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Kathy Gyngell

Kathy Gyngell: Farage is no racist despite ITV’s bid to load the dice against him

Kathy Gyngell: Farage is no racist despite ITV’s bid to load the dice against him

Tuesday night’s ITV ‘debate’ was not just a travesty of this term – you could hardly called this pre-planned, separate tables, Q&A format a debate – it was also a case of helping mud stick with a supposedly impartial broadcaster applying the brush. Nigel Farage may be an old fashioned beer drinking and fag smoking bloke but that hardly makes him a racist.  He may wear clothes more suited to the golf course than Westminster, but neither does that make him a racist.

I imagine he is the first to spot a racist when he sees one. Anyone who’s taken the trouble to read the Ford and Goodwin’s fact-packed account, Revolt on the Right, of the rise of Ukip under Nigel Farage’s tutelage knows that his slate is clean. Far from finding examples of racism, these two left-leaning sociologists uncovered a history of Ukip leadership fighting it and on constant guard against entryism.

None of this stopped  Britain’s mainstream media from going into overdrive a few days ago, accusing Farage of scaremongering for the crime of citing recently released German crime statistics – including sexual offences – which demonstrated  that  migrants are  ‘over represented’. It wasn’t playing cricket, they judged, to warn the British public of the price Sweden and Germany is already paying for uncontrolled male economic migrants from different cultures. Unpalatable truths, it seems, become racist over night, and certainly when Archbishop Welby takes a hand and adds his moral authority to this hypocrisy and sanitising of the truth.

Here in the ITV studio stood a man already condemned as a racist by the ‘tricoteur’ hierarchy of the press  and the Cof E – without resort to trial or jury. And it was inevitable that Farage’s questioning would be more  hostile  than Cameron’s – evenThe Guardian conceded that. So it behove presenter Julie Etchingham, all the more, to be even handed; to allow the already condemned man time  to counter accusations of “inflammatory” scaremongering and racism  – the worst crimes (apart from paedophilia)  you can be accused of today.

She was not and she did not;  she curtailed his defence by pandering to the questioners angry and prejudiced interruptions. ‘Calm down’, Nigel appealed to one of them. Julie leapt, not to Nigel’s but to the questioner’s defence.  The question was stated calmly, she said. No, Julie it was only so in tone. The content was far from calm – it was of itself inflammatory.

Predictably, neither the studio audience nor the commentators afterwards were pressed to explore or deny the facts on which Archbishop’s Welby’s and the audience’s accusations rested. On the ITV news programme that followed, what did we get as a result but the whole debate again – over whether Nigel Farage is a racist or not? There was still no reference to the undeniable evidence of Cologne or why politicians of both parties are so keen to buy into this demonisation of Farage. His accusers should have been challenged on the threat to the morally defunct and out of touch leaderships of both Tory and Labour parties posed by the rise of radicalism and nationalism inspired by the Ukip leader.

You can plant a thought in people’s minds, bed it down with some discussion with eager fellow travellers, then nurture it by interviews with so called ‘ordinary’ members of the public, one of whom gave the game away by referring to Mr Farage as such and the Prime Minister as ‘David’. That in a nutshell is what ITV did with this debate. Mr Farage has to be congratulated on his measured handling of it.

Predictably too the Twitterati verdict deemed Nigel’s interactions with two of the women who questioned him as unattractive and patronising. I thought these rather good adjectives better applied to Mr Cameron, who seemed to me to be p…ing on all of us.

 

Kathy Gyngell is co-founder of News-watch and co-editor of The Conservative Woman, where this article was first published.

Kathy Gyngell: How would the BBC cope if it didn’t have Hezza to fuel Tory Europe splits?

Kathy Gyngell: How would the BBC cope if it didn’t have Hezza to fuel Tory Europe splits?

The BBC’s approach to EU coverage is pretty much on the lines of a word association game.

EU – Conservative Party – split – europhiles – Michael Heseltine – Ken Clarke – reasonable – superior –  prime time. 

Eurosceptics – extreme – xenophobic – inferior – marginalise – diss – interrupt.

Labour  – unified – no story – splits –  never – Tony Benn – past – irrelevant.

That is how it was in 1999 when I started on a BBC/ EU coverage monitoring and transcribing project with David Keighley for Global Britain.  And that is how it still is today.

