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BBC anti-Brexit rhetoric continues with alleged lies over ‘Norway option’

BBC anti-Brexit rhetoric continues with alleged lies over ‘Norway option’

Anti-Brexit group Britain Stronger in Europe has started its propaganda push with a £1.5m leaflet drop. It focuses – with hackneyed predictability – on threats that outside the Single Market, three million UK jobs will be at risk.

News-watch research shows that for years, BBC presenters and reporters have been allowing Europhiles to get away with these totally unfounded claims – devastatingly debunked by the Institute of Economic Affairs in March – virtually without challenge.

It is now becoming increasingly clear that nothing is going to change in BBC coverage in the run-up to the EU referendum.

Why? In effect, a Radio 4 programme broadcast on Thursday was a clear declaration, that the Corporation will be actively campaigning to amplify such messages – especially those about the Single Market.

Perhaps there is no surprise in this – after all an ex-BBC strategy chief, Carolyn Fairbairn, is now director-general of the fanatically Europhile Confederation of British Industry and has been declaring her referendum plans to the Guardian; and Sir Roger Carr, a former president of the CBI, is now deputy chairman of the BBC Trustees. The Corporation is so steeped in the importance of Brussels that it cannot see or think outside that bubble.

At what point, however, does biased BBC reporting tip over into being deliberately untrue?

According to many EU experts, that divide was crossed by the programme in question, an edition of the In Business slot which, in essence, on the basis of what can loosely be called unchallenged misinformation, purported to show what it claimed was the hugely negative impact on Norway of daring not to be a member of the Brussels club.

Hot on the heels of a similarly massively anti-Brexit programme by Carolyn Quinn – described here on The Conservative Woman – reporter Jonty Bloom conveyed to listeners without qualification or counter opinion a central untruth: that even though Norway was not in the EU, it was forced to follow EU directives, with potentially disastrous consequences. He suggested that being on the outside entailed vast expense for the Norwegian economy and meant it had no input into policy-making.

To illustrate this, he put centre stage in the programme an interview with a spokesman from an Oslo boiler manufacturer (called Oso, no doubt also chosen partly for its ardently ‘green’ agenda) which, it was alleged, had faced near disaster. Bloom said that the company had been doing very well until an EU directive covering tough changes in the regime around safety and ecological requirements of water-heating equipment suddenly appeared on the horizon.

He contended that the company had only been saved from ruinous new costs of up to £10m by last minute intervention by France, which had used its offices to secure an opt-out for Norway from the new regulations.

He larded the tale with dark warnings about other costs and pitfalls of being outside the Single Market – exactly in tune with the Britain Stronger in Europe leaflet and the direst warnings of the CBI. The full transcript of the programme is below.

Bloom’s programme opened with almost-reasonable interviews with Norwegian fishermen and farmers. He explained that opposition to the EU was rooted in these core economic areas.

But then the rot set in. According to website Leave HQ, what followed about the boiler-maker and Norway’s involvement with EU rules and the Single Market was ‘a pack of lies’, essentially because it most certainly does have influence, through its participation in the European Economic Area (EEA) and membership of EFTA (the European Free Trade Association).

The EU Referendum website explains:

‘In fact…right from the very start, the heating world exploded in outrage (against the proposed regulations). Not only did Norway object, but the issue was taken up by the Nordic Council of Ministers….It took until August 2013, more than three years after the draft regulations had been published, for the highly revised regulations, during which period the Norwegians were fully consulted.

‘To allow a claim that it was simply “blind luck” that prevented the original, more draconian proposals coming into force is a travesty. It simply isn’t true.’

There is not the space here to go into everything that Bloom got wrong – or about subsequent alleged highly dubious tampering with copy on the BBC website – but at its heart was the parading of a blatant untruth: that Europhiles from David Cameron downwards want us to believe: for countries outside the EU, and especially Norway, there is only darkness and despair.

There are dozens of different sources that Bloom could have approached to obtain a different and more realistic picture why up to 85% of Norwegians do not want to join the EU and why it is, in consequence, one of the richest countries in the world. One is Katherine Kleveland, leader of the Nei til EU campaign , who explains admirably here the advantages for her country of being outside the EU. To her, it is emphatically not a second best, involves no loss of national sovereignty or control, and allows Norwegians at every level a better and fuller say in trade negotiations because they are not funnelled through the EU.

This underscores that with EU affairs, nothing that the Corporation broadcasts can be trusted; everything is crafted with one end – to show that life outside the EU is, for the UK, and every other European country that is not yet a member, an unsustainable impossibility.



Transcript of BBC Radio 4, In Business, 21st January 2015, 8.30pm

ANNOUNCER: Norway’s relationship with the European Union is often held up as a potential model for the UK if we vote to leave the EU in the referendum that’s expected later this year. But what exactly is that model? Our business correspondent, Jonty Bloom, has been to Norway to find out.

JONTY BLOOM:     Deep in the Arctic Circle where at this time of year the sun barely rises, this is the regional capital of the North of Norway. It’s a good two hour’s flight from Oslo, over hundreds and hundreds of miles of snow-covered mountains, icy islands, and long fjords reaching far inland. Tromso is right on the edge of Europe, closer to Moscow than Brussels and far further north than Iceland. It’s bitterly cold. I’ve come here because Tromso is at the heart of the Norwegian fishing industry. From here, trawlers venture deep into the stormy and freezing cold Barents Sea in search of cod, haddock, mackerel and prawns. During the 1994 referendum campaign on whether Norway should join the European Union, Tromso harbour filled with fishing boats all flying flags saying ‘Nei til EU’ – ‘No to the EU’ and since then, little has changed. So, did you used to take the boat out all did you er . . .

JAN ROGER LERBUKT: Yeah, I’ve been doing fisheries for many years.

JB:           Jan Roger Lerbukt was almost born with webbed feet. I notice his massive hands bear the scars of many years at sea in rough dangerous conditions. He owns and runs one trawler, The Hermes – that spends up to five weeks at sea at a time, in fishing grounds that Norway owns and controls. Norway regards the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy with disdain. It has managed its fishing stocks successfully for years, and as a result, the fishing industry has been one of the bulwarks against entry to the EU. You used to go out with your father, did you?

JRL:         Yeah, I started out, actually I was 10 years old, first time, but that was just for one week or something like that.

JB:           And the most important man on board is the chef, I take it, is he?

JRL:         Of course.

JB:           Yes (laughs)

JRL:         (laughs)

JB:           I assume you had a vote in the ’94 referendum? Which way did you vote then?

JRL:         I voted ‘no’.

JB:           And why was that?

JRL:         Based on the agreement and the deal we got with the EU at that time, and, and . . . and the whole question, I voted ‘no’. I think that was the best for . . . for the industry and Norway as a whole. Er, the situation for the stocks in the Barent Sea are very good now, and that comes, in my opinion, to the fact that we have been able, in Norway, to, have legislations and regulations which has been able to build the stocks up, and that’s vital to us, of course, because this is . . . this is for the future, it’s not a business for today. It’s, it’s for the future to, to keep the stocks in a, in a good condition, to be able to harvest of them (sic) for, for many, many years to come. For my children, for their children, for the future – it’s food.

JB:           And what is it that you would fear about being in the EU?

JRL:         Loss of control. Loss of control of the fisheries, of the stocks of the . . . the regulations, depleting the resources. That’s what I would fear. If that should be the result, I will always vote ‘no’.

(mournful music)

JB:           Although Tromso is remote, it’s still the regional capital. In fact, once called the Paris of the North, it’s home to the Arctic Philharmonic but I wanted to get out of town to visit one of the many fish farms that use the pure icy water of the local fjords to rear millions of salmon. To get there takes another three hours . . . by ferry and then by car. Across the island of Senja, on snow-covered roads through deep mountain valleys, until you finally reach the coast. And then it’s another half an hour by boat to the fish farm itself. I’m on the deck of a support vessel about two or 3 miles down Bergsfjord in North Norway. It’s permanent night at this time of the year round here, so there’s just enough twilight to see the huge mountains which surround us on nearly every side. Absolutely covered in snow and ice. And the reason we’re here is just in front of us, huge pens of an enormous salmon farm, there’s something like a million and a half salmon right in front of me, they love this environment, I can’t say I do, I’ve got about four layers on, including a complete emergent suit, but it is something like minus 13 or minus 15 out here at the moment, and I’ve found myself suddenly . . . willing to pay considerably more for a salmon steak at my local supermarket than I was previously. This is a, a vital Norwegian industry which is deeply affected by the country’s relationship with the European Union. Fredd Wilsgaard owns and runs this fish farm.

FREDD WILSGAARD:            It’s freezing and they are working, it’s okay it’s part of the game, it’s okay.

JB:           With a dry sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye, Fredd has a remarkable resemblance to George Clooney. He even joked about it, but on the subject of the EU, he’s deadly serious. Did you vote in the ’94 referendum?

FW:         Yes I did.

JB:           Can I ask you how you voted then?

FW:         Yes you can. I voted, ‘no’. As a salmon farmer, I voted ‘no’. And if you look around, you can see . . . there are some sites, there are some farmers living here, and we have a little industry, mining here in (word unclear) the fisheries, you can see (fragments of words, or words unclear) you can see three fish boats, fishing herrings, and this community cannot survive, if you don’t pull it all together – fisheries, industry, farming. And the reason why I, I voted ‘no’ in ’94 was . . . that I was afraid of the consequences for the fisheries. And without the fisheries we can’t do this society alone, as farmers, but I’m not sure today that I would vote ‘no’ again.

JB:           To understand why Fredd is thinking again about how he would vote, I visited the factory he owns a few miles down the road.

FW:         This is (word or words unclear) gallery, and you can see the fish . . .

JB:           (words unclear) coming down, in towards the holding tank, I think.

FW:         Yes it is.

JB:           And they’re immediately, four at a time, they’re stunned and . . . and then killed.

FW:         Stunned and slaughtered, yes.

JB:           Every knock you hear, which sounds rather like a squash ball being whacked against a wall, is a salmon being stunned and killed. 14,000 a day are sucked out of the holding pens and within two minutes gutted, inspected and packed in ice. Now, the thing that strikes me about this is, I mean, it’s an amazingly automated process, and you’ve got lots of people in here checking and everything, but all you’re doing is killing and cutting the fish, and then putting them into a box whole.

FW:         Yes.

JB:           What would you like to do with them?

FW:         A small amount of the fish that we are processing in this plant is taken over to the next plant to make fillets but I would like to do a lot more, more fillets and, and I would like to smoke some salmon, and I would like to . . . do more, make it finish so that you could go to the store and . . . pick it up and go home and eat it.

JB:           So you could do ready meals and prepared fish with sauce, and all sorts of stuff.

FW:         Yes, or we could do ready meals.

JB:           And why don’t you do more of that?

FW:         A part of it is the taxes that we’ve got on the product, the more finished we do it, so er . . . that’s the price for being outside the Union.

JB:           Norway doesn’t process is much of the fish it ships to the EU as it would like. The tariffs are too high. Just 2% on gutted fish, but up to 13% unprocessed. As a result, its ships its fish to Denmark and Poland where they are turned into ready meals. Norway is losing their jobs that involves, and the higher profits it would bring.

(mournful music)

JB:           That helps explained why Fredd voted to stay out of the EU in 1994, but now he’s part of a small minority who would probably vote to join. Quite a shift for quite a traditional industry. But that’s not going to happen. Another referendum is not on the agenda and even if it were, a large majority of Norwegians, around 70% would vote against it again, according to the polls. One reason for that can be found in a cowshed, more than a thousand miles south of Fredd’s salmon farm on the outskirts of Oslo. The agricultural lobby in Norway is big and powerful.

TRON RAYOSTAR: See, think now it’s time for milking, so you go inside here, and then, er, the computer now, now it’s ready, time for milking or just feeding and then, open the door (words unclear) for feeding (words unclear) for milking.

JB:           And how does the computer know that?

TR:          Er . . . she has this number here . . .

JB:           Ah, she has a computer chip on her neck.

TR:          Yes, yes.

JB:           Tron Rayostar (phonetic) is a farmer, he says he knows every one of his 40 dairy cows, but Tron has another important job – he’s President of the TINE Cooperative, made up of 15,000 farmers which dominates the dairy industry in Norway. How is the dairy industry at the moment, how are . . . things for you?

TR:          ’15 will be a very good year for the farmers, yeah. For the milking production in Norway, it’s nice time now. So that’s the big difference from Europe.

JB:           Yes it is, isn’t it?

TR:          Yes, and that’s the Norwegian politics, to make that possible.

JB:           Because in the rest of Europe prices are falling, but . . .

TR:          Yes.

JB:           . . . here they’re still pretty good aren’t they?

TR:          Yes. They are stable or rising a little bit.

JB:           Norway looks after its farmers. There will be many a British dairy farmer who would like a price rise, and yet milk in Norway is already far more expensive than it is in the UK. Across the farmyard there’s a beautiful house, resting on the edge of snow-covered fields with wood-burning stoves, underfloor heating and effortless Scandinavian style. It’s a picture postcard pretty. In the farmhouse, we warmed up and tried some of Tron’s wife’s home-made biscuits. We talked to him in a mix of English and Norwegian with his TINE colleague, Bjorn Strom (phonetic) translating and chipping in. Just as Norway’s fishing industry wants nothing to do with the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, its farmers want nothing to do with its Common Agricultural Policy. That still accounts for 40% of the EU’s budget and has often been criticised for subsidising farmers and protecting them from international competition, while forcing up food prices. But what, I wanted to know . . . was it about the Common Agricultural Policy which would not work for Norwegian farmers?

BJORN STROM:     He says that in Norway we have very high costs, and there are also climatic conditions that is very difficult. We are, for most of the country, nearer to the North Pole than to Rome, and that means that we need a differential agricultural policy.

JB:           And how is Norwegian agriculture protected against imports.

BS:          We have tariffs, which are protecting the rich agricultural producers. And . . . there was also a quota system for import on some basic Norwegian products, which can be imported.

JB:           So, I think the famous example is cheese, is it, foreign cheeses get quite high tariff when they come into Norway? How high is that, do you know?

BS:          Some cheeses are in fact, er, free for imports inside the quota, some cheeses have a lower tariff than others, and so we have a few cheeses with very high tariffs, about 270%.

JB:           Yes, there are tariffs as high as 270% on some cheeses imported into Norway. The country doesn’t like the Common Agricultural Policy, because it’s nowhere near as generous to the EU’s farmers as Norway’s government is to Norwegian ones. No wonder the national anthem is titled, ‘Yes, We Love this Country.’

(Norwegian national anthem)

JB:           In the main square in the centre of Oslo, the iceskating rink is busy. It’s in a prime spot, between the Parliament and the Royal Palace. There’s snow on the ground and lights in the trees, and everywhere you look there are expensive international stores. This is an outward-looking, very successful and prosperous country. And for many people it illustrates what is possible for a European country if it’s outside the European Union. A short walk from the ice rink, and an office on the quite square, I discovered that although fishing and farming are totally outside the EU, the rest of the economy is surprisingly well-integrated. So chart 14.8 is . . .

ULF SVERDRUP:    Basically showing the economic integration, between different European countries and the internal market.

JB:           Ulf Sverdrup, director of the think-tank, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, was showing me a chart I think he knew would surprise me. It shows how much trade certain countries do with the European Union.

US:          And if you include Norway in that . . . listing of countries, you find that Norway is among the . . . economies who are most integrated and dealing the most with the European market.

JB:           So actually, you’re about, Norway on its own is about the fourth most integrated country, if you look at imports and exports.

US:          Yes.

JB:           Of all the countries of (fragment of word, unclear) of Europe. And the UK is the least.

US:          Yeah.

JB:           And yet, you’re not a member and we are.

US:          Yeah.

JB:           (laughs)

US:          (laughs)

JB:           In part, that huge trade with the EU is because Norway has something that the countries of the European Union desperately need: huge supplies of oil and gas from a safe, reliable and friendly neighbour. But that also means that Norway is closely tied to the EU. Ulf should know – the chart comes from a huge report on Norway’s relationship with the European Union he helped to write, called ‘Outside and Inside’

US:          Formally speaking, Norway is outside, it’s not a member of the EU, but if you look into the details, look into the agreements, we find that Norway is much more inside than outside. It’s more fair to say that we are three quarters inside, rather than an outsider.

JB:           Norway may not be in the EU, but it has signed up for an awful lot of EU projects, and it’s part of the Schengen zone, which currently means there’s free movement into and out of Norway for most EU citizens, and it cooperates and justice, crime and defence. The fisheries and farming sectors are outside of the EU, but the rest of the economy is pretty much part of the single market, just as Germany, France and the UK are. So why has Norway voted ‘no’ to EU membership, but become so closely tied?

US:          Some Norwegian voters wanted to preserve sovereignty, and national democracy. At the same time they also wanted to . . . protect economic interests, so you have to find a balance between these different things and . . . from 1994, when we had the referendum, on every occasion politicians faced with a choice have opted for more European integration rather than less.

JB:           But why then have the politicians and the business leaders failed to convince voters, the majority of Norwegians, that you may as well join?

US:          Formal membership is often seen as a kind of . . . making big leaps, kind of changing from one state to another basically, whereas these small, incremental adjustments has not been so hard to sell.

JB:           So what is it exactly that has persuaded the Norwegians to stay close to the European Union? The answer, it seems, is access to the single market. That’s worth a small fortune to Norway. As a country of under 5 million people, it gives Norway access to a population of potential customers a hundred times larger. But that access doesn’t come cheap. Norway pays hundreds of millions of euros a year to the EU.

US:          The EU is quite a tough negotiator (short laugh) yeah, so we pay more or less . . . I think if you rank it, it’s sixth or seventh, the biggest net contributor, if you were to compare. Pay more per capita than the Finns and the Danes.

JB:           It’s not much of a saving then? If you’re, if you’re not in then is it?

US:          No, but you have to remember that Norway’s association with the EU is not a model carefully decided, it’s more of an accident, a series of accidents that happened.

JB:           The single market is more than just a free trade zone. It regulates and enforcers rules and standards that in theory guarantee the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. That means a company can sell its goods in any EU member state as easily as in its own country. But the rules that make that possible are written in Brussels and Strasbourg. It’s almost 9 o’clock in the morning now and it’s still pretty dark outside. Er, but it’s a lovely scene as you come out from Oslo’s Central Station, past all the hills covered with trees and snows, and the odd ski track. There’s warm looking lights on everywhere, but it’s minus 10 outside. I’m on my way to meet a company that’s having real problems with Norway’s relationship with the EU. Although there are lots of benefits in Norway not being in the European Union, there are of course costs. I was met off the train by Sigurd Braathen, the managing director of OSO hot water – a family-owned maker of central heating boilers for private and business properties. The factory is almost completely automated with dozens of robots.

SIGURD BRAATHEN:             So this is where we marry the parts, we marry the top and the bottom on the cylinder.

JB:           Many of the machines are brand-new. They’ve been installed at huge cost, for one simple reason. Sigurd woke up one morning a couple of years ago to find a new EU directive on energy efficiency and environmental standards was threatening half his product range.

SB:          Yeah, that’s about it, we woke up one day and after doing the calculations, and the different way of . . . of calculating the ratings for our products, and we suddenly saw that, you know our [word unclear ‘products’?] will be useless. And it just happened overnight, we felt trampled upon I would say , especially since we can’t affect the decision, it was a difficult period to find out what to do, but we just need to get on with it and . . . and find solutions to the legislation as it was back then.

JB:           The European Union had decided to introduce new rules, which massively favoured gas boilers over electric ones. But Norway’s electricity is almost totally green, it comes from hydroelectric power plants. Because Norway has little say in EU rules, the company was stymied, and thought it would have to invest £10 million in new plant to meet new standards. At the last moment, France and Finland had the directive watered down – they produce quite a lot of green electricity as well, and thought the rules would hurt their boilermakers. That lucky break saved OSO £5 million.

SB:          It’s probably just dumb luck that we ended up with legislation that allows us to maintain most of our product range.

JB:           If you had to get rid of half your product range, what would’ve happened to this factory?

SB:          Well, the factory would have er . . . been in desperate need of investment, as a family business we would have been forced to borrow a lot of money, I think, we don’t like that, we like to have a safe business, to try not to have too much in debt, if we are to adapt to the way it was originally, then I’m sure it would’ve meant another £5 million investment, and for us that’s huge, when our turnover is about €50 million.

JB:           As it was, they still had to find £5 million to spend on new equipment – money SIgurd would’ve liked to have spent on entering new markets. What really surprised me about this story was that if OSO hadn’t changed its products to suit the new EU directive, it wouldn’t just have been banned from selling its hot water tanks in the EU, it wouldn’t have been able to sell them in Norway either, because EU single market rules apply in Norway as much as in Germany, France or Great Britain. Now, Norway is different from the UK, it’s a much smaller economy and the UK might be able to negotiate a better deal than Norway gets if it leads the EU. But Norway is small fry in EU terms and it accepts what is sometimes called ‘rule by fax’ – the story, probably apocryphal, is that somewhere in a Norwegian government office there’s a fax machine, every day, Norwegian civil servants are supposed to sit around it waiting for the latest pages of EU rules from Brussels to spew out, so they can quickly be passed into Norwegian law.

LARS HEIM:           Yes, hello, welcome.

JB:           Hello, I’m Jonty Bloom.

LH:          Lars Heim (phonetic)

JB:           Lars Heim is the undersecretary for industry. He’s in charge of that famous fax machine. Minister, so the first question is: where exactly is this fax machine when Norway receives all the . . . the new laws and . . .

LH:          (laughs)

JB:           . . . regulations from Brussels.

LH:          We don’t have a . . . a fax machine, but we get all our er . . . a lot of new legislation from EU and er, Norway being a part of the inner market, er, internal market we have to . . . apply and make them a part of Norwegian legislation as well.

