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R4 Brexit Street maligns ‘out’ voters

R4 Brexit Street maligns ‘out’ voters

What could be the biggest threat to Brexit?

Tory back-sliding and plotting by remainiacs like Anna Soubry?  Undoubtedly they will have spent much of the summer fomenting new lines of subversion. They are ready pounce on and exaggerate any dissension in party Brexit ranks, as last weekend’s Sunday Times story about the alleged turf-war spat between Boris Johnson and Liam Fox underlined.

Or could Owen Smith confound the whole Westminster village, win the Labour leadership election and, with a miraculously re-unified party behind him, force, as he says he will, a second referendum? Most Labour MPs still obdurately think that voters for Brexit, many of them their constituents, were deluded fools.

Pigs are more likely to fly of course than Owen Smith is to beat Jeremy Corbyn.  But much stranger things in politics have happened in the bewildering battery of developments since June 23.

One constant in the equation, and perhaps the biggest threat of all to Brexit – through the corrosive propaganda they are continuing to generate on an industrial scale – is the BBC. Two months on from the referendum vote, they are still searching relentlessly for reasons why ‘no’ was totally a mistake.

It is impossible to keep track of this deluge. It’s suffused, for example, throughout the Corporation’s business coverage (best evidenced in Today’s 6.15am business news slot), has infected food, environment and comedy programmes, and of course, dominates news coverage. If you have doubts, take a while to browse the Corporation’s Brexit Collection on the iPlayer – almost every programme rams home hard the collective anti-Brexit meme.

Such is the scale of the effort that a whole new mythology is in the process of being forged. In BBC programmes, Brexit voters are mostly unemployed, usually almost inarticulate, and they speak in impenetrable northern or guttural regional accents. They are mostly old and despise the young. Above all, they hate strangers and immigrants to the extent that they are plotting and committing by the hour ‘hate’ crimes on unprecedented levels.

A further bedrock of this new BBC reality is that ‘out’ voters were duped by unprincipled, racist opportunistic politicians such as Nigel Farage who spun a web of fiendishly convincing lies.

Over-egging? No. A manifestation of these fables-in-the-making is being broadcast on Radio 4’s PM programme, Producers have built around a real, but unidentified ‘ordinary’ street on Teesside a series they have dubbed ‘Brexit Street’.

So far reporter Emma Jane Kirby has fronted five reports, each of which has brought listeners – through the views of local residents – what is claimed to be the reasons why people voted out.

In the right hands, this could be interesting, revealing broadcasting. But this is the BBC, and instead it is a caricature of Northern voters that is beyond parody.

For a start ‘Brexit Street’ is not ’ordinary’. The exact location has not been revealed to listeners. All that has been said is that it is in the town of Thornaby-on-Tees, an inner city area sandwiched between Stockton on Tees in the west and Middlesbrough to the east.

A little digging from the facts presented by Kirby (it has terrace houses, a Salvation Army premises, a bookies’ and a supermarket) reveals that it can be only the local thoroughfare, Westbury Street. And once identified, a whole series of alarm bells start ringing.

First, the housing is mainly old inner city stock and a terrace house can be bought there for between £40,000 and £60,000, compared with the local average of around £100,000 and a regional North-eastern figure of around £120,000.  So it’s pretty downmarket, even in an area (Middlesbrough especially) which is facing very tough and exceptional times because of the closure of the local steelworks.

Second – and this is probably the killer blow to any pretence of balanced journalism – Kirby revealed in the opening report that ‘a large number of asylum seekers’ are residents. Further spadework reveals that Middlesbrough and Stockton town councils are the only two in the North-east which are accepting asylum seekers on a large scale. There are nearly 700 in the local government area covering Thornaby, equating to one in 280 local residents.

That said, Westbury Street has only 120 households, and the local average house occupation rate is 2.3 – so it would be expected that only one or two residents there would be asylum seekers. Kirby, however, says there are ‘large numbers’ living there (and of course she’s interviewed many of them) – suggesting that the local council is using the street for their re-settlement because housing there is especially cheap.

What this boils down to is that Westbury Street is not at all average and not at all ordinary. Kirby has focused in two of the first five reports on that the asylum seekers feel isolated and alone and are not integrated, mainly because of the views and implied prejudice of the locals who voted out.

Asylum seekers, of course, are nothing to do with the EU. But never mind the facts. Going there and projecting the alleged prejudice against these unfortunate people (one is a victim of alleged military atrocities in the Congo) as a contributory cause of the Brexit vote fits neatly with the new BBC mythology.

More reports in the series are a treat in store. What has been presented so far is a travesty of balanced journalism.

BBC snooping intensifies in pursuit of iPlayer licence-fee dodgers

BBC snooping intensifies in pursuit of iPlayer licence-fee dodgers

Watch out!  Are you about to be packet-sniffed by the BBC?