Yesterday, in fact, on Sunday morning, it was back to the future with Andrew Marr (about 20 minutes in to the programme for anyone who can be bothered to watch):

When it comes to the great Conservative Party debate over Europe,” Marr assured us, “there is nobody who knows the territory better than Lord Heseltine.”

For those of you too young to have been wearied by the tedious and pompous pontifications of this particular peer on the BBC over the years, Lord Heseltine was Deputy Prime Minister under John Major in the 1990s. He retired from his seat and has not been active in politics since 2001. Not that that has diluted his incestuous relationship with the BBC.

They love him because he is an unreconstructed Europhile.

Despite the old boy looking a shadow of his former self, Mr Andrew Deference Marr did his best to big him up:

“He confronted Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s; he stood at John Major’s side in the 1990s and he’s continued vigorously to make the case for Britain to be at the heart of the EU.”

This latter point was, of course, being entirely thanks to the BBC for the permanent platform they’ve offered him for the last 14 years – not mentioned I might add.

Marr then encouraged the old dinosaur to witter on for 6 minutes until he produced the line he was looking for – for the end of programme news headline:

‘Lord Heseltine told this programme that David Cameron was right to tackle the issue of immigration (Is he tackling it? Ed) but he had a warning for the Conservatives: “It is very complex … he (Mr Cameron) is more likely to be successful if the people he’s negotiating with feel he has he backing of the party that he leads.”

The only conceivable reason for having him on – since he is not active in politics any more – is when he can be used to highlight ‘Tory splits’.

One thing those canny BBC news producers can rely on is that he will diss whatever the Eurosceptics are currently doing.

No surprise then that nothing that former Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson – who appeared later in the programme – could say was going to make the headlines – however strong his critique of Britain’s current relationship with the EU. Not even his revelation that Britain, still a great global trading nation, is now represented in world trade councils via the EU by a female former psychiatric nurse from Sweden – no doubt a great expert on trade – demonstrating just how much power over our own affairs we have ceded.

It gets worse. Not content with digging Lord H out of the woodwork the BBC ignored Kate Hoey’s incendiary article in the Mail on Sunday – incendiary for the Labour Party that is – on her Brexit advocacy and on her searing critique of the Labour leadership candidates’ failure to understand why the party lost votes to Ukip.

Was she on Andrew Marr’s sofa? Of course not. Just an obscure SNP MP John Nicholson and Marr’s favourite liberal leftie, self-regarding Shami Chakrabarti.

But then, according to the BBC, the Labour Party is never split on Europe. How convenient since that means it cannot be newsworthy that Kate has criticised Labour for being so pro-EU that its sceptical members aren’t taken seriously.

Yet Kate is one of about 20-30 Labour MPs who want to exit the EU, along with prominent Labour donor John Mills. Yet another prominent Labour eurosceptic the BBC chose to ignore is Kelvin Hopkins, MP for Luton and former Nalgo official, who was on the EU Scrutiny Committee.

The BBC rarely, if ever, talks to Labour Eurosceptics – in the past or currently. News-watch, who have conducted consistent monitoring of the BBC’s Today output for the last 15 years, told the EU Scrutiny Committee recently that across all the programmes they had surveyed only one in 1,400 speakers on EU affairs was a Labour withdrawalist.

Over the May general election, the only speaker on Today representing  a leftist/socialist  withdrawal position was one Ken Capstick from the Socialist Labour Party (the rump of Arthur Scargill’s operation). The exchange with him lasted an entire 15 seconds

Of course the 20-30 Labour ‘dissenters’ does not compare with the 100+ in the Conservative party, but this does not justify the BBC treating the Labour Party as if it is in complete unison when it is not.

Kate Hoey’s article was significant by any standards because it’s the first time she has gone so prominently on the front foot. Nor will you get any enlightenment on this from BBC website.  On Sunday, there was (of course) a story on Labour going strongly pro-EU on the referendum, but nothing about Kate Hoey.

Plus ca change….

 

This article first appeared on The Conservative Woman

Photo by JULIAN MASON

Kathy  Gyngell: In the BBC’s Alice in Wonderland world, criticism by MPs compromises its impartiality

Kathy Gyngell: In the BBC’s Alice in Wonderland world, criticism by MPs compromises its impartiality

Biased Today, biased yesterday and biased tomorrow,  the BBC  has much to answer for over its uncritical and inadequate EU coverage.

