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:
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
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.
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 . . .
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.