The prospect of millions of viewers being snooped upon by Corporation licence-fee collectors in unprecedented ways is firmly on the agenda.

The BBC has denied that the actual ‘packet-sniffing’, which (for the uninitiated) involves breaking into private wi-fi networks using special software, and is illegal if used privately, will be involved in their collection activities, but their protestations are not fully-convincing.

Even their friends on The Guardian smell a rat.  And definitely being deployed the length and breadth of the land by collection agents Capita from September 1 in order to catch miscreants who dare to access the BBC iPlayer via their computers – even if they don’t also have a TV set – are a range of new snooping measures that put the licence evasion operation even more firmly into the Big Brother league.

The BBC won’t reveal what these measures are, or what equipment they will actually use, but they have been granted extra enforcement powers under the Investigatory Powers Act, which was passed by the Blair government in 2000, and enables eavesdropping by authorised bodies using a vast array of sophisticated equipment.

Why is this deemed necessary in the run up to Charter renewal? Because despite pressure on the Conservative government to find new, less repressive and more modern ways of funding the Corporation – and dozens of well-argued options being out there – former Chancellor George Osborne decided instead to cave in to Corporation pressure.

Perversely, the BBC, an organisation that goes into indignation overdrive at the very mention of state intrusion in other arenas, thinks that mass-spying and the criminalisation of 153,000 people a year is both justified and essential in pursuit of its own reservation and ends.

No matter that tens of thousands of these offenders are the least well-off, Osborne ruled in 2015 – despite the advice of then culture secretary John Whittingdale – that the licence fee would not only continue but would be extended to viewing of catch-up services on the BBC iPlayer.

All this interference would be completely unnecessary if the BBC’s totally outmoded financing system, dating from an era when the broadcast spectrum was a scarce resource, was scrapped and replaced by subscription funding.

Audiences would then be able to choose which programmes and services they wanted to buy. This is a consumer model which applies to almost every other product, and which works perfectly well as a revenue model for Sky, Netflix, HBO and legions of other broadcasters.

Instead, the government has gone completely the opposite way, and the UK is saddled with this regressive and repressive regime from September 1 until the next Charter review in ten years’ time.

The statistics on licence enforcement make for fascinating reading and underline that the agenda here is not at all straightforward. Nuts and sledgehammers come to mind. Is such massive intrusion actually required?

And the suspicion emerges that in play also might also be the government’s desire to protect some of its own revenues rather than to open up broadcasting to normal competitive pressures.

Facts (gleaned from a variety of sources, including here):

The BBC, through Capita and the magistrates’ court system, pursues each year 170,000 cases a year of licence evasion.

The number has been rising at the rate of 4% per annum.  They (and Capita) are thus becoming increasingly intrusive.

Of these, 153,000 prosecutions a year are successful.  The vast majority of ‘evaders’ are from low-income households, often those headed by a single parent.

This volume amounts to 11.5% of total cases in magistrates’ courts, but the combined workload takes up only 0.3% of court time because cases are rarely contested and hearings are en masse in special courts. This means that the cost per prosecution is only £28.

The average fine plus surcharges for non-payment (with offenders having to pay the licence fee on top) is £340.  This means that the total yield of licence evasion to the Ministry of Justice is around £52 million. Astonishingly, that’s approximately 10% of the total fines revenue imposed in UK courts (£550m). Put another way, licence fee evasion is a cheap cash-cow for the Ministry.

And yet, conversely, licence fee non-payment adds up to only a small fraction of the Corporation’s £3.7 billion n licence-fee revenues. The £3.7 billion equates to 25.5 million licence fees – roughly in line with the number of UK households. Evasion is only £22.3m, or roughly 0.5% of the total.

The law is the law, of course…but a central question here is whether ever-expanding intrusion, with all the unpleasant elements such snooping entails, can be justified? Is it right that tens of thousands of the UK’s poor continue to be criminalised in this way? Netflix and Sky simply cut people off.

Whichever way you look at it, the system is outmoded, Orwellian and in some respects, plain ridiculous. George Osborne has a lot more than extreme Europhilia to answer for.

Photo by dan taylor

Can new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley Sort Out BBC Bias?

Can new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley Sort Out BBC Bias?

These are frustrating times for those who want an end to BBC bias.

Post-Brexit, there has been a concentrated deluge of pro-EU, anti-Brexit broadcasting. The primary intent seems to be to force a second referendum and keep the UK in the EU. Evan Davis, as ever, is among those leading the charge.

The highly biased coverage of post referendum affairs shows that the Corporation is totally out of touch with the 17m who want out. Their version of ‘understanding’ them is to go to backstreets in the most deprived areas of the country and patronise the locals.

But the malaise goes much deeper. The reporting of Hinckley Point saga last week showed that yet again, their only agenda in the thorny issue of energy supply is that of the Green Blob.