More than any other news outlet the BBC shapes and moulds public opinion. Over the years, it has inspired an unwarranted public confidence in the EU. It has been responsible for conveying a sense of the inevitability and necessity of British membership

Had it not so determinedly stuck to its view that the EU was ‘a good thing’,  a fact of life that anyone in their right mind should accept,  Britain might not be in the mess it’s in today.  We might not have uncontrolled immigration; we might be able to deport who we want when we want; and we might still have a vibrant fishing industry. That’s just three of the many areas over which we have lost national authority at great cost.

The  House of Commons all-party EU Scrutiny Committee’s report, published yesterday, which accuses  the BBC of ‘falling down severely’ in its obligation to provide impartial coverage of the EU, raises these questions.

Its findings confirm what many of us have been arguing for years – that BBC coverage of EU matters is deplorable, that it has a ‘concerning’ pro-EU bias, and that Eurosceptics have been given inadequate airtime.  Specifically the MPs criticise Lord Hall for failing in his role as the BBC’s editor-in chief .

All this rings a profound bell with me, just as does the arrogance of the BBC’s response.  The crux of it is that the BBC cannot be criticised because (in their perverse world) any criticism by MPs (however valid it may be) constitutes a breach of the Corporation’s independence. It can’t be seen to follow MPs criticism – no, not even if it is right.

I wonder which Propaganda (sorry Press) Officer there dreamed this excuse up as he pondered the embargoed document before publication? I know that nothing should surprise me but I am amazed that Lord Hall signed off such a response for release. Perhaps for this particular editor-in-chief,  intent and belief are adequate substitutes for whatever is actually broadcast.  During his appearance before the Committee, his claim that the desire for balanced output “ran deep” within the BBC and that he believed that this was being achieved now, sounded like weasel words.  It isn’t being achieved.

This is far from the first time that the BBC has stonewalled criticism about its EU coverage.  I have in my files copies of an ongoing correspondence with Helen Boaden, the then Controller of Radio Four, back in the early 2000s. Like today’s BBC spokesperson, her response that the Corporation provided extensive and impartial coverage of European and Parliamentary issues was (or should be, she thought) sufficient unto the day.

Boaden refused to consider the consistently logged, timed, comprehensive transcript evidence and analysis,  that we (Minotaur Media Tracking) sent her, as evidence.  In her thinking no external monitoring of BBC output could or would ever constitute evidence – however objective or impartial – because the BBC editorial process meant that the BBC was always impartial – and therefore above criticism. It’s surprising to find she has a degree in English literature;  the concept of tautology could not have featured in her studies.

Despite Lord Wilson’s subsequent critical report, despite the cumulative log of evidence of BBC bias by News-watch, despite the fact that this is far from the first time that the BBC has been called to account, the BBC never wavers in it pre-programmed ‘Boaden’-style response. It refuses to harbour any self doubt – not a smidgeon.

Lord Hall has taken a leaf out of Ms Boaden’s book. “As Lord Hall told the committee, we are and will be impartial in all matters concerning our coverage,” the BBC spokesman said.

James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News and `Current Affairs, was not backward in going on the offensive either. His ‘Aunt Sally’ was that if the public was going to trust the BBC to report on politicians impartially it had to be clear that BBC journalists weren’t “asked by politicians to come and account for what they do and in effect do the bidding of those politicians”.

True to form the Today programme thought there was nothing to defend either.

In its own inimitable way yesterday morning’s edition of Today devoted 8 minutes to a Mark Knopfler record plug but nothing to the EU Scutiny Committee’s report that just happened to criticise the BBC on a subject of fundamental importance to every British citizen!

This article first appeared on The Conservative Woman

Photo by John Christian Fjellestad

Kathy Gyngell: We need a road map on how to quit the EU. Don’t expect head-in-the-sand BBC to help

Kathy Gyngell: We need a road map on how to quit the EU. Don’t expect head-in-the-sand BBC to help

Photo by CJS*64 A man with a camera

Why was I not at all surprised to read of the huge shortfall in EU spending of £259 billion pounds? Yes, the one to which, all of a sudden, Britain will be expected to contribute to some £34 billion?

I am talking about that hole in the EU budget that the BBC has kept the British public so abreast of, the one it made sure we all knew about prior to the EU elections.

Of course the BBC did no such thing. It has never fulfilled its mission to ‘inform and educate’ us about our progressive capture by and capitulation to the EU’s changing agenda since we joined, let alone how it spent our taxes.

