thinking that running an in item on Ahmed might be unhelpful to Labour at a time when Ed is showing such statemanship…..

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COME DINE WITH ME…

Well then, it looks like “Red” Ed Miliband and Trade Union baron “Red” Len LcCluskey do enjoy dining together. Yes, the uber militant  Unite Leader McCluskey and Miliband have had 8 meals together since Ed became leader – care of McCluskey and the comrades and the BBC dutifully report this. And then leave it there.

No follow up news items on Today or any other programme as to WHY the Labour leader seems to want to dine on such a frequent basis with a man who hangs a photo of Lenin on his wall. No follow up questioning as to how such meetings could be seen by even the most neutral observer as undermining Miliband’s claims that he is not a puppet of the Unions, the Unions whose activism and votes placed him in his current role.

I am sure some people may share MY view that the Labour Party under Miliband in particular is behaving simply as an extension of the hard left Trade Unions like Unite (the single biggest funder) and yet the BBC seem curiously reluctant to flag this up as an issue worthy of prime time discussion. They are, of course, delighted to question every nuance of where the Conservatives get their money, who Cameron chooses to dine with in Number Ten – and in my view rightly so BUT why the reticence when it comes to Labour? If the Labour Party is an extension of the Trade Union agenda, is the BBC simply the broadcasting wing ?

It seem to me that the lack of independence of Labour from those who fund it (Unions now hand over 90% + of cash and non cash funding) is a genuine news story – every bit as important as what Frances Maude says. But it is not something the BBC seeks to run with for reasons we can but speculate.

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STEPHANOMICS?


Ed Balls’ andLabour’s whole line of attack on Coalition economic policy has been blown outof the water by the IFS ‘Green Budget’ report but strangely enough this is not considered ‘headlinenews’ for the BBC’s economic guru Stephanie Flanders


Biased BBC’s Alan notes;


“Balls claims that Osborne’s economic policies have cut growth and increasedborrowing because of that. The IFS report resoundingly shatters that delusion saying that Labour wouldhave caused borrowing to skyrocket by an extra £200bn in 7 years:

‘In a blow to shadow chancellor Ed Balls, the IFS undermined Labour’s argumentthat cutting ‘too far and too fast’ has driven up borrowing by choking offgrowth. The watchdog said that under the plan proposed by former Labour ChancellorAlistair Darling before the General Election, the deficit would be £76 billionin 2016-17 rather than the £24 billion currently forecast. In total, a Labour government that followed Mr Darling’s plan would haveborrowed around £200 billion more over the seven year period than planned bythe Coalition.’

But what does the BBC tell us in the shape of Stephanie Flander’s‘Steph’n’Nonsense’ blog? She fails to mention Labour’s extra £200bn borrowing at all though she does deignto tell us that perhaps the extra Coalition borrowing is not caused by theausterity policy….but this is merely ‘a small poke in the eye’ forBalls…not headline stuff!

‘Is Ed Balls right to blame the government for this poor performance? The IFSdoesn’t answer this directly. Labour would say that the extra tax rises and spending cuts introduced by thecoalition have been a waste of time – indeed, may even have hurt borrowing bytanking the recovery. There’s a complicated answer to that question in this report, but the bottomline is that the IFS does not really buy the Ed Balls version of reality. The think tank does not think the extra borrowing has been caused by the extraausterity, or not very much of it. Not a great headline, perhaps – but another small poke in the eye for Ed Ballsfrom the guild of independent economists.’

A major plank of Labour’s attack is torpedoed and Flander’s thinks this is notheadline news…in fact not news at all…as she doesn’t mention the £200 bn albatross. However credit where credit is due…she does reveal this!

‘Kevin Daly from Goldman Sachs noted recently, the official story that we havepermanently lost at least 7-8% of our national output in this crisis impliesthat the past few years have done more lasting damage to our economic potentialthan either World War II or the Great Depression.’

‘More lasting damage than WWII or the Great Depression’! And note the weasel phrase ‘past few years’…..the Coalition has been in powerfor nearly 2 years…is she suggesting that they are to blame?

She seems reluctant to state the unvarnished truth, namely that economic stabilityand potential has been destroyed by Gordon Brown and his team of Treasuryadvisers….that is Ed Balls and Ed Miliband….currently the two main playersin the Labour Party car crash now….and of course both ex boy friends of theBBC’s very own Stephanie Flanders.

This (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16829768)is the official BBC report on the Green Budget…and is intent on claiming theIFS supports Ball’s policies of more borrowing and ‘stimulus’…and of coursefails to mention all the above.

