Sunday, 22 May 2016

Wrongly claimed

Tonight's BBC One evening news bulletin began with the following headline:
Referendum battle lines are drawn over the Health Service and the chances of Turkey joining the EU. With controversy over what future migration levels might be David Cameron clashes with one of his own ministers on whether Britain could veto Turkish membership. The head of NHS England says the Health Service would be effected in a UK exit caused an economic slowdown. We'll be exploring the latest arguments from the two sides, with less than five weeks to go.
The bulletin (courtesy of BBC reporter Alex Forsyth) quickly - and explicitly - ruled who was right and who was wrong over that Turkey 'controversy': 
Sitting on Europe's south-east flank, Turkey's now at the centre of this referendum battle. Its role in tackling the migrant crisis has renewed talk of it joining the EU, and that's allowed those who want the UK to leave to raise questions about immigration and security. Like this minister [Penny Mordaunt] who today wrongly claimed the UK had no power to stop Turkey joining.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Penny! (according to the BBC).

We then got clips of Dave and Boris both saying (in the past) that Turkey should join the EU.

Then Alex did a 'Reality Check' for us. She 'made it clear' that Turkey wasn't going to be joining the EU any time soon. And blog favourite Prof. Anand Menon (the one who did that massively pro-EU series on the EU for The World at One) then duly appeared as Alex's 'talking head' to say (correctly) that the UK has traditionally been Turkey's biggest cheerleader as regards its entry into the EU and to emphasise the point that it's not "anywhere near becoming an EU member". And Alex then capped that by saying of Turkey's prospective EU membership, "It is in fact [emphasis hers] some way off..." (BBC message reinforcement on overdrive, I think, here!)

So relax about Turkey! (And don't, whatever you do, mention that Turkey has already been granted free visa access to the EU as part of the panicky EU-Turkey migrant deal!)

And then it was onto Steven Simons warnings of the dangers to the NHS from a Brexit.

The bulletin gave Mr Simons' warning (on the Marr show), then featured a clip (from a week ago) of Bank of England governor Mark Carney saying leaving the EU would result in a recession. Ellie Price of the BBC said that Mr Simons (unlike those Leave campaigners) took Mr Carney's warnings "very seriously" and cited his own warning about 130,000 EU NHS workers quitting the NHS in the wake of a Brexit. Ellie called his intervention "highly significant" and "highly political" - and "highly unwelcome" for some. She then, for illustration of the last point, featured a brief clip of Lord Owen (of David Owen fame) huffily making an unpleasant personal attack on Mr Simons (accusing him of making "a very considerable mess of" running the NHS). Then came a clip of a Vote Leave campaign video and its "claim" that leaving the EU would relieve pressure on service and free up extra resources with that famous £350 million a week figure - at which the BBC's Ellie said; 
That's a figure Remain campaigners point out is inaccurate when you factor in the rebate Britain receives for its EU contributions.
Ellie then ended with a 'they say this, they say that' thing, oh so impartially.

Now if that's impartial, then I'm one of Boris's bananas.


  1. The esprit de corps of BBC staff must be tremendous! "We've seen off the threat to the licence fee!! One more push people and we can get us locked into the EU forever!!! "

    Before this campaign started, I expected bias, but nothing - honestly nothing quite on this scale. I think Leave are making a mistake in not kicking up a huge fuss about it, mentioning BBC bias in every answer they give to interviews. They shouldn't just accept it.

    I do fear for my country's future really now. Not just in terms of remaining in the EU, but the fact that our Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have been prepared to tell gross lie after gross lie after gross lie - the latest being the bared faced lie that they oppose the early accession of Turkey to the EU.

    What can our future be if not only we have senior politicians prepared to lie like that but also, a supine media that is prepared to let them? It can only be bad.

    We don't yet know the mettle of Boris. If by some miracle he pulls off a Leave vote he will be hailed as one of our greatest heroes. He's a politician, yes, but you can see he likes to tell the truth, whether or not he always does tell it.

    I hope if he does become PM he will exact a swift revenge on the BBC, which has become a treacherous leech feeding on the body politic.