JB:           In fact, experts I spoke to said it was not so much rule by fax machine, it’s more like the Norwegian government comes into work every day, turns on its computer and finds a new software update ready to load. So, has the government ever refused to implement a law, I asked. The previous government, the Minister said, had decided it would resist changes to the postal system, but when the new administration got in, they waved it through, believing it wasn’t worth the fight. There are other developments, however, they watch nervously.

LH:          Of course, if the EU and the United States reach a free trade agreement, that would impact Norway strongly, because we are part of the internal market but we will not be part of that agreement, and that of course will open up whole new situation that we have to decide what would serve Norway’s interests best in, in that kind of situation.

JB:           So what would the options be?

LH:          We don’t know yet. We keep our options open, but of course we had to consider should we try to . . . erm . . . be a part of the agreement, should we try to be a bilateral agreement with the United States? Should we try to find another kind of solution? But we follow it closely, we talk to both parties, both in the United States and the European Union, and we try to monitor the situation as closely as we can, not being a member, and we also try to evaluate what could the possible consequences be for Norwegian industries and businesses.

JB:           Could you just ask to have exactly the same terms and conditions with the United States?

LH:          Of course we can ask, but I don’t know if that’s feasible.

JB:           It does illustrate the kind of issue that . . . if you want to be outside the EU, but have complete access to . . .

LH:          Hmm.

JB:           . . . the EU, you have to accept the EU’s rules.

LH:          Hmm.

JB:           Of course, many in Norway’s business community would like to have a say on those rules, for obvious reasons.

KRISTIN LUND:      Mostly business just have to adapt, I mean, often there’s no other way around it.

JB:           Kristin Lund is the director general of the Norwegian Federation of Enterprise, the NHO – the main organisation for employers in Norway. I asked her why Norway doesn’t try to renegotiate the terms of its relationship with the EU.

KL:          Frankly, I don’t think we would have gotten those same terms today, and we also realise that, so we, we stick onto and hang onto that agreement.

JB:           So you think the terms now would be worse?

KL:          Yes.

JB:           And Norway pays a lot to maintain close ties with the EU. It is a rich country, it has immense benefits of huge amounts of North Sea oil and gas, which it can use to help an economy of under 5 million people. It’s cautioned by that oil and gas, and by the sovereign wealth fund it’s built up with the proceeds. That makes it pretty unique in European terms, but it knows those riches won’t last forever.

KL:          Let’s put it this way: that the fact that we’ve had such a successful oil and gas sector has made our economy grow and be very healthy and, and er . . . prosperous over the last two decades, and I think (inhales) . . . going into a new era now, where . . . where we can not rely to the same degree on that sector I think we will be faced with more of, let’s say, the economic realities that’s hit the rest of Europe. And I think . . . that’s going to make us more like the rest of Europe. You know we’ve been . . . in a bit of a different situation, and I think that has cautioned a lot different effects, economically, for Norway. And maybe this is not exactly raised some of these questions and issues to the degree it otherwise would have.

JB:           Still there is absolutely no evidence that Norway wants to join the EU. Over many years opinion polls have shown that there is consistently been a large majority against entry. And it’s not even on the political agenda. Certainly, all the Norwegians I spoke to were opposed.

VOX POP MALE:   In ’94 I vote ‘no’, I was very afraid that we will lose oil and the fishery to the European Union. It’s still ‘no’ for my sake, (word or words unclear) for sure.

VOX POP FEMALE:               I like that we have control over our money. Like, I want everything to be our decision, so I want us to make the decision, even if it’s the same one as we would have made in the EU, but I wanted to be completely our decision.

VOX POP MALE 2:                It cost a lot to stay outside the Union, but we think it’s worth it, because still we have the natural resources for ourself (sic) the oil and the fish.

JB:           [sombre sounding bell rings throughout next section] Norway is not a member of the European Union and it is a rich and successful country. The UK could be like that too. But Norway does have access to the single market and is very intricately tied to the EU. It is an arrangement that many in Norway seem perfectly happy with, but if the UK were to follow the Norwegian model that wouldn’t mean a totally clean break from the European Union.


Photo by Leshaines123

A figleaf swept away in the torrent of anti-Brexit bias

A figleaf swept away in the torrent of anti-Brexit bias

In BBC Radio 4’s Feedback on Friday, host Roger Bolton introduced a classic edition of Corporation Complaints Stonewalling.

The subject? Primarily coverage of Brexit. The message? As always, the BBC is getting it right.

The full transcript is below.

Element one, carefully orchestrated by Bolton, was to convey that the BBC was receiving complaints that its Brexit coverage was biased from both ‘sides’, those who supported Brexit and those who opposed it. Because of this, it was risibly suggested, complaints of editorial imbalance must be unfounded.

Element two was that two BBC bigwigs – Gavin Allen, controller of daily news programmes, and Ric Bailey, chief political adviser – confirmed why, in their view, the BBC’s coverage was completely impartial and met Charter requirements.

Element three was that Today presenter Nick Robinson – now seemingly firmly ensconced as the Corporation’s defender-in-chief – was wheeled out to defend the relentless tide of anti-Brexit negativity.

None of the three men produced a shred of credible, verifiable evidence to support their claims. Their approach boiled down to that they know what they are doing; anyone who disagrees is simply deluded.

In other words, with more than 20 tedious minutes devoted to Brexit, Feedback was yet another edition of the favourite BBC refrain in response to the tens of thousands of complaints it receives: ‘Move along there, nothing to see!’

Reading the programme transcript confirms that these BBC luminaries truly believe this, and have constructed elaborate, self-justifying arguments to support their stance. Allen, for example, argued that the BBC’s only fault in this domain is actually that it doesn’t explain enough its internal processes. If listeners and viewers only knew how hard he and Corporation editors think about bias, they wouldn’t complain.

Poppycock! What actually seems to be the case is rather that Bolton, Allen, Bailey and Robinson – and seemingly all of the BBC’s battalions of journalists – are locked in a bubble of their own making and can’t see the acres of bias they churn out each week. This is confirmation bias.

Exhibit A, based on the BBC output being broadcast as the four men were congratulating themselves on their journalistic brilliance and rectitude, is an analysis conducted last week by Craig Byers of the website Is the BBC Biased? Using a monitoring service called TV Eyes, Craig painstakingly tracked every mention on BBC programmes of the word ‘Brexit’ between Monday and Friday last week (April 16-20).

What he found was a deluge of Brexit negativity. Craig’s blog needs to be read in full to appreciate the sheer scale. It permeated every element of its news output and even percolated down to BBC1’s The One Show and EastEnders, which had a pointed reference to these ‘tough Brexit times’. In the BBC’s world, Brexit was a threat to EU immigrants (in the context of the Windrush developments), to farmers, to interest rates, to airlines, to personal privacy (via Cambridge Analytica), to house prices, to security in Northern Ireland, and more.

Among all these sustained mentions of the problems, the positive words about Brexit could be counted virtually on the fingers of one hand.

Exhibit B was mentioned by Ric Bailey on Feedback in an attempt to show that Brexit coverage was balanced. It did no such thing. He instanced that during a special day about Brexit on Radio 4 on March 29, the corporation had broadcast a half-hour programme called The Brexit Lab about the opportunities of Brexit. It suggested, for example, that environmental controls could be tougher and that British Rail could be re-nationalised once the UK was freed from the EU’s regulatory shackles.

What Bailey did not say, however, was that the remainder of this special programming – including an edition of Today, sequences on The World at One and The World Tonight, plus two much longer programmes, one about the historical relationship between Britain and ‘Europe’ (45 minutes), the other about reaction in EU countries to Brexit and their views about the future of the EU (60 minutes) – was heavily dominated by Remain themes and Remain speakers.

The suspicion must be that The Brexit Lab had been devised and broadcast as a figleaf. Within days, it was being used by one of the corporation’s most senior editorial figures as ‘proof’ that its Brexit output is balanced. The reality is vastly different. Craig’s analysis above, plus News-watch reports that can be seen here, provide voluminous evidence that since the EU Referendum, the BBC has been engaged in an all-out war to undermine Brexit.

And even concerning March 29, which the BBC trumpeted as evidence of its ‘balance’, senior executives seem totally and even comically unaware that the reverse is true. The Brexit Lab was totally swamped by other negative programming. Whatever the reason, the pro-EU, anti-Brexit propaganda spews forth regardless.


Transcript of BBC Radio 4, Feedback, 20 April 2018, 4.30pm

ROGER BOLTON:  Hello is the BBC the (montage of voices) Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit (montage ends)  Broadcasting Corporation? We’re devoting most of this last programme of the present run to your criticisms of the BBC’s Brexit coverage. And respond to them we have a veritable galaxy of the Corporation’s frontline journalists and executives.

NICK ROBINSON:  I’m Nick Robinson presenter of the Today programme and formerly political editor of the BBC.

GAVIN ALLEN:      I’m Gavin Allen, controller of daily news programmes.

RIC BAILEY:          I’m Ric Bailey, the BBC’s chief political adviser.

RB:         And arguably the most talked about BBC Radio programme of the year.

ACTOR PLAYING ENOCH POWELL?:  It’s like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.

UNNAMED SPEAKER:         When I read that actually they were going to play the whole speech, I was flabbergasted.

ROGER BOLTON:                Rivers of Blood. We hear from the man who commissioned that controversial documentary about Enoch Powell’s infamous speech. But we begin with Brexit. Almost two years ago, just under 52% of those who voted in the referendum said they wanted to leave the European Union. 48.1% voted to remain. The Kingdom is still bitterly divided. Time was when the vast majority of complaints to Feedback of Corporation bias came from the Leave side; in recent months though, in part due to a concerted online campaign, we have been receiving many more from Remainers who routinely refer to the BBC as the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation, accusing it of tamely towing the government line. Here’s a sample of some of those comments from both sides of the Brexit divide.

SUE KING:            I’m Sue King, and I’m from Herefordshire. I’m dissatisfied with and disillusioned by the BBC’s coverage of Brexit. In news and current affairs programmes I’m frequently aware of a pro-Brexit bias in subtle ways, particularly in the Today programme. Interviewers let misleading statements by Brexiteers  go unchallenged.

ANDY FRANKLIN: My name is Andy Franklin and I live in Suffolk. The problem as I see it now is that the BBC can deny biased against Brexit until it’s blue in the face, but just about everyone I’ve ever met who voted Leave has come to that conclusion in droves.  Even on the morning after the vote, the very first interview broadcast was some University Professor declaring that all the intelligentsia had voted Remain and all the thickos had voted Leave, a bias the BBC has been peddling ever since.

JONATHAN MILES:             I’m Jonathan Miles, and I’m from Woking.  Given just how important this issue, the BBC really has done little to educate the public on important aspects of how the EU works and hence what are the likely or possible consequences of leaving.

MARGARET O’CONNELL:    Margaret O’Connell.  In a democracy you accept the result and move on, it is over.

JULIAN GREEN:    Julian Green: ‘Why does the BBC always refer to ‘when’ the UK leaves the EU, when properly, it should be ‘if’ – the BBC are promoting a falsehood.

ROGER BOLTON:  Listening to those critical comments are Ric Bailey, the BBC’s chief political adviser, Gavin Allen, controller of BBC daily news programmes, and the Corporation’s former political editor, now Today presenter, Nick Robinson.  Could I start with you, Ric Bailey, and that point Margaret O’Connell makes, she says ‘It’s over, move on,’ and yet you also heard Julian Green say, ‘You’re talking about when we leave, it should be ‘if’.’ Should it be ‘if’?

RIC BAILEY:          I think you’ve got to look at the context of what you’re talking about.  There’s been a referendum, one side has one, both major parties have gone into a general election saying that they will put that referendum result into effect.  And, of course, it’s possible that all that may be reversed and the political reality may change, and so both ‘if’ and ‘when’, in different contexts might be entirely appropriate. It’s not for me to send out pieces of advice to individual journalists like Nick, telling them individual words they should and shouldn’t use.

ROGER BOLTON:  Alright Nick, would you use ‘when’ or ‘if’.

NR:         I’d use both. And I would use both.  The truth is, a decision was taken in the referendum.  The government is committed to the decision, the Labour Party is committed to that decision, there’s an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons who say that they voted for it, they voted for Article 50. But it is occasionally worth reminding people this could be overturned, if the public changes their mind, if there was a different vote in Parliament, but let’s not treat it as if . . . no one thinks that we’re going to leave in March 2019, that’s the overwhelming likelihood, but people who want something else to happen want is to try and say that.

ROGER BOLTON:  And Gavin Allen, when people use the expression, ‘The country has decided’, don’t you feel like saying, ‘Well has it?’ I mean, Scotland has decided they’d like to remain, Northern Ireland say it would like remain, Wales, yes, and England decided that they would like to leave, but to what extent can you say ‘the country has decided’?

GA:        I think you have to, you know, it was a UK-wide referendum, and it was 52-48 and we have to reflect that.  So, I think that . . . that’s not to say that we won’t hear views in Scotland, he views in Northern Ireland, across the English regions and Wales that are very different to the outcome of that referendum, but it’s no good pretending that, well, hold on, Peterborough voted this way, so you should reflect that in . . . so it wasn’t the country after all.

ROGER BOLTON:  Could I ask you Nick, do you think that there is a campaign against the BBC at the moment? Now, we’ve heard Lord Adonis talk about the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation, a number of people have used that phrase, we do seem to be receiving quite a number of emails that appear to be written for people, shall I put it in that way, is there a real active campaign going on to stop Britain getting out?

NR:         I don’t think there’s a campaign, there is a campaign, it’s clear there is. The very use of the hashtag #BrexitBroadcastingCorporation on social media is evidence of a campaign.  Now, people are entitled to campaign, we get campaigns all the time, only the . . . about a year ago, there was a campaign by Leavers to say that the BBC was biased, there was a complaint about my questioning. We get campaigns all the time, but let’s not be in any doubt that when people start using the same words and the same critique, they’re trying to put pressure on us. Now, it doesn’t mean that the things we heard in your introduction from listeners aren’t genuine, a lot of people feel really, really angry about this, they hope that the country will change its mind, and they’re entitled to do that, but we’re also entitled to . . . to say, as I have in number of recent articles, we know what’s going on here, there’s an attempt to try to shift us.

GA:        But it’s important as well, it doesn’t mean that we dismiss – and I know Nick’s not saying this either – we don’t dismiss the campaign, so the fact that it is a campaign, the fact that we can recognise it as such, doesn’t mean there won’t be sometimes perfectly legitimate points they raise that make us stop and think, well, actually . . . we do need to tweak our coverage on that element, or do need to give a bit more to this, that we’ve underplayed.

ROGER BOLTON:  Can I just finish this section, Nick, by asking you, if you’re optimistic, you see the opportunities that the Brexit gives us, if you’re pessimistic, you see all the problems that exist in trying to change our arrangements.  Of course, it’s easier for journalists to look at the pessimistic side. When you’re trying to deal with the opportunities, that’s more difficult to construct a discussion about, do you think that’s a problem that you have?

NR:         Well, it’s undoubtedly a challenge, I think that’s absolutely right, and the key therefore is to hear from people who can, as it were, see it optimistically.  That’s why you will occasionally get a Dyson on, for example, James Dyson who’s in favour of leave, or the boss of Wetherspoon’s, we will have him on because he is able to say, ‘This is how I see it’, now the difficulty for listeners who are Remainers then they go, ‘Well why is he saying that, why isn’t he challenged?’ Well, we have them on in order precisely to say that there is another way of looking at this to the way that you do . . .

RIC BAILEY:          But there was an entire programme . . .

NR:         The problem with predictions, Roger, there is in truth, you can’t prove a fact . . .

ROGER BOLTON:  It’s not factual, it’s not factual.

NR:         . . . about someone’s vision of the future. You can’t do it.  It’s not that the BBC isn’t robust enough to do it, you can’t.


RIC BAILEY:          And incidentally, there was an entire half-hour programme which Iain Martin did on Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago, precisely on that point about the opportunities Brexit, so they are there, and we are, you know, it’s an active part of our journalism.

ROGER BOLTON:  Ric Bailey, Nick Robinson and Gavin Allen, thanks for the moment. A little later will be digging deep into the whole issue of balance and due impartiality.

Moves on to discuss Enoch Powell programme.

ROGER BOLTON:  And now back to . . .

MONTAGE OF VOICES:       Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.

ROGER BOLTON:  Still with me in the studio is Ric Bailey, the BBC’s chief political adviser, Gavin Allen, controller of BBC daily news programs, and the Corporation’s former political editor, now Today presenter, Nick Robinson.  Now, we’ve already touched on issues of impartiality with respect to the BBC’s coverage of Brexit.  Although it might sound like a contradiction in terms, if Feedback listeners are anything to go by, balance and impartiality are in the eye of the beholder.

JOHN NEWSON:   John Newson.  I do hear BBC Radio 4 broadcasting as the voice of Remain, giving others a daily diet of scary stories about how Brexit will harm Britain.  This doesn’t seem very factually based, because Brexit has not happened yet.

FERN HANSON:    This is Fern Hanson from Woking. The audience would be much better informed of the facts around Brexit if the BBC moved away from a political balance towards facts balance. In pursuit of a fact balance it should be noted that there is a huge consensus amongst professional economists regarding the negative economic effect of Brexit.  I have never witnessed the BBC demonstrate this disparity in analysis.  Each side get equal prominence and time programmes.

ROGER BOLTON:  Well, let me take up Fern Hanson’s point, with Ric Bailey. Should you move towards a facts balance, rather than a political balance?  Is that possible?

RIC BAILEY:          Well, facts are just there to be reported, you don’t balance facts, you have fax and you say what they are.  One of the issues with Brexit is that a lot of this is looking forward, it’s about trying to work out what is going to happen, which, by definition is often speculative or it’s something where different people have different views, they are in the end judgements. So you’re not balancing facts as such.  Balance is something which, during the referendum there was a binary choice, between Remain and Leave, and we were very careful to make sure that we heard from both sides, not necessarily equally, but we did represent facts in the sense of saying, ‘Look, the balance of opinion amongst big business is this – but there are other voices’, since then, that binary choice has gone away, because we now have impartiality in the sense of trying to make sure that all those different perspectives . . . is Theresa May now a Remainer or is a Leaver, of course, she is the person who is actually putting into effect that choice. So that idea that there is now a simple choice between Remain and Leave is no longer there.

ROGER BOLTON:  But haven’t you put it too simply yourself, because the people voted to Leave, they didn’t vote on the destination, and there is an argument, which one keeps hearing, ‘Why wasn’t the BBC exploring the destinations,’ because people voted, if you like, to jump, but not know what we were going to jump to?

RIC BAILEY:          I think it would be hard to say that we haven’t been doing that.  We’ve been giving a huge amount of coverage to Brexit and to the negotiations and to all the different possibilities.  I think we are doing that, Roger, actually.

GA:        We’ve also talked, we’ve also talked about Canada+++ as an option, or Norway the model, or the Swiss model, I think we are looking at lots of different ranges of outcomes for this.  And also just . . . I think one of the dangers as well, of balance of facts, as if, if only everyone had the core facts they would make the ‘correct’, in inverted commas, decision and we would all agree on it, it does ignore the fact that in the referendum, in any election, there is visceral emotion as well, there are things that are not to do with facts, or that you don’t even hear the facts that you disagree with, it’s a blend of these things.

ROGER BOLTON:  Nick, can I bring up an article you wrote for the New Statesman recently, stressing the importance of impartiality, in part in response to an earlier article by the LBC and, at one time, occasional Newsnight presenter, James O’Brien, where he was arguing that media impartiality is a problem, when ignorance is given the same weight as expertise.

NR:         The assertion made by your listener is that if only people knew the facts, we’d know, the assertion made by James O’Brien is that, you know, look, don’t put on someone who is ignorant.  Who decides this?  Who is this person who drops down from the skies and says, ‘This is true, and this is not’ . . .

ROGER BOLTON:  Well . . .

NR:         Now, in certain cases it can be, Roger . . .

ROGER BOLTON:  Well it can be known about climate change . . .

NR:         No.

RB:         . . . and for example we see a case reported last week, where Ofcom said that one of your fellow presenters didn’t actually do what he should have done which is to say Nigel Lawson was factually wrong about something he claims.  So, people also want to know are you prepared to do that and,  actually, are you prepared to do that about Brexit?

NR:         (speaking over) Goodness, yes. And, and . . . yeah.

RB:         (speaking over) And are you sufficiently well informed, do you think?

NR:         Not only, not only do we want to do that, but the BBC apologised for not doing that in that particular case. Here’s the point though, it won’t often apply to things that passionate Remainers and passionate Leavers see in their own minds as a fact, but in fact are a judgement or a prediction, or an instinct or an emotion.  The BBC’s job is to hear from people who have unfashionable views, and where possible we should always challenge them and if we don’t get it right, and of course we won’t always get it right, you know, I’m here, I got up at 3:30 in the morning, I’ve done about 10 subjects already, occasionally you will make mistakes, then we explain why we didn’t get it right.  But it’s not a conspiracy.

ROGER BOLTON:  Well, I’ll just, if I may, wrap up this discussion by asking you to stand back a little bit and just reflect on what you’ve learned over the past 2 to 3 years.  And one of the things that’s struck me very much is the amount of anger out there, and people irritated, fearing that you, all of us around this table are out of touch and have ignored them.  Nick Robinson, does any of that, across to you?

NR:         Oh yeah, you can’t help but listen to the views that we’ve heard on this programme and think, there are people deeply, deeply frustrated and anger . . . angry about it. And I . . . what I take away from this, why I wanted to appear, I could keep my head down and just do my normal interviews is, we think about this, we agonise about it, we debate much more than people often think, and why do I know this is true? Not because I’m virtuous about it, anybody who comes to the BBC from papers, anybody who comes from commercial telly, where I’ve worked, goes, ‘Boy, you spend a lot of time worrying about this’.  I would urge listeners one thing though: we do it with the best of intentions.  Not that we get it right, we don’t always get it right, we sometimes get it wrong but if you complain with some sense that there is a conspiracy, people will tend to put their fingers in their ears, and go, ‘You know what, we know there isn’t.’ If you say, ‘We just don’t think you’re getting this quite right, you’re not reflecting us’, you will be listened to.