In the BBC universe, fantasy ‘climate’ targets (espoused by the High Priests of EU-funded Greenpeace) to keep temperature rises below 1.5 degrees centigrade are considered far more important than the urgent need to keep millions of pensioners and young families warm at affordable prices.

Add to that their extreme reluctance to attribute terrorism to anything other than ‘mental illness’, and the BBC’s bloody-minded drive to undermine whenever possible British culture and tradition, and the overall picture of bias reaches crisis proportions.    There is a rot at the heart of the Corporation’s outlook that only an Augean cleansing will achieve.

John Whittingdale’s White Paper on BBC reform was published back in early May. Thanks to George Osborne’s meddling over the licence fee, it was sadly a fudge. Instead of effective change, including funding by subscription, which as an Institute of Economic Affairs paper has adroitly pointed out, would have genuinely opened the Corporation up and made it sensitive to viewers’ needs, it perpetuated the licence fee for another decade.

The other changes were thoughtful and significant but nowhere near enough. There was scrapping of the failed Trustees, budgetary scrutiny by the National Audit Office, and the creation of a new, souped-up Executive Board made up of a mixture of BBC executives and independent directors (including the chairman).

Further changes involved overall regulation by Ofcom on the performance and delivery of services, and as the body of appeal in matters of impartiality. This was the most glaring mistake. An end to BBC bias will only come about when the Corporation content is opened up to genuinely independent scrutiny. Ofcom is run by former BBC staff, with their same outlook, and so in this respect the White Paper was a total dud.

All this was thrown into turmoil after Brexit when Whittingdale was unceremoniously fired in the Cabinet shake-up. In his place Karen Bradley – elected as an MP (for Staffordshire Moorlands) for the first time only in 2010 – was elevated to Cabinet level from her previous (and only government) role as ministerial support for May in the Home Office.

There’s nothing wrong with injection of new blood, but it means that the Culture department is now being run by an accountant with no experience of media management at all and very little too, of what Bill Clinton called ‘change-making’ at government level. She is an ingénue when it comes to the Gormenghast-politics of the BBC.

The BBC, by contrast, has years of experience of seeing off challenges to its so-called independence, and indeed has battalions of staff trained to pursue that end. This does not bode well at all. Director General Lord Hall and his main henchman in this department, James Purnell – himself a former Culture Secretary – must currently be feeling like cats who have found the cream.

Bradley, of course, may turn out to be a tough cookie, and there is no rule that says a minister of state must have previous experience of the subject matter of his or her portfolio. Indeed, a fresh eye and an outside perspective can be a catalyst for genuine change.

However, broadcasting is not just any brief, and the BBC not just any adversary. Politicians of every stripe are star-struck and mesmerised by the Corporation. They are terrified that saying the wrong things will incur Auntie displeasure and disfavour.

This, disappointingly, became sharply apparent this week when the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee published with very little fanfare its report on its reaction to the Whittingdale White Paper. The findings? They have tamely accepted most of the fudged changes, turning their fire only on a relevantly minor issue, the high level of pay of some BBC talent.

Most tellingly, there’s not a peep about complaints handling.

On that basis, as things stand, the Corporation could well be off the hook yet again (unless Bradley surprises us all). It looks that for another decade the BBC public will be saddled with the licence fee, the deckchairs will be re-arranged slightly. And BBC bias will carry on relentlessly.

Photo by Foreign and Commonwealth Office

BBC Front Row: Brexit ‘threatens to generate riots’

BBC Front Row: Brexit ‘threatens to generate riots’

Guest post from The Conservative Woman by Mark Ellse

‘There now follows a party political broadcast on behalf of the Socialist Workers’ Party.’ That’s what it should have been entitled. It pretended to be a programme about the arts, to wit BBC Radio 4 Front Row’s Cultural Reponse to Brexit.‘ The programme came from the Royal Society of Arts, the place where photographs, telephones and phonographs were first demonstrated. ‘New ways for people to make sense of the world. And it is in that spirit that we have come…to hear how the cultural landscape might shift…in the light of the seismic events of recent weeks.’ One might have thought we had just tested a new type of atom bomb.

‘How can artists make sense of Brexit to enable them to navigate a fractured social landscape?’

There was one clear voice of sanity. Phil Redmond, responsible for Liverpool’s stint as European City of Culture, knew at first hand the insane bureaucracy of the EU and ventured to suggest that this might have been a reason for voting Brexit. His was a lone voice.

’96 per cent voted to Remain’ said one. (One presumes he meant artists.) ‘Collaboration and connection are our bread and butter. That’s why many people are mourning.’

The programme lamented ‘the rise of xenophobia’, pillorying Sunderlanders for their ignorance of immigrants, suggesting that because they were losers from globalisation they were wont to dehumanise others. ‘Artists must be there to help explore that frustration.’ For a moment one thought that the healing qualities of art were about to be expounded. But then the truth popped out. ‘Where will the money come from in future?’

