Peter Oborne in magisterial voice :
Very rarely in political history has any faction or movement enjoyed such a complete and crushing victory as the Conservative Eurosceptics. The field is theirs. They were not merely right about the single currency, the greatest economic issue of our age – they were right for the right reasons. They foresaw with lucid, prophetic accuracy exactly how and why the euro would bring with it financial devastation and social collapse.
Meanwhile, the pro-Europeans find themselves in the same situation as appeasers in 1940, or communists after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They are utterly busted.
Oborne and Frances Weaver go on to quote the pro-Euro partisans. Among whom (and this will shock you) ….
Now let’s turn to the BBC. In our Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet, Guilty Men, we expose in detail how the BBC betrayed its charter commitment and became a partisan player in a great national debate – all the more insidious because of its pretence at neutrality.
For example, in the nine weeks leading to July 21, 2000, when the argument over the euro was at its height, the Today programme featured 121 speakers on the topic. Some 87 were pro-euro compared with 34 who were anti. BBC broadcasters tended to present the pro-euro position itself as centre ground, thus defining even moderately Eurosceptic voices as extreme.
But this was not the worst of the unfairness. The Eurosceptics were too rarely given time to state their reasons for favouring sterling. Their position was too often covered through a paradigm of deep, “explosive” splits within the Conservative Party rather than the merits of the policy argument. Again and again the BBC led its news coverage on scare stories that failure to join the euro would lead to economic or industrial disaster. When those reports turned out to be false, it failed to correct them. In fact Britain was enjoying record levels of foreign investment: but when Office for National Statistics figures showed this, the BBC made very little of it.
As Rod Liddle, then editor of the Radio 4’s Today programme, said: “The whole ethos of the BBC and all the staff was that Eurosceptics were xenophobes.” He recalls one meeting with a senior BBC figure over Eurosceptic complaints of bias. “Rod, the thing you have to understand is these people are mad. They are mad.”
And the fish is rotten from the head :
One urgent lesson concerns the BBC. The corporation’s twisted coverage of the EU is a serious problem, because the economic collapse of the eurozone means a new treaty may be needed very soon.
The problem is that the BBC cannot be trusted not to become part of a partisan propaganda operation: just look at the membership of the BBC Trust. Both its chairman, Lord Patten, and the vice-chairman, Diane Coyle, took a heavily partisan position in the euro debate.
The facts concerning Lord Patten are well known, but we have unearthed very troubling evidence of bias concerning Ms Coyle as economics writer for the Independent 10 years ago. Take this: “The defenders of sterling are, in the main, a group of elderly men with more stake in their past than in our future. They clothe their gut anti-Europeanism and Little Englandism in the language of rational economic argument.”
Of course Ms Coyle is welcome to voice whatever insulting assumptions she wants about the motivations of Eurosceptics – but they call into question her membership of the BBC Trust.
(browsing I see that commenters John Horne Tooke and Gerald were first to spot this)