Saturday, 11 March 2017

Was the BBC biased over the Budget?

The pressures of extra hours at work (employed not self-employed) has kept me away from the blog for a few days (have I missed anything?), so it's 'catching-up' time again...

The Budget has been the big domestic news story of the week. My Twitter feed showed that something remarkable had happened when hordes of right-leaning tweeters were pouring derision on Philip Hammond for his NICs rise on the self-employed while a few prominent left-leaning tweeters were advising others on the Left to consider that Mr Hammond was actually doing something 'progressive', something they could and should approve of.  

The BBC's News at Six on Budget Day opened with the following strongly-angled headline:
The Chancellor's Budget .2.5 million self-employed people will pay higher National Insurance contributions. That's despite pledging not to raise National Insurance in the party manifesto. But Mr Hammond says his Budget promises a better future. An extra £2 billion is found for social care in England to be spent over the next three years. We'll be looking at the impact of today's Budget and how it could affect you.
BBC bias? Fair comment? I'd go for 'fair comment' here. It's the angle everyone else seemed to be leading with and 'everyone else' was calling the Chancellor out of that too (and, if I'm expected to give opinions, I'll add 'And quite right too!' on the manifesto point).

The loudest accusations of bias against this bulletin came from the Left, especially for John Pienaar's opening report, which Corbynistas accused of being 'pro-Tory' and 'anti-Corbyn' - especially for highlighting the mockery at Mr Corbyn's expense and for saying that Mrs May "rightly or wrongly, seemed to see Labour's leader as a bit of a joke". 

(Was that biased? Or was it balanced? I can't make up my mind. It's certainly a striking turn of phrase.)

Here, for the record, is John Pienaar's report - or at least his parts from it. Please judge for yourselves whether they constitute pro-Tory/anti-Corbyn bias or not:

  • Chancellors always hang around in the street on budget day. But Brexit, a bit like the weather, turned out nicer so far than the forecasters expected. He had more spending power thanks to higher growth and lower borrowing. But Brexit will not be a smooth or quick journey. Not that he is too worried about his Labour opponents. Here at Westminster, as the time came round towards the Budget, his boss, rightly or wrongly, seemed to see Labour's leader as a bit of a joke. And more than just a bit. And the Chancellor allowed himself to keep the tone upbeat.
  • They call him Spreadsheet Phil, businesslike, proud to be boring. So, no spending sprees. But we would have higher bills to pay and, for millions, that meant higher taxes, on company owners, who pay themselves in share dividends, and a hike in national insurance for the self-employed, though the Tory manifesto did promise to keep National Insurance down. 
  • On National Insurance, there is a tax hike for the self-employed. Their national insurance contributions will go up to 11% in 2019. The Chancellor says this will help raise £145 million. Other changes raise much more. But some Tories are unhappy. Paying for social care is now an urgent problem and the Chancellor had promised MPs he would find cash to buy more time. 
  • For social care, there'd be an extra £2 billion over three years, with £1 billion available in the next year. He said the long-term funding options would be announced, but what he called Labour's death tax on estates was ruled out. Companies, including pubs, are being hit by higher business rates after revaluation and that's worried MPs and forced the Chancellor to pour out a little comfort. 
  • So to ease the burden of business rates, local councils will be given £300 million to help the worst hit. No small business losing rate relief will see their bill increased by more than £50 a month. There would be a £1000 discount on rates for but, with a rateable value of less than #100,000, 90% of them. Getting Britain fit for Brexit meant cash for new schools, grants for technical education and spending on technology and science. Cue another joke at the expense of Jeremy Corbyn. He didn't see the joke at all. But the Chancellor was into his stride and feeling upbeat. Mr Corbyn had his counterattack ready: The Government was failing in its own ambitions. 
  • Extra money for Wales and Scotland, meant to cement the case for the union, was never likely to head off nationalist condemnation. 
  • A strong backlash then for a relatively small-scale Budget. But fierce controversy is normal now, on Britain's long march to Brexit.

And now for Norm.....

The other 'big thing' I noticed about the Budget was Norman Smith's characteristically hyper Twitter commentary.

Here, in reverse chronological order, are Norm's tweets as the Budget proceeded.

If the jury's still out on whether Jon Pienaar was making particular points there, there's no doubt whatsoever that Norman was most definitely trying to make a point here.

Now, many (including me) would agree it's a valid point Norman Smith was plugging away at so relentlessly here, but was he doing so for purely journalistic reasons or was he displaying 'anti-Tory bias'?

(He was certainly being opinionated. That's for sure!)

Again, you decide!

  • "People who are the backbone of the Conservative party - the aspirational working class - are being hammered." - @TheLTDA
  • Cabbies lash out at Hammond NICs rise. "We're being hammered" - @TheLTDA
  • For the avoidance of doubt. Tory 2015 manifesto....
  • Treasury seem completely blind sided by broken manifesto row. Looks like their political antennae gone seriously wonky. #Budget2017
  • This is a Govt committed to its manifesto say Treasury. #Budget2017
  • Self employed hit by NICs tax rise will be £240 a year worse off #Budget2017
  • One and a half million self employed to be hit by govt NICs tax rise #Budget2017
  • Methinks...Bottom line is Tory election manifesto broken on NICs. End of. #Budget2017
  • Treasury sources say tax lock legislation AFTER election did not exclude NICs tax rise ...! Tory manifesto doesn't matter ?? 
  • Increase in NICs tax for self employed is "a fairness argument" say Treasury sources #Budget2017
  • Nics tax rise designed to avoid loss of revenue in future as more people opt to work for themselves #Budget2017
  • Nics tax changes for self employed raise around £200m . #Budget2017
  • Im guessing £ 2 billion for social care cd come from local council savings #Budget2017
  • Chancellor promises extra two billion for social care. But where does this extra cash come from ??? #Budget2017
  • From where I'm sitting 2% rise in NICs for self employed is breach of tory manifesto pledge not to raise direct personal taxes. #Budget2017
  • Two per cent rise in national insurance for self employed #Budget2017
  • Tax rise Claxon. Whoop. Whoop. National insurance tax rise for self employed #budget2017

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, Norm going full Shakespeare is a better look.

    I am so awaiting 'Forsooth'.