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LABOUR 1 CITY O


Oh my. BBC favourite Chuka Umunna seemed almost embarrassed when the issue of RBS CEO Stephen Hester’s rejection of the Bonus to which he was contractually entitled was introduced as “Labour 1, City 0.” The BBC has done everything possible to portray this decision by Mr Hester as some sort of “victory” for Miliband – remarkable when one considers which political party put in place the circumstances which lead to the Bonus concerned! Umunna advances the current war on capitalism and the BBC does nor challenge his spurious commentary. For example, towards the end of the interview, he moans about “other” public sector workers having to take a cut.What about this then, BBC? Some bonus payments more equal than others, perhaps?

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HANG THE BANKERS?

The BBC narrative is clear. Bankers were solely responsible for the global financial crisis. Go a little deeper and the narrative refines itself even more alarmingly; Capitalism was solely responsible for the global financial crisis. If only the State could control things. Next, seize on every opportunity to nail this in the public psyche. Take this current onslaught against RBS Chairman Stephen Hester. His crime has been to abide by his contract – a contract put in place under the gaze of a Labour Government. Now, the BBC allows Labour spokesman Chuka Umunna to rage against the sheer iniquity of what HIS party facilitated in the first place! Mike Cunningham, one of my fellow writers over on A Tangled Web, tackles the issue here.

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ATTACK!

Ed Miliband must be delighted with his pals at the BBC this morning.

They have been leading all their news items this morning with the results of a Labour Party survey which claims to show that the evil Coalition is behind a sharp rise in the cost of council services for elderly and disabled people. Nothing to to with the efficacy of Councils, of course, who are sitting on top of BILLIONS in their reserves, also unreported by the BBC. Quite why a Labour press release justifies being lead story is beyond me but I suppose it conforms to the narrative.

As an extra follow up, we also had the ghost of Geoffrey Howe being asked to explain why he thought that the Government regenerating Liverpool back in 1981 was like making “water flow uphill”. Now, there is little that I found to admire in Chancellor Howe, but it seems to me that his assessment of Liverpool back then was pretty accurate. Of course the Government DID introduce Enterprise Zones and the like but the BBC was more interested in portraying the evil Conservatives led by…gasp..THATCHER…as being detached from the north of England.

From 1981 to the end of 2011, the drumbeat of the BBC is the same.
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JUST ANOTHER BIASED MONDAY

Question to start the week. How often can you get the term “Bad for Britain” and the word “isolated” into a news programme? The answer is, lots, based on this morning’s Today programme. Did you catch it? Even by BBC standards, this was visceral hostility towards the Conservative Party. At one point, a trailer for a later story asked “Is the Coalition doomed?”. We had David Miliband on to offer us his wisdom here – lunatic as ever – meanwhile John Humphyrs got stuck into Danny Alexander here….and Nick Robinson joined in the fray. The BBC has rarely been as one-sided as it has been on the coverage of this story since Cameron refused to grovel to Merkozy. I suppose the Euromillions the BBC receives explains some of the visceral hatred towards Cameron and those evil “Eurosceptics.” I have to declare my bias now and say I would love to see this Coalition fall, for there to be an election right now, and for a Conservative/UKIP coalition to replace what we have. Can you IMAGINE the BBC response to that eventuality? The BBC is doing everything possible to triangulate Cameron to ensure he does NOTHING more to placate the “Eurosceptics” and instead embarks on a series of appeasements to the Lib-Dems. This is politics the BBC is playing, not impartially reporting the news. It is agenda setting, pro-Labour and slavishly pro EU.

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HOW THE WEST WENT BUST….

An astounding piece of pro-Labour propaganda from Robert Peston, says Biased BBC contributor Alan

‘The Party’s Over:How the West Went Bust ‘
In a one hour programme describing how we ended up bust and bankrupt Peston does not mention ‘Labour’ by name once…even more remarkably the man who was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister in Labour’s 13 year Great Leap Backward, Gordon Brown, also remains unmentioned. Who does Peston conclude is to blame for the present little economic difficulty we find ourselves in? Peston reveals the culprits, not Blair, not Brown, not George Bush, not the corrupt and unworkable European Union but that old BBC enemy Mrs Thatcher, with Cold War Hero Ronald Reagan thrown in for good measure.

 ‘Thatcher and Reagan introduced a new global economy that lead to the great unravelling we’re experiencing now.’

Curious really when you read what Stephanie Flanders wrote in 2005 about Brown’s stewardship….