ROGER BOLTON:  Gavin Allen, have you changed anything as a result of the last 2 or 3 years, in the way you approach the programs and what you’ve told your producers and your reporters?

GA:        Well actually, funnily enough, one thing, sort of picks up on what Nick’s just said, which is behind-the-scenes, we have all these discussions, endless debates, and one of the things I do think the BBC is probably quite bad at showing our workings.  I think we can’t plead that we are really battling this every day, we’re having long debates, editorial policy discussions, really self-analysing everything we do, and then not come onto a program like this.  I think there’s also, the other thing I’ve learnt I guess, it’s not that we don’t do this, there is a bit of a default in journalism, not just the BBC, in journalism of ‘where’s it gone wrong, who can we get?’ rather than actually people are desperate for an explanation of just what is happening, just explain it to us.  And I do think that we could do more on that as well, as well as the politics of what’s going wrong, on both sides.

ROGER BOLTON:  And Ric Bailey, final word from you? A BBC boss in the past once said, ‘When the country is divided, the BBC is on the rack’, are you actually enjoying being on the rack?

GA:        (laughs) We’re enjoying Rick being on the rack.

RIC BAILEY:          ‘Enjoy’ is probably not the word I’d pick out. Erm, but I think it’s true that when you have something as polarised as a referendum, that it does divide opinion in a way which is different from other sorts of elections, I think people understand what impartiality means when they’re talking about normal politics, and the Conservatives and Labour and government and opposition.  I think what happens in a referendum when you are literally given the choice between X and Y, is that people find it really difficult not just to understand that other people have a different view, but they are entitled to put it, the BBC should be there to do it, and the BBC should scrutinise that very clearly.  And I suppose the last point about that is, accepting completely what Gavin says about we should concede when we get it wrong, and Nick has said that as well, and we should be analysing this and making sure we’re getting it right. We also sometimes need to be really robust against that sort of political pressure, and by that I don’t just mean the parties or the government, but I mean campaigns who are trying to influence us because they know that on the whole, people trust BBC, that’s why they want us to change what we’re saying.

ROGER BOLTON:  Well, I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got time for, my thanks to Rick Bailey, the BBC’s chief political adviser, Nick Robinson from the today programme who’s been up since 3.30, and Gavin Allen, controller of BBC daily news programmes.

Humphrys told Farage that Brexit is ‘literally unthinkable’

Humphrys told Farage that Brexit is ‘literally unthinkable’

Back in August, in the backwash of the referendum result, News-watch issued a challenge (during an off-the-record lunch) to a very senior executive of the Corporation: for the BBC to make a programme that properly celebrated Nigel Farage’s achievements as a politician.

The answer? None, directly, so far, but a few days later the Corporation announced the commissioning of Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back, described as a ‘sharp satire’ about the then ex-Ukip leader readjusting to his former life.

It was produced at great speed, broadcast on BBC2 at the weekend, and is now available on the BBC iplayer.

How was it?   A full review of the whole sorry car crash can be read here.

In summary, an alleged ‘satire’ that was not remotely funny. It showed that, without doubt, the comrades at the BBC think the man who many believe was a decisive influence in securing the Brexit vote is a racist, vacuous, inept, unfunny pub bore.

This was called ‘satire’ but in reality was the equivalent of taking gurning pot-shots at the disabled.  And it was exactly in line with how the BBC have been treating Farage ever since he rose to national prominence in the late 1990s as the then 30-something chairman of Ukip.

Proof of the stereotyping of Farage – together with the Corporation’s unwavering adherence to the importance of Brussels – can be found in the News-watch archives. A short interview from back in 1999 illustrates this perfectly, so much so that it deserves a re-airing.

The underlying approach undoubtedly also throws light on why the BBC continues to treat the referendum result with bewildered, indignant disbelief.

In 18 years, the Corporation has not changed its reverence for the Brussels machine one iota.  Farage said he simply wanted his country back on an amicable basis, and free trade; Humphrys’ stance was that this was ‘literally unthinkable’.

The exchange took place on May 20, 1999 in the build-up to the June 10 European Union Parliamentary elections. It was the only interview in the entire campaign by the BBC at national level of anyone from Ukip – even though the party went on to achieve its first electoral breakthrough with 7.7 per cent of the national poll (700,000 votes) and three seats.

The full transcript is included below.  In summary, Humphrys did everything he could to attack the credibility of Ukip and asked nothing about the thinking behind the need for withdrawal.

His opening gambit was to observe that it was ‘funny’ (peculiar) and ’puzzling’ that Ukip was contesting seats in the European Parliament when it wanted to withdraw from the EU.

Humphrys then strongly challenged Farage’s assertion that opinion polls supported Ukip because they showed that up to 50% of the UK population wanted to leave the EU; contended that the party, if it did win seats, would simply jump on the Brussels ’gravy train’; and then asked if Farage was worried that a big supporter of the party was the British National Party, because of a positive article in their magazine Spearhead.

In the opening sequence, Humphrys thus put firmly on the agenda Ukip’s credibility, and bracketed the party with racism and venality. Next came the BBC’s unwavering belief that leaving the EU, and Farage’s hope of ‘getting his country back’ was cloud cuckoo land. Indeed, it was ‘literally unthinkable’.

The sequence dealing with this has to be seen in full to be believed. Humphrys said:

…but of course it can’t happen can it?  I mean the fact is that we are tied by innumerable treaties and it is literally unthinkable isn’t it?

Nigel Farage: No its not unthinkable – you may think its unthinkable but a growing number…

John Humphrys: (interrupting) … well I think in legal terms you know the turmoil that would be created is just, well it’s just extraordinary… (voice tails off) turmoil

Nigel Farage: (interrupting) I don’t think any turmoil would be created. Look, we’ve got countries like Norway, countries like Switzerland…(they) trade quite happily with France and Italy without being members of the European Union. All I am saying is that we want to divorce ourselves amicably from the whole process of the European Union and go back to the free trading agreement that the British people thought it was going to be in the first place.

Humphrys, clearly now lost in the fog of his own disbelief, finished by observing caustically that even if Farage did win a seat ‘he’d be there for a very short time’.

Back to the present, others are planning to honour Farage with a glitzy tribute event in central London next week. The BBC may not be prepared to do justice to Farage by examining his political achievements – but others are.



John Humphrys: The UK Independence Party is launching its manifesto for the European elections today. The only one saying that Britain should withdraw from Europe entirely. The party Chairman is Nigel Farage. Good morning to you.

Nigel Farage: Good morning

John Humphrys: The thing that puzzles me about this is that you want to get us out of Europe altogether but you are standing for the European parliament and you will take seats if you win any in the European parliament – well that’s a bit funny isn’t it?

Nigel Farage: Yes, we will take seats in that Parliament and we will link arms with the other moderate groups from the other European countries who feel exactly the same as we do, and we will go there and we will find out what information we can about what is going on. We will expose further the frauds and corruption that are taking place within the EU. We will bring that back to this country and when we have elected representatives we will have a voice in the media. At the moment we’ve got 50% of the country that agrees with the UK Independence Party’s point of view …

John Humphrys: Oh, well come on – if that was the case you’d have had an awful lot of votes last time around wouldn’t you?

Nigel Farage: Well no, I’m afraid that’s not the case. I mean, 46% of people in recent MORI polls said they wanted to leave the EU immediately. Now, it takes time for political parties to get credibility and it’s taken the UKIP several years to get to this position.

John Humphrys: And once you’ve got a chance to get it – you will, as your former leader said, jump on the gravy train…

Nigel Farage: No, that is not the case at all – every one of our candidates has signed a declaration that they will take only genuine expenses allowances. All of that will have to be receipted and we will put our expenses up for annual inspection by producing an audit – excess expenses that we have,and there will be excess expenses because they will force us to take money that we don’t really need – will all be given to a fund which we are going to establish to help the legal expenses of victims of the European Union.

John Humphrys: Does it worry you that you have been singled out for praise – you particularly, incidentally – by the British National Party in their newsletter, Spearhead?

Nigel Farage: Well, I haven’t read the BNP newsletter Spearhead and all I would say about that is that we have no links or associations with the BNP whatsoever. We are an alliance of people from the right, from the centre and from the left – all we want is our country back.

John Humphrys: But of course it can’t happen can it – I mean the fact is that we are tied by innumerable treaties and it is literally unthinkable isn’t it?

Nigel Farage: No its not unthinkable – you may think its unthinkable but a growing number…

John Humphrys: Interrupts well I think in legal terms you know the turmoil that would be created is just, well its just extraordinary… (voice tails off) turmoil –

Nigel Farage: I don’t think any turmoil would be created look we’ve got countries like Norway, countries like Switzerland…they trade quite happily with France and Italy without being members of the European Union. All I am saying is that we want to divorce ourselves amicably from the whole process of the European Union and go back to the free trading agreement that the British people thought it was going to be in the first place.

John Humphrys: (seemingly sarcastic) So if you won a seat you’d only be in it for a very short time would you?

Nigel Farage: Hopefully, it will be the shortest job that I have ever had in my life – hopefully we will be so successful we’ll hasten the day at which Britain does leave the European Union

John Humphrys: Nigel Farage thanks very much.

Photo by Euro Realist Newsletter

Referendum Blog: June 27

Referendum Blog: June 27

BBC CONTINUES ‘PROJECT FEAR’: How is the BBC going to report Brexit? The early signs are not good.

News-watch, via its sister BBC Complaints website, has been inundated with submissions – many more than during the referendum campaign itself – that the Corporation is treating the Brexit vote as an aberration and a disaster.

One exasperated viewer of BBC1’s news bulletins wrote:

Every time I see any report about Brexit the people who are aired by the BBC are making horrible xenophobic comments. Brexit is being portrayed as the English being xenophobic when they want freedom of law-making among other things. This is not racism. This is not about Europeans at all, it is about the EU regulations and the fact that people want to have control in their own country.’

And a listener to Radio 4’s Any Questions? asserted:

I listened as always to BBC R4s any questions today and was disgusted, but not surprised, at the continuing derogatory bias against Brexit. Just two examples from the programme.

1. The audience was clearly selected to represent those in the population who either choose IN as their active vote or ticked IN because passively they were undecided, did not what to do, felt uninformed, ‘better the devil you know’, keep the ‘status quo’, etcetera. These people were clapping and whooping the Remain points and booing the Brexit side, while the later audience members, in their minority, demonstrated appropriate polite applause.

2. The panel representing the Brexit side were speaking of hope, trade with the world and an upbeat, honest stance. Conversely the Remain panel continue to childishly project fear, with talk of being ‘afraid’ and in a ‘dark place’, in a ‘dark wood’. This sort of unhelpful, inappropriate language does just not have a place, and Jonathan Dimbleby, as the chair, did nothing to address this. Deplorable.

Following on from this, R4 Today’s headlines this morning (27/6) were in full negative mode. Heavy stress was given to stories which suggested the United Kingdom could fracture (with potential exit by both Scotland AND Northern Ireland), and that business leaders would stop investing and cut jobs.

Sarah Metcalf, as the programme closed reflected the overall editorial tone. Yes, there had been a vote for exit, but in the BBC’s estimation, she opined, it was a ‘very confused’ voice.’

Which part of the word ‘leave’ on the referendum ballot paper would that have been?

Nick Robinson stressed after George Osborne delivered his holding statement on Brexit at 7.15am that he was dressed in a ‘funereal’ dark suit. Arguably, this also spoke volumes about BBC attitudes. Leaving the EU is tantamount to death rites; on hand to bolster the impression was a UBS analyst who thought that the coming months would be disastrous for the UK economy.

Maximum prominence was also given to the views of Michael Heseltine in wanting a second referendum, and declaring that dire consequences were inevitable. True, this was immediately balanced by counter views about the positive benefits of Brexit from a pro-‘exit’ businessman. But this ran very much against the flow of the rest of the programme, a begrudging inclusion and a fig leaf.

This overall, all-pervading tone of doom was set only hours after the polls had closed by Exhibit A: Friday night’s Newsnight (transcript below), the first edition of the programme not bound by the strict referendum balance guidelines.

How was it? The transcript needs to be read in full to appreciate the full range of negativity involved. But in summary, it seems that the Corporation has reverted to its a full pro-EU campaigning mode that News-watch has chronicled for the past 17 years. The programme can best be described as a continuation of the remain side’s Project Fear.

In this post-referendum world, Nicola Sturgeon and Kenneth Clarke, it seems, are now regarded as the revered patron saints of the martyred, wronged Remain side. In parallel, a goal appears to be to stress every possible negative about Brexit; no production effort is going to be spared, in demonstrating how ignorant and prejudiced are the grass roots voters who had the temerity to want ‘out’.

Of course the job of journalism is to explore the weaknesses in political stances. But Friday night’s this amounted to a declaration of all-out war on Brexit, complete with funereal music.

A comparison is that when David Cameron announced there would be a referendum on EU membership back in 2013, Newsnight covered his decision which contained 18 pro-EU figures ranged against one who was not. News-watch’s complaint about this went to the BBC Trustees’ Editorial Standards Committee who declared that because this was not a major news event,

Presenter Evan Davis was in full attack dog mode, and for good effect, uttered a theatrical, incredulous ‘wow’ when he detected (wrongly) that pro-exit MEP Daniel Hannan had rowed back from a campaign promise about immigration.

Davis gave maximum exposure to those who still opposed exit, and tried most in his interviewing to undermine the ‘exit’ side. For example, in the opening interview sequence dealing with political reaction to the poll, Kenneth Clarke – who revealed that his political career began because he wanted to join the then European Economic Community in the 1960s – Davis allowed Clarke to push to maximum extent his resentment about the referendum outcome and push his pro-EU ardour.

In the same sequence, Tristram Hunt was not challenged about his highly questionable contention that in reality, Labour supporters in places like Brighton and Exeter supported staying in the EU, and therefore, there was no real problem in Labour’s overall pro-EU stance.

In sharp contrast, Vote leave representative Suzanne Evans was subjected to sharp questioning about whether promises to fund the NHS out of the UK’s EU contribution would be kept.

In her contribution, Kirsty Wark, speculating about the possibility of the break-up of the UK in consequence of the vote, stressed that Scotland (unlike England, it was implied) had sent its sons and daughters all over the world and had welcomed many different nations from time immemorial. She gushed:

‘…we, in turn, have welcomed many different nations here – Russians, Italians, Poles, Pakistanis, and immigration just does not seem to be the same issue here as it is south of the border. Why do you think it is that immigration doesn’t seem to be such an issue as it is in England?

Followed by a Vox Pop contributor who said:

[blockquote]I think that Scotland as a race of people we are just more multicultural, our culture is more varied, if you think about sort of storytelling and music, anything like that, And I just think that we are more accepting of new ideas here.’
During the referendum campaign, the BBC subjected every utterance of ‘exit’ campaigners to fact checks, and usually concluded they were wrong. In this case, some facts about immigration in Scotland are relevant. ‘Multicultural’ or not, only 7% of Scotland’s population is currently foreign born, whereas the proportion in the UK is now 14%, the majority of them in England.

Thus Wark’s assertion was highly misleading. It seemed an overt attack on negative attitudes of ‘leave’ voters’ in England.

Transcript of BBC2, Newsnight, 24th June 2016, EU Referendum, what now? 10.30pm


MARK CARNEY: Good morning.

DAVID DIMBLEBY:          Well, at 4.40am, we can now say that . . .

MC:       The people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union.

VOX POP MALE:              I’ve got my country back! I’m not going to be here a lot longer, I’m nearly 80. But what I’ve got, I want to keep!

JOURNALIST (to Farage) Should Cameron leave?


J:            Now?

NF:        Well, by about ten o’clock, I would say, would be about right.

DAVID CAMERON:          I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.

FEMALE JOURNALIST:    Are you not worried about what you’re hearing this morning? About David Cameron resigning or the strength of the pound?

VOX POP FEMALE:          No, no, not at all. Not at all. No, it’s a good thing.

MALE JOURNALIST:        A letter of no confidence has been tabled with Jeremy Corbyn.

NICOLA STURGEON:       We will begin to prepare the legislation that would be required to enable a new independence referendum.

MARTIN MCGUINNESS: Anybody that doesn’t think this is big stuff needs to get their head around it.

VOX POP FEMALE2:        I’m kind of thinking of moving to another country.

MM:      This is huge.

BORIS JOHNSON:            It was a noble idea for its time. It is no longer right for this country.

VOX POP MALE 2:           Chuffed to bits. We’re better off out. Because the French don’t like us and the Germans don’t like us.

VOX POP FEMALE 3:       Shocked. Bewildered. I don’t know what’s got to happen next.

VOX POP FEMALE 4:       We’ve got nothing. Nothing can get worse, now. We’ve got nowt, so what can get worse than it already is?

MC:       Thank you very much.

EVAN DAVIS:     So, what now? It’s the biggest financial story since the crash, a huge political story, a once in a generation foreign policy shift, all in one day – not to mention the constitutional uncertainty around Scotland. We can keep calm, but carrying on as before, not really possible. The enormity of what happened has been sinking into voters on both sides today. We mustn’t over interpret the result. If a mere one in 50 of all voters had switched from Leave to Remain, we’d be having a different conversation. But we mustn’t under-interpret it either, and all that it represents. Is this, for example, the first vote ever to say it’s NOT the economy stupid, it’s immigration? Is the real story here a revolution? The latest of a wave of insurrections sweeping the West? A challenge to the established order and the political class? The discontented getting their own back? Or should you view it as an inter-generational struggle? The polls showing under 45s voted in and over 45s wanted us out. And there’s an aftermath of bitterness. One young man’s tweet: “I’m so angry”, he said. “A generation given everything – free education, golden pensions, social mobility – have voted to strip my generation’s future”. Well, for some, it comes down to nothing less than a culture war.

UNNAMED MALE IN STREET:      So who’s corrupt and overpaid?

MAN HOLDING BANNER:             Europe. Europe.

ED:        Youthful urban liberals versus older social conservatives. The former worry that Britain will now turn its back on progressive values. The latter think it’s time for their voice to be heard again. It’s not as clean-cut as that of course, but that’s where the argument goes – what kind of country will we now be? Well, it’s for the history books to argue about the causes of this uprising. We’re going to do something different tonight. We’ll look ahead to what comes next. What’s next for politics in this country? The two major parties both looking battered, both with leadership questions to be answered. What’s next for Europe? How will the EU now choose to treat us? And how does our decision affect the EU? And what’s next for the UK, with Scotland voting so differently to England? Well, of the three “what nexts”, politics comes first, as it shapes everything else. At a turbulent time like this, it might be great to have a Nelson Mandela to take over, heal the wounds, articulate a vision for the country and negotiate a new arrangement with goodwill and good grace. Well, Donald Trump flew into Britain today, but he’s not available. David Cameron is on his way out. And Jeremy Corbyn? Many in Labour want him out, too. It is an awful time to be a mainstream politician. I’m going to be talking to some of them in a minute. But first, I’m here with our political editor, Nick Watt. I mean, Nick, in Westminster this morning, shock and awe?

NICK WATT:       Well, they were absolutely shell-shocked in Downing Street by this result. They had a simple thought, Project Fear would deliver them a second referendum win but instead what you saw power and authority seeping away from Number Ten a Number Eleven Downing Street. You might have thought, for example, on a day like this that the Chancellor would calm the markets, but no, that job was left to the Governor of the Bank of England and you just had a couple of tweets from the Chancellor. In the case of Number Ten, We were talking to one Whitehall source who, likened Number Ten to doughnut, whose centre of the shell has fallen apart.  And this source went on to say, no communication from Number Ten, we assume they must have gone to the pub. (moves into package report) As dawn broke today, Britain awoke to the most momentous shuffling of the political order since the Second World War. (Newsreel from Suez Crisis)  Suez, the devaluation of sterling, the defenestration of Margaret Thatcher.

MARGARET THATCHER: We are leaving Downing Street for the last time . . .

NW:      Arguably, they were all trumped today when Britain stumbled out of the EU. Overturning four decades of assumptions about Britain’s place in Europe was of an order of such magnitude that it made the resignation of a sitting Prime Minister a second order issue. David Cameron’s voice cracked as he announced his departure.

DAVID CAMERON:          I love this country. And I feel honoured to have served it. And I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed. Thank you very much.

NW:      Any hope the victor had of a Roman-style triumph were soon crushed, when Boris Johnson was greeted by protesters as he left his house. (Michael Gove) The Prime Minister’s nemeses looked funereal at the depth of what they have achieved something.

BORIS JOHNSON:            I want to begin this morning by paying tribute to David Cameron, who has spoken earlier from Downing Street, and I know that I speak for Michael in saying how sad I am that he has decided to step down but obviously, I respect that decision.

NW:      Johnson owns the next few months but his hopes of reaching Number Ten might hinge on whether his assurances of a seamless transition to life outside the EU come true. Gove insists he has no interest in leadership but a fellow Leave campaigner is not so sure.

JACOB REES-MOGG:       The Conservative party has so many talented people, dozens come to mind but my top three would be Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Andrea Leadsom.

NW:      Do you think the next Conservative prime minister will have been a Brexiter?

JRM:      Well, the Prime Minister has stood down because he feels that having backed Remain he cannot implement the will of the British people expressed in a referendum – that surely applies to anyone else who supported Remain.

NW:      Within months the circus will have moved on. But for the moment David Cameron finds himself as something as a hostage to his former allies as he accepts their timetable for a British exit from the EU. David Cameron had hoped to end his Premiership as one of the great Conservative social reformers but instead, he finds power ebbing away.