  2. So here's a Leave claim to 'debunk', and here's a Remain claim to defend. They've an issue from the Remain camp, and an issue from Leave, so a 'balanced' approach. Never mind that there's a more immediate concern about Turkey now regarding the bribe to Erdogan so he can pretend to hold back the flow of 'refugees', and Leave aren't exactly claiming Turkey's membership is imminent. And never mind that it's a complete fantasy that all EU workers in the NHS will simply up sticks after a Brexit result. They'll all get six months severance pay and there are plenty of open health service jobs on the continent waiting for them.

    They think you're all stupid.

    I haven't had time to watch much at all the last few days, but will attempt to catch up this week.

  3. 'There may be hurdles ahead... but I have £4b, 20k staff, music and Strictly'... all the better to swing policy and elections.

  4. Amazing Newsnight - Panel so obviously biased and now Evan Davis just shutting up Andrea Leasom. Even (not Evan) Davis looks embarrassed when he asks questions of the Panel they go nearly 100% for Remain! - when the worst polls for Leave put it at about 55% to 45%.
    Now they are having a ridiculous dramatisation of negotiations on future trade relations with Jonathan Powell - a complete Remainiac.

  5. Re Newsnight - yes, Evan Davis is really embarrassed now, after that Jonathan Powell segment. He just said "He wasn't trying very hard in those negotiations because he doesn't want us to get into them"! Well quite!!! So what was the point of that VERY lengthy section.

  6. Davis is so embarrassed about the Panel on Newsnight! - now he got a 90% pro Remain vote! 90%!!! He's said they were chosen by a polling company but they weren't "scientifically" chosen!!! What's going on?

    1. Odd, BBC polls are usually so objective and transparent too.

    2. I guess they wanted to make sure no Leave-leaning members of the public were even allowed in this time. Last time they had a 'random' audience group, the first three people Davis asked early on made euroskeptic noises. At the end, he asked other people their opinion and they were for Remain. Curiously.

      The BBC knows they have to rig these things now, after having given up on Question Time (on which I am one week behind, so maybe there has been a clearly pro-Remain audience at last).

    3. I do wish the BBC would stop rigging things. It makes the whole trust and transparency thing hard to credit.

  7. I am pleased to report by instincts about the BBC EU Referendum Reality Check were completely correct: it was designed as a tool to be used to chip away at Leave arguments and that is what it is primarily being used for (though, as always, the BBC makes sure there are "complaints from both side"). Take this example. Will leaving the EU result in more costly holidays from Brits. The ever helpful and reasonable BBC decide on balance, there is a lot to the Remain argument on this point...what a surprise...

    "We concluded that leaving the EU could lead to an increase in fares, but that the impact could be reduced or even avoided depending on what agreements the UK reached with the EU and other countries."

    Well let me put another scenario to you, that you didn't even consider:

    1. We vote to Leave.

    2. That means the EU is going to lose something like 15-20% of its productive base. Markets get twitchy about EU prospects going forward.

    3. Eurosceptic parties in Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, France and Poland get a huge boost from the UK referendum result.

    4. It now appears that there is a danger the EU project is going to end in failure with a series of countries leaving. If France goes, the EU will no longer be credible.

    5. Markets react to these developments. The Euro plummets on markets.

    6. Holidays in the EU are much cheaper for Brits.

    Why is the above "scenario" as the Treasury like to call them (so they can still claim their economic virginity is intact) anymore plausible or implausible than the one favoured by the government. In other scenarios (e.g. military security) the government have argued a Brexit would deliver a huge shock to Europe - well I've just applied that logic to the economy.

    1. The responses to their Twitter feed are about as supportive as those on their Facebook pages. At least they can block the former, like BBC HYS posters who do not 'conform'.

  8. Well this is a bit suspicious...

    You'd have thought it would take the Reality Check people a couple of days to give weighty considerration to the IFS's pearls of wisdom, and of course listen carefully to any critiques of it that might be delivered...but no - Reality Check give their (favourable) opinion on it within an hour of publication. Unbelievable! - sorry, I mean "all too believable", given the way the BBC has been displaying its Remainiac tendencies...

    1. They will have received the report at least a couple days ago, as all preferred media get these things early. Not that we should assume they spent hours poring over it and checking facts and figures. But they surely had more time than an hour to think before writing something up.

      Although I suppose they could have just trusted the accompanying press release implicitly and ran with that. Speaking of trusting, the BBC says we should trust the IFS when they issue an approved thought, but not when they contradict the opinions of a BBC economics editor.