 ‘Britain is growing slower than it has in more than a decade. The high street has ground to a halt, and inflation is the highest it has been under Labour. When we look back, in a few years’ time, at Brown’s economy, will we still see an economic miracle? Or another old-fashioned spending binge that, sooner or later, had to run dry? What is left of the miracle economy, if you strip out the cheap imports and the consumer spending? What is left is a lot of public spending. The only part of the economy that has grown faster than spending by all of us the past few years has been spending by the government.’

and read this for good measure….

(Blair) ‘painted us a rosy picture of a Britain at home in its own skin. Part right. But it can hardly be entirely true of a country with the worst cancer survival rates in Western Europe, where young people cannot afford homes, pensioners have taken a severe financial battering while multimillionaires are created overnight and violent crime is rampant on sink estates where the law surrendered years ago.’

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TRUE COLOURS

The BBC seem almost GIDDY with delight that Chancellor Osborne is up against it when it comes to making his update on the UK economy today. Evan Davies and Stephanie “Two Eds” Flanders were chuckling and making all sorts of sarcastic comments about “Plan A” now becoming “Plan B” on Today. It’s truly pathetic stuff butt all we can expect from the BBC. They WANT Labour back.

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ALL IN THE EYES…

I was reading this item by Nick Robinson. In essence, he argues that the Coalition is using the Eurozone crisis to cloak a failure in its own policies for conjuring up “economic growth”. Robinson parrots the ludicrous Labour attack line with delight and I was amused by his suggestion that…

“When I put it to George Osborne last week that the eurozone crisis was politically convenient for him, he replied vigorously to the effect that nothing could be less true. His eyes told a different story. The chancellor knows that were it not for the crisis in Athens and Rome he would now be facing questions about the failure of the private sector to replace the jobs being cut from the public sector and demands for a plan for growth.”

What cuts in the public sector, Nick? And why has the private sector any obligation to provide “growth”? The BBC is constantly repeating the meme that Private enterprise is failing to step up to the plate and create employment. Just listen to THIS interview on Today earlier, again a relentless repetition of theme. Wonder why the BBC never wonders if increased taxation combined with increased red tape bureaucracy on business might be a restraining factor in “growth”? The BBC seems wistful for the golden days when Gordon was in power and all was well with our economy, I understand tractor production was at an all-time high.
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THAT DAMNABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH

Have you been enjoying BBC exasperation today that the economic figures have been BETTER than they were hoping for? All day long there has been a series of pundits having to repeat the GDP growth through gritted teeth before reverting to the Ed Balls mantra inanity that the growth isn’t really growth and the ONLY way we can get our economy going forwards is…Vote Labour!

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‘Today’ – A Tale of Two Cities

The BBC’s contrasting coverage of the party conferences seems to have been at its sharpest with ‘Today’. Here’s why I think that’s the case (at somewhat exhausting length!), concentrating on the Labour Party conference in Liverpool and the Conservative Party conference in Manchester:

Setting the agenda
The introductions to each edition of the programme were revealing:
The Labour conference editions
Monday 26/9: Opened with James Naughtie saying “The shadow chancellor Ed Balls will commit Labour to new spending rules in an attempt to bolster the party’s economic credentials. We’ll be talking to Mr Balls live in Liverpool.”
Tuesday 27/9: Opened with James Naughtie saying “Ed Miliband is going to tell the Labour Party at its conference that it’s time to reward people who contribute to society and stop the get-rich-quick culture”.
Wednesday 28/9: James Naughtie says “I’ll be talking to Ed Miliband about his break with the Blair/Brown years, producers and predators and the role of the state in our lives.”
The Conservative conference editions
Monday 3/10: Begins with Sarah Montague saying, “Plans to extend the freeze on council tax in England are to be announced by the chancellor. We’ll be speaking to George Osborne later in the programme and we’ll be asking whether Europe could yet again divide the Tories.”
Tuesday 4/10: After headlines about Amanda Knox, “senior doctors in England are warning that the government’s overhaul of the NHS in England will cause irreparable harm to patients’ services” and “how much control do we have over the world’s financial markets and how much of it is done by computers and fear?”, Sarah Montague says, “here at the Conservative Party conference, we’ll be asking whether the Conservatives hate the police and at ten past eight I’ll be speaking to the prime minister David Cameron.”
Wednesday 5/10: Begins with Sarah Montague saying, “David Cameron will close the Conservative Party conference with a call for people to pay off their credit card debts. Also this morning we’ll be speaking to the foreign secretary William Hague about how Britain should react to the Eurozone crisis and asking whether the North can ever be persuaded to vote Tory.”
So, nothing negative for the Labour Party in any of those James Naughtie introductions but a deeply negative question posed in every one of Sarah Montague’s introductions.
Suggestive of bias surely?