CATHERINE HADDON Institute for Government: I’m not sure whether we’d call it a zombie government, but certainly it feels a bit more like a caretaker government for the next few months. We have a government that had a massive legislative agenda, deficit reduction, prison, NHS reform, Universal Credit, all sorts of things, and a lot of it has been on hiatus already because of the EU referendum. Now, partly because of the leadership campaign, because you have a Prime Minister who’s effectively an interim Prime Minister for the next few months, and because of summer, and all of the concerns about the EU and what will happen there with negotiations, even more will probably be in abeyance for the time being.

NW:      You wait and age for a leadership crisis, and then two come along at the same time.  A few hours after the Prime Minister announced his plans to resign, two veteran Labour MPs said they would lay the ground for a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn.  Others share their concerns.

CAROLINE FLINT Labour:              I understand that motion, and I understand the concerns of Margaret and Anne and other colleagues of, you know, looking at the result of yesterday. We went into this referendum campaign expecting 70 to 80% of Labour supporters and voters to vote Remain – I think we barely got 50%.  And if he cannot demonstrate after this massive test that Labour can retrieve ground and he knows how to do it, there are more problems ahead.  We could have a general election within six months, and at the moment, based on the outcome of yesterday, it’s not looking good for Labour and not looking good in terms of Jeremy’s leadership.

NIGEL FARAGE: We’ve got our country back (cheering)

NW:      It was Independence Day for the winners, but the most unashamedly pro-EU party said that Britain should not give up on its European destiny.

TIM FARRON Liberal Democrat: We heard Nigel Farage, rather ungraciously, before the result, when he thought he’d lost, saying there could be a second referendum.  I’m not going to go saying that, erm, if things change, as the months go by and public opinion significantly changes then, you know, we must make sure we keep all options open, we mustn’t shackle ourselves to the corpse of a Brexit government.

NW:      For some, the European dream will never die, but for another generation at least, Britain’s European journey is at an end.

ED:        Nick Watt.  Well, here with me, the former Tory Chancellor Ken Clarke, Suzanne Evans from Vote Leave, and Tristram Hunt, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent, which actually voted to leave the EU with one of the biggest margins in the country.  Ken Clarke, it’s, you know, what, 46 years in politics, all . . . devoted to the European project, you must feel gutted?

KEN CLARKE:      I do. Well, I started in politics as a very active Conservative student politician, supporting Harold Wilson’s first bid to join the European Community, so it’s slightly ironic that 50 years later this neurotic argument’s still going on, and we’re actually leaving the European Union.  But erm, I actually am quite deliberately sort of trying to control my er . . . annoyance and my anger and my distress about the whole thing, er, because at the moment, er, you know, we’ve now got to decide what we do next, which I think is what your programme’s about.  We have a caretaker government, we have no policy of any kind on what our relationship is going to be with the outside world tour Europe in particular, we don’t know what we’re going to do about the immigration, but we know, a lot of people were told to be very frightened about it, and so I think I have to count to ten and decide, well, what the devil do we do now after this extraordinary, very narrow result, it could have gone either way.

ED:        (speaking over) Can I . . . can I just ask you one other . . . sort of personal reflection.  Ed Miliband last year stood in an election against your government and he said, ‘I am better for business, because I’m not going to risk the nation’s departure from the European Union.’ You now, looking back, must’ve thought . . .

KC:         (speaking over) Oh I think . . .

ED:        . . . it would have been much better if Ed Miliband had won the 2015 election.

KC:         No, I don’t think that, but I mean (fragments of words, unclear)

ED:        (speaking over) But we wouldn’t be here if he’d won the 2015 election . . .

KC:         (speaking over) All politicians of my generation think referendums are an absurd way of running a modern, sophisticated country, but I, there was no point in my emphasising that once we’d . . .  gone out and said we were going to have one, and there’s no point in my emphasising that now, because we had one, and we are where we are.  I think everybody on both sides, and I’m sure people on both sides feel as passionately as I do . . . the country at the moment is in a period of great uncertainty, it needs a government, it needs a government that could start getting on with the business of running the country in several crises again, and it needs to decide, as we’ve got to negotiate with the European Union, what exactly do we want to negotiate .(words unclear due to speaking over) negotiating (words unclear due to speaking over)

ED:        (speaking over) Right, what do we want . . . Very quickly, the other two of you – general election?  Do you think a general election is required at this kind of time, Suzanne Evans?

SUZANNE EVANS:            Personally, I’d say not.  While I’m absolutely ecstatic at the result, I do recognise that nearly half the country voted the other way, and will be quite worried, and indeed, I’ve spoken to people today who do have concerns about where we go next, and I’ve been doing my best to reassure them, as of course have various other people today.  I think a general election, for me, would bring in another level of uncertainty . . .

ED:        Right . . .

SE:         . . . which is probably best avoided.

ED:        And just briefly, Tristram, general election?

TRISTRAM HUNT:            I think there’s a high likelihood that if we have a new leader of the Conservative Party, they’ll want to develop their own mandate, so what whether we have an election in autumn, or whether we have an election in spring, and what they’ll have to go to the country on is what their Article 50 renegotiation strategy will be . . .

ED:        (speaking over) What, what, what the plan is.

KC:         I agree there is a serious risk of an election, er, and I, at the moment, can’t quite see how a government can be formed with a parliamentary majority, you know, to make the kind of changes that most of the Brexiteers have been talking about.  They don’t know what they want really.  I actually think to go into a general election would add to the risks to where we are, more uncertainty, more chaos, and actually another daft and dreadful campaign, which might produce . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Okay . . .

KC:         . . . a very indecisive result . . .

ED:        (speaking over) I don’t want to get stuck on this . . .

KC:         . . . it would be disastrous.

ED:        I’m so sorry, we haven’t got much time, I do want to talk about who should be the next Prime Minister.  Before we hear your view, Ken, who should be the Tory leader, Tristram, who do you think it should be?

TRISTRAM HUNT:            Who the next leader of the Conservative Party . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Yes, yes.

TH:        . . . er, should be (words unclear due to speaking over)

ED:        (speaking over) We’ll talk about the next leader of the Labour Party . . .

TH:        . . . from an outside . . . well, I think, from a Labour perspective, I think I regard Boris Johnson as a very, very successful celebrity candidate, who is a very, very clever man, who has used that intelligence to appeal to some very base instincts, who, alongside Michael Gove, would seek to deliver a very neoliberal Tory Brexit. Erm, so I don’t really want any of them, is that, is that an alright answer? (laughs)

ED:        (speaking over) No, that’s okay, you’re allowed to say that.  Suzanne Evans, do you have a view?

SE:         It clearly has to be somebody who is passionate about Brexit and has a very clear vision . . .

ED:        (interrupting) So it can’t be Theresa May, you would say?

SE:         So it can’t be Theresa May, I would say, although I think it’s a shame, because she was clearly one of the front-runners, and I think had she come out for Leave . . . to me, I think Andrea Leadsom had been one of the standout stars of this campaign . . .

ED:        She’s had a good campaign, for sure.

SE:         And certainly if not as Prime Minister, then Chancellor for sure.

KC:         Because nobody has the first idea . . .

ED:        (laughs)

KC:         . . . what the economic policy of the government is now supposed to be . . .

SE:         It’s going to be the same as any other sovereign and independent, free country, Ken . . .

KC:         (speaking over) and nobody has the first idea what, what we’re saying about immigrants and what we’re not, there’s a danger the country is going to fool around with another leadership election, having . . .

ED:        (interrupting) Well it has to.

KC:         . . . having, it does, it does.  But (fragments of words, unclear) we need a balanced government, we need it being headed by somebody of balanced views, not just somebody who’s good at photo opportunities . . .

SE:         (speaking over) Are you suggesting none of the Brexiteers who fronted the campaign are balanced?

KC:         (speaking over) We need . . . we need people who can settle down to the serious business of government.

ED:        Theresa May, was that Theresa May?  Just give us the name, give us the name . . .

KC:         (speaking over) The whole referendum campaign . . . when, when it was, the whole referendum campaign, when it wasn’t bashing immigrants, was all the Boris and Dave show, and if the British, now they’ve caused a crisis for half the Western world, decide to have a real fun Conservative leadership election again . . .

SE:         (speaking over) Half the Western world? This is hyperbole, Ken, are you going to give us the name . . .

ED:        Are you going to give us the name?

KC:         I’m not going to give you a name.

ED:        (speaking over) Okay, right, let’s turn to Labour, let’s turn to Labour because Tristram Hunt, the Tories are fighting each other, Labour seems to be fighting with its voters, and that must be a much, much more serious place for the party?

TH:        I think this referendum exposes some pretty big tensions within the Labour Party and the labour movement and where you see, for example, in Stoke-on-Trent, 70-30 out, and you contrast that with some of the vote in Brighton or Bristol or Norwich or Exeter, other Labour areas, we’ve got this divide between our traditional, working-class Labour communities, who felt real pressure under globalisation in the last 10 years, felt pressure on wage levels from immigration, erm, feel discontent about the level of change, versus, as you said in your intro . . .

ED:        (speaking over) I understand the problem, which you’re describing . . .

TH:        (speaking over) Yes . . .

ED:        . . . but (exhales) I mean it’s an enormous problem for a political . . .

TH:        (speaking over) It is.

ED:        . . . to find that its base, or half of the base . . .

TH:        Yeah.

ED:        . . . is basically completely at odds with it and . . .

TH:        Well . . .

ED:        . . . it doesn’t view the world in the same way at all.

TH:        But we have had these problems in the past, and Ken will know that there are any number of books written called, you know, ‘What’s Wrong With Labour?’, ‘The End of Labour’, ‘Will it Ever Come Back’ you know, in the 60s and 70s, and if you have someone with a convincing vision of Britain as a social democratic future, who people trust and want to put their country in the trust of, well then you can overcome these problems, there’s no doubt about that.

ED:        (speaking over) And Jeremy Corbyn . . . Jeremy Corbyn, does he meets that requirement, that, that, that . . . that job description?

TH:        Well, Ken said an interesting thing about the serious business of government, and we now face really serious, tough and difficult times.  This is a national crisis, and the job of opposition rather like John Smith during the Maastricht Treaty is to provide strategic vision and forensic detail.  Now, Jeremy Corbyn is very, very good at energising the base and making those who are already convinced of Labour ideals feel better about themselves, whether he is the man to make sure that Labour values, Labour values are at the core of a renegotiation strategy (words unclear due to speaking over)

ED:        (speaking over) (word or words unclear) that was a very long way of saying, ‘No, he’s not the right man for the job,’ is he?

TH:        (speaking over) No, no, no, no, no . . . no, no, there’s a serious point here.  Whether he’s the man to have the Labour values at the core of the renegotiation strategy, I’m not convinced he has those capacities.

ED:        Right. We’ve got it. Erm, Suzanne Evans, there’s a problem with trust in politicians, isn’t there, and that’s been one of the reasons why you’ve actually done very well.  When exactly are we going to get the £350 million extra a week, spent on the National Health Service that you promised in your campaign . . .

TH:        (speaking over) Nigel Farage said it was a . . . yeah, he said it was a lie this morning.

ED:        . . . when is that going to happen?

TH:        It’s gone, already . . .

SE:         We actually promised £100 million a week for the NHS . . .

(barracking from others)

ED:        I saw one thing, ‘£350 million for the NHS’

TH:        (speaking over) On a big bus, I saw it on a bus.

SE:         We said, ‘£350 million we could spend on our own priorities, like the NHS’ . . . and they (words unclear due to speaking over) made a specific . . .

TH:        (speaking over) And universities, VAT . . .

SE:         . . . proposal to say £100 million for the NHS, and that is exactly the kind of cash injection that the NHS needs, and it’s fantastic to have this money . . .

ED:        (speaking over) (fragment of word, unclear) When are we going to get the hundred . . . when are we going to get the £100 million a week extra on the NHS?

SE:         When we leave the European Union.  So, let’s say that will be two, three years time?

ED:        Do you not think that there’s just a possibility that the very things that brought the mainstream politicians into such disrepute and low regard and the lack of trust and nothing they say is believed is now about to hit you and all of those who made that case?

SE:         No, I don’t (fragment of word, or word unclear) the British electorate made the decision, they looked at Project Fear . . .

ED:        (speaking over) But there wasn’t, there wasn’t a little asterisk . . .

SE:         . . . and they looked at Project Hope . . . and they chose Project Hope.

ED:        . . . saying read . . . read . . . there wasn’t an asterisk saying, ‘Read this bus very carefully, because we’re not saying £350 million a week.’

KC:         But Evan it (words unclear due to speaking over)

TH:        (speaking over) It said, it said, it said . . .

KC          I mean, both sides, the campaign was dreadful . . .

SE:         Yes. (word or words unclear) awful . . .

KC:         So the public got angry and confused, and were no better informed when they finished than when they started, which is why a lot of old people in particular were so angry with the politicians, anti-establishment and they . . . it’s a protest vote, a lot of this.  The worst thing they did was all these Syrian refugees . . . Britain has complete control over how many Syrians come here and how don’t (sic) how many don’t.  We did on Wednesday, we do now, it’s nothing to do with the EU, whether they’re admitted and settled here. They had a whole poster, showing thousands of them streaming in . . .

ED:        (speaking over) We have to, you know, we have to leave it there, let’s not go back over the campaign . . .

TH:        (speaking over) It was disgusting.

KC:         No, I’d rather not go over the campaign . . . We, we need, we need (fragments of words, unclear) the right man to reunite the party and the country, we need a policy and the sooner the better.

ED:        Thank you all very much indeed. Well, of course, alongside the politics is economics. Famously, we like to describe ourselves as the fifth largest economy in the world. Today, we actually came close to being the sixth. The pound has fallen, you see. So when you convert our pound-based national income into dollars, it isn’t what it was. Well the financial gyrations were considerable, some companies’ shares were pummelled in the expectation that things will get difficult. Our business editor, Helen Thomas, is here. Helen, take us through some of those gyrations.

HELEN THOMAS:             So, you heard about the meltdown, there is ample cause for concern but there are the odd crumb of comfort out there. So, the pound, our best barometer for the overall confidence in the UK economy. So, you can see here it surged higher last night as hopes built for a Remain victory and then it plunged, an absolutely huge move for a currency.

ED:        (laughter in voice) Currencies don’t move like that.

HT:        No. No, but later in the day it found a level, it stabilised around 1.37 to the dollar, stock markets, similar story, so here you can see a very, very dramatic drop at the open of the markets . . .

ED:        It’s on the left there . . . Just on the left, yeah . . .

HT:        . Both for the FTSE 100 and the more UK-focused 250. Banks and property stocks very hard-hit but as you can see, the markets then came back and recovered. Now . . . so what we didn’t see was this sort of downward panicked spiral that would indicate a total loss of confidence in the UK. Having said that, it was a really tough day and that reflects investors marking down their outlook for the UK.

ED:        Now, that’s all the sort of the acute crisis – some might say the worrying thing was not getting through the next week, it’s sort of the longer-term.

HT:        Well, and we may be in this sort of slow, grinding process of figuring out what the economic going to be.  Now, we know some of the areas of concern because the Bank of England helpfully told us last week. So . . . so they said, erm, while consumer spending has been solid, there is growing evidence that uncertainty about the referendum is leading to delays to major economic decisions. And they mentioned a commercial and real estate transactions, car purchases and business investment. Now, the concern is that those areas that were already slowing, the shutters just come down. And most economists I’ve spoken to  do think we’re in, you know, we’ve got a slowdown in store, possibly a recession, the question is, how severe?  Now let’s, let’s leave aside any risk of an outright crisis, erm, you can still have a pretty ugly outcome, if business investment and hiring dries up very quickly, erm, you can see her, business confidence was already falling into the vote, so in that scenario unemployment starts to rise, people worry about their jobs, banks pull back on lending, partly because they’re worried about loans being repaid, that hits confidence and consumer spending. Meanwhile, a weak currency means higher inflation, and the Bank of England, which targets inflation may not feel it can react aggressively to try and stability economy.

ED:        It does get a bit confusing.  Is there any sort of more sanguine . . . more sanguine . . . scenario you can paint?

HT:        Yes, it still probably involves business investment falling on the back of the vote, but a weaker pound could boost exports, erm, and more importantly, the Bank of England might say ‘We’re not going to worry about inflation for now, we’re going to look through that,’ they could cut rates, they could stimulate the economy in other ways, maybe they’ve got enough tools left in their toolkit to do that.  The irony is, the governor, Mark Carney, who’s had a pretty hard time of late, he is crucial to how this all plays out.

ED:        Helen, thanks. Well look, the next of our ‘What nows’ is Europe itself.  After the French Revolution other royal families worried about how to keep their heads, and there’s perhaps a bit of that on the continent. And worry they might about keeping their jobs – if any eurocrats were still harbouring dreams of creating a European superstate, Britain has shown that the old concept of the nation state is not going down without a fight. And critically there is now the looming question of what our relationship with the EU might be. Our diplomatic editor Mark Urban is in Brussels. Good evening, Mark.

MARK URBAN:   Evan, look, the thing that is defining attitudes here is a fear of contagion. Now, we heard Marine Le Pen, some Dutch Eurosceptics and others as well in Europe welcoming today’s result, but none of them are in power right now. And none of them is in a position to deliver an in-out referendum in another European country any time soon. But the attitude that seems to be dominant here, we have certainly heard some of the big hitters in the Brussels machine voicing this attitude, is that Brexit should happen not just quickly but in a very tough or exemplary way. In other words, they want the other countries in Europe that may be watching to see the Brits go out on very tough terms. Fascinating insight tonight from Wolfgang Schreiber, the German finance minister, very influential, a leaked Brexit plan of his suggested trade terms and an association agreement not like Norway, as some people had been discussin in the UK, not like Switzerland, more the sort of deal that Turkey or Canada might be negotiating in the latter case. So very tough terms, all to do with trying to head off a risk, which even last night, almost nobody in this town really had got to grips with the idea of what was about to hit it. (packaged report) (French and German radio chatter)  In the city at the heart of the EU, they woke up to the day that ever-closer union died. Across the airwaves and in many languages, that dread news sank in. With markets plunging across many countries, the woman styled ‘Queen Europe’ by some called for calm.

ANGELA MERKEL (translated):    What the outcome of this watershed will mean to us in the coming days, weeks, months and years will depend on us. If we, the other 27 member states of the European Union, are capable and willing not to rush into any quick and easy decisions which would only further disunite Europe. But if we’re capable and willing to assess the situation calmly and soberly in order to come to a joint decision on this basis.

MU:       At the Commission, leaders of the European institutions met to calibrate their response. And, very soon, it became clear that there would be no further offers to Britain. We are already hearing voices here from the other 27 members of the EU that they should force the pace of Brexit in order to protect their own economies and political systems. And now we’re going to hear from the bosses of the Union’s big institutions, and it’ll be fascinating to see to what extent they think the Union should drive a tough exit bargain with the UK. For the man running the European bureaucracy, even the words to describe this moment seemed to stick.

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER President of the European Commission:  The British people expressed its views on their er (five second pause) next situation. We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible. However painful that process may be.

MU:       As for what it meant for the remaining 27, watch this.

REPORTER:         Is this the beginning of the end of the European Union?

JCJ:        No. Thank you. (applause)

MU:       Blunt but very much to the liking of the non-British journalists and officials. So Europe is in the deepest of crises, as consultations begin prior to a Brussels summit next week. And there are already suggestions by many players here that any deal should be exemplary, with the UK denied access to the single market.

GUY VERHOFSTADT MEP Prime Minister of Belgium, 1999-2008: It is a consequence of the British vote because the single market, or the European Economic Area, includes also the free movement of labour. (laughter in voice) That was the problem in the referendum. So I think that the only way to establish a new relationship between Britain and the European Union is using a trade agreement. Like Europe has trade agreements with a number of countries.

MU:       There’s a statue just outside the Commission.  It shows a step into the unknown. And on the day that the Brexit earthquake hit this town, it has rarely seemed more apt.

ED:        Mark Urban there. Well, earlier I was joined by Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff. Did he think the decision to leave was irreversible or was there a still a route he could see where Britain would retain some kind of membership of the EU?

JONATHAN POWELL:      Well, I think this was a vote against something rather than a vote for anything. It was a vote against our current relationship with the EU but it wasn’t a vote for what sort of new relationship we should have. So I must say I think David Cameron is right to delay the start of negotiations until there is a new Prime Minister. But I would go further than that, I think any new Prime Minister needs a mandate for a negotiation. He has to set out what he is for, what sort of new relationship are we going to have with EU? Are we going to be Norway? Are we going to be Canada? Who are we going to be? I think that’s very, very important that they get that mandate from an election. So I don’t think you can really start negotiations until there has been an election, not just the choice of a new Tory leader.

ED:        OK, but that raises lots of issues. So, hang on, is it possible a party could go into an election saying ‘we are in, we’re just going to ignore the referendum and we’ll just negotiate us to remain?’

JP:          Of course you can, that’s what elections are about. You go for an election in a mandate, one of the many reasons Mrs Thatcher was against referenda was because she thought you should decide this in representative democracy through an election. But the main point here is this is a vote against something, it’s not a vote for something. The Brexiteers were completely divided on what they wanted, no one knows what they mean. So someone has got to set out a positive mandate and they’ve got to get a vote for it.

ED:        Right, now look, a lot of the Europeans are saying they want this to happen quickly. The path you are describing, and indeed the path that the Leave campaign has been describing is one that takes, well, one that takes quite a lot of time. We will be waiting months before the negotiation gets going. Do you think we can really keep our European partners waiting that long?

JP:          I think we’ll have to. I mean, David Cameron has already set out the timetable as far as he’s concerned. It’s only us who can start Article 50, not them. So I totally understand why they wanted to be quick, because the uncertainty is hurting them, not just us. But in the end they are going to have to wait for us and I think we would be sensible – A, to have a negotiating position, B, to have a new Prime Minister, and C, for that Prime Minister to have a mandate for his negotiating. This is really important about our future . . .

ED:        Right . . .

JP:          You can’t just go in there not clear what you want.