    2. Yes, I realised that. But this is supposed to be a Reality Check, not a news report. They won't have heard the critiques of the report. The IFS is part of the pro-EU globalising imperial elite. Their old bosses go off to places like the IMF slotting into well paid sinecures. The IFS folk can expect to be well rewarded for this by Osborne and friends. More importantly the IFS receive money directly from the EU. That should be made clear by the BBC but it never is.

  9. Just watched this:

    The comparison between Eddie 'but, but, the IMF and Mark Carney say' Izzard and Daniel Hannan in speech terms went as expected. One was all belief and fluff. The other ruthless fact and logic, backed by actual fact.

    The comments from the floor were almost all to Daniel Hannan, and when not statements rather than questions allowed by the chair, were frankly idiotic virtue signalling that ignored reality.

    If this is the future, golly. But the next batch of BBC staff is assured a slot.

    1. Hannan's good. Since Bojo seems to have lost his Mojo, perhaps he should feature more strongly in the Leave campaign.

  10. More Newsnight bias.

    During the middle of the official EU Referendum campaign, Evan Davis allows Lord Sugar to deliver an unchallenged 2 minute commercial on behalf of Remain.

    Katie Razzell now giving the Remain campaign a boost by suggesting (a) the Leave camp want to allow in thousands of Bangladeshi curry restaurant workers (b) Sikhs will vote Remain (quite likely I think) (c) finding Caribbean people who are Remainers (my experience is there is a lot more Leave sentiment in Caribbean communities than she is suggesting).

    Anyway, giving the latest ICM poll shows an even split, how come Katie's reports don't reflect that 50-50 split.

    1. Blatant pro-Tory bias, then, as Cameron and Osborne have just been crowing over their newly acquired celebrity tool. Or at least, that's how Complaints From Both Sides will sound.

  11. Has to smile when I saw the schedules for tonight. The BBC have a Referendum "debate" entitled "How Should I Vote?" What a timid, pathetic but totally BBC Mindset title i.e. there is a single objective correct answer implicit in the question. Back in the 70s programmes like this had titles like "It's Your Choice" or "You Decide" etc Now, the BBC encourages this idea that it is an incredibly complex topic that people need to be guided through.

    I had thought that at least as we approach Referendum Day the BBC would have to give more equal coverage to the views of both sides. Of that I have no doubt but there are still the structural bias. For this BBC programme the audience is being restricted to "under 30s" Why on earth? Could it be they know that is the one age group where there is a clear pro-Remain majority? Are there going to be special debates for over 60s? Hmmm...we shall see (and if so , will they receive the same billing). It sounds from the write up in the press that this is not going to be a debate but a bear pit with the "representative" panel encouraged to hurl accusations of racism, Little Englanderism, Thatcherism etc at the Leave reps. And no doubt the BBC will have done their best to make sure the Leave reps are stuffy, besuited Tory types.

    1. They won't do this for other selective groups, and you are correct in your assessment why.

  12. A good day for Leave and the BBC have given some prominence to the migration stats, together with Leave's commentary. However, they have not given up their bad ways. Norman Smith radio news report is typical in its biased language. Apparently the Leave Campaign have "seized on" the migration figures. This is typical of the language used to characterise Leave's actions. It tends to be suggestive of emotion and desperation, rather than reason and sober judgement. When did you last hear a BBC reporter talking about the Remain campaign "seizing on" something. No - they "point out"", they "indicate", they "warn", they "demonstrate", they "state" etc. Norman Smith also tried to take the edge off things by quoting the ONS statement that the 20,000 rise was "statistically insignificant" - which is statement of the bleedin' obvious masquerading as a rebuttal. Nowhere have I heard Smith or any other reporter refer to the scandal that the ONS has admitted these figures are underestimates because they don't include "short term" visitors who subsequently stay for longer than a year, which in part explains the huge discrepancy with NI figures issued.

  13. First BBC EU debate. I'd clocked the structural bias of having it as an event for under 30s - the most Remainiac of age groups. But not the fact it was going to be coming also from Glasgow and produced by BBC Scotland. So further structural bias on behalf of Remain, as we had the SNP being given a prominent role (not, say, an unpopular Osborne) and we had a disproportionate amount of Scots in the audience. Scots are the most Remainiacal of all regions. So obviously the BBC were never going to have BBC Wales stage this. There is hardly any migration to Scotland, so there was no problem getting lots of "we love migration" comments from the audience. For further bias, it was pretty clear the "undecideds" were nothing like that, something I suspect the BBC knew since they didn't take a direct vote from them at the end, since like the Newsnight Panel it would have been 90% pro Remain and would have exposed the BBC Bias.