‘We’ve been dealt two sows ears!’ bleated Red or Dead’s founder. ‘We are leaving the EU and we have such a divided society…The creative industries are brilliant at turning sows ears into silk purses.’ So says a man who has made $20 million from the rag trade. He told us that he was around for the first wave of punk and that without that he would not have been able to make his millions. ‘The rave culture was born out of police oppression,’ he went on. ‘There will be a massive rebellion.’ Thatcher and Thatcherism were both mentioned. Corbynites would have agreed with every word.

We heard about the dreadful consequences of Brexit. ‘I don’t know whether artists will be able, psychologically, to reach out, whether the closing in of our culture will make people withdraw into a sort of internal emigration.’ One wondered if one was expected to shudder at the dreadful repercussions for our community if artists, with their balm, deserted us.

Britain is ‘devalued’, said another voice. ‘Look at the number of artists who are thinking of relocating to Berlin.’ (Let them go, I thought.)

‘Divided and angry Britain.’ ‘Lots of towns need better infrastructure, they need more equality of access to arts, employment and public transport.’ ‘We’ve got to fight.’ ‘The direction that society is moving in will produce another wave of riots at some point,’ said one, something picked up by another who compared the general strike of 1911 with the inner city riots of 2011. It sounded like Russell Brand all over again.

‘People win or lose nowadays through no fault or agency of their own. That’s what capitalism does.’

This BBC programme made no attempt to be impartial or balanced. That our national broadcaster should take such a partisan political position and foment civil unrest in such a blatant manner is a national disgrace.

Photo by Benny457

HANG ‘EM HIGH

HANG ‘EM HIGH

At last! Now we know why those misguided Brits voted for Brexit. It was the ‘hang ’em, flog ‘em’ brigade exerting their prejudices.

That, in effect, is what the BBC tells us in this prominent website story. In case the message isn’t rammed home hard enough by the copy, there’s a large headline picture of a hangman’s noose.

The central gist is that, according to new polling, the referendum was won by ‘traditionalists’, cautious non-liberal individuals who support the death penalty and also – it is heavily emphasised – publicly flogging sexual offenders.

This, of course, fit perfectly with the BBC’s long-term approach to the EU: that ‘remainers’ inhabit the enlightened, educated, multicultural uplands, while those who want ‘out’ are broadly xenophobic, uneducated, bigots.

In fact, the story is based on a fascinating survey by the British Election Study (BES), a research body funded by various universities and the Social and Economic Research Council. The reality is that the findings do not support the BBC’s sensationalist conclusions. Their use in this way is a gross distortion of the survey.

It should first be noted that this latest poll, part of a long-term survey involving 30,000 individuals, took place before the official campaigning period in early May, and so is not a snapshot of opinions after the actual vote.

That said, BES’s main findings are very clear (and offer fresh insight into the vote):

Overall, our results suggest that the referendum campaign was not a fight about which side had the best argument on the issues: very few people voted leave to improve the economy and very few voted remain to reduce immigration. Instead, the fight was about which of these issues was more important.

In other words, the ‘out’ side, as the vote approached, was concerned that not enough was being done about immigration and were judging this was a major political priority. They did not believe – despite Project Fear which was already in full flow – that the economy took precedence. The polling also shows that there was concern among ‘outers’ about a raft of other issues including sovereignty, border control (and ‘control’ generally), laws, and ‘the country’ as a concept.

In summary, putting it another way, ‘outers’ were approaching the vote with a complex set of issues under consideration. At the heart of their worries was the control of immigration, but they were also firmly focused on Parliamentary sovereignty and national identity.

The remain side, in sharp contrast, was concerned most about the economy. Their other considerations included ‘Europe’ as a concept, trade, security, ‘rights’ (presumably more specifically human rights in the EU context) and stability. All these factors were themes being pushed hardest by David Cameron and by Britain Stronger in Europe, and clearly their messages were hitting home.

These core findings from BSE are the ones emphasised in their press release, and they clearly make a strong story, for example, that ‘leavers’ were not persuaded by Project Fear and wanted a Britain that could control immigration and with national sovereignty restored.

The BBC, however, took a completely different line. Finding where it came from is a detective story, and the most likely source emerges as The Fabian Society.  The BES survey referred to above was released to the public on July 11. But the Fabian society (for reasons that are not clear) were given the results on June 24. They honed in like an Exocet on the BES subsidiary questions relating to public flogging and ‘traditional’ views and decided this was the real reason for the ‘out’ vote, rather than a division based on ‘rich’ and ‘poor’.

Another left-leaning think-tank, NESTA the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts – founded by David Puttnam and the Labour government back in 1997 – picked up the Fabian society’s spin and ran with it. They embellished matters by cherry-picking findings from some of the independent polling by Lord Ashcroft that showed that some ‘leave’ voters did not also like the internet, feminism, the green movement and multiculturalism.