ED:        Now, the other critical thing is, how hardball do you think they’re going to play with us? Because, already we’ve heard some reports saying the Norway option, forget it, you’re not going to get the Norway option, that’s not on the table. You are going to be properly out. Now what, what do you think the European Union, what line do you think they will take? How tough will they be?

JP:          Well, they are not going to try and punish us because they want to have good relations with us. But the point is that they have their interests. They are going to meet at 27 without us next week to start working out what their position is. Their main priority is to keep the EU together, it’s to stop the EU disintegrating. So there are not going to offer us anything that will encourage the Dutch or the Finns for the Danes to leave. So they are not going to offer us a super deal outside the EU because otherwise they will start losing other people. So that will be the last thing they do. They’ve got to take care of their interests and we’ve got to fight for ours.

ED:        And bluffing, do you think there has been some bluff over the last few weeks in the run-up to the referendum?

JP:          Well, I kind of hope so. If you remember, Boris Johnson said before he became the leader of the Brexit campaign, he said his preferred option would be to have a new negotiation and a new referendum, and that the referendum would get us a better deal. So I’m hoping that he becomes leader of the Tory party, which I’m not hoping, but if he does then he will have that mandate, he can go off and make an negotiation and then have a new referendum. Remember, the Irish have done that twice this century. They voted against the treaty, had a second vote, and voted for it. Now, it seems very unlikely at the moment, the EU saying no to it, the Brexit campaign saying no to it, but that is one option when we go forward and when people realise quite how ghastly the alternatives are.

ED:        We’ve been talking about Britain and its relationship with the EU. Let’s just briefly talk about the EU itself. How dangerous is the British vote for other countries . . . for the existence of the EU?

JP:          Well, it is a threat to the existence of the EU because it’s going to encourage other Eurosceptics, and you can see who the friends of the Eurosceptics are, they’re people like Le Pen, people like Trump. Those sort of people are going to be agitating to break Europe up. And of course, European governments are going to resist that, so it is a problem for them. Even leaving that to one side, what’s going to happen to Europe without Britain is it’s going to become less liberal, it’s going to become more integrated and it’s going to become more German and that’s going to worry lots of countries in Europe. That’s why they wanted us to stay in. That’s an inevitable consequence of us leaving.

ED:        Jonathan Powell there.  Well, to pick up on that I’m joined by the journalist and broadcaster, the French journalist and broadcaster Christine Ockrent and one of the leading lights of the Leave campaign Dan Hannan.  A very good evening to you. Christine, how does all of this look from France this evening?

CHRISTINE OCKRENT:     Well, it looks pretty ghastly.  But, at the same time, listening into the very interesting discussion you just had Evan, I think you shouldn’t underestimate the determination of the key member states on the continent not to let Brits play the fiddle, determine the timetable, and you know, we should just sit and wait for them to actually act.  I think very much will depend on what happens on Monday when Madam Merkel meets in Berlin with François Hollande, er, the Italian Prime Minister and Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council.  I think that you will hear what the tone will be and again, as has been said by your Brussels correspondent, there’s that series of meetings next week. And again, you know, the European Union had been functioning for 17 years before Britain was accepted in, so I think there’s a degree of arrogance at times, if I may, even at that late hour in the night . . .

ED:        It wouldn’t be the first time . . .

CO:        . . . and sort of thinking that we are going to disintegrate, er, after this rather ghastly result (fragment of word, or word unclear due to speaking over)

ED:        (speaking over) Can I just push you, sorry to interrupt, can I push you?  David Cameron is stepping down, going to take a good two or three months to elect a new Prime Minister, a new leader of the Conservative Party, no one really feels that David Cameron can do the negotiation, you’re going to have to wait three months before this starts, aren’t you?

CO:        Yes, but you think that people in Brussels will just sit and wait?  I think the process is going to be so complicated, the economic and financial costs, we’ve seen nothing today, of course, the pound lost a great deal of value, and the markets will be shaken for quite some time, so I think there will be a lot of work being done in the meantime, and, you know, it’s not going to be done by a snap of the finger, but again I think on the continent there’s also this idea that the British people, especially the older generation, the ones who really have deprived the young ones of all the benefits of Europe, they are going to feel the brunt, and that is something that on the continent will be closely watched, especially by those Eastern European countries which, may I remind you, Britain wanted so much inside the EU . . .

ED:        Indeed.

CO:        . . . and now complains about immigration from Eastern Europe.

ED:        (speaking over) Christine, let me put your points . . . let me put your points to Dan Hannan.  Dan Hannan, firstly, they don’t want us to take all this time and sit around thinking about it, they just want us to get on with it, and that’s a perfectly reasonable request, isn’t it?

DANIEL HANNAN:           Well, you’ve already answered that point, Evan, we have to wait until there somebody to do the negotiations, so it can’t start until that’s taken place.  I think getting this right matters much more than the time, and by getting it right, I mean, being fair to our friends and allies on the continent, as well as getting a deal that is in our own interests and it would be crazy to rush into something . . .

ED:        (speaking over) (fragments of words, or words unclear)

DH:        . . . after 43 years at the expense of getting something that’s mutually satisfactory.

ED:        Jonathan Powell said we need to have an election (fragments of words, unclear) we haven’t yet worked out what the plan is, what the model is, do you agree with that?

DH:        No I mean (fragments of words, unclear) one of the reasons that Brussels is so unpopular is that it’s seem to be contemptuous of public opinion, it swats aside referendums, it’s incredible that less than 24 hours after the result, we’ve already got people trying to undo it.  But what I would say, if I may sort of temper or soften what I’ve just said a little bit, although, plainly, we have a verdict that says we are going to leave the European Union, it was a narrow majority, 48% of people voted to stay in . . .

ED:        Yeah . . .

DH:        . . . Scotland voted to stay in . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Almost 50-50, yeah.

DH:        . . . right, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar voted to stay in, we have, we who are on the winning side have to be cognisant of the extent to which opinion is divided, we have to try and carry as many Remain voters with us, and that may well mean that quite a lot of the existing arrangements remain in place, that we try and find a status that both Leavers and Remainers can live.

ED:        (speaking over) But you know, look, I’ve heard you talk about this, and it sounds like you Daniel Hannan, I don’t know whether you’re speaking for Vote Leave or for Boris Johnson or for anybody else, it sounds like you are veering towards something closer to the Norway option . . .

DH:        Well . . .

ED:        As a compromise between the 48 and the 52?

DH:        I mean, I . . .

ED:        In the single market, yeah?

DH:        My issue with the EU has always been the lack of sovereignty, the lack of democracy (fragments of words, unclear) you know, of course there are economic issues as well . . .

ED:        (speaking over) You could take Norway.

DH:        It wouldn’t be exactly Norway, obviously, we’re a very different country, we’re 65 million rather than 5 million, but the idea of staying within a common market, but outside the political integration I think that is feasible, yes.

ED:        And that means free movement of people.

DH:        It means free movement of labour, it doesn’t mean EU citizenship with all the acquired rights.

ED:        I’m sorry, we’ve just been through three months of agony . . .

DH:        Well, hang on . . .

ED:        . . . on the issue of immigration, and the public have been led to believe . . .

DH:        (speaking over) (fragment of word, or word unclear)

ED:        . . . that what they have voted for is an end to free movement.

DH:        Here is a very, very important point.  From the moment we joined, we had the right to take up a job offer in another member state, you had a legal entitlement if you presented your contract . . .

ED:        (interrupting) But why . . .

DH:        . . . now, that changed with Maastricht, when EU citizenship was introduced, people were given legal entitlements to live in other countries, to vote in other countries and to claim welfare and have the same university tuition and so on.  That bit, I think, is going to change, that means we can deport people . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Why didn’t you say, why didn’t you say this in the campaign?

DH:        (speaking over) Listen, I said that at every single meeting . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Daniel Hannan, why did you not say in your campaign that you were wanting a system, a scheme where we had free movement of labour . . .

DH:        At every . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Completely at odds with what the public think they have just voted for.

DH:        (speaking over) I have just spent four months addressing rallies virtually every day, and at everyone, I would say, ‘Do not imagine that if we leave the EU that means zero immigration from the EU, it means we will have some control over who comes in and in what numbers . . .

ED:        (speaking over) You’ve given the impression, you’ve given the impression . . . you want to take back control . . .

DH:        (speaking over) (word or words unclear) it’s all there on YouTube, you can see it on there.

ED:        Your, your campaign has given the impression that we will not be able to get immigration down to the tens of thousands if we are out . . . inside the EU, I think most people would say that gives the impression we will get it down to tens of thousands if we’re outside the EU.

DH:        No, we’ve always been clear, we want a measure of control, it will be for a future parliament to determine the numbers, and to determine, you know, how many students, how many doctors, how many family reunifications, whatever, but I don’t think anyone has ever tried to put a number on it, that’s obviously going to depend on the state of the economy . . .

ED:        (speaking over, word unclear, ‘Well’ or ‘Wow’) Dan Hannan, thank you very much.  Christine Ockrent, thank you, I had meant to come back to you, we’re out of time, but I hit a . . . nerve there with Dan Hannan. Thank you so much, thank you. Okay, there’s one other potentially momentous area to look at tonight.  It’s the UK itself, time to dust off those old dis-united Kingdom clichés that were so popular during the Scottish referendum.  And let’s go to Scotland now, Kirsty is in Edinburgh tonight, Kirsty can give us a flavour of the talk in Scotland about a second referendum there. Kirsty?

KIRSTY WARK:   Well, first of all, after such a decisive vote in Scotland to Remain, this country feels a bit like it is in limbo, people are actually bewildered and some of them devastated that England voted to leave the European Union and now Scotland, in a way, is unable to move forward.  Nicola Sturgeon says that an independence referendum’s highly likely, but she can’t afford to lose again.  And she herself has said there is no guarantee that people who voted ‘no’ in the first independence referendum and voted to remain in the EU would vote independence for Scotland.  So, there are so many questions.  What would the impact be on the Scottish economy, look what happened to the pound . . . to oil after the last referendum, would we really have a closed border and tariffs, when we trade 64% of our trade is with the rest of the UK? And what currency would Scotland use?  All these unknowns – can’t use the pound, won’t use the euro.  On the other hand, for many people in Scotland now, membership of the European Union is a fundamental, it is non-negotiable.  So the SNP is looking for a period of calm.  Nicola Sturgeon had absolutely no option but to address the question of an independence referendum straightaway this morning.

NICOLA STURGEON: The manifesto the SNP was elected on last month said this: The Scottish parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will. Scotland does now face the prospect. It is a significant and material change in circumstances and it is therefore a statement of the obvious that the option of a second referendum must be on the table. And it is on the table.

KW:       From here, the United Kingdom seems in a very different place and Scotland is very much another country. Now there is a greater period of uncertainty north of the border than there is in England. The mechanics of a second referendum or not clear, but it is unlikely that Westminster would deny Scotland a fresh independence vote because, from the Shetland Isles to the Borders, the majority wants to stay within the European Union. There is a sense of unreality here today. People cannot quite believe their southern neighbours would be such worlds apart.

VOX POP FEMALE:          I cannot believe we have done this. I am very scared. Especially with the Tory government that we have at the moment, and  I think especially in Scotland, we do not have much of a voice in the UK at all.

KW:       Do you feel that we are very different in Scotland from England?

VOX POP FEMALE 2:       Yes, there is going to be a split. With us being in and out, I think there’ll be a split.

KW:       The roots of our relations with Europe are long and deep, the old alliance, the treaty between the French and the Scots was signed in the 13th century and Scotland has a long tradition of sending its sons and daughters overseas, all over the world, and we, in turn, have welcomed many different nations here – Russians, Italians, Poles, Pakistanis, and immigration just does not seem to be the same issue here as it is south of the border. Why do you think it is that immigration doesn’t seem to be such an issue as it is in England?


VOX POP FEMALE 3:       I think that Scotland as a race of people we are just more multicultural, our culture is more varied, if you think about sort of storytelling and music, anything like that, And I just think that we are more accepting of new ideas here.

KW:       Are you Scottish or French?

VOX POP MALE:              Neither, I am Italian!

KW:       Italian!

VPM:     Working in a French van.

KW:       And tell me, do you feel welcome in Scotland?

VPM:     This morning, when I came out of my flat, I was feeling a little bit less welcome. But I think that they voted for staying, no?

KW:       Yes.

VPM:     So, I think I will try to feel welcome anyway because in fact I am welcome, maybe! (laughs)

KW:       In six weeks’ time, the world’s eyes will be on Edinburgh for another reason: people will come from all over the world to the biggest international arts festival on the planet.  And the festival was set up in the wake of the Second World War to encourage cultural relations between Scotland, Britain and Europe, to make sure that another war in Europe would be unimaginable.  Nicola Sturgeon made it clear today that she wants to build a consensus in the country around a referendum.  Now, it is possible that senior figures from other political parties would be part of a consensus.  Preferring, finally, to live in an independent Scotland within the European Union, rather than in an increasingly dis-United Kingdom, divorced from the EU.

ED:        Kirsty there, in Edinburgh.  Now, Scotland and England is one division, young and old another.  But there’s more going on too – there’s an anger in large parts of the country that have not felt blessed by the benefits of globalisation.  In contrast to bustling metropolitan hubs like London or Manchester which voted Remain. And that schism has asserted itself to the shock of those at the top. Filmmaker Nick Blakemore has spent the last couple of days in Burnley, which voted two-thirds for Brexit, to see what was motivating voters there.

VOX POP MALE:              We won’t lose control, we have lost control.

VOX POP MALE 2:           For me it comes down to, when we vote somebody in, whoever gets into the government, they make the rules. And at the moment there is somebody above them. That’s why I’m going to be voting to leave.

VPM:     What really gets me is this, I fought for this country in 82.

VPM2:  Fair play.

VPM:     This government now is going, immigrants, here you go, tick, you can all come in. I don’t want it, send them back home. We joined the EU for one thing, yeah? To have a better life, yeah?

VPM2:  But . . .

VPM:     Hang on . . . And then it comes to light, it’s not a better life.

VOX POP MALE 3:           Vote for hope, that was the thing in the paper. Do not vote for fear, vote for hope.

VPM:     You can’t vote for hope, there’s no hope nowadays.

TANYA THOMPSON Vote Leave Activist: We’ve had enough of the Tory scenario, the austerity, the cuts.

NICK BLAKEMORE:          Why is that the fault of Europe?

TT:         The minute this referendum is over and if Remain wins, that’s it, our NHS is gone.

VOX POP FEMALE:          I think we should leave and give it a try and we should get our independence back because it’s just got absolutely out of hand.

TT:         It has, I’ve got to admit, it’s the one thing, it came down to democracy, sovereignty, and the NHS.

VPF:      There is good and bad. There is a lot of people come from abroad and they’ve done good for this country.

TT:         Exactly.

VPF:      I was born in Germany, I’m a foreigner myself.

TT:         We are not little Englanders. We’ve always looked outwards.

VPF:      England was the greatest thing I’ve ever known when I came over here and you were free and if you worked hard you got rewarded. Right?

TT:         Correct.

VPF:      I’ve never had a day’s benefit, I’ve never had anything out of this country. I’m 83 years of age and all I can get is single poll tax allowance. Not that I need it, I’ve got food in my belly, I’m getting by and I’m not complaining.

TT:         Precisely.

VPF:      When I look round there is a lot of folk worse. But I do object to people who have worked all their life, just stuff being taken off them.

VOX POP FEMALE 2:       None of us know what the future holds. I think that’s why everyone is undecided.

TT:         My main point is, you can’t base your argument on a country and an entire superstate that hasn’t got your best interests at heart. That is the be all and end all.

VPF2:    That’s my main reason for leaving, who else is going to look after our country but us?

TT:         Precisely.

DAVID DIMBLEBY:          Here we go. Good evening, and welcome at the end of this momentous day when each one of us has had the chance to say what kind of country we want to live in. At 10pm the polling stations close after weeks, months, years of argument.

SARAH MONTAGUE:      The BBC is forecasting that the UK has voted to leave the European Union after more than 40 years.

TT:         Good morning.

NB:        Hello.

TT:         Come on in. I want to . . .

NB:        Come out first. Tell me, what’s your reaction?

TT:         I don’t know yet, I haven’t switched it on, I’ve put these out and I’m hoping I’m not going to look stupid. Fingers crossed I’m not . . .

NB:        Well, the BBC are calling it for Leave.

TT:         Really?

NB:        Yeah.

TT:         Seriously?

NB:        You need to put the telly on. Tanya, just tell me what’s your reaction to that?

TT:         I’m over the moon, I don’t know what to say. We did it. Everybody woke up in time. Everybody listened. Everybody understands, yes, it’s going to be rough at the beginning. But we’ve done it.

ED:        Some views from Burnley. With me, two historians, David Starkey and Kate Williams, from the Times, Tim Montgomerie and writer and equality campaign Paris Lees. Paris, what’s your reaction as you watched that?

PARIS LEES Writer and Broadcaster:        I recognise those towns, that’s where I’m from Evan, erm, and I think these people are going to be really upset when they find out that they’ve been lied to. I think it’s . . . it’s misguided, erm, obviously the people have voted with good intentions, but I think we are being led down a very dark path.

ED:        Let’s just ask whether the nation is in some way historically unusually divided. Kate do you think we are in an unusual . . .

KATE WILLIAMS Professor of History, University of Reading:         I do think we’re incredibly divided.  I think this is the biggest historical event, the most divisive event since the Civil War and I think it’s the most historical event we’ve seen since the Act of the Union itself.  I mean, we see divisions here between North and South, between young and old, between the fact that Scotland is going to have a referendum (fragments of words, unclear) Northern Ireland . . . concerns about . . . Martin McGuinness saying about joining together, and we know that a Scottish referendum is probably going to trigger questions about a referendum in Wales.  So we’re seeing massive divisions, and when we actually see a petition getting a lot of people signatures saying that London might actually set up as a separate city state . . .

ED:        I think it’s a joke though . . . (fragments of words, or words unclear)

PL:         I’m not entirely sure it is.

KW:       I’m not entirely sure, I think . . . but I think there is certainly, I mean, there is some joking in it, but there is some . . . that, I think, shows the leg (sic) the level of the divisions, it’s huge.

ED:        You’re both, you’re both Remainers, and now you two are both Brexit supporters. David do you think the nation is historically divided at the moment?

DAVID STARKEY:             It is, but I think eight is slightly exaggerating, I can think of Ireland, I can think of Roman Catholicism, I can think of all sorts of things that have split us – even the whole question of whether we fought the Nazis or not, you know, the country was hugely divided.  I think the more interesting question is why this has happened.  It seemed to me your Burnley film was absolutely right.  What has happened is the European Union is a proxy, it’s a proxy for deep discontent with experts, with the political class and so on, and I think it’s also the fact that the political parties have been led for the last . . . nearly 20 years by leaders, Blair on the one hand and Cameron on the other that have thought it was very clever to kick their supporters in the goolies.

ED:        (fragments of words, or words unclear) if it’s a proxy, was it the right thing to get out of it, if it (laughter in voice) was just a proxy?

DS:        (speaking over) Yes . . .

ED:        You’re implying it’s like let’s just kick something, and that’s, the EU’s over there and let’s do that . . .

DS:        Well . . . I think, I think an awful lot of people actually voted on that basis. And it’s very important we recognise that, which of course also allows for the kind of point that Daniel Hannan was making, that perhaps we could begin to reunite as a very real possibility. And I think that what we’ve got to do is something which no recent government has had the courage to do, we’ve got to rediscover a sense of national interest.  Britain has spent the whole of its time arguing ‘we’ve got to be good, we’ve got to support European rights because otherwise the Russians will misbehave’ we’ve really got to start to do a de Gaulle.

ED:        Tim, the voters we saw there in Burnley are actually the ones political parties are finding it quite difficult to reach, any political party, aren’t they? (unknown speaker, words unclear) What, what is the . . . what is the answer to that, because they’re not natural Conservative voters, your party’s nowhere near them.

TIM MONTGOMERIE:    Sure, and you talk about Britain being divided, but, you know, I’m currently based in Washington for The Times, and I’m of course seeing the whole Trump phenomenon over there, we’re all seeing the Trump phenomenon, and I think we’re sort of six, seven years after the global crash now, and I think immediately after the global crash people just wanted governments that stabilised the situation.  But now there’s the hunger for reform and remedy. And I think we are seeing that right across the world . . .

ED:        Can I just make one . . .

TM:       . . . and today’s revolt, yesterday’s revolt by er, poorer Britons, and they were the overwhelming explanation for why we are leaving the European Union, that has to be heeded.  This isn’t just a vote to leave the European Union, this is a cry for help for a huge proportion of our population, who think politics has stopped working for them . . .

KW:       And it is a vote against austerity, I absolutely agree, but when you think of places like Wales has got 500 million subsidy, huge votes against austerity, they talked about poverty, we didn’t really see much talk about sovereignty in the same way, and the concern is that these people, it is not going to give them . . . any, it’s not going be (word or words unclear due to speaking over) for Burnley.

DS:        (speaking over) But sorry, you see, Kate, you’re making a very elementary confusion.  You’re assuming . . .

KW:       No I’m not . . .

DS:        Yes you are. You’re assuming that the economy is always what mattered. What this vote shows . . .

KW:       But austerity is tied up with the economy.

DS:        (shushes her) What this vote shows it that it’s culture that matters . . .

ED:        It can be, it can be.

DS:        . . . and it can be . . .

PL:         Well, it’s the lack of politicians connecting with voters, if you look at Jo Cox, she was doing a good job of it, the SNP in Scotland is doing a good job of it, so I think that Labour and the Conservatives both need to put their hands up and . . . admit that they’re just not getting it right.

DS:        But sorry, you’re point about those voters in Burnley, they are, at the moment, they’re floating voters.  A Conservative leader who was as clever as Disraeli – remember, it’s Disraeli who turns, captures the working man’s vote in 1867, and there’s the possibility now of a Boris, or another charismatic Tory politician who invents the national interest . . .

ED:        (laughs) Alright, let’s ask the Remainers whether you think Boris is a healing, a healing person . . .

