Framing the debate

In the great BBC interview bias debate, we’ve already identified one factor, what has been called the “interruption coefficient” (by commenter Ctesibus). There are other factors though of course; one that usually strikes me is what I could term “framing”. The opening 1 minute and 30 seconds of this interview with Conservative Caroline Spelman were conducted by John Humphrys analysing the local elections results WITHOUT mentioning the expenses scandal, while claiming that the Conservatives had failed to meet expectations at a time when Labour were at a low ebb. Actually, before the election I can recall the BBC intoning hypnotically that all politicians were in the doghouse together. Now that the Conservatives pass an electoral test, suddenly the expenses scandal disappears from their thinking and the Conservatives have allegedly disappointed.

The rest of Humphrys’ interview too was dripping with oleaginous cynicism directed against Conservatives- insinuating that the Conservatives would be punished at the General election, that Spelman was dishonest (“come on, you’re a politician”), that Brown had the new Cabinet behind him (Humphrys fluffs this hilariously as he realises he’s spouting more than his usual nonsense quotient) and that David Cameron would get his comeuppance soon over expenses.

All of this Spelman sailed through with the fair wind of success behind her, but Humphrys’ framing of the discussion was a persistent effort to mitigate bad news for Labour. For now, it has failed, but to the truly ideological every little counts.


Cameron to Hugh Edwards: “Even the BBC… will have to say these are good results” (smirk)

Nick Robinson (on a day when Labour failed to retain a single county council): “Gordon Brown is stronger than he was, but not by much.”

Gordon: “I will not waver… I will get on with the job”

The job being what, exactly? Add your faves below.

Selected targets

Anyone know why Bill Cash MP has been splashed all over the BBC website frontpage for most of the day? As someone who gets most of his news online, I have to say I wonder. I can’t see it now but I am certain earlier today that there was a reference to him as an “arch-Eurosceptic”. I know many might just be happy to see an MP in the stocks for a day, but the way all this has been conducted very much suggests to me a studied campaign. Yes, this originated from the Telegraph, but the BBC has very much played ball- very much the old footballing one-two. Yes, there is an extremely serious point about MPs’ abuse, but there was also (as with most jobs) a legitimate need for an expenses program in pursuit of the goals of the job (ie. constiuency representation). Not defending MPs who trough here, but raising the question about the legitimacy of this broad based campaign against MPs, and asking cui bono? It certainly might seem a matter of luck whether an MP is targeted or not (disturbing enough, as it’s so inefficient)- but the BBC has seemed determined to focus on backbench Tory MPs- Cash, Kirkbride, McKenzie; seems to me Blears, Smith, Balls and what’serface have got off more than lightly… given their frontbench Government status and all.

So I would raise a question about which discredited and miserably failed party stands to gain from spreading the blame across the whole House of Commons for the indulgence combined with ineffectiveness of the chamber and its leadership during the last ten years (plus)?


So, Conservative Julie Kirkbride has fallen on her sword and will not seek re-election. On the One News the BBC has been covering this from the feminist angle on of just how difficult it is for “working mums” to get the work/life balance and also from the angle of how few female MP’s that Cameron will be left with. (Nice dig at the unrepresentative Tories, natch!) In addition, did you notice the way that Labour trougher Margaret Moran has been thrown to the media wolves just as Kirkbride hits the buffs. A good day to bury bad Labour news?

It’s not the jokes, it’s how you tell ’em

(NB: This post is not by Natalie, but by occasional B-BBC poster Niall Kilmartin.)

It’s not the jokes, it’s how you tell ’em: BBC red-button news this morning reported the arrests in the US. The final sentence of the report was:

New York has been on alert for a new terror assault since the 9/11 attack claimed by Al Quaida militants

(no emphasis in original) Al Quaida do indeed claim the attack and one would hardly accuse them of lacking militancy, so the sentence is not factually wrong. It seems an odd way to put it – except, I suppose, inside the BBC, where it presumably seems natural to phrase things to accommodate the ‘truther’ viewpoint. (As the post below suggests, some other viewpoints get less consideration.)

Similar ‘how you tell it’ thoughts occurred to me during last night’s 10 o’clock BBC news in a piece on the never-ending expenses scandals. As usual, numbers were balanced: they mentioned one Labour MP and one Tory MP (there are few LibDem MPs so I concede some difficulties in their mentioning a LibDem every time as well). The report on Hazel Blears consisted almost entirely of a summary of Labour MPs’ sympathy for her and criticism of Gordon’s criticism. It was all reportage of others’ views but it had a ‘sorry for her’ flavour and lacked balancing hostile remarks – except Gordon’s, and ‘her behaviour was unacceptable but she’s doing a great job’ (I paraphrase) is already balanced, whatever else you may say about it. No such considerate remarks were reported of the Tory MP whose ducks benefited from our taxes; no suggestion that spending public money on wildlife habitat was very much the norm these days. 🙂 To be sure, there were probably no sympathetic remarks to report: David Cameron’s statement about him was not as ‘balanced’ as Gordon’s about Hazel, and if any Tory felt otherwise, perhaps they (wisely) kept it to themselves.


Did anyone else catch Nick Robinson just after 8am this morning providing his oh-so-biased insight into the Profligate scandal? I was struck by the emphasis he put on Conservative abuse when in fact abuse by all the parties (Yes, including those awfully nice Lib-Dems) is the issue. I also don’t think selecting Ann Widdecombe did Cameron any favours. All in all, a nice little stitch up job?