In other words, stick-in-the-mud, vengeful, misogynist, Luddite reactionaries.

This was deeply suspect extrapolation, but this is precisely where the BBC enters the fray. A bee to the honey. They picked up the combination of the Fabian Society findings and those from NESTA and amplified them. This is the central point of the BBC’s website analysis:

The graph below, restricted to White British respondents, shows almost no statistically significant difference in EU vote intention between rich and poor. By contrast, the probability of voting Brexit rises from around 20% for those most opposed to the death penalty to 70% for those most in favour. Wealthy people who back capital punishment back Brexit. Poor folk who oppose the death penalty support Remain.

The BBC attributes this to ‘Professor Eric Kaufman of Birkbeck College’. What it does not say that he argued his ‘traditionalist’ line in an official release for the Fabian Society. The BBC report scarcely considers the core BES findings but hones in instead on both the Fabian and NESTA findings.

To round things off, there is a concluding quote from an organisation called Britain Thinks:

“… openness, modernity and other social-liberal values…were more popular among Remain voters. Often it’s (the leave perspective) about harking back to the past – sometimes a feeling that they don’t belong to the present.”

What the report did not say here is that  Britain Thinks is run by Gordon Brown’s former pollster and a co-director whose other main activity is the Global Action Plan – an environmental group focused on an ultra-green agenda.

Overall, this was deeply biased report because it blatantly cherry-picked and then distorted the findings of an interesting piece of research. The deliberate intent was to underline that the ‘leave’ vote was based on reactionary prejudice. Graphs and graphics were used to amplify the message to maximum extent.

Reporting in this vein strengthens the impression that the BBC is on a mission to undermine the Brexit vote in every way it can.  Yet again, it was emphasised that the ‘remain’ vote was forward-thinking and open. ‘Out’ was unenlightened and backwards.

Ultimate Bias?

Ultimate Bias?

BBC reform, like so many other issues, has been pushed off the agenda by the referendum hullaballoo.

But sorting out BBC bias as the Brexit process gets underway is surely an urgent and major priority for the new May government – that is, if she genuinely wants Britain out.

The Corporation clearly now sees its central mission to push at every opportunity the case for remain, for a second referendum, for a general election to endorse the exit plans. Anything, in fact, anything to upset the referendum vote.

So great is their opposition to ‘exit’ that their bias is now arguably (for example Newsnight, here) a deliberate attempt to undermine the democratic process, and to reinforce the view (held by many in the Conservative and Labour party and those who mounted demonstrations at the weekend) that those who voted ‘leave’ were basing their decisions on lies; that they were deluded and plain wrong.

The new BBC Royal Charter is due to come into effect by the beginning of 2017, and yet the changes so far proposed by culture secretary John Whittingdale – broadly putting complaints under Ofcom and creating a new management board – will scarcely scratch the surface of current malpractice.

And meanwhile, BBC bias is continuing on an industrial scale. So brazen have they become that they have posted on the BBC iPlayer the Brexit Collection, a selection of 15 Radio 4 programmes about the Brexit vote.

The bias across most of the programmes is so extreme that it is impossible to know where to begin in describing it. News-watch, will, in due course, publish all the transcripts together with a full analysis and report.

In the meantime, a good entry point is the edition of The Food Programme, first broadcast on Sunday July 3, and presented by Dan Saladino.

He assembled for the bulk of the programme a cast list of six guests who declared, between them, that Brexit could lead to food riots; that ensuring food security after Brexit amounted to the worst peacetime challenge that the UK had ever faced; that farms would be abandoned, agricultural jobs would be lost, that the Scotch whisky industry faced virtual ruin, and that immigrants in the food processing and production industry the length and breadth of the UK were now living in fear.  The full picture is here.

A key mover in this blatant exaggeration and scare-mongering was Professor Tim Lang from the City University in London, the main ‘expert’ on food supply. What Saladino did not tell listeners, however, was that Lang also works for a greenie food charity called Sustain, which, their annual reports show, receives a significant part of its funding (at least 10% and probably as high as 25%) directly or from the EU.

Ranged against the six gloom-mongers was a lone fisherman, who was said he wanted Brexit but little more – the diminution of the UK fishing industry under the Common Fisheries Policy was not on the agenda – and Tim Worstall, from the Adam Smith Institute. The latter managed to suggest, against all the predictions of doom elsewhere in the programme, that Brexit would actually lead to a reduction in food tariffs, and that the UK could make better trade deals with partners throughout the world.

But Saladino clearly thought that any positive comment about post-Brexit prospects should come with a health warning. Unlike with Professor Lang and his link with EU funding, he carefully pointed out that Worstall had been a speechwriter for Nigel Farage. For a BBC presenter, that, of course is a dog-whistle hand grenade that any views from the contributor have to be treated with caution because of (in the BBC’s eyes) Farage’s ‘extreme’ political views.