PL:         I think Boris, his speech it was, it was just extraordinary.  That wasn’t a victory speech, I think he realises that . . . he’s got it wrong and this is really, really, really serious.  And I just hope that we can actually have another referendum, because I think a lot of people would actually . . .

DS:        (speaking over) Loser – bad loser.

KW:       Jonathan Powell was saying . . .

PL:         (speaking over) Well, I’d rather . . . I think actually I’d rather be a bad loser, I’ve got more important things to worry about than how . . .

KW:       (speaking over) I’m not sure it is about losing, because people actually feel that they have been lied to, and that’s what . . .

PL:         People have been lied to . . .

KW:       There’s so, there’s so much more voter regret than I’ve ever seen before, most people (words unclear due to speaking over)

DS:        (speaking over) You’re now having a clear illustration of why the vote went why it did.

TM:       I think people are going to be surprised with Boris Johnson.  He’s probably the likely next Prime Minister of this, this country.  Actually, you look at his record, he was championing the were living wage before other Conservatives . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Immigration amnesty . . .

TM:       Same sex marriage, he opposed the tax credit cuts that you’re just one proposed, he’s much more of an interesting Conservative than people think.

ED:        (speaking over) We’ve talked a lot about the sort of, the, the Burnley divide, and the metropolitan elite, Paris, what about the generational divide, because that is really quite striking.  The under 45’s would have clearly voted to stay in, and the over 45s clearly voted to take us out.

PL:         Well there was a great headline on Vice today, er, which said, ‘Grandma, what have you done?’ And I think that a lot of millennial’s will be feeling that this morning, I think it’s incredibly selfish and I personally will not

TM:       (speaking over) Why selfish?

PL:         . . . forgive or forget. Because . . . the older generation don’t have to live here as long as the younger generation.

DS:        So, why don’t we introduce, for example, a cut-off point (laughter from TM and ED) beyond which you can’t vote. Are you . . .

PL:         (words unclear due to speaking over)

DS:        (speaking over) Your sense of sublime self entitlement . . .

PL:         No . . .

DS:        . . . are we going to have those under 35 with two votes? (words unclear, multiple speakers talking at once)

PL:         Young people . . . young people have already had so much taken away me (sic) I don’t need you to take away my airtime as well, Mr Starkey. So what we’re actually looking at is a generation of people who . . .

DS:        (speaking over) You haven’t and my question?

PL:         Well, you’re not letting me, because you’re interrupting me, because you’re a privileged white man who just wants to speak over me, and this is the problem.  Young people are getting very sick of it, sick of being spoken over, sick of being patronised and we have to pay for our education (others speak over unclear) the way your generation didn’t have to, you know, we’re just, everything that gets taken away, young people are being cut out, firstly I think there’s a lot of frustration, and, you know, for young people, Europe’s just somewhere where we go on holiday and go clubbing. You know, we don’t have this xenophobia.

KW:       And the young vote is going to be vital in Scotland, of course, the Scottish referendum included 16-year-olds, they were massive in the turnout, and I think that this (fragments of words, unclear) I notice Nigel Farage saying, ‘Well, we can engage with the Commonwealth’, but I’ve been watching the Australian media who have been saying today, ‘Why are we still linked to this country, it’s going to be so diminished, they’re going to lose Scotland, possibly Wales, and the Commonwealth is probably due for the chop as well.’

ED:        Is this . . . this is not what you (fragments of words, unclear) be careful what you wish for is the kind of message (fragment of word, unclear)

TM:       I, I think at the moment, in our relationship with Europe, we have a situation where people from Africa, Asia, Australasia are actually second-class status when it comes to coming into Britain, we prioritise European . . . the problem isn’t Little Englandism, it’s Little Europeanism, Britain now has the opportunity to open ourselves to the world.

PL:         There won’t be a Britain, this time in 10 years.

ED:        And that is about it, what a 24 hours . . .

KW:       Thank you.

ED:        . . . it’s been. Normally we’re meant to be the quietly stable nation that doesn’t do revolutions cut people’s heads off, but today we’ve been rocking the world. That’s all we have time for tonight.


Photo by (Mick Baker)rooster



How Should I Vote, the BBC’s first formal programme of the referendum campaign aimed at helping voters to make their minds up, was on BBC1 on Thursday night. It was hosted from Glasgow by Victoria Derbyshire, who presents a current affairs show on BBC2 and the BBC News Channel. The key parts of the audience – all of whom were under 30 years of age – were made up of groups of 40 ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ voters, on either side of 55 ‘undecided’ voters.

Was it fair? Well at the end of the programme, most of the ‘undecided’ voters indicated that they had been persuaded to join the ‘remain’ camp’.  Was that down to the eloquence of ‘remain’ speakers Alex Salmond and Alan Johnson, and corresponding failures of the ‘leave’ panellists Diane James and Liam Fox? Of course, it is not possible to know for certain what led to the changes in views, especially as no clear indication of how the panel was chosen was given. Were they really all convinced ‘undecideds’ – and in any case, how could such a stance be defined with certainty?

What is certain is there are question marks about Derbyshire’s handling of the debate’s flow, and in particular, she appeared a more robust and negative approach to the ‘leave’ questions and panellists. Below is a series of transcripts of sequences where, arguably, she showed distinct favouritism.

Problems included interruptions of the ‘exit’ panellists, apparent comments in favour of pro-‘remain’ tweets,  preventing one of the most penetrating ‘exit’ questions being put, making  partisan points on immigration and the alleged freedom to travel generated by EU membership, a throwaway remark in favour of the ‘remain’ side’s views about the advantages of EU membership, and an over -zealous put-down of a point made by a ‘leave’ side audience member.

The difficulty of such analysis, is, of course, that it is impossible to be certain about what will sway an audience. This was a fast-moving programme, and there could have been no pre-planned or deliberate fixes. However, what emerges from this analysis and the transcripts is that Derbyshire seemed more keen to intervene against the ‘leave’ side.


8:17:50 Victoria Derbyshire interrupted Diane James when she attempted to link immigration to house prices, and didn’t interrupt or try to change the flow of argument of the Remain guests in this way:

VICTORIA DERBYSHIRE:        Diane James?

DIANE JAMES:   Well, isn’t it interesting, and I take the point about migration . . .

VD:        Can we just stay with Michael’s question . . .

DJ:         Okay . . .

VD:        Which was the warning from the Chancellor about house prices falling.

DJ:         (speaking over) I wanted to come back first, I wanted to come back first there, to make, to make . . .

VD:        (speaking over) We will, we will come back to that . . .

DJ:         . . . a link . . .

VD:        I promise you.

DJ:         . . . to make the link, Victoria . . .

VD:        Let’s talk about h— . . .

DJ:         On the basis that, your point is about can you afford a house, effectively, can you, if we remain a member of the European Union, is that going to be even a remote possibility.


8:18:46 After Diane James’s contribution finished, Victoria Derbyshire did the same to Liam Fox:

VICTORIA DERBYSHIRE:        Okay, Liam Fox?

LIAM FOX:          I’ve got no problem with migration, and controlled, and controlled . . .

VD:        (speaking over) This is about house prices, the question was why . . . why the Chancellor’s warning about house prices falling is meant to be a bad thing, when it’s not.

LF:         I’m coming to it.  I’ve no problem with migration, and control migration can bring benefits, but if you have an uncontrolled number, the arithmetic tells you it will put pressure on public services, on the health service, on schools and on housing (continues)


8:27:01 Derbyshire read out Tweets from audiences watching at home. The syntax of the third Tweet was problematic – it was difficult to precisely discern where the commentary ended and the tweet itself began.  Was it Derbyshire herself saying ‘a good and overlooked point, I think’, or was this contained within the text?  Subsequently, Derbyshire was also sure to place the word ‘foreigners’ in verbalised quotation marks, eliciting laughter from the audience, and simultaneously drawing attention to, and distancing herself from, Diane James’s earlier use of the word:

VICTORIA DERBYSHIRE:  A couple of tweets using the hashtag #BBCDebate, er, Stuart Young says ‘Will the economy be strong enough if we leave?’ Ghosthands on Twitter says, ‘People should look at the bigger picture, rather than their own personal gain, when it comes to the EU referendum.’ And Mellon . . . who . . . er, is going to vote to Remain says, a good and often overlooked point, I think, the Brits have free reign through Europe as well as – quote – ‘the foreigners.’ (laughter from some sections of audience)


8:32:45 Derbyshire cut off one of the most interesting questions of the night, which would have been difficult for the Remain side to answer:

AUDIENCE MEMBER:     I just want to ask the Remain side, if David Cameron believes all this scaremongering that we’re going to have a World War III (some laughter from audience) that our economy’s going to be completely awful – why are we having a referendum? Surely (applause and cheers) somebody who cares about the country wouldn’t give us one if it was that dangerous?

VICTORIA DERBYSHIRE: We are where we are. Aren’t we, I mean you can (fragments of words, unclear) I just want to . . . (moves on to ask another audience member what they think of the Remain’s side of the campaign)


8:34:51 Victoria Derbyshire interrupted Diane James to make a partisan point on migration:

DIANE JAMES:   The aspect that I brought up is if you can’t control the number of people, if you can’t control demand, because you can’t control supply, you’re forever in a spiral downwards . . .

VICTORIA DERBYSHIRE: (speaking over) But you can, you can . . .

DJ:         (speaking over) I . . . I . . .

VD         (speaking over) You can control net migration from outside the EU, and we had the latest figures today, which show . . .

DJ:         (speaking over) 330,000 today, 184,000 from the EU . . .

VD:        . . . that as many people are coming from outside the EU, which Britain can control as are coming from within the EU.

DJ:         Yes, but what we do know is we want, for instance, more medics, nurses (continues)


8:38:50 Derbyshire frequenly interrupted Liam Fox with overtly political arguments, in a way she did not with pro-Remain guests.  Despite Victoria Derbyshire’s contention – that no one was suggesting that ‘you’re not going to be able to have a holiday in Mallorca if you want’ – earlier in the debate Alex Salmond had said specifically, ‘You’ve got the ability to go and travel, to work, to . . . er, to visit, without a visa, you can go into Barcelona, watch some decent football, you’ve got the whole of that European community at, at your disposal’:

LIAM FOX:          The idea that because we’re not in the European Union, you’re not going to be able to have a holiday in Mallorca is getting to, is getting too ridiculous . . .

VD:        (speaking over) I don’t, well no, well no one is . . . no one is, to be fair, no one is suggesting that . . . we’re not going be able to have a holiday in Mallorca if you want.  According to the Complete University Guide, as members of the EU, anyone here would usually be able to study in other EU nations as home students . . .

LF:         That’s right.

VD:        . . . Compared to the fees charged to international students, home fees are generally lower or non-existent.

LF:         But it’s here’s the difference that young lady at the back, the point about the difference between Europe and the European Union, because programs like ERASMUS, which have got bigger student programmes are not just . . .

VD:        (speaking over) That’s an exchange programme.

LF:         (speaking over) Yes, the exchange programme is not just the European Union, it’s the European continent, so it’s countries like Turkey as well, Norway, Iceland does that . . . Europe is a great continent of individual nations, with their own history, the European Union’s political construct . . .

VD:        But . . .

LF:         Europe, Europe (applause) Europe and exchange and trade and travel existed before there was a European Union and they . . .

VD:        (speaking over) But Stephanie’s fees might be higher . . .

LF:         . . . will continue.

VD:        . . . if Britain is outside the European Union, if she wants to go and study at university.

LF:         Why would that be, because the programmes are decided because they’re in the mutual interest, it’s the same as trade, it’s in both our interests to do so . . .

VD:        (speaking over) Why would that be, because we wouldn’t be members of the EU?

LF:         And we had all these programmes before we were in the European Union, and we’ll have them where were not in the European Union, just as we have programmes (continues, but is interrupted by a speaker from audience)


8:43:32 Derbyshire made a throwaway aside, (which ultimately made little sense given that we’re presently in the EU and have no requirements for travel visas) – but it served to reinforce the idea that visas might be required for travel post-Brexit, despite this being contested by the Leave  side during the debate:

ALAN JOHNSON:             No other country has more of its citizens living and working in other developed countries than Great Britain.  Now, if we’re not have visas, and Diane you said we wouldn’t, to go on holiday, or for people to come here, there are 2.5 million tourists who come to Scotland every year.  How are you going to differentiate between the Polish plumber and the Polish tourist?  It means, surely, a system of visas.  And if you haven’t got a system of visas, then how are you going to deal with . . . you’re going to be telling people we’re going to stop free movement, but you’re not going to introduce visas so free movement will still be there.  And you’re also, incidentally, unless you put a border and watchtowers across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, going to have people coming in across there, because it would then be an EU country and a non-EU country.

VD:        Well that, so, so that’s . . . dealing also with (name unclear’s) point about easy . . . I mean, you can just get up and go anywhere in Europe . . .

AUDIENCE MEMBER:     I mean, I can leave right now if I wanted to, and just . . .

VD:        Bye!

AM:       You can come with me if you want, we can go together (laughter from audience)

VD:        But do you I mean, do you . . . (applause and cheering from audience) I haven’t got a visa. (laughter from audience)


8:54:45 Victoria Derbyshire chastised an audience member and ‘shushed’ them when they tried to interject during an Alan Johnson contribution. Although Derbyshire obviously needed to keep a handle on the debate, including of-microphone interjections, she could have picked up the point raised by the audience member herself.  Alan Johnson didn’t, as he promised to do, return to the issue of TTIP:

ALAN JOHNSON:             I think of all the arguments that the Leave side are putting forward, I think the NHS is the most ludicrous.  We’ve had the current chief executive of the NHS and his two predecessors saying, look, the NHS is a tax-based system it’s . . . it’s not a free system, it’s free at the point of use, but it’s paid by taxpayers.  If our economy shrinks, the NHS is in trouble . . .

AUDIENCE MEMBER (attempts to interject, but away from mic so words inaudible, judging by Alan Johnson’s response, question was on TTIP)

AJ:         And going back to what we were saying earlier . . .

VD         (to audience member) Hang on a minute, wait, wait, wait, shhhh. Don’t just shout out. Hang on a minute.

AJ:         I’ll tell you about TTIP in a second, but let me just deal with the first question . . .


Referendum Blog: May 24

Referendum Blog: May 24

NEWSNIGHT BREXIT HELL?  When it comes to impartiality, which planet does Newsnight  – the BBC’s television news and current affairs flagship programme – inhabit?

Over the past six weeks the programme has run six separately-themed referendum specials, a marathon six hours of broadcasting in which it has discussed sovereignty, the impact on the economy, security, immigration, how the EU works, and the options post-Brexit. The final one was broadcast last night.

Each programme on the surface was carefully balanced with prominent politicians from both sides of the debate, together with a weekly sprinkling of pro-EU and pro-Brexit experts. A feature throughout was a panel of eight allegedly undecided voters chosen, host Evan Davis said, by the Ipsos Mori polling company.

Was the series as a whole properly impartial? Measuring bias across six hours of broadcasting is immensely complex and labour intensive.

News-watch has already noted in previous postings major issues of negativity towards the Brexit case, for example choosing Sealand, an obscure, decrepit ‘independent’ platform in the North Sea to depict what the UK post-Brexit might look like, and opening the programme on immigration from Boston in Lincolnshire with a heavily pro-EU selection of views.

Further bias problems arose in the final programme. Daniel Hannan presented a short piece to camera about what Brexit would achieve and look like. This was the first time in the series that a deliberate production effort was made to explain this perspective.

However, it clearly did not work as intended. Seven of the eight ‘independent panellists declared at the end that they favoured ‘remain’ (of which more later) and when asked by Davis said they had found Hannam’s film ‘unconvincing’.

Part of the reason may well have been the gut-busting production counter-effort put into establishing the ‘remain’ case. This was another piece of film shot in advance by Newsnight.  It was undoubtedly the centrepiece of the programme – if not of the series as a whole – and featured Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell – who has come out strongly on the ‘remain’ side – in a staged reconstruction of what post-Brexit negotiations might involve. His ‘opponent’ in these talks was Antonio Vitorino, the (Italian) European Commissioner for Justice from 1999-2004.

What emerged in the tortuous ten minutes was that whatever the UK opted for, it would be very costly, would not work and would lead to economic disaster. The Norway option? Forget it. Switzerland’s?  If you choose that, certain penury and an overwhelming tide of immigration. Canada’s trade agreement? Even worse. EFTA-style arrangements? Britain might as well jump into a pit of vipers.

This was weirdly compelling television, deliberately staged to be so. Every penny of the production budget was squeezed to maximum extent to show that ’out’ was horrendous, and no matter what the UK said, or hoped for, the EU would undermine it or put obstacles in the way.

It was clear that Powell was not really trying, to the extent that Davis was forced to say so after the film was shown, but the point was made with a vengeance: ‘out’ for the UK would be worse than anything that Dante ever remotely imagined.

A further issue on Monday night was that one of the guest experts in the final programme was a prominent Norwegian campaigner against the EU, who led the relevant Parliamentary group. But she was scarcely asked to contribute, and even then, her command of English was relatively limited, so her points did not come across as fluently as the ‘remain’ case.  Another reason why the Newsnight panel voted ‘in.’

Another big – and unanswered – question here is how Newsnight selected the so-called ‘undecided’ panel. How their status was established by Ipsos Mori was not revealed. Were they in any sense representative of the electorate? Three of the eight were obviously from ethnic minorities and one was an Irish national. There were three white women, but only one white man (the Irish national) and none was clearly over 65. Alarm bells ring here. Was the choice to meet the BBC’s version of ‘diversity’?.

Analysis of what they said over the six programmes shows that they raised or made (unprompted) pro-EU points more often than Eurosceptic ones, and in the final edition, a typical contribution was this:

PANELIST: Basically, I cannot see any, any (fragments of words, unclear) leaving the EU it makes us safer, it makes our economy stronger, and I can’t see any of that. In any case, I . . . I trust my Prime Minister with what he says . . .


PANELIST: We have elected the government and he says, and he cannot make anything . . . make it up. So I (fragment of word, unclear) put my trust in him, and what I hear (fragment of word, unclear)

Those do not sound like the words of someone who was deeply ‘undecided’. Whatever else is involved in the referendum saga, David Cameron has staunchly pro-EU throughout, and is now emerging – in his Project Fear utterances – as probably more fervent in his adoration of Brussels than even Edward Heath.

Jeremy Vine presides over EU love-in

Jeremy Vine presides over EU love-in

Has Jeremy Vine presided over the most biased programme so far of the referendum campaign? And possibly the most biased programme that could be devised?

Someone on the BBC Radio 2 production team – the same service, it may recalled, that thought Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand’s humiliation of the gentle Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs was acceptable entertainment – had a brilliant wheeze.

Plan A was that they wanted to reflect the ‘diversity’ of views about the EU by sending Vine round all 27 member countries. That was ruled out as impracticable, so it was on to Plan B. Instead they invited someone living in the UK from each of the 27 countries to come to the Radio 2 studio. Vine would then chat casually to them for an hour or so to provide deep insight into the key issues of the referendum debate.

Vine claimed – as this slow-motion car-smash unfolded – that they had no idea in advance about what any of them thought about the EU.  But it soon became clear.  And golly gosh, how they loved the EU – and hated the idea of Brexit.  Jana Valencic, from Slovenia, set the tone  as she was asked if she enjoyed living in the UK:

I enjoy very much the country, I’m, lately, I’m coming across some pretty nasty people just because I’m European.

JV:         Oh, lawks, really?

YV:        Yesterday they said ‘get back to my country’?

JV:         Really, for real?

YV:        And I was told, erm, in a department store in Norwich that people come to their store and don’t want to be served by Eastern Europeans, and this is what this Brexit has done to us.

Guest number 22 was Szofi Barota from Hungary.  She said:

…and I was born and raised in the tiny country, controversial country of the EU, Hungary, and er . . .

JV:         Why is it controversial?

SB:         Well, you know, we have a bit of a controversial Prime Minister called . . .

JV:         (interrupting) Oh, is that the right-wing thing, or the left-wing thing, I can’t remember.

SB:         Absolutely right-wing.

There was no doubt whom she meant – that nasty, immigrant-resisting, racist Viktor Orban.  By this time, the programme was  getting into its stride and Vine started quizzing his guests.  First up in the comment stage was Yana Valencic again. She declared:

Well, increasingly, I think this country (the UK) is spoiling Europe for everyone else, er, because it insists on opt out of many things like Workers Rights and a few others, and the one I’m particularly unhappy about is that it, it’s er . . . it erm vetoes any good European, anybody who could be a good European official, and insists on the lowest common denominator.

Angela from Bulgaria then said that the EU was very important because it facilitated ‘cultural exchange’ and engendered ‘a broader view of the world’. Monica from Romania agreed and added that it also meant that people could ‘travel easily’ and ‘had more information about Bulgaria, for example’.

Imke Henkel from Germany now chipped in. She said:

Erm, actually, can I say that I think, from a German perspective, Britain is not at all spoiling the party, although there is quite a bit of annoyance with, with the British always being difficult, but I think from a German perspective it’s actually very important for Britain to stay in, and that is precisely because of the balance of power.  Because Germany has become, in a way, powerful within Europe, which is not good for Europe which is not good . . . The UK must save the EU from Germany.

Vine tried to get more people to agree, but Austrian, Susanne Chishti had a different point:

I mean, from our point of view it’s about collaboration, you know, because you need to collaborate on the innovation side, and London and the UK is a tech nation and I think we have got so many entrepreneurs, you know, who need to work together, and for the UK, within Fintech, you know, in the technology sector, we have got a talent pool coming from Europe, and we just don’t want it to stop, because it would be just negative.

And Andres, a Cypriot opined:

I believe Britain should stay, should stay as part of the European family, it should stay here, and if we spend all these millions and billions to go to war for the principles, they have to spend some pennies for the, for the Europeans.