  14. Well the day ended on a high, with a great, well balanced QT for a change, and even David Dimbleby seemed intimidated by the audience into not explicitly showing his Remainiac preferences.

    1. Panel (unintentionally?) stacked 3:2 for Leave, audience evenly split. Although the conspiracy theorist in me noticed that in the second half the camera mysteriously no longer showed wide shots of people clapping in response to points made and instead went with narrow frames. It's the only way to really judge if the response is loud due to numbers or because a few people made more noise than the majority.

      The full hour spent on the EU this time, and still the BBC couldn't rig the audience.

    2. I think someone on another site has done the calculation on Panel members since the PM's "agreement" announcement and remain are well ahead so the pro Leave panel was unusual. Probably just done to generate some "complaints from both sides"! :)

      Interesting point about camera shots! - I will bear that in mind when looking for examples of nefarious Remainiac bias! :)

      Maybe they thought that as it is Ipswich and virtually the whole town will be voting Leave, it would be a bit obvious to have a pro-Remain audience! :)

  15. The first rule when analysing an Easton piece is "assume extreme left-liberal bias whatever the superficial content may imply".

    So it is with this piece, I think. It's so thick with conditional clauses and caveats that a superficial reading might make you think it was an impartial sociological reflection. Far from it. There are clues hidden throughoutL

    - "With a month still to go, I know many British voters are already profoundly turned off by the EU referendum." Why do BBC types keep reproducing the "boredom" meme? I don't know - but the fact that every Leave proponent say this is an EXCITING opportunity to reclaim our independence, perhaps gives a hint.

    - "The mudslinging, the rows, the nonsense - it does not always look very edifying." I don't think there's been much "mudslinging" - unless you count the contention that Boris was in this for personal advantage...that's simply a valid comment that can either be evidenced or not (and it's probably a close call!). The rows? Well what did he expect in a referendum campaign - nodding agreement? Jeez. Nonsense? I have a suspicion about what Easton thinks is "nonsense"...but he does not tell us.

    - "extraordinary plebiscite" ...well plebiscite is always a code word for "don't let the plebs decide in a vote, that's a fascist ploy". And why is it extraordinary that countries should decide their constitutional future: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and France - and Scotland - all do it or have done it in recent years. It's perfectly normal, unless your a Remainiac who thinks it's risky to give the People the choice.

    - "You may be surprised to know that I think it might prove a good thing." Well I suppose we might be surprised if we thought you were a left-liberal Remainiac whose instincts are against giving the British people the chance to exit.

    - "But, then again, it could be a disaster." Disaster is rather a strong word Mark...I wonder what you really think the disaster might be?

    - He then discourses on our attitude to the Bank of England and the IFS, claiming their opinions have been trashed. Did you notice them being "trashed" on the BBC - no neither did I. Pumped up and trumpeted perhaps (and in the case of the IFS, keeping quiet about their EU funding). Anyway, he then says: "These are organisations that trade on their respected objective analysis..." Note that. He is stating that deploy a "respected objective analysis". Did either analyse conditions objectively and predict the 2008 recession, so earning respect? Er no. But Easton thinks they're great and thinks we should too. Now we're getting to the nub of it! [CONTINUED}


      - "If we trust no-one, what hope is there for a coherent debate about anything?" Er - Easton doesn't seem to understand how democracy works. It's not a question of necessarily trusting anyone. It's more about being given a voice to express your interests and concerns. He is of course pushing here the official BBC line of "objectivism" - that there is one objective correct line on everything, which strangely nearly always is the same as the consensus opinion of BBC presenters, reporters, managers and staff.

      - "It would be a tragedy if one consequence of the EU referendum campaign was to create a country where official statistics and established institutions were trusted less than the saloon-bar bore." Well now we can tell he really is worried. "Saloon-bar bore" is BBC code for UKIP types or, more specifically, Nigel Farage. This despite the fact that the ONS was put in the humiliating position of having to admit a week or so ago that the "official" figures on long term migration are out by a huge margin. Why should anyone respect official bodies that clearly have got it so hugely wrong about migration figures? Easton doesn't tell us.