The commentators
Each of the Labour Party Conference editions of the programme ended with a discussion about the conference featuring the following:
26/9: David Blunkett, Labour, & Mehdi Hasan, Labour supporting editor of the ‘New Statesman’ (link)
27/9: Blair speechwriter and Labour Party member Phil Collins of the ‘Times’ & Labour supporter Polly Toynbee of the ‘Guardian’ (link)
28/9: Steve Richards, pro-Labour ‘Independent’ journalist & George Parker of the ‘FT’, the only non-Labour supporter out of six (though he’s no Conservative supporter either from what I’ve heard) (link)

Only one of the Conservative Party conference editions (3/10) ended with such a discussion and this featured pro-Conservative Benedict Brogan of the ‘Telegraph’ and non-Tory supporter Allegra Stratton of the ‘Guardian’ (link). The other discussion (5/10) was given over to an assessment of all three party conferences, but was heavy with criticism of the Conservatives and praise for Ed Miliband. The guests were Iain Martin of the ‘Daily Mail’ from the Right, Mary Ann Sieghart of the ‘Independent’ from the Centre (though she’s frequently described as a Blairite) and Kevin Maguire of the ‘Mirror’ from the Left (link).

So the tally would be (by my reckoning) 7 from the pro-Labour Left, 2 from the Centre and 2 from the pro-Conservative Right.

More strong evidence of bias surely?

Tone
Last week, James Naughtie conducted the programme from the Labour Party conference as if it were a seminar, partly cosy and partly earnest. It felt like an insider’s perspective. Justin Webb’s coverage of the Lib Dem conference and Sarah Montague’s coverage of the Conservative conference, however, were relatively lightweight, often breezy and occasionally snide, and both felt like outsiders’ perspectives (as they should).

James Naughtie
Questions of tone can be dismissed as being in the ear of the beholder, but Naughtie’s interviews with several Labour figures (from Tom Harris to David Miliband) were generally friendly, and his interview with Ed Balls contained such comments as “Indeed, that’s a very interesting answer” and “Well, again, that’s a very interesting answer” (link). Indeed, “interesting” and “intriguing” cropped up again and again in Naughtie’s commentaries, his questions to his colleagues and his interviews. For example, in a discussion with Nick Robinson, he described what he called Ed Miliband’s “straightforwardness” on the issue of the state as “intriguing” (link).

While Sarah Montague asked nothing but pointed questions to the Tories, Naughtie, throughout his Labour conference coverage, kept asking such questions as “What will be the nature of the argument?” or “What will be the character of the conference?” and “How’s the party going to define itself?” (all in the first hour of the 26/9 edition). “Where’s Labour heading?”, he asked Mehdi Hasan. “What direction should Labour take?” and “What culture should Labour seek to create?” he asked David Blunkett (also 26/9 edition). On Tuesday, he was specifically wondering (vaguely) where Ed Miliband wanted to take his party. On and on he went in this vein.

During the discussion with Phil Collins and Polly Toynbee, listen to how many times Jim agrees with Polly and Phil or Polly and Phil agree with Jim (all those ‘That’s true’s) (link). Note also Naughtie wondering aloud about whether Ed Miliband’s moral argument takes things “to a higher plane”. You will hear left-leaning pundits and presenter in full agreement throughout. Very cosy.

On Tuesday’s Labour Conference programme, Naughtie interviewed Labour MP Tom Harris (link). Again, it’s all very friendly. Tom goes “absolutely” to something Jim says. Jim goes “yes, yeah” to something Tom says. Tom goes “Yep absolutely” to something more Jim says, and “I think that’s absolutely spot on” to something else Jim says. Just as cosy.

Sarah Montague
In contrast, Sarah Montague was prone to inappropriate laughter (inappropriate, that is, for an impartial presenter). During a discussion about Osborne’s council freeze plan (first hour, 3/10) with chief political correspondent Gary O’Donoghue, for example, when GO’D said that it would only save families in England £1.50 a week, she burst out laughing. This inescapably gave the impression that she thought it was a piddling amount, a point GO’D picked up on. Then (and showing a very different tone to that between James Naughtie and Labour’s Tom Harris) during an interview with Conservative MP Sir Peter Bone, also on Monday’s edition (3/10), he was making some strongly conservative proposals for boosting the economy when, having earlier contradicted him, Sarah started laughing and told him (through her laughter) that there’s no chance of any of those things happening. (This interview, bizarrely, is not available to listen again on the ‘Today’ website. Why not? Because the tone was wrong?) Finally, on Wednesday morning’s edition (5/10), when Gary O’Donoghue listed some of the adjectives David Cameron was going to use in his speech today to (in his words) “flatter” the British character – “hard-working, pioneering, independent, creative, adaptable, optimistic, can-do spirit” – Sarah Montague burst out laughing again. GO’D got the giggles too as a result. This showed what they thought of Mr Cameron’s choice of words – and it’s unlikely the prime minister would have felt flattered had he heard them!