The BBC’s output from day one has never reflected the importance of the EU in ordinary Britons’ lives – how it spends their money.  I know.  This is what the consistent and painstaking monitoring of its output by News-watch, the BBC bias monitoring website, since 1999 has demonstrated. The unsurprisingly low turnout for the 1999 European election was described sneeringly by Jeremy Paxman as an ‘outbreak of narcolepsy’. And whose fault was that?

The BBC’s lack of interest persisted through important summits as well as the process of creating the new EU constitution.

Awareness of the the EU’s catastrophic finances has been a long time coming.  Yet the evidence that all in the garden was far from rosy was there back in 2001.  Then the EU’s former chief accountant Marta Andreasen refused to sign off the 2001 European Commission accounts for good reason; she said its accounting system was open to fraud.

Her criticisms ignored, Andreasen went public with her concerns only to be sacked for her pains (she was suspended from her job by the Commission for “violating Articles 12 and 21 of staff regulations, failure to show sufficient loyalty and respect”).

Yet, despite her stand, few people in the UK were made aware of this financial catastrophe in the making; not least because of the BBC’s bias and negligence in its reporting of all matters EU.

They kept the British public in the dark by virtue of that BBC default – bias by omission.

You can either put their indifference down to their being part of a liberal metropolitan conspiracy whose main concern was to avoid reporting the encroaching powers of Europe.  Heaven forfend that they should thereby antagonise the public and made them more Eurosceptic than already.

Or you can accept the BBC’s own excuse (on the rare occasions that they have ‘fessed up’) that much of what takes place in Brussels and Strasbourg is complex and boring and the British public don’t want to know – the lazy excuse of an organisation that had weakened its own raison d’etre by its continuous dumbing down, as the Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover once put it.

You might have thought that the rise and rise of UKip and Nigel Farage would have forced a reconsideration of the BBC’s  approach to EU coverage.  But no,  the BBC continued to forgive all EU failings in the name of that higher cause  – “Europe – the European idea”; the one that European Council President Herman van Rompuy and his predecessors, all the way back to Jean Monnet, adhere to.

Despite the fact that the demand for an EU exit  is now political mainstream – made all the more so by the former Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson’s speech on Monday – the BBC’s coverage remains not just resolutely negative but totally inadequate.  Worse it has continued to smear and sideline Ukip’s best efforts to raise the issue of our membership.

This I believe is why, before Owen Paterson raised it,  there was never any discussion on the BBC of David Cameron’s option of serving notice on the EU – that of invoking Article 50 of the EU’s governing treaties.

Correct me if I am wrong, but my guess is that apart from the Sunday Telegraph’s Christopher Booker, forensic Brussels expert Richard North and Tory MEP Dan Hannan,  few  people in the British Isles would have known this was an option – let alone a strategy.

Whose fault is that?

The Sun thinks we can do without the EU; Ukip’s defiance has changed the game plan. When, if ever, will the BBC catch on?

Yes, I know, Cameron’s promised referendum hangs in the balance of the next election but the pressure to quit the EU is not about to diminish any time soon.

After reading the Telegraph’s headlines this morning, a whole load more people must have been thinking, like me: ‘Wouldn’t it be better to be out before the bill lands on the mat.”?

Ukip, one way or another, may force a referendum sooner rather than later, leaving us with the question of how we are to get out.

Yet, despite Mr Paterson, no one in the BBC is addressing it – anymore that they addressed the EU’s financial black hole.

Have  you heard any discussion of this?  How we get out – outside the hallowed realms of right wing think-tanks?  Certainly nothing serious on the BBC.

Yet, how we do it matters a lot for our future trading prosperity. Never more was there something that we need to get right.

So, since there is no way we can rely on the BBC to inform us, I plan to make my best effort to get an informed debate going – here on TCW.

Soon, I will blog on a lunch-time discussion I attended at the Centre for Policy Studies led by Dan Hannan and founder of the Trade Policy Research Centre Ronald Stewart Brown. It certainly opened my eyes to the question of whether we would be best to negotiate some form of free trade association with the EU or negotiate to stay in a ‘customs union’ on a new intergovernmental basis.

It may sound arcane. It is actually vital that we get it right.

Kathy Gyngell is co-founder of News-watch and co-editor of The Conservative Woman, where this article was first published.