Another programme in the Brexit Collection was How to Make a Brexit presented by Carolyn Quinn, and about Greenland’s decision to leave the EU back in the 1980s. The bias so evident it’s almost impossible to know where to start. Close to the beginning, Quinn used an extract from a pro-EU rant on the Now Show to illustrate one of her key points. The tone was thus set.

Quinn’s linking commentary and choice of quotes was framed with only one aim in mind – to tell us how desperately complex a departure would be. The first quote in this vein from a contributor was:

“This is the largest scale legislation and policy exercise that has possibly been carried out ever…The trade options alone are staggering….” Quinn left absolutely no room for doubt: leaving the EU is something that only a fool would contemplate.

Further initial commentary about the Brexit Collection can be found on the Is the BBC Biased? website here.

The choice of these programmes shows above all that the BBC itself does not care about and does not even begin to understand the depths of its pro-EU bias. The news Secretary of State for Culture has a huge challenge on his hands. The task of dealing with it has scarcely even begun.

 

 

Photo by blumblaum

Radio 4’s Food Programme unleashes tsunami of anti-Brexit opinion

Radio 4’s Food Programme unleashes tsunami of anti-Brexit opinion

BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme  (July 3) set a new BBC high in the relentless scare-mongering about Brexit. The ringmaster was Dan Saladino. He presented, in effect, a half-hour rant against what he projected as is one of the most dangerous and foolhardy decisions in British history.

The principal guests were supporters of ‘remain’ who predicted, among other things that the Scotch whisky industry was now in serious danger; hundreds of thousands of European workers in the food industry were now living in fear, there could be rioting in the streets, that Brussels red tape around food had been seriously misrepresented, and small food businesses were deeply worried about the loss of EU grants and investment plans and were already facing sharply-elevating costs.

Larded into the commentary and contributions were words such as panic and fear, coupled with insinuations of prejudice (against immigrants), stupid decisions, wrong claims and a lack of planning.

First off was Ian Wright, the director of the Food and Drink Federation, which campaigned vigorously against exit, and now that the vote is lost, is marshalling all its resources to continue to fight the war, as is clear here.  Wright opened by asking ‘what on earth’ we do next.  Saladino stressed his credentials and said the FDF’s members were ‘some of the biggest brands and employers in the country’, with 6,000 businesses employing 500,000.   Wright said he was ‘sombre’, there were a ‘really serious set of challenges’, the government did not know how to respond. He added:

There has been, as far as I can see, no planning at all for this eventuality, and now we have to help them plan, very, very quickly. Now, I think this is the biggest peacetime challenge that the UK has ever faced.

Saladino said that FDF’s members had been 10% pro-leave and 70% wanted to ‘remain’. Wright said:

Because all of the free trade agreements under which we operate are negotiated by Europe rather than the UK, and if they cease to apply we have to go back to WTO tariffs which are in almost every case far, far less advantageous to the UK, and everybody recognised the implications for free movement of labour. A quarter of our workforce comes from the non-UK, non-Republic of Ireland European countries. Many of them are very frightened, many of them are actually very, very, very uncertain about whether they should remain in the UK and that puts an enormous strain on our businesses. And at this stage, we simply don’t know what their status will be.

Saladino said that all week he (Wright) had been talking to businesses that imported billions of pounds; of ingredients; ‘and so the immediate shock was watching as costs went up by the second as the pound fell’. Wright added:

It’s very difficult, in an industry where, remember, the margins are very tight because of the current supermarket competition, the very, very strong price wars.  Any changes to prices in those tight margins are very concerning.

Saladino then spoke to David Thomson, Wright’s counterpart in Scotland, who thought that sales of scotch whisky worth £4.2bn a year were now under severe threat.

Julia Glottz, editor of The Grocer magazine. She said the horsemeat scandal, in effect, paled by comparison.  The price of raw materials would rocket with ‘huge impact’ in the longer term. Bakery manufacturers were ‘in despair’ about what would happen to their Polish staff. There were ‘very, very urgent questions about the future’.

Becky Rothwell, of the Magic Rock Brewery, said the fall in the pound meant that the American hops they used were now much dearer because of the fall in the value of the pound. Everything now was going to be a struggle.   Saladino asked whether they could use UK-grown hops. The answer was a decisive ‘no’.  Serious problems were in store.

Illtud Dunsford., owner of Charcuterie Ltd in Wales, was worried about EU subsidies ending in his native Wales because the area was an Objective 1 area. Without EU funding, he would not create jobs. Saladino pointed out that he had received a £120,000 EU grant to build a new processing facility and was going to get help to market his products in ‘Europe’. Now, though, he had a bad feeling. This was because he had seen Nigel Farage’s speech to the European Parliament in which he had said that they were not laughing now. Dunsford said the UK needed a good trade deal but this was not the way of getting it. There was no complete and utter uncertainty. There were no plans to deal with exit. He declared:

And since last week, it’s been my responsibility to them (my staff) that we continue, that we forget about growth, that we forget about expansion, that it’s about securing all our livelihoods.  And it’s scary. 