But…
There were some striking exceptions to this general rule – oddly enough when you’d least expect them. The biggest interviews – the ones with Ed Miliband (link) and David Cameron (link)- were conducted by both James Naughtie and Sarah Montague in a fairly hands-off manner – especially Sarah Montague, who gave David Cameron a surprising amount of leeway. Naughtie wasn’t much tougher on Ed Miliband, though the ‘weird’ question was quite a shock (especially to Miliband). That was as good as it got for both presenters. [Intriguingly, as James Naughtie might say, Sarah Montague used the word 'weird' in her interview with George Osborne to mock a Tory standpoint.]

Despite the ‘but’…
James Naughtie’s approach is surely a gift to the Labour Party.

Gary O’Donoghue’s previews with ‘Today’ presenters
Gary O’Donoghue has taken over from Norman Smith as Radio 4’s chief political correspondent and, while he can’t touch Smith for sheer naked bias, he’s not entirely beyond criticism over the last couple of weeks. His discussions with James Naughtie at the Labour Party Conference Labour’s were fine, with little editorialising, either one way or the other. His discussions with Sarah Montague at the Conservative Party conference, however, were less praiseworthy. On 3/10, his anticipation of the council tax freeze announcement was almost entirely negative, emphasising the criticism from the Labour Party. (Sarah Montague plugged away here at Andrew Tyrie’s criticisms like a dog with a bone). On 4/10, Theresa May’s proposed tightening of the immigration rules (due to the abuse of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act) was described by Sarah as “crowd-pleasing” and, later, as “the kind of thing the conference here will love” and GO’D dismissed it as “a pretty standard route for a conference like this”. On 5/10 there was the previously-mentioned talk from GO’D of “flattery of the British character” by David Cameron and the laughter at Cameron’s expense. Worse was the editorialising from GO’D over Cameron’s call for those in debt to pay off their credit card and store bills: “I must say when I saw that it stood out a little and jarred a little because there’s a danger with that sort of thing that you can hear David Cameron saying ‘pay off your credit card and store bills’ and people yelling back at the television ‘With what?'” Is that something an impartial BBC reporter should say?

Still, Norman Smith would have been far, far worse.

The Reports

Labour conference
(a) Presenter reports
(i) 26/9 James Naughtie goes to a Progress Rally to bat about ideas for Labour’s way forward with a few Blairites, chats to David Miliband, and then interviews GMB union leader Paul Kenny, who is still supportive of Ed Miliband (link). Little to trouble the Labour leadership here and no party outsiders.

(ii) 27/9 Naughtie goes to Toxteth ” to assess how the [Labour] party is viewed there”, according to the blurb on the ‘Today’ website, though – beyond the introduction – that is not an accurate description of the report (link). “The Labour Party feels quite at home here in Liverpool…”, he begins, but there are challenges arising from “its legacy in power.” Naughtie seems to credit it with the regeneration of the waterfront (wasn’t the Lib Dem council mostly responsible for that???) but there are still “deep social problems”. That said, Labour’s responsibility soon drops completely out of sight after he mentions the problems caused by Polish immigration. (Any beyond Eastern Europe, Jim?) Labour MP Louise Ellman praises diversity, but talks of local jobs. “Louise Ellman’s right”, says Naughtie, before recalling the Toxteth riots of the 1980s. Thereafter it was the usual Naughtie bid for an award, talking to a couple of locals, and looking for hope, hope and more hope – and finding signs of it in the community’s reaction to the Autumn riots.” The challenge for local and national leaders”, he says, is to harness this, showing that this report wasn’t really much to do with the Labour Party. Little to trouble the Labour leadership here.

(b) BBC reporters’ reports
(i) 26/9 Gary O’Donoghue garners advice for the Labour Party from influential Labour figures (link): Lord Prescott, Liam Byrne, Mark Steers of the IPPR, Andrew Harrop of the Fabian Society, Margaret Beckett and Lord Prescott again. Nothing to trouble the Labour leadership here and no outsiders.