Rob from Malta said:

Well, I think it doesn’t get any smaller than Malta, so I mean, for us, Czech Republic is quite a big country, so I obviously concur with what Sweden and the Czech Republic were saying immigration wise.  However, it’s important to point out that immigration is a phenomenon which will exist regardless of what happens. Erm, and I think the positives of the EU outweigh the negatives.

With that cue, Vine began to fish for other negatives. Marta from Poland was worried that too many Polish doctors were working in other EU countries. Vine asked Dina from Portugal to respond. The problem was that pesky national sovereignty. She said:

   Yeah, well I agree with, I agree with these guys, I mean it was good to, it is good to belong to . . . to EU, but I think, as Europe, er, we, we, we’re all getting a bit older and we need new ideas, new ways of being, of being a group and not being separate countries. I think er . . .

JV:         You want to get even closer?

DINA:    Yeah. We (fragments of words, unclear) I think we can . . .

JV:         (speaking over) Why would you want, why would you want France to make your laws . . .

DINA:    . . . forget about borders and forget about all these things that are just . . . you know, scrubbed or whatever in er . . .

JV:         (interrupting) Hang on, hang on, are you saying . . .

UNKNOWN FEMALE:      It’s not about France making laws for Portugal, it’s rather about all make laws together, and that is always forgotten (people say ‘yes’ in agreement) if, if they say that Brussels actually makes the laws, it’s all the 28 countries who come together and agree together which will be the laws.

Ever closer union. Vine noted at this point that this was now a ‘really interesting discussion.’ Michael from Ireland jumped in Did he agree? He said:

   It is Jeremy, but I think, first of all, symptomatic of how great the European Union is, is this gathering here today.  And we’re all likeminded people, not so long ago we didn’t even know some of the countries that are actually part of the European Union, that’s extremely important.  But like every organisation it’s about compromise, (someone says ‘hm-hmm’ in assent) and it’s not always going to work perfectly, erm, but if you’re not in it, you can’t fix it.

In other words, avoid Brexit at all costs. Michael’s enthusiasm generated a strong round of applause and Thanasis from Greece decided to comment.  Vine first observed that his country had been through ‘an absolute horror show’. Surely he would not back the EU?  Wrong. Thanasis said:

   Yeah, you name it we’re there (female giggles) the euro disaster that you mentioned, the refugee crisis and everything, and you add a thing, the democratic deficit and the lack of accountability. But the thing is that’s why . . .  even we want to stay in the EU and we want Britain in, because with you, you know, with this instinctive scepticism towards the EU . . .

JV:         Oh, you like Britain because we, we think it’s not working properly as well?

THANASIS:         Well, someone needs to be there and change it.

JV:         Why don’t you just leave, you guys, I mean, even the currency doesn’t work now?

THANASIS:         Of course the currency doesn’t work, but . . . it would be great if (fragment of word, unclear) if everyone left the eurozone, but not just Greece, because we would be doomed, even, I mean, I think . . .

JV:         So you’re, you’re kind of . . . what, regardless of whether the EU is a good thing or not, you feel Greece is trapped in it?

THANASIS:         No, I think (fragment of word, unclear) the EU is a good thing, I mean, in principle, we just need to make it work better.

That promoted Yorick from the Netherlands to reinforce how wonderful the EU was and to point out that nasty, negative forces in his country were daring to conspire against further integration and expansion by disagreeing that the Ukraine should come on board. He said:

   Okay, this is er . . . something, you might remember about a month ago, the Dutch had their own vote on one part of legislation within the EU, which is to come closer to Ukraine.  Er, was that reported at all on the BBC?  I don’t think it was, because the BBC is quite insular, with the rest of the British media . . .

JV:         Well, our bulletins are only half an hour long, but yes.

YORICK:                             Absolutely. Erm, there was a referendum about one particular piece of legislation which was funded and fuelled by the far-right, in which er . . . in the end, the far-right won, so Holland is the only country which doesn’t agree with closer union to the Ukraine.  And so, what we realised is that the people who are voting and profiting from a Brexit situation would be the far-right.

Bingo! Vine now had a full-on attack on the right and the idea that the BBC was being moderate and ‘insular’ by not reporting such extremism.  Next came another attack on Brexit, this time from Luxembourg:

   The main compromise cost for Luxembourg was giving up privacy and banking secrecy (some light laughter) and that was a pressure put on us by many of the other nations.  On the other hand, Luxembourg may be one of the only countries benefiting from Brexit more than, more than other countries, because . . .

JV:         Why’s that, why’s that?

JOHN PIERRE:    Because possibly, the financial institutions, if they have to open branches in other places, they may choose Luxembourg to do that. (male says ‘hm-hmm’ in assent, some laughter).

Michael from Ireland now returned to the fray. He wanted to point out something else that Brexit would not solve. Supporters were living under an illusion:

   Just a point that people need to be aware of, and Sweden have raised the refugee crisis, it’s important for the people to understand that Britain’s obligations under international law will not change if they leave the European Union.

Michelle from Belgium now wanted to contribute with another point about the wonders of the EU; why it was necessary. She observed:

   So, I’m from Belgium, a small country that really benefited from, from the EU and that . . . a country that suffered so much during the, the, the last war, so I think people generally do not complain (fragments of words, or words unclear) about the whole project.

She thought that economies might be made in how many languages the EU used.  Then came a bombshell. Inese from Latvia declared:

Yes, erm, being in the EU, it meant our fishermen got quotas, they’re not allowed to fish any more as much as they did before, a few of our factories were closed, we are not allowed to produce our own sugar, we have to buy it from Denmark for some reason, er, ignoring the fact that we were producing sugar for more than 100 years . . . Also many young people are coming to . . . EU to live, this is economic migration, and our country is losing people, losing children, we have to accept refugees . . .

At that point Vine suggested she was a Eurosceptic.  Shock horror. Was she? Of course not:

anyway, no, I’m not Eurosceptic, but I’m pointing out minuses and you said, as you required . . .

The next component of the show was a phone in.  Gary from Plymouth opined that the reason that the 27 supported the EU so strongly was because most contributors – unlike Britain – were net beneficiaries, that is, they got more out of their EU membership than they put  in. Patricia from France observed:

Actually, Gary, I would agree on one thing, with you, is that France is benefiting most when it comes to farming, erm, because they do actually have a big chunk of the, of the farming budget.  But, in terms of anything else, especially when the UK benefits from highly educated (phone ring tone) people coming into erm . . . into the UK . . .

Charlotte from Sweden claimed:

Even though if UK pays a lot of money to EU (sic) they actually get (fragment of word, unclear) 75% back from the EU, that’s the deal that Thatcher did, ’84 with the EU.

This, of course was blatantly untrue, Britain’s rebate reduces its contribution from (roughly, under a very complex formula) £18 billion to £13 billion (around 30%). But Vine did not challenge her. Instead, the ever-eager Michael from Ireland had another pro-EU point:

   It’s also important to point out that, like Switzerland and Norway, for Britain to continue to trade with the EU, outside the EU, they will have to make massive contributions in any event.

JV:         Yeah, but you gave up your currency, Michael?

MICHAEL KINGSTON:     We did, but it’s about . . .

JV:         (speaking over) Don’t you regret that?

MICHAEL KINGSTON:     No I don’t, because it’s about compromise, and we’re in a much better position now in Europe with peace and everything else that we benefit than, than the situation we were in.

Susanne from Austria wanted to answer the point made by the listener who called in:

   It’s Austria, yes, so we all live in London since many years, and I live since 20 years here, and what we can see as Londoners, you know, as UK, we all are UK residents now, that the UK benefits so much from being in the EU, and getting access to the talent, to the investors who invest here, and if the UK would leave, the talent wouldn’t come (words unclear due to speaking over)

She added that if the UK had not been in the EU, she would not have come at all, and she had stayed because the UK was in the EU.  Thiana from Croatia said her country had only been in the EU for only three years so it was hard yet to say what the benefits were.  But Vibne had different ideas. He suggested it had ‘helped stop fighting’ with its neighbours. Thiana agreed.  Vine then asked Johanna from Finland whether she thought the UK would stay in.

I think UK should stay in, I (fragments of words, or words unclear due to speaking over)

JV:         (interrupting) Will, will it stay in?

JOHANNA:  I mean, all of us, most of us are living here, working here, paying our taxes here, you know, consuming our salaries on, on the UK soil, so we are actually boosting your national economy as well, so it’s also a benefit for the UK.

JV:         Germany . . .

JOHANNA (shouting, but away from mic) Don’t leave!

Vine returned to Imke from Germany. She said:

I fear if Britain really were to leave that in 10 years’ time, 5 years’ time, everyone will turn round and say, ‘Whatever possessed us, what folly possessed us actually to leave this . . . very powerful community of countries where we . . . where we can actually have an impact.’  Just look at TTIP – people are very sceptical . . .

JV:         (interrupting) The transatlantic trade deal, yeah . . .

IMKE HENKEL:   With the United States.  Europe and the United States are about on equal terms, if the UK would leave they would either have an independent deal with the United States, which would be (voice says ‘Yeah’) which would be much worse, because the United States is far . . . or they would have no deal at all, and then hardly any trade.

JV:         Alright. Thank you, well listen, I think we’ve got to play some music now, but listen, thank you so much we’ve . . . to get 27 of you . . . has anyone not spoken?  Can I just check, I’m looking round the room, it’s really important.  Every single 27 – and I spoke a bit as well as number 28, so . . . I think . . . yes, hang on.  Slovakia?  Did you have one more thing?


JV:         As the most senior person here.

ZUZANA SLOBODOVA:   (laughs) Well, what I want to say is that . . . er . . . people who come here from European countries work for very little money and are very well qualified, so (sounds of assent from others) so . . . who benefits from the difference is the country where they work, which is Britain. (male voice says ‘great’, there is cheering and applause).

In summary, this programme by Jeremy Vine whipped up in the studio a pro-EU frenzy; in an hour only three or four mildly sceptical EU points were made.

As already noted, it was not explained how the guests had been selected but it very quickly became clear that every one of them were supporters of the EU to the point of fanaticism. Of course Vine might host a future edition of his daily show with a pro-Brexit bias. But it’s hard to see how this huge level of support for the EU could be balanced without filling the studio with a similar number of hand-picked supporters of ‘leave’ with a widely varied background.

Another major production issue was that Vine failed to challenge a blatantly wrong claim about the level of the UK’s EU contribution. It’s hard to think why a presenter of his experience and declared passion for statistics would not have known instantly that Britain’s rebate is not 75% of its contribution.

This show was massively biased, and the show’s producers – despite Vine’s claim to the contrary – must have known this was virtually a foregone conclusion of assembling 27 guests on this basis. Vine tried a few times to evoke eurosceptic responses, and made a few Eurosceptic points, and there was one phone-in call from someone who thought they could explain the in-built bias. But overall these negativities about the EU were only tiny fig leaves; Vine presided over a programme that at every turn  was rammed full of reasons why Brexit was a bad idea. This is impossible to justify in a period when there is supposed to be balance in the referendum debate.


Main Photo: Tweet from Jeremy Vine’s account, posted on May 18 2016, with the text: “TWENTY-EIGHT guests in our EU discussion just now – the British one (circled) seemed curiously neutral on #Brexit”

Referendum Blog: May 17

Referendum Blog: May 17

NON-BIAS BIAS? With the BBC, the devil is often in the detail. And even when figures from the Corporation set out to be ‘unbiased’, they fail dismally.  On Saturday, the Radio 4 Today programme lined up four of its most senior editors to analyse claims being made by the main two sides in the referendum debate.  Broadly, this is what they did and said:

Economics editor Kamal Ahmad analysed the claims of Vote Leave that EU membership costs the UK £350 million a week. His conclusion was the figure is much less; Vote Leave was not taking into account the UK’s rebate or the amount that the EU spends on the UK.

Home editor Mark Easton investigated similarly sweeping claims from Chancellor George Osborne that households would be £4,300 a week worse off by 2030 if the UK exited the EU. Easton decided the Chancellor was wrong because he was basing the forecast on an over-simplistic division of GDP, rather than actual incomes.  He also pointed out that the Treasury forecasts also assumed that most Britons would actually be significantly richer by 2030.

‘Europe’ editor Katya Adler examined whether Michael Gove’s warning that EU expansion would lead to an extra 88m people who are much poorer than those in the UK being able to settle here. Adler said that this was extremely unlikely to happen, not least because it was not certain that Turkey – with 75 million – would be able to join

Business editor Simon Jack checked David Cameron’s claim that 3m UK jobs were ‘linked to the European union’. Jack said that not all jobs would be at risk if the UK left the EU because they were dependent on trade with EU countries rather than EU membership.

Two claims each by the Leave and remain sides were thus debunked. That looks balanced. But closer inspection of the transcripts yields other problems.  First Katya Adler. The claim by Michael Gove, contained in article he wrote for the Daily Mail, was that the EU was considering applications to join from Albania, Turkey, Macedonia. Montenegro and Serbia, countries with a combined population of 88m, most of whom had significantly lower living standards and incomes than those in the UK. He said if the applications were approved, which seemed increasingly likely, these people would have the right to use UK facilities, including the NHS. His argument about the dangers to the UK from these countries was also framed in parallel with observations that the influx from countries which had recently joined the EU had been significantly higher than predicted. Overall, his warning was that the EU was on a course which could add substantially to the UK’s existing infrastructure and security problems, and if the UK remained a member of the EU, it could little or nothing to stop this. The bias point here is that Adler, in framing her response, chose to put the emphasis completely elsewhere. She said first of all that the barriers to entry to the EU by the five countries were unlikely to be resolved until at least 2020 and even then, agreement to their accession had to be unanimous among the 28 existing members. She also asserted that for Michael Gove to be right every man, woman and child – all 88 million of them –  would ‘have to move to the UK’.  Gove’s arguments in the Daily Mail feature, however, were not hinged on either point.  He was rather arguing that joining was on the cards (it is) and that potentially significant numbers of their citizens were likely to come, as had happened when other poorer countries had joined the EU.  Overall, of course, no one knows when or if or on what terms Turkey and the other countries will join the EU. But the purpose of Gove’s feature was to point out that this issue is live, that other similar accessions had already taken place, and that potentially, a further 88m would have access because of EU rules to the UK. Nothing of what Adler said disproved that, and especially her bald assertion that:

so, for Michael Gove to be right this would mean that all the citizens of these countries, every man woman and child would have to move to the UK.

Simon Jack’s ‘debunking’ of David Cameron’s claims about 3m jobs being dependent on the EU was also not what it seemed. The problem was that he looked at trade only through a very narrow prism. Brexit campaigners argue that EU membership forces the UK to rely too much on trade with EU countries; if there was an exit, trading possibilities and patterns would change and would result new business opportunities with countries throughout the world. The whole point of exit is thus to end reliance on the shrinking (in global terms) economies of EU members. Jack, however, did not even consider that, he looked only at what would happen within the current EU trading framework.  Yes, he pointed out that these jobs are dependent on trade with the EU, rather than membership of the EU, but the narrow prism he used meant that exiting the EU could have a negative impact, and pointed out that countries outside the EU but within Europe suffered from not being members.

Overall, Adler and Jack – far from definitively affirming or debunking anything – showed only that senior BBC reporters consider EU-related issues through skewed lenses of their own choosing.

Here is the transcript:


Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 14th May 2016, EU Referendum, Four Correspondents, 8.37am

JOHN HUMPHRYS: The referendum campaign’s about as close as these things get – if there’s one thing we can say with certainty it is that there is a huge amount of uncertainty, and if there’s one refrain you here over and over again from the voters, it is this: why aren’t we being told the facts? Which raises the obvious questions: whose facts?  You’ll hear an ‘in’ campaigner asserting one thing, and an ‘out’ campaigner asserting quite the opposite.  Here’s a flavour.

GEORGE OSBORNE:          Britain would be permanently poorer if we left the European Union, to the tune of £4300 for every household.

UNKNOWN: We would be better off out, we would be richer and more successful.

DAVID CAMERON: Indeed, three million people’s jobs in our country are already linked . . .

MICHAEL GOVE:    What is a fact is that give more than £350 million to the European Union . . .

ANDREW MARR (?) Well, hang on.

JOHN MAJOR:          The fact that we are the access point to 500 million people market produces a great deal of investment in this country.

MG:     . . . you don’t have tariffs then both sides can accept but there’s no need to erect them . . .

GO:     And that would be catastrophic people’s jobs and their incomes and their livelihoods.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH:       All forecasts (word or words unclear) are wrong, you should take them all with a pinch of salt whether they come from the Governor of the Bank of England, the IMF or any other organisation.

JH:       So, how are the poor old voters expected to make up their minds if the campaign leaders can’t agree on even the most basic facts? Well, that’s where we come in.  We’ve rounded up four of our own editors to put you straight, well, to try to put you straight on for of the most contentious areas.  They, the editors that is, Kamal Ahmed, Mark Easton, Katya Adler and Simon Jack, and the facts, Kamal – Kamal Ahmed that is, our economics editor, your fact: ‘We send the EU £350 million a week’ that is what the Leave campaign says?  Is that true?

KAMAL AHMED:    Right, well I do love the whiff of a statistical chart in the morning, so I have been digging through figures behind this to save our dear listeners from having to do such a painful thing.  Table 9.9 of the Office of National Statistics Pink Book, 2015 . . .

JH:       (speaking over) Know it well.

KA:     That is going to be my start point for this.  The big point to make, I think, the beginning is the UK pays more . . . sorry, the UK pays more into the EU than it receives, that is the big first point.  Is it £350 million a week?  Let’s see.  So, £350 million a week is our gross contribution to the European Union, that’s just over £19 billion, but we get a rebate from the EU (words unclear due to speaking over)

JH:       (speaking over) The (word unclear, ‘famous’?) Thatcher rebate?

KA:     Yes, rebate is a bit of . . . a bit of a misnomer here, actually, because we never pay the money in and get the rebate, we actually get the rebate first, and then pay the money in.  That rebate is worth £4.4 billion a year, so that makes our actual contribution to the European Union £14.7 billion, which is actually £285 million a week. But hang on . . .

JH:       (speaking over) It’s still a lot of money.

KA:     . . . this is Europe, this is Europe John, got to be complicated, got to keep those Brussels officials in work obviously.  We also get erm . . . money from the EU to support the UK economy, farming, we get regional funds, there’s some money for science research, that amounts to about £4.8 billion a year, so that makes a net contribution that the UK gives to the European Union of £9.9 billion, or about £190 million a week. That is from the ONS statistics.

JH:       Right, so when they say on the side of their battlebus and in every other interview that you do with them, ‘We pay in 350 million quid a week’ that is not true.

KA:     That is the gross contribution, which does not take into account the rebate we receive from the EU and the money we receive from the EU by way of grants and support for research and science.

JH:       Right. Thank you for that Kamal.  Er, let’s turn to Mark Easton, our home editor, and your question, well it isn’t a question, your statement if you like, Mark, families would be £4,300 worse off by 2030 – that is George Osborne who made that claim, the Remain camp, of course.  True or false?

MARK EASTON:      Right (laughs) Okay. Erm, I haven’t got any charts for you this morning John, but I can tell you the Treasury claim is based on GDP per household.  What they’ve done is they forecast what they think GDP would be in 2030 . . .

JH:       (speaking over) Gross Domestic Product.

ME:     Gross domestic . . . all the stuff that we produce, what GDP would be in 2030, so they’re throwing quite a long way ahead, and they’ve done it for both staying in the EU, and leaving the EU and then calculated the difference. But GDP per household, it’s not the same thing as household income (laughter in voice) as most people would tell you – if you simply divide current GDP by the number of British households, you get a figure of around £68,000 per household, well, we know average household income, what we would regard as, you know, what money we’re getting in, as about £44-45,000 so the, the idea of a cost to UK families of £4300, it’s not cost in the way that most people would think of it.

JH:       So, we won’t actually be worse off by £4300? I mean, that’s the bald fact?

ME:     No, exactly, the, the Treasury model doesn’t suggest UK families are going to be poorer than they are now, in fact, the modelling suggests families will be richer in 2030 if we leave the EU, what they’re saying is their models suggest we wouldn’t be quite as rich as if we stay in the EU, and that’s a difference of £4300 per household.  The last point I think, to be made is that financial modelling, as we heard in the introduction there, is obviously only as good as the information and the forecasts that you put into it . . .

JH:       Right.

ME:     . . . and often they have been proved quite wrong.  One aspect of the modelling that’s raised eyebrows is that it uses the number of households now, today, to divide estimated GDP for 2030, taking no account of population growth or the effects of . . .

JH:       (interrupting) Ah.

ME:     . . . changes to net immigration for instance . . .

JH:       (speaking over) And, and you lead us nicely into our next thought then, er . . . contentious area, if you like, and that is up to 88 million people from nations much poorer than our own will have the right to live and work here, that’s what Michael Gove said in the Daily Mail just the other day, the Leave campaign of course, Katya Adler is our Europe editor – right or wrong Katya?

KATYA ADLER:      Well, Kamal likes to start the morning on a Saturday with statistical charts, I’m . . . quite fond of crystal ball gazing on a Saturday morning myself, so if we look into our crystal ball, Michael Gove is right, there are five countries that have started talks with the EU about becoming a member one day, that’s Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia. The population of all those countries roughly adds up to 88 million, so, for Michael Gove to be right this would mean that all the citizens of these countries, every man woman and child would have to move to the UK, and it would also mean that (sic) the countries actually getting into the EU, which is not impossible, but it’s difficult.  The European Commission . . .

JH:       (speaking over) Especially with Turkey.

KA:     Especially with Turkey, but . . . for any of them, er, the European Commission has said there’ll be no new members in the EU until at least 2020, even then, erm, their membership would have to be approved by every single EU leader, by the European Parliament and by national parliaments. Every mem— every new member has to apply all EU current rules before they can join, that’s in 35 different policy areas, and you mentioned there Turkey, of course Turkey is the most controversial of the five, and the biggest, out of the 88 million, it’s 75 million.  And Turkey started its talks to join the EU ten years ago, in those 10 years it’s only managed to adopt EU rules on one area, that’s science and research.  Difficulty . . . well, we can look at human rights, we can look at limits on freedom of expression, the state of public administration and very key for the EU, Turkey has to recognise fellow EU member Cyprus, which it doesn’t. And then . . .