This was followed by Professor Tim Lang, who was introduced as being from the City University Centre for Food Policy. He said it was a deep troubling time and we had ‘a serious problem’. The political class was failing to rise to the challenge.  Saladino referred to Lang’s research papers on the impact of the EU and noted that they had concluded that membership of the EU kept food prices stable.  Lang said:

We then did a study looking at the big picture, of Brexit versus Bremain, and that made us even more concerned.  We thought the enormity of this really is not featuring in the debate.  Why? Why?  This is food.  This is what was one of the main motivations for the creation of the common market in the first place.  The Netherlands have had a famine in 1944, Europe had been devastated.  And then we did two other studies, one on horticulture in particular, because Britain is highly  exposed, we get . . . huge amount, big percentage of our horticulture, fruit and vegetable, from the European Union.  So, to summarise all of those papers, we concluded we could vote to leave and indeed we did, but if the people chose it a period of major reorganisation was needed.  And that was our final point.  We didn’t think the British state was ready for it, and what we’re seeing now in politics is a sign that we were absolutely right. There is very little civil service expertise, the politicians haven’t thought about it, there’s no Plan B.  The secretary of state even gave a speech in January saying there is no Plan B.  I mean, I nearly tore what her I’ve got left out of my head. There should be Plan B, there should be Plan C, D, E and everything.  So dear British consumer, think very carefully about this.

Saladino amplified this. He observed that Lang believed that a country that only just feeds itself is a fragile state, and asked if he was overstating this. Lang said not – the UK produced 54% of its own food, 30% came from the EU and the food trade gaps was £21bn – by any definition, that was a fragile state to be in.

Next, a Food Programme phone-in listener asked Lang if food prices would go up. He said there was absolute agreement among academics that they would. More local food would sell, but were those who voted for Brexit prepared to go pick cabbages? There was no sign they would Eastern Europeans, however, would do so.

Saladino said that some believed that Britain was wealthy and so could buy food on the global market.

Lang claimed that Michael Gove had told the BBC that he wanted to open up trade with the rest of the world and in a ‘throwaway remark’ had said that cheaper food could be got from Africa. Lang said:

I thought Africa had a problem and it needed to feed itself? Is that option really moral and justified? I don’t think so. It’s a fantasy of free trade – very strange politics.

Saladino observed that this, however , was not strange to people working hard to take Britain out of the EU.

(After hearing from the Adam Smith Institute and New Zealand meat farmers), Saladino noted that New Zealand farmers were forced to change their business plans. He asked:

But should we expect a future in which food production becomes simpler, more vibrant and free from unnecessary red tape?  Well no, says journalist and food writer Rose Prince.  She spent her week reflecting on a story she investigated 16 years ago.

Prince explained that she had worked in 2000 on the story of UK abattoirs closing down in huge numbers. Saladino said the numbers had fallen from 1000 in 1985 to 200 today. Prince said that Brussels red tape had been blamed, but said the real culprit – as had been established by an inquiry in Parliament – had been the UK ministry, which had interpreted the rules in a way that was ‘almost hostile’.    She asserted:

There was a willingness to believe that it is all the fault of Brussels.  We would be reading stories about straight bananas and people absolutely loved to believe all of that.  When it came to more difficult subjects like the meat industry, if you went to an editor and said, ‘I really need to tell you that this actually not the case, and it’s our government to have the problem’ they weren’t that willing to go along with that. And I mean, this is where it’s been for absolutely years.  And is even now.

Saladino said that ‘we were learning’ that the Breixt story would likely take generations to unfold. He said that meanwhile Oliver Letwin was leading negotiations, and Tim Lang believed the exercise had to be treated as a ‘top priority’. Lang declared:

In Mr Letwin’s new unit, which Prime Minister Cameron has said he’s setting up, there needs to be a big bunch of food specialists in there, or else people like me are very worried, indeed.  Why?  Because food security matters.  Food has a great capacity to create riots.  Food ought to be for health, for biodiversity, for good things in life, all the things the Food Programme has celebrated since Derek Cooper started it.  We want to maintain that, but we’re now in tricky waters.  Food has got to be in those negotiations, we’ve got to have specialists brought back out of retirement, because DEFRA has sacked huge swathes of its workforce, and we’ve got to make sure that the public health and environmental interests, and consumer interests are right in the centre of those EU negotiations.

Saladino implored Lang to say something positive. He said:

‘…why have young people voted so strongly for Europe? Because they’re Europeans in their food culture.  So I think there is an opportunity for progressive food movements to come forward and say we want a good food system for Britain.  If the political classes can’t deliver that, well we have to push it onto them.