Conservative Conference
(a) Presenter reports
(i) 3/10 Sarah Montague goes ‘Tory Split’-hunting over Europe (link). Europe not on the official agenda “but away from the conference floor many seem desperate to talk about it.” “It was the issue which tore them apart” when they were last in govt. The eurosceptics are “becoming bolder though”. Heather Wheeler MP wants out of Europe and says the country agrees. Sarah counters her point by saying, “As ever though what the public say they want depends on what they’re asked.” Cue Stephan Shakespeare of YouGov, says people “want to be less in Europe but not quite out”, “they want Europe but much less of it,” he continues, “they want to go as far back as you can go without actually leaving the EU”. SM says lots of Conservatives want renegotiation but many are “nervous about reopening old wounds.” George Eustace says “lots of scars from the past”. Sarah says “many of the delegates here sound desperate for a referendum” [that word again]. Some delegates (well two of them) are then heard from, sounding desperate for a referendum. Eustace says times have changed, we need to stay in EU but get powers back, including those over health & safety, employment law, social policy. ConservativeHome found nearly 1/2 of 144 candidates before last election wanted to repatriate powers from Europe, and more than a 1/3 want renegotiation – including rising star Saveej Navid thinks, who we here from…. “So is there a danger that if MPs say they want to overrule European laws on things like maternity and paternity leave they won’t look compassionate? It’s a point I put to George Eustace.” So some agenda-pushing, a bit of negative language about eurosceptics, an outsider countering the eurosceptic point of view and a few things to trouble the Conservative leadership here.

(b) BBC reporters’ reports
(i) 4/10 Gary O’Donoghue wonders whether David Cameron is “a right-wing Tory of the old school or a compassionate Conservative” and goes ‘Tory split’-hunting (link): “Below the surface there’s not always harmony about the party’s direction or indeed about what sort of Conservative David Cameron really is”. Lord Tebbitt thinks one thing but Tim Montgomerie thinks another. “Some elements on the Tory backbenches are becoming a little more restless”. David Davis wants a low tax agenda. This isn’t the only area “where the troops are getting a little uneasy. Europe is always an issue…” Mark Pritchard wants DC to show his true blue colours over it. Some ‘modernisers’, however, are urging DC to resist “ideological enthusiasms”, including Nick Boles. “Most in the party accept”, said GO’D, that in the early days David Cameron had to present a socially liberal, softer kind of conservatism to detoxify the brand, but having failed to win an election on that ground the modernisers are likely to be fighting a rearguard action in the coming years as traditional elements seek to impose a more conventionally conservative agenda on the party.” So more agenda-pushing and quite a few things to trouble the Conservative leadership.

(ii) 4/10 “Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw investigates whether the Conservative Party hates the police”, says the ‘Today’ website. Sarah Montague’s introduction began “Now here’s what may seem like an odd question, ‘Do the Conservatives hate the police?'”
Shaw’s report was astonishingly biased (link).
It opened with a voice saying “This government, to put it bluntly, hate the Police Service.” “Sgt John Gibbley summing up the mood of discontent at the Police Federation Conference this year. One senior officer told me that a considerable body of policing agrees with his view. Others say it’s not hatred that’s driving police reform but revenge for what happened almost 20 years ago.” Paul McKeevor of the Police Federation says it’s a backlash for the police’s opposition to the Sheehy Report of the early 1990s. “But other evidence doesn’t support the ‘Payback for Sheehy’ theory, in particular David Cameron’s role in 1993. The prime minister was at that time a special adviser to the then home secretary Michael Howard who dumped most of the plans. In the 1990s Mr Cameron helped build bridges with the police. He didn’t knock them down.” So, Danny Shaw knocks down one conspiracy theory about revenge only to build up his own: “By 2006, however, that had all changed.” [Clip of Cameron speech calling for fundamental shakeup of policing.] “David Cameron, by then Conservative Party leader, took the view that the police were the last great unreformed public service. He called for directly elected politicians to run forces and modern employment contracts to make it easier to sack bad officers. The arrest of the Conservative MP Damien Green simply strengthened the Tories’ conviction that police wings needed clipping. But in a candid assessment of how relations between the police and the Tories worsened, the shadow police minister between 2007 and 2010, David Ruffley, says some of the problems were self-inflicted.” [Mr Ruffley sharply criticises Chris Grayling for comparing our inner cities to 'The Wire' and says his comments were "extremely unbalanced and frankly wrong". I wonder how long the interview with Mr Ruffley was from which this snippet of sustained criticism of the Conservative leadership was taken. Did he say anything nice about his own party, or criticise the police's role, or Labour's? We'll never know]. [Clip of Theresa May talking of the urgent need for radical reform.] “It was inevitable that Theresa May’s programme of cuts and reforms would widen the rift between ministers and the police but the public affairs expert Peter Bingle, who advised the Police Federation during the Sheehy reforms and has been re-hired now, says something more fundamental has happened. The MacPherson Report, raids on MPs’ offices and phone hacking, says Mr Bingle, have caused the relationship between police, politicians and the public to fracture. The Tories are not hateful of the police but more questioning and less trustful.” You cannot be a Conservative if you hate the Police Service, says Mr Bingle. “But there is a perception among police, certainly,” replies Shaw, “that they do.” Lack of communication at the moment between the Police Service and the government is the reason Mr Bingle gives for that. Shaw’s report ends with his words, “I believe that needs to be addressed very quickly because to have a position where any government is seen to be hating the police service is great news for rioters and anarchists.”
Where were the voices defending the Conservatives? Where were the voices arguing that Labour politicised the police? Where were the arguments that the police themselves might bear some responsibility for their current problems? With the Conservative Party conference going on, why wasn’t a Conservative minister interviewed on this?
An axe-grinding report, suspiciously stitched together, by a typical BBC home affairs correspondent.