      - "And organisations that offer intelligence on such matters may be obliged to be more transparent about their methodologies and more honest about their shortcomings." Ah, Comrade Easton is arguing the Glasnost and Perestroika position, it is now clear. In the days of the Soviet Union many Communists argued it wasn't the system that was fundamentally wrong. It was just the system needed to be more transparent and better organised.

      - "Passionate arguments from head and heart have been ignited by this referendum, inside political parties and often inside individual voters. " Well what do you know - there's the "head and heart" meme again. Remember? According to the PM who started it rolling, "head" = Remain and "heart" - Leave.

      - "The standing of traditional political structures is so low that in some countries tub-thumping populists can get away with making up the facts as they go along while dismissing unhelpful evidence as part of an intellectual plot." You'd think from the way Easton talks that Churchill never said Labour would bring in a Gestapo, Bevan never called the Tories "vermin", Brown never claimed the Tories would dismantle the NHS, Healey never warned of Thatcher's "stocking-footed fascism" and Thatcher never talked about "the enemy within".


      MY CONCLUSION: The Soviet analogy is instructive. In the old Politburos there was always one grim-faced ideologue in an ill fitting suit. Easton is the BBC's ideological equivalent, albeit in a post-modern suit.

      Easton is simply restating the basic BBC ideology:

      1. People should trust experts.

      2. There is an objective reality that the experts can discern.

      3. Democracy is about people coming to understand what the objective reality is.

      4. Ideally, both politicians and voters will come to an understanding of what objective reality is at which point voters can trust politicians and social and economic progress will accelerate.

      Easton thinks all this is uncontentious because true. But it is simply one view (the standard Left-Liberal, BBC approved view of politics).

      There is an alternative view which I would put forward:

      1. It is as wrong for people to trust politicians as it is for people to trust car sales people. Politics is NOT about trust.

      2. Official agencies can lie as much as some individuals. Whether they are lying or not is simply a matter of evidence, as with the case of migration statistics.

      3. People should ideally vote on the basis of their interests (hopefully in an enlightened and not a narrow sense, but it's not for me or Mark Easton to instruct them how they use their vote). However, there are many powerful vested interests who try to get them to vote for THEIR interests and individuals being less powerful do often succumb to that.

      4. We need radical democratic institutions, as in Switzerland, if we want to see the best political outcomes.

  16. Newsnight never disappoints! Tonight they lead with Lord Whatever of Whatever, Chris Patten...allowing him ten minute slot to basically assassinate Boris. Bring it on I would say. Most young people will be saying "Chris who? He looks very dodgy." and older people will be thinking "sucked up to Thatcher, wanted the Euro, so then stabbed Thatcher in the back, handed over Hong Kong to the Communist dictatorship with no protections for its democracy, now trying something similar with us - what's not to hate? "

    Of course they had to "balance" Lord Fatten's comments [which were heralded, by the unbiased Kirsty, as being an objectively - no qualification - "devastating" attack on Boris] with a Leave spokesperson so they went to Jacob Rees-Mogg. I am sure the Guardian mob who now run Newsnight think they are being v. clever getting a kind of stereotype "villainous" Tory in a Savile Row suit on...but the fact is that, in a quiet way, people like Jacob Rees-Mogg because he appears to them as frank and forthright with no side. So that just shows how stupid they are.

  17. For Kirsty to herald anything, much less as 'devastating', is partial editorialising.

    Which the BBC is not meant to do.


    The BBC wheeling out a BBC Trust chair to slate a BBC ideological foe sounds about as BBC as it gets.

    1. I just made the ironic connection between the Easton article and the Patten interview. On the one hand you have Easton moaning about mudslinging and nonsense and appealing for us to address the issues, and explicitly upholding the BBC as a beacon of informed "reality check" light amid the dark storm of populism sweeping across Europe...and then you have Newsnight providing the extensive time and facilities (including the authority of an out of studio interview - the grand old man surveying the landscape) for Patten to launch a completely irrelevant mud slinging ad hominem attack on Boris!

    2. Kirsty and the rest of them could easily retain the entertaining news narrative without sacrificing impartiality. She could easily have said "launches what he clearly hopes will be seen as a devastating attack" (acknowledges subjective opinions vary) instead of "launches a devastating attack" (only one objective reality). They know how to be impartial, and sometimes they are, which proves it. But more often than not, they don't wish to be.