reinventing reality at the BBC

The discussion being broadcast concerned the 20 Conservative MPs  expelled from the parliamentary Conservative party by  leader Boris Johnson. The 20 had defied the party line on Brexit in a vital vote.  While nine have now been taken back 11 remain excluded, among them prominent former ministers like Philip Hammond,  David Gauke and  Dominic Grieve.

Boris Johnson was decisively elected by the grass roots Conservative membership on the express platform of getting Brexit done. The rebel Remain Conservative MPs had had their way for 3 years – now they were required to back the new Prime Minister in decisive parliamentary votes.

But they refused, voted against party and leader, and so paid the penalty.

The words “narrow”, “factional” and “ideological” were used by the interviewer during the discussion.

The emphatic Brexit line the 20 rebels objected to was their party’s response to two dire sets of election results in May 2019 when the Conservatives suffered humiliating results in both European parliament and local elections.

After those election results, all Conservative MPs understood that the future of the Conservative party was on the line, unless it now showed itself backing Brexit unequivocally. This was why Theresa May stood down and why Boris Johnson was nominated and elected leader of the Conservative party so decisively.

In this context, the words “narrow”, “factional” and “ideological” would not therefore be out of place to describe the stance of the 20 rebel Conservative MPs.

To me, that is reasonable. Despite the crisis for their party’s future, and despite the promise of the Conservative government under David Cameron to implement the 2016 Referendum decision, these 20 factious EU Ideologues acted against their party for purely ideological reasons. To them, the EU project is paramount above all other interests.

There is just one snag, however.

The words “narrow”, “factional” and “ideological” were not applied to those 20 die hard EU ideologues who constituted 7 – 8% of the parliamentary party.

The BBC interviewer was applying those words to the 92 – 93 %  orthodox Conservative party MPs. 

At a stroke, the vast majority of loyal Conservative MPs are cast as a narrow, ideological faction while the actual narrow, factional and ideological die hard minority are portrayed as broad minded, orthodox and sensible.

Such a complete reversal of reality can only be explained by the adherence to an emphatically  ideological perspective – a perspective which recognises absolutely no virtue in those who disagree; a perspective which only sees virtue in its own point of view – a virtue so virtuous that it is held to be the truth – regardless of the record. 

And the person using these words in this way was not the person being interviewed – it was the interviewer. 

Nick Robinson, for many years the BBC’s political editor and now co-host of BBC Radio 4’s early morning “Today” programme, used this language in this way at 07.26 on Wednesday 30th October 2019.

This marks not just a failure of the impartiality required by the BBC’s charter. Such language applied in such a way reflects an ideological commitment by the editorial staff at the BBC to Remaining in the European Union despite the Referendum vote in 2016,  and despite the urgency of the matter after more than 3 years delay.

Nor is this an isolated example. It is indicative of the mindset at work in BBC editorial policy and practice.

BBC journalists and presenters now routinely use loaded expressions like “crashing out of the EU” and “Boris Johnson’s snap election” as if such statements are objective and impartial.

This is, of course, the perspective and terminology of that minority who will never accept the UK leaving the EU. They are therefore words which should never be used as objective commentary by impartial news reporters or presenters.

But the BBC is evidently not impartial on the issue of Brexit.

We can only  “crash out” of the EU if government officials have failed to do their job for the last three years. 

We could only “crash out” if the UK government had not already negotiated extensive bi-lateral accords with individual EU member states in anticipation of leaving the EU.

If we are in reality going to  “crash out” then it is because the EU has always refused to discuss the future trading relationship alongside the Withdrawal Agreement. The EU’s  doctrinaire refusal jeopardises the economic interests of EU member countries who currently enjoy balance of payments surpluses with the UK, exporting significant quantities of goods to the UK whose exports to them are much, much lower. 

This trade surplus of £90 BILLION each year to the advantage of European countries is conversely a major deficit on the UK balance of payments account. That massive and chronic burden of deficit would be seriously improved if indeed the UK left the EU without a Deal – ie “crashed out”. 

As for a “snap election”, this is the talk of EU diehards who dread the possibility of losing their overwhelming Remain majority in the House of Commons.

It is not Boris Johnson’s election, and there is nothing “snap” about it.

It is a constitutionally and politically necessary election.

The ability of the government of the day to regularly command a majority in the House of Commons is the sine qua non of our parliamentary system. It is how our democracy works.

Governments must be able to pass their money bills through parliament, otherwise they cannot govern according to the manifesto on which they were elected. 

This loaded language belongs to those who have publicly declared their defiance of Brexit. They have abused the parliamentary process, defied our Constitution, and smeared those seeking to honour the Brexit Referendum vote.

Yet the BBC treats this factional, ideological position as the paradigm for objective reporting.

This is deeply disturbing. The supposedly “impartial” State broadcaster is flagrantly disposed to one worldview and its terms of reference. Not only does it adopt that perspective but it behaves as a propagandist, not just disseminating this partisan view, but trashing, denigrating and denying the validity of the Brexit position.

BBC editorial bias is blatant. It is a disgrace to the principles and practice of democracy. 

Ray Catlin

You can listen to the interview in question on BBC Sounds at

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0009qtg

The entire interview starts at 1 hour 22 minutes in and the words in question occur at 1 hour and 26 minutes.