Case closed?

Interviews with party figures

Labour conference
26/9 – David Miliband & Paul Kenny (link)
26/9 – Ed Balls (link)
26/9 – David Blunkett (link)
27/9 – Tom Harris (link)
27/9 – Yvette Cooper (link)
28/9 – Len McClusky (with Dr Mike Lynch, an outsider) (link)
28/9 – Lord Kinnock (link)
28/9 – Ed Miliband (link)

Conservative Conference
3/10 – Sir Peter Bone (unavailable to ‘listen again’)
3/10 – George Osborne (link)
4/10 – Graeme Archer, blogger (with lobbyist Peter Bingle) (link)
4/10 – David Cameron (link)
5/10 – Cllr David Meikle (Glasgow) & Cllr Ian Lindley (Salford) (link)
5/10 – William Hague (link)

How an interview is framed is a key indicator of bias.

The Labour interviews would all have sat well with Labour Party listeners, except perhaps for parts of James Naughtie’s interview with Ed Miliband (the ‘weird’ question being emphasised by the ‘Today’ website) and the interview with Dr Mike Lynch, who liked the idealism in Ed Milibands ‘predators and producers’ speech but thought it impractical, wondering how you could fashion policy out of the distinction and saying it’s “motherhood and apple pie”. (The ‘Today’ website characterises it as one voicing his support for Mr Miliband and the other merely “considering” whether the distinction holds water). Though the David Miliband/Paul Kenny was predicated on the assumption that Labour had lost credibibity with the voters, the Yvette Cooper interview was merely introduced with by James Naughtie with words about new thinking, the Balls interview with talk of what Balls would call for, the Tom Harris interview with the news that Scottish Labour is seeking more autonomy, the Kinnock interview just as a Labour elder statesman’s reaction to Miliband’s speech. (He loved it!)

On the other hand, of the Conservative interviews, the one with Sir Peter Bone was introduced as being with a Tory backbencher who shared Andrew Tyrie’s concerns (Tory splits). Unfortunately (for the ‘Today’ team), Sir Peter refused to play ball and attack the government and stuck to expounding a free-marketeer’s answer to economic growth. The interview with Mr Archer and Mr Bingle was framed, unfavourably, as “Out of more than 10,000 people attending the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, just 4000 are party members.” An only partly good-natured debate on lobbying ensued. The debate between the councillors was framed by the question, “Is the Conservative brand doomed in Scotland or could they learn from colleagues here in the north of England?” The councillors disagreed. (Tory split!). So, interviews which start from the premise (a) that the Tories are split over the economy, (b) that the Conservative Party is under the unhealthy influence of lobbyists and (c) that the Tories might be doomed in Scotland. How many of these premises would have displeased the Conservative leadership? (The interview with William Hague, incidentally, was framed with reference to “Europe being a divisive issue for the Conservative Party”.)

How can this be considered even-handed?

Other ‘unhelpful news’/items
Of course, not being in government Labour will not be on the end of attacks from interested parties anywhere near so much as a party of government like the Conservatives. That said, during the party conference season the BBC should seek to be careful not to be seen as attacking one party far more than another.