JH:       (speaking over) Alright . . .

KA:     . . . if we look at the politics of the EU these days, John, as well, we’ve got populist parties doing very well in many countries across the EU, fears of migration dominating politics, so no one really is trumpeting the case for Turkey’s membership at the moment.

JH:       Right, Katya, thank you for that. And our final question: 3 million jobs are linked to the European Union – this is according to David Cameron.  Simon Jack, our business editor, is that right?

SIMON JACK:           Yes.  But does that mean that 3 million jobs would go if we were to leave the European Union, er, absolutely not.  There are two pieces of work done on this, one was by the South Bank Institute, back in 2003, which said just over 3 million, there’s a new piece of work out last year by the Centre for Economic and Business Research, which puts it at over 4 million.  Now, obviously, those jobs are linked with the trade, no one assumes that the trade would disappear and go up in smoke the day we left, which then puts us into this rather vexed position of looking at what our trade would look like, and you may have heard of the Swiss model, the Norway model, the WTO, even the Albanian model.  But, the rule of thumb basically, is that the more independent the UK gets, the less access you get to some of the things that you actually want, that is the trade-off, so in the Swiss model, for example, banks are allowed to sell, you know, Swiss Banks stationed here can sell throughout the rest of Europe, they can’t sell from Switzerland, it’s a system called passporting. So we would see, potentially, some jobs go in The City. In a chat with the boss of Barclays the other day, he said, ‘Would this threaten London’s place as the pre-eminent financial centre – no.  Would it make life a bit more difficult – yes.’ So basically, 3 to 4 million jobs are associated with trade, not with our membership of the European Union, how m— . . . how many jobs would go depends on how much access you get and what model you think, er, which model would erode some of that trade, and that, of course a judgment where there aren’t any settled facts, and even the Albanian model that Michael Gove wanted, the Albanian Prime Minister thought, he thought it was a bit weird that the UK wanted that, so erm . . . I’m afraid the er . . . that was his very words, so I’m afraid the chat about the different models will continue when it comes to how many jobs are at risk.

JH:       And so will this debate, Simon, Katya, Mark and Kamal, thank you all very much, I think we can conclude that none, not one of those four claims have been stood up by our editors.  Kamal’s nodding at that so I’ll take that as approval.  Thank you all very much indeed, we may very well return to this over the weeks to come.



Photo by James Cridland

Referendum Blog: 28 April

Referendum Blog: 28 April

PRO-PATTEN BIAS: After his interview of Nigel Farage on Radio 4’s Today, in which presenter Nick Robinson attempted in every way he could to say that Ukip was an irrelevant political force, Robinson then interviewed Lord Patten, the former BBC chairman about why, in effect,  he thought it was vital for the Brexit side to lose.  The contrast between the two was stark. Here, numbers count:

Nigel Farage

Total Package Duration: 6 minutes 44 seconds

Total words from Nigel Farage: 846

Longest uninterrupted sequence: 118 words (next highest were 112 and 80)

Number of times Nick Robertson spoke over or interrupted Nigel Farage:  10

Number of times ‘control’ of discussion passed between the two: 62 times

Chris Patten 

Total Package Duration: 6 minutes 10 seconds

Total words from Chris Patten: 682

Longest uninterrupted sequence: 154 (but two others of 150 and 142)

Number of times Nick Robertson spoke over or interrupted Chris Patten:  1

Number of times ‘control’ of discussion passed between the two: 18

Put another way: Farage could scarcely get in a word edgeways, whereas Patten had a relaxed opportunity to put his various points.

Nigel Farage managed to say that Ukip was fighting the May election, was hoping for a breakthrough., was challenging on open-door immigration, which was rising, that families would be £40 a week better off outside the EU, and that the UK could survive outside the EU with a deal for trade which it would be able to negotiate. None of these policy points were more than a few words long, all of them were strongly challenged by Nick Robinson, and most of the time, Farage was defending negative points raised by Robinson. He chose not to ask about policy, and focused instead on the problems faced by both Farage and his party.

By contrast, Lord Patten was interrupted only once.   Because of the more relaxed approach, he had five sequences  of 154, 150, 142, 110 and 80 words in which he variously made the points that it was vital for the UK to stay in the EU  and take a lead role in it; that Britain had a natural leadership role in Europe, and those at our great institutions, such as academics, desperately wanted to stay bin the EU; that Margaret Thatcher was against referendums, and was a strong believer in the EU; that although ‘Europe’ as an issue had gnawed away at the Conservative party for years, but he now hoped it would be resolved and those who supported exit would be magnanimous in defeat; and that the BBC  was working ultra-hard – despite an absence of speakers and evidence to – convey  the Brexit case.  Robinson was ‘adversarial’ in that he pushed that the EU had caused divisions in the Conservative party and suggested that Margaret Thatcher had come to oppose it. The ‘Tory splits’ approach that News-watch research has shown has dominated the BBC coverage of the EU for 16 years, and suggests that the in/out debate is about party politics rather than issues of principle. Overall, Robinson seemed most focused on allowing Patten to put the anti-Brexit case; with Farage he aimed to prevent him as much as possible from making positive points at all.


Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 27th April 2016, Interview with Nigel Farage, 7.51am

NICK ROBINSON:             Is this the year the job is finally over for the UK Independence Party? The moment it can claim victory in its battle to free the country from the clutches of Brussels, or have to accept that the people have spoken and they’ve chosen to stay within the European club?  Or is UKIP, which of course is fighting council, Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliamentary elections in just a few weeks’ time, here to stay whatever the result of the referendum?   We’re joined by UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, who joins us live from Cardiff.  Morning to you Mr Farage.

NIGEL FARAGE: Good morning.

NR:        People have a referendum, the people will decide, so what’s the point of voting UK in any other election?

NF:        Well they will decide on June 23 you’re quite right. However on May 5 as you said in your introduction, we’re fighting the Welsh Assembly elections Scottish Parliament elections, we’re fighting seats in Northern Ireland for Stormont,  we’re fighting the London Mayor, London Assembly, one and a half thousand council seats and we’ve got 34 people standing as police and crime commissioners.  So it’s er . . . it’s rather like a British Super Tuesday isn’t it really (laughter in voice) it’s remarkable.

NR:        What’s the point though?  People might think, well, look, I used to vote UKIP, if they did, to send a message, as it were . . .

NF:        (speaking over) No, no, no, no, no . . .

NR:        (speaking over) Why not?

NF:        No, no. We’re way beyond people voting UKIP as a protest or to send a message, and what we’re seeing is a very strong consolidation of the UKIP vote, where people now want to vote UKIP in every possible form of election.  We’ve made some big advances in councils over the course of the last couple of years, and I do anticipate more of that on May 5. But for me, I mean, the big goal on May 5 is to win representation in the London Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Irish Assembly, and I think I’m the only party leader who’s got a chance of winning seats in all four of them.

NR:        You see, the suspicion some people have is that UKIP is a . . . curious combination of a one-man band – you, of course – and maybe this one-man is carrying a sack full of fighting ferrets.  You’re speaking to us from Cardiff, you’ve got prominent candidates, Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless who are not from Wales, and you’ve got the leader of the UKIP (sic) in Wales who says he wouldn’t have chosen them if he’d had the chance to do so.

NF:        Well, we put it to the members, and the members chose, so, you can’t argue with that, if that’s what party democracy comes up with.  Not everyone is going to like the result, but it is what it is, I mean . . .

NR:        (interrupting) You can’t argue with it, you say, but the leader of UKIP in Wales has done precisely that, he’s argued with it and he said it’s not who he wanted.

NF:        Well, it’s not who he wanted – that’s up to him isn’t it? Look, the point is this: we may have some discussions about who should and should not be candidates in winnable positions, but I look at the Conservative Party, which is literally ripping itself to pieces, and a Labour Party where over 80% of the MPs don’t want Corbyn as leader, and I look at their problems and think, ‘what I’ve got is nothing.’

NR:        (short laugh) You say it’s nothing, but of course, one of your most prominent members – well, is she a member?  It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  Suzanne Evans, wanted to run against you for leader, was a prominent figure on television and radio, she’s now been suspended.  It sounds again, you can’t really deal with the competition.

NF:        Nothing to do with me.  I, I’m party leader, Nick, I tour the country, I try and raise money, I try and get the (fragment of word, unclear) the party coverage, I try and enthuse the troops.  I don’t deal with discipline or candidate selection, and I never have done.

NR:        Nothing to do with you? Suzanne Evans . . .

NF:        (speaking over) I have nothing . . .

NR:        (speaking over) You have no influence over what the party does.

NF:        Zip.

NR:        Okay, well let’s take the opportunity now, why don’t you take the opportunity now to say, ‘I want her back, she’s one of our best and most prominent voices, we need her, she’s a contrast to me, we don’t get on, but let’s have her back.’

NF:        (speaking over) Well, I don’t think she behaved terribly well, so . . .

NR:        So you don’t want her back?

NF:        I don’t think she’s behaved terribly well, she’s suspended for a short period of time, but, but frankly (words unclear due to speaking over)

NR:        (speaking over) Do you want her back or not though, I’m just asking you that.

NF:        (speaking over) Well, as I say we’ve got, on May 5 UKIP is going to make a significant breakthrough into lots of levels of parliament and assembly to which we’ve never been before, and off the back of that we’re going to fight a big, strong campaign in the run-up to the referendum on June 23, and I think it’s very important, in this referendum campaign that the Leave side actually gets into the other half of the pitch and starts to challenge the Remain side about open-door immigration, about the fact, the figures that are out this morning, saying we’ve underestimated Eastern Europ— Eastern European migration by at least 50,000 people a year . . .

NR:        (speaking over) There are some other figures out this morning as well, you may have heard them, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD, says Brexit is like a tax, that it will cost people the equivalent of one month’s salary . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah, yeah.

NR:        . . . by 2020.  Do you say, ‘Yeah, yeah’, but . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah, yeah, yeah. IMF, OECD, you know, a whole series of international organisations, stuffed full of overpaid people who failed in politics mostly, (fragments of words, unclear) and frankly . . .

NR:        (speaking over) Well presumably you’ve got . . . would you like to give us a list of the organisations that agree with you, because it, it’d be very . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah.

NR:        . . . useful to have them.

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah. Yeah, they’re called ‘markets’ they’re called ‘consumers’ they’re called ‘people’ and they’re called ‘the real world’, and . . .

NR:        (speaking over) Well can you, can you name an organisation of economic . . .

NF:        (speaking over) And I have the advantage . . .

NR:        . . . forecasters, private or public, that agrees with your view . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Oh well, I mean, I mean . . .

NR:        . . . that you’d be better off outside the EU.

NF:        (speaking over) I’m in . . . I’m in Cardiff.  I’m in Cardiff, I mean, the Professor of Economic at Cardiff University, Patrick Minford, said very clearly that outside the European Union the average British family would be £40 per week better off.

NR:        He’s one individual, Mr Farage, isn’t he? He’s not an organisation . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Well . . .

NR:        . . . he’s not . . .

NF:        (speaking over) It’s very interesting, you know . . .

NR:        (speaking over) an international body.

NF:        Yeah, well, of course.  These international bodies, there’s virtually nobody working for any of them that has manufactured a good (sic) or traded a product globally.  I did that for 20 years before getting into politics, and the fact is, whether we’re in the European Union or outside the European Union, we will go on buying, buying and selling goods between France and Germany and Britain and Italy, because ultimately, markets aren’t created by politicians, it’s about consumers making choices.

NR:        Just like Albania, is it?  Because Michael Gove suggested the other day we could have a trading relationship with the rest of Europe like Albania’s?

NF:        Well, I don’t think he really did, I think that’s sort of, sort of spin, no I mean look . . .

NR:        (interrupting) Well, if he, if he didn’t, forgive me, which country would you like . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Look . . .

NR:        . . . us to have a relationship like, if you see what, sorry (words unclear due to speaking over)

NF:        (speaking over) I would like us to have a relationship like the eurozone’s biggest export market in the world, the market they need more than any other to have as free access to as possible, and I want is to have . . . I mean, if little countries . . .

NR:        Like? Like?

NF:        . . . if little countries like Norway and Switzerland can get their own deals, then we can have a bespoke British deal that suits us.

NR:        Well, they both, as you know, have to take immigration through free movement, so just . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Well . . .

NR:        . . . we’ve only got ten seconds, can you name a country . . .

NF:        (speaking over) they’ve been betrayed . . .

NR:        . . . that you would like to be like?

NF:        They’ve been betrayed by their politicians in both Norway and Switzerland, and they’re now rebelling against that . . .

NR:        (speaking over) Just five seconds left, can you name a country that you would like us to be like (words unclear due to speaking over ‘after Brexit’?)

NF:        (speaking over) Yeah, the biggest market in the world.  The United Kingdom will have its own deal with the EU and be free to make its own deals with the rest of the world, we will be better off.

NR:        Er, I think the answer’s no you can’t name a country, but Nigel Farage . . .

NF:        (speaking over) Because, because we’re, because we’re the United Kingdom, we’ll do our own deal.

NR:        Thank you very much for joining us, Nigel Farage.


Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 27th April 2016, Interview with Chris Patten, 8.34am

NICK ROBINSON:             It’s been another interesting week in the story of those everyday folk, who just happened to be running the country.  The Justice Secretary says the Health Secretary could pay junior doctors more, if only we got out of the EU.  The Home Secretary disagrees, she wants to stay in the EU, but she would like to tell you that she wants to get out of the ECHR, which the Justice Secretary says we’re staying in.  Meantime, the Mayor of London . . . you get the idea.  I hope you’re all following this.  Well, no, let me summarise, the Tory party is more publicly divided than it has been for years, since, in fact, the 1990s, when (fragment of word, unclear) John Major fought to keep his party together.  Alongside him then was his Conservative Party Chairman, Chris – Lord – Patten, who joins me now. And was of course also Chairman of the BBC for a period of time.

CHRIS PATTEN:  (speaking over) Happy families, Nick, happy families.

NR:        Happy families.  There were those Conservatives who believed that this referendum would, and I quote their phrase, ‘lance the boil’.  Isn’t the truth that it is merely spreading poison?

CP:         Well, I think that depends, erm, on the outcome.  I very much hope that will vote to remain in the European Union, I think that’s in the interests of not least my kids, and the next generation, I think it’s in the interests of a better future, but erm, I, there will be a lot of collateral damage, erm, if we vote to come out.  I hope that if we vote to stay in, those who have been campaigning to withdraw will actually not take the Alex Salmond (fragments of words, unclear) path and think this is a nef— neverendum, rather than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Erm, and I think, I hope that they will support the very elegantly put proposition of Theresa May yesterday that we should, or, the day before yesterday, that we should erm, be self-confident and take a leading role in the European Union.  So, I hope that’s the position they’ll take.

NR:        In order to win, do you believe that the Remain campaign has to do rather better than say, ‘You’ll be a few quid worse off, if you dare to leave’?

CP:         Well it is, of course (short laugh) decidedly relevant that will be poorer – I think everybody accepts that, except for a few diehards on the other side, but I do . . .

NR:        (speaking over) It’s not (words unclear) you served in Brussels, though, is it, as a Commissioner, (words unclear due to speaking over)

CP:         (speaking over) No, it isn’t, it isn’t, it’s, it’s because I think that erm, er . . . Britain has a natural role leading Europe, er, I, I believe passionately that a lot of the problems we face in the country, and in other countries today can only be dealt with through international, greater international cooperation, and I want to see Britain leading that.  We are a great country, we’ve got great cultural institutions, greatest, if I may say so, public service broadcaster in the world, the greatest universities in the world, some of the greatest researchers. When researchers say they how much they hope, desperately, that we’ll stay European Union, that, that resonates with me, and I want us to be able to play a leading role internationally, I want us to be part of the global, liberal order, which makes the world more stable and more decent today than it used to be.

NR:        What do you say to those though who remember that people like yourself fought Mrs Thatcher over the issue of Europe, and they say, look, she was right to warn about Brussels’ creeping power, she was right to say the single currency couldn’t possibly work and would drag us all into an economic crisis, she was right to have some worries that enlargement wouldn’t have a, produce a shallower Europe, but a deeper one with mass immigration.

CP:         But she was also right to argue passionately against referendums, which she regarded as being the favourite . . . I think these are her, almost her words – the favourite devices of despots and dictators. Erm, she was also right . . . erm, to argue that there was a huge political case as well as an economic case for Europe.  And she was right, erm, to argue that we should be playing a leadership role in Europe, not withdrawing.

NR:        When you quoted those words, which I think you did to David Cameron, said the referendum was the last resort of dictators – I don’t imagine he was best pleased, was he?

CP:         Erm, I’ve, I’ve disagreed with party leaders, erm, for years about referendums.  I think referendums undermine parliamentary democracy.

NR:        How does the Conservative Party avoid the mess, frankly, much worse than a mess, wasn’t it, the disaster of what befell the government that you were a central part of in the mid and early 90s?

CP:         Well, you’re quite right, erm, that this is an issue that’s been gnawing away at the unity, the integrity of the Conservative Party for years.  I very much hope that this will decide the issue once and for all.  It will require spectacular quantity of magnanimity on the part of the Prime Minister, but it will also require a commitment by those who lose, which I hope they will, on the Brexit side, to pull together now and work for the interest of the country, and for the interests of the future, so that we don’t find ourselves once again as . . . David Willets might put it, ‘Committing an act of intergenerational theft against younger people.’

NR:        A last word on an organisation that you used to be in charge of, you were Chairman of this organisation, of course, which you . . .

CP:         (speaking over) (word unclear)

NR:        . . . generously called ‘the greatest broadcast in the world’ the BBC . . .

CP:         Hmm.

NR:        There are people on your side of the argument now who are in favour of remaining in the EU who, to paraphrase them say ‘the BBC is bending over backwards to produce balance in this argument, and doing so in a way that does not produce the facts.’

CP:         Well . . . erm . . . I think the BBC has an extremely difficult job. Erm, it’s having to cover this referendum, er, with the shadow of a Charter Review and Mr Whittingdale hanging over it, erm, I think that may make people excessively deferential when trying to produce balance.  You have the Govenor of the Bank of England on, or, or the IMF chief, so you feel obliged to erm, put up some, er . . . some Conservative backbencher that nobody’s ever heard of on the other side of the argument.  And it does, it does . . . occasionally raise eyebrows, but I think I would prefer the BBC to be being criticised for being so balanced, excessively balanced, than for, than for doing anything else. It’s a very great broadcaster, which is dedicated to telling the truth, and that’s an unusual thing in the world of the media.

NR:        Lord Patten, Chris Patten, thank you very much indeed.

Photo by UK in Italy

Referendum Blog: April 27

Referendum Blog: April 27

GET FARAGE!: Here we go again…almost exactly a year ago, during the general election, Evan Davis slammed into Nigel Farage, interrupting him no fewer than 50 times and hardly letting him utter a single word about policy. Today, it was Nick Robinson’s turn on Today. Ostensibly this was an interview about Ukip’s chances in the various May elections, but Robinson had another agenda, which at core, was to work flat out was to show the party was hopeless, divided and clueless. First off, what was the point of voting Ukip at all in these elections, because their relevance was only to the EU referendum?  Next – a BBC constant ever since Nigel Farage entered the national stage – he was a ‘curious’ one-man band. Then, the party he is leading is a ‘sack of fighting ferrets’. The next point was a new one: Farage ‘can’t deal with competition’ because his rival for leadership, Suzanne Evans had been suspended. Whether or not she had behaved badly became a central point of the interview.  Next were  figures from the OECD, which, said Robinson, showed that Brexit would cost people the equivalent of one month’s salary.  Farage tried to answer, but Robinson was having none of it. Before he could explain why the figures did not add up, Robinson introduced another challenge. He wanted ‘a list of the organisations that agree with you’. NF tried to say what counted was consumers and markets rather than the big organisations, but Robinson slammed him again to demand that he name ’an organisation of economic forecasters…who agrees with your view that you’d be better off outside the EU’. Farage said that Patrick Minford, the professor of economics at Cardiff University (where he was) said that the average British family would be better off by £40 a week.  That, however, in Robinson’s book, did not count because he was not an international body. Farage said the that international bodies did not have figures working for them that traded manufactured goods, and that outside or inside the European Union, the UK would continue trading. Nick Robinson asked if the trading relationship would be like that of Albania’s as mentioned by Michael Gove. Farage said what Gove had said about Albania had been spun. Robinson asked what country he would like to base the UK’s relationship on.  Farage said that if small countries like Norway and Switzerland could reach their own deals, the UK could arrive at a bespoke deal.  Robinson then gave him ten seconds to name a country ‘that you would like to be like’. Farage repeated that the UK could forge its own deal. Robinson responded:

‘Er, I think the answer’s no you can’t name a country’.

All these issues were legitimate lines of questioning. But the point here was the tone: Robinson from the outside was massively aggressive and on a mission to push Farage as hard as he could. He gave him very little space to answer and in every case, crashed in with another reason why his answers were unsatisfactory. The contrast between that approach, and, for example, Huw Edward’s handling on Sunday of his interview with President Obama could not be greater, even allowing for the fact that the latter is President of the USA. An important perspective here is that the BBC has form. Nick Robinson’s belligerent approach to Farage was yet another example in a long line of similar encounters.  In nearly all of them the formula has been the same, especially the idea that Ukip is a one-trick pony and grossly incompetent.  This was ostensibly an interview about the party’s prospects in the forthcoming UK elections, but it was nothing of the sort. It was an unsubtle, disproportionately hostile, attempt to discredit the Brexit case and to yet again to undermine both Farage and Ukip.

Photo by Euro Realist Newsletter