Saladino said the podcast edition had more on ‘the unfolding story of Brexit’ including that Rosie Prince was deeply concerned about the 73 British foods which were under the EU’s Protected Name Scheme, including Stilton and Scotch beef. Prince said:

If we, through leaving Europe, lose the right to participate in the Protected Food schemes, it will be a tragedy. It’s good for our industry.

Saladino said that the chef Angela Hartnett was worried about the restaurant world with its 600,000 employees. She said:

The one thing that comes through more than anything in the restaurant industry is movement of people. My restaurant, 70% are Europeans – easily.

Two voices in favour of Brexit were included.

A fisherman – who said only that he had been praying for exit.

Tim Worstall, from the Adam Smith Institute think-tank, was introduced by Saladino  as someone who did not think it morally wrong to take food from Africans.  He said the vote to leave was the first decent decision in 20 years.  Saladino said he was a former speechwriter for Nigel Farage. Many of his arguments revolved around food, then asked him if he had expected a degree of panic. Tim Worstall agreed there would be a period of ‘headless’ chickens’ but then things would settle down.  Saladino said that on a Skype call from his home in Portugal, Worstall thought there would be a more stable and affordable food future. He said:

The bigger problem I think that people have got here is that they really just don’t quite understand how markets work. We do not buy food from the European continent because we are members of the European Union. It’s some farmer, it Georges or Jacques or Joaquim or somebody who sells something to Sainsbury’s, and why would that change just because we’ve changed the political arrangement?  Whatever tariffs food faces after Brexit will be determined exactly by the British government.  We get to decide what our import tariffs are.  Why are we going to make the things we want to buy more expensive for ourselves?  So, obviously, you know, we like buying continental food, great, we won’t have tariffs on continental food.  What’s the difference?

Saladino asked him if he agreed that food had got cheaper, and as TW answered suggested it had happened ‘under EU membership’.   TW said that tariffs had to be paid on food from outside the EU and could be up to 35%. If the UK was outside the EU it could choose where to buy products like sugar from wherever it wanted. He added:

Here in the UK, or you there in the UK, should be growing the high value stuff that Britain grows really well. I mean, our grass-fed beef, for example, is some of the best in the world.  People line up to buy joints of it.  But it’s simple stuff like turnips or wheat.  Why should we even think about trying to grow it in the UK when there’s the vast steps of the Ukraine, or the American Midwest or the Canadians, at hundreds of dollars a ton, and ship it to us? Why would we bother to make this cheap stuff when we’re a high income, high cost nation.

Saladino said Tim Worstall’s vision was based on the economic model of Beef and Lamb New Zealand which came into existence in the 1980s when subsidies came to an end. Dave Harrison said the number of sheep had halved but the businesses were now profitable.

ANALYSIS: Saladino’s programme was deeply biased against the impact of  Brexit on the food industry , and, indeed, appeared deliberately constructed to be negative towards the prospect. On a basic, logistical level, there were eight contributors who expressed serious concerns about what would happen next as a result of the ‘exit’ vote, against only two who favoured the UK’s departure from the EU. One of those – a fisherman – was a token inclusion in that he spoke only one sentence. Saladino explained next to nothing about the fishermen’s concerns about the EU.

In sharp contrast, the supporters of ‘remain’ were all given full opportunities to explain their respective stances, often with help from Saladino, who reinforced their points, or added details clearly designed to show their importance and validity.

Another point of negativity against ‘out’ was that Tim Worstall, the sole Brexit supporter who gave reasons for his stance, was introduced as a speechwriter for Nigel Farage. Why was this emphasised? By comparison, for example, Saladino did not mention that one of the ‘remain’ contributors, Professor Tim Lang, is deeply connected to the green movement through the highly partisan campaigning organisation Sustain. Those from such organisations view Farage and Ukip as racist and xenophobic. The suspicion must be, therefore, that Saladino wanted to stress the Farage connection for negative political reasons, and to undermine his contribution.

What Tim Worstall did say boiled down to two fundamental points – that tariffs in future could be negotiated according to British needs – meaning that some tariffs would go down – and that the UK should start buying low-cost food staples that need not be grown here from other markets and concentrate on developing high cost, high value food products in keeping with the UK’s status as a high-cost nation.

There was thus, at best, only minimal effort to bring pro-Brexit ideas into the frame.

By contrast, those who wanted to point out the problems of Brexit were given virtually a free rein. With Ian Wright of the Food and Drink Federation, Saladino stressed his authority by explaining that he led an organisation representing 6,000 businesses and half a million employees, and which imported billions of pounds’ worth of ingredients. To summarise his contribution, Wright suggested that Brexit was the biggest peacetime challenge ever faced by the UK; that there was a danger that higher WTO tariffs would be imposed on food: and that hundreds of thousands of workers in the food industry were now living in fear.  Saladino made no attempt to challenge anything he said, and at the end of his contribution added another problem – the shock to food importