BBC favourite Tory in name only Ken Clarke was on the BBC this morning to discuss his alleged u-turn on prison sentencing discounts. To be fair to Clarke, he gave a pretty decent account of himself but the bit that fascinated me was the intro interview with Nick Robinson on Clarke.(Not on the link, alas) Robinson made reference to the “Tory Press” undermining poor Clarke at least three times in a minute or two. Is this the same press that supported Blair for years? Will Nick be also using the term “Labour Press” to describe his soul-mates in the Guardian, Indie, Mirror – in the interests of balance?

Ancestral Voices Prophesying War

BBC news journalism to a very large extent relies on reporting stories that fit an existing left-liberal narrative and ignoring stories which challenge this narrative – the classic example being the enormous disparities in their reporting of racist murder – those disparities relating to the ethnicity of both perpetrator and victim.

Where BBC journalists go looking to make the news, by unearthing new facts or obtaining an admission from a politician or businessman, the same rules apply. Sending undercover cameramen into BNP meetings hoping to hear bad things being discussed? Sure. Sending them into mosques with the same brief? Er … we’ll leave that to Channel Four, thanks very much.

A favourite sport of Today presenters is to try and create the lunchtime news headlines by getting some interviewee to either “drop a clanger” or “reveal their real agenda“, depending on your viewpoint. Even a Victoria Derbyshire can do it if the interviewee is ill-briefed and ill-prepared enough.

But sometimes the quest for what’s perceived to be the killer admission can ruin the interview – for some reason I always think of Evan Davies interviewing anyone at all on drugs policy, where he seems incapable of keeping his personal enthusiasms in check.

And sometimes the quest for a not-very-important admission can blind the interviewer to the most remarkable statements being made by the interviewee – which go straight past the journalist’s head because they’re nothing to do with the little verbal traps he’s setting.

That failure to actually listen to the interviewee constitutes IMHO diabolical journalism. John Humphrys (for it is he) should listen to his Patrick Mercer interview from yesterday morning, then tear up his NUJ card and announce his retirement.

The subject of the interview was a leaked letter written by Defence Secretary Liam Fox to the Prime Minister, expressing concern that the Government planned to make a legal commitment to increasing its overseas aid spending at a time when armed forces budgets are being cut heavily. The subtext of the interview, as Humphrys revealed, was Conservative division.

In the studio were Patrick Mercer, a former army officer and former Conservative security spokesman, broadly sympathetic to the Fox concerns, and Lib Dem MP Malcolm Bruce, very much against them. You’d imagine Mercer is reasonably close to current military thinking, and current M.O.D. thinking.

It was near the end of the interview, emboldening is mine :

Mercer :

“At a time when the armed forces are being cut and cut hard, when they’re at war in Afghanistan, Pakistan and indeed in Libya, with other conflicts on the horizon … you can see why the defence secretary is concerned”

Humphrys, completely missing the above and intent on his ‘Tory division’ narrative (I paraphrase) :

“But .. Liam Fox wrote to the Prime Minister and addressed him as ‘Dear David Cameron’ .. now we know he would like to be Tory leader – isn’t there an ulterior motive?”

Mercer :

“at a time when money is stretched … at a time when we are at war on at least two fronts, and probably a third front to come, no doubt Liam Fox is fighting his corner as any other Secretary of State would do”.

Now it may be that Mercer’s statement that we are at war in Pakistan is a slip of the tongue, and he’s thinking of the Americans, who do seem to have made one or two trips across the Durand Line recently. But what are these “other conflicts on the horizon“? What is this “third front to come“, assuming Front 1 to be Afghanistan and Front 2 Libya? Have I been asleep lately – should I know all about this war to come?

Syria ? Seems unlikely. Iran ? Ditto. Are the Argentinians planning another crack at the Falklands (and if they were, how could we possibly form a front down there once Mount Pleasant was lost, having no carrier capability?).

I would really love to have known what Mr Mercer was talking about – and I imagine BBC listeners might have been interested, too. Pity the BBC couldn’t find a journalist to ask him!


It’s NOT that I care much for British Foreign Secretary William Hague. His anti-Israeli comments combined with his weasel words about British sovereignty in the EU leave me cold but I did feel a bit sorry for him when he was interviewed by the BBC earlier today (Link to come) There were two things that struck me about the interview, which concerned the political upheaval in Tunisia and the prospects of the like elsewhere in the Arab world. First, Sarah Montague seemed hell bent to get Hague to say that Britain should be supporting revolutions. She has several attempts to get him to say this, which he avoided. Second, the glacial tone of the interview – quite striking.


Piers Scholfield, one of the many BBC journalists reporting from the Chilean mines, was a new name to me. Just had a little look back through his Twitter account. You couldn’t make this stuff up:

Caroline, please listen to my gushing report about your election chances, slurp slurp.

A Brighton-based BBC Green Party supporter reporting on the Green Party in Brighton during the election. Your licence fee at work.

I’m getting quite a collection of screenshots of BBC employees expressing political opinions on Twitter. They’re all lefties. Funny that. I guess the BBC’s thousands of right-leaning employees take their duty to uphold the concept of impartiality more seriously. Unless – and I know this might sound crazy – there aren’t many right-leaning employees at the BBC, and they don’t express political views on Twitter because they fear opprobrium and career stasis.

Frank Spencer

The leaders’ debate opinions of Radio Five Live’s Interactive Editor Brett Spencer this evening (click on image to enlarge):

Clearly Mr Spencer fears no repercussions for his anti-Cameron opinions. After all, inside the BBC bubble he’s not saying anything contentious.

Update April 23, 11 am. He’s now removed the oh-so-witty remarks about Cameron’s forehead, as well as a tweet which said “Brown seems well ahead to me, and is now playing his joker” (Beeb Bias Craig quoted that one before its removal, and one person retweeted it). Spencer’s still angry that YouGov called it for Cameron – he’s banging on about it again this morning. I doubt the pollsters will be too concerned by the opinions of someone who thought Brown won the debate.

Update 2, 4pm. Brett Spencer has now removed all tweets relating to the leaders’ debate and the YouGov poll.

Update 3, 5.20pm. And now…


Radio Five Live whipped itself into quite a frenzy over the Chris Grayling rumpus. Stephen Nolan could hardly contain himself when the story broke during his show last night, admitting to the senior programme editor of Channel 4 News today that he was “ready to burst” waiting for the boxing to finish (not a pleasant image – can’t get Mr Creosote out of my mind for some reason).

Five Live’s political reporter Chris Mason shared Nolan’s enthusiasm:

Anna Adams (“Interactive Reporter, BBC News”) was so excited she posted her first tweets in over a week. The story remained Five Live’s top headline until midday today (even the breaking news of three car bombs and dozens dead in Baghdad was deemed a lesser item on the 11am and 11.30 am bulletins). Unsurprisingly, the Tory Party’s widening lead in the opinion polls was not considered very newsworthy.

The fervour shown for this story by the Beeb (and particularly Five Live) suggests that there are a number of BBC journalists simply itching to give the Tories a good kicking. Unfortunately for them I don’t think most people are particularly bothered one way or the other by Grayling’s views on gays and B&Bs. Still, no doubt there will be other opportunities to stick the boot in between now and election day.

Sunday night update. Keeping it going:

Update 2. And as of 10.30pm Sunday night it’s the number one headline on Radio Five Live again.

By Their Friends Ye Shall (Not) Know Them

Every time that the Conservatives are mentioned in regards to the European Parliament, for example, BBC reporters dust off the Labour briefing sheet about their political allies despite those slurs having been extensively debunked elsewhere. So you’d think that, for the sake of balance, when a party allied to Labour from EU aspirant Turkey is banned for consorting with terrorists, that might mention a small paragraph towards the end of the BBC article?

Deputies from Turkey’s main Kurdish party have said today they will quit their parliament after the group was banned by the Constitutional Court. The court voted on Friday to disband the Democratic Society Party (DTP), finding it guilty of cooperating with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatist guerrillas.

It’s so strange that there isn’t a single mention in the BBC article that these are Labour’s Turkish buddies. If it’d been any of the Tories’ mates banned for consorting with terrorists it would have been a very different story.


I’ve known Jeremy Paxman since I worked with him on the university newspaper in Cambridge in 1971. Then, like most students of that era, he was an crusading lefty. Over the years, his politics have undoutedly changed, partly, I suspect, because he’s now firmly part of the hunting/fishing set. But elements of that sneering lefty, it seems, are still not far beneath the surface. They came out last night when he interviewed Boris Johnson on Newsnight. Boris strongly pooh-poohed suggestions that his past as a member of the Bullingdon Club was relevant to what he is doing now. Jeremy was having none of it. He descended into muttering name-calling, the main theme of which (though it was largely incoherent) seemed to be that Boris was a toff and the Tories were a party of privilege. That, of course, is a constant theme of BBC coverage of the party conference. Well worth a look.