There were no such unhelpful items for Labour. Indeed quite the reverse, for on the final day of the Labour Party conference James Naughtie introduced an item on Yvette Cooper’s new policing review. Remarkably, he only interviewed Dr Tim Brain – one of those who will be undertaking Labour’s policing review (link). Given this, Naughtie’s first question, “Do you think this is a good idea, first of all?”, was positively bizarre. Of course Dr Brain was going to reply, “It’s a very good idea.” No opposing voice was heard from.

In contrast, on the final day of the Tory Party conference, Sarah Montague’s introduction to ‘Yesterday in Parliament’ read “A Labour peer and economist has blamed the dire state of the economy on what he called the government’s own stupid policies. Lord Peston was speaking in the Lords as peers debated how to get Britain growing” and a YouGov poll was quoted suggesting that 42% of people would never vote for the party. The day before – the day of Danny Shaw’s ‘Do the Tories hate the police?’ report – focused on an open letter calling for the government’s new Health Bill to be scrapped from “400 public health experts” (people BBC health reporter Adam Brimelow called “senior”, “serious”, “pedigree”, “international renowned”, “respected” and “people who can’t simply be dismissed”). One of them was invited on to attack the government (link). He was put against the government’s studiously impartial health reviewer, who was deeply unwilling to come off the fence due to his role as a non-partisan figure. Why wasn’t a Conservative health minister asked about the issue? There were doubtless a few at the party conference.

On that same day, BBC Europe correspondent Chris Morris gave a couple of Tory ministers (Hague and Osborne) a telling off that better suited a Labour spokesman. Anticipating an EU foreign ministers’ meeting to discuss the Euro crisis, the ‘impartial’ reporter brought up the anti-euro rhetoric at the Tory party conference and told John Humphrys that some European foreign ministers “won’t appreciate” some of Osborne & Hague’s comments. “I think they need to be a bit careful of their tone frankly”, opined Chris Morris. I think Chris Morris needs to be a bit careful about his!

Surely there’s some evidence of bias here?

Other things that can be said in the programme’s favour
Of course, bias is rarely all-pervasive in so many hours of coverage and, in addition to the comparable gentleness of the interviews with the party leaders (even edged in favour of David Cameron), I can find nothing much wrong with (a) the contributions of Nick Robinson and (b) the paper reviews, which offered plenty of contrasting views of the party conferences from a wide range of papers. Even James Naughtie wasn’t his usual ‘Guardian’-and-‘Independent’-orientated self. I also credit Naughtie with bringing up the Independent/Comres poll showing the Tories one point ahead of Labour and, though repeatedly stressing that the margin of error needed to be borne in mind and that not too much should be made of it, he did also repeatedly suggest that it would ruin Ed Miliband’s breakfast! A rare appearance by political correspondent Robin Brandt (on the Saturday edition before the Labour conference) was also creditable. From what little I’ve heard of Robin Brandt in recent months, it confirm my earlier feeling that he might just be a BBC reporter who values careful, balanced reporting. He’s not on very often though, and only a closer inspection will see whether that’s really the case.

Conclusions
A comparison of the ‘Today’ programme’s coverage of the Labour Party and Conservative Party conferences reveals a significant degree of pro-Labour bias. Though only a few items, such as the Danny Shaw report, screamed ‘bias!’, the cumulative effect of the different moods established by the two respective presenters, the severe skewing of the commentariat towards the Labour Party, the unhelpfulness of the reports towards one party in particular, the presence of other unhelpful items towards that party (in contrast to a helpful one towards the other party), the framing of interviews, and the programme’s initial agenda-setting (always followed through), all adds up to coverage that is much more favourable to one party than to another. I have tried to be as fair as fair can be towards the programme here but there is always the possibility that my own biases are blinding me to flaws in my own study. So, though I think I’m correct in all my judgements, please check the links (to whatever is still accessible on the ‘Today’ website) and see if you think I really am!

Of course, the question ‘Does any of this really matter?’ arises, especially when the Conservative Party itself shows little or no concern about biased BBC reporting. The related question ‘Who cares?’ may also cross your mind. (It crossed mine several times while writing this!) Still, the BBC has an obligation to impartiality and boasts that it is impartial. It it fails on that score, it must be called out.
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LABOUR IN EVERY WAY

What’s remarkable about the BBC is the way in which their instinctive regard for Labour manifests itself even in the most innocent items. Take the item at 8.22am on how devolution has affected the UK. The BBC invite Peter Ackroyd on to discuss his latest history of England. Who then do they choose to balance the discussion? Yes, Labour MP Tristram Hunt who is also – lest we forget – a historian,

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