Yes, we all know that Darling/Brown’s budget has been exposed as a grotesque fraud and none but the most dewy-eyed old style socialist has anything good to say about it. Still, nice to see the BBC already move into official opposition mode as it characterises the Conservative leader as “Dave the miser”


I see that the BBC are leading the cultural Jihad from the Celtic Whinge against Dr David Starkey following his acerbic (but accurate) comments on Question Time the other night. My respect for Starkey deepens!


Did you get a chance to listen to Sarah Montague interview David Cameron? Here it is in case you missed it. Wonder what you think? My view is that Cameron was OK – in what was clearly a hostile environment for him. Some of his responses disturb me and he still uses Blairist vocabulary on some issues and is wary of stating clearly that the State MUST be rolled back. He waffled on about teacherndoctorsnnurses too much. Montague’s tone (I know it’s subjective!)was simmering hostility and she was out to make Cameron say something Thatcheresque which could then be seized upon by Labour so I can understand his hesitations. Comments?


So, the BBC finally discovers the Conservative shadow chancellor George Osbourne exists (He is interviewed just before an item on chair design, natch!), and then headlines the interview with the proclamation “Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne says he cannot promise to reverse the 50% top tax rate.” Now then, we know that Brown set this outrageous tax increase as an elephant trap for the Conservatives – damned if they don’t undo, damned if they do. That’s how Brown works and I can understand why Osbourne refused to give the BBC fresh blood this morning.

However, there are clear ideological reasons why punishing those who create wealth in this country is wrong and quite frankly, if a Conservative cannot articulate these in a reasonable and convincing manner then what exactly is the point in being a Conservative? The BBC seem excited about the proposed “squeezing till the pips squeak” tax hike , as one would expect from committed socialists , and of course Darling’s continued and indeed even increased “investment” aka proligate spending in the public sector gets a pass with no tough questions being posed. It is at the point where Labour are desperate and drowning yet the BBC are determined to spin this in such a way that it damages the Conservatives. Truly, they do Brown’s business.


Oh happy day. Thirty years ago today, the Callaghan government fell and the ascent of Thatcherism took off! The BBC covered it this morning but what struck me was that the reflections from that momentous time were largely provided by the likes of David Steele and Roy Hattersley. There was a noticeable absence of opinion from those at the centre of the Thatcher revolution itself – don’t the BBC have Lord Tebbit’s phone number? Perhaps the BBC still has trouble accepting what happened back then?

Edit Them Pretty

Been watching the Apprentice? I have. Of course it’s all in the editing. A bunch of people are given an impossible task. To do something none of them knows the first thing about in a ridiculously short time, and then being forced to go head to head in the boardroom where the object is to make the other person take the blame for your own incompetence.

We all know from the start that the winner will be the best looking, and the first ones to go will be the unprepossessing ones, and the annoying ones with grating laughs and raucous voices will be kept on for entertainment purposes till they get too gross. The one with a misplaced faith in her own infallibility and a glum expression got fired first.

There’s a parallel with our leaders in there somewhere. I caught Harriet Harpy on the radio rubbishing some proposed Tory policy, presumably the one about inheritance tax. “It’s a tax for millionaires!” she was shrieking. Oh those wicked millionaires, she had to say, because she was supposed to be in the labour party. How ironic that sounded when all her labour colleagues are doing their best to rake in as much as they can via allowances for multiple unnecessary extra homes and all.

Then there’s our new hero Daniel Hannan. What a speech, and without a single teleprompter. What a shame the BBC omitted to show it. It’s the editing you see. Policy. Not newsworthy. Never mind, we all saw it on the internet. Despite his eloquence, his clear fluent delivery, his open features and ringing tones, there still lurks the matter of his fondness for The One. Can such steely powers of judgment have deserted him altogether when apllied to the telegenic one? Oh well we can’t all be perfect.

The most unnerving thing in that clip was the shot of Gordon’s terrible grin. What a haunting image. “Gordon, what was you doin’? You put yourself up for project manager, you’re a total disgrace. You’re fired.”

Imagine the lot of them in the boardroom, all trying to make the other person take the blame for their incompetence because they’ve failed the impossible task they were given that none of them knew the first thing about, with the voters baying for blood and Sir Alan waiting to point.


Another morning and another chance to present the notion that the Conservative Party is divided. Yesterday it was on Inheritance tax, today it is on Europe. Mark Mardell was using the line that for the Conservative Party to withdraw from the (utterly useless) EPP would set up a crisis with the likes of MEP Christopher Weasley sorry, Christopher Beasely applying to join the EPP! Labour, and by definition the BBC, will open up more attacks on the Conservatives as we start the run-in to the June Euro-polls and I suspect this was just the beginning. The line being retailed is that the Conservatives are “extreme” if they seek to do anything that might de-rail the EU gravy train. Also, shouldn’t the BBC declare that it receives funding from the EU before it runs any story on this subject? Full disclosure is always a good idea when trying to pretend one in impartial.

With sincere thanks to my proof-readers!


To paraphrase Abba, “tonight the super snooper teams are gonna get you”, if one listens to the new Brown policy of training 60,000 shop and hotel workers “t0 deal” with a terrorist attack. However the thing that struck me – and not for the first time – was how the BBC insists on defining the nature of this terrorist threat; you see it comes from non-violent conservative Muslim groups that teach that Islam is incompatible with Western democracy. Note – not RADICAL Muslim groups, oh no, CONSERVATIVE Muslim groups. Well, here’s the deal then; if these really are conservative groups this implies they teach the essential traditions of Islam which in turn would rather indicate that Islam ITSELF is the threat. Will the BBC run with that idea  or will it instead continue to use the subtlety of language to associate the term conservatism with the worst dregs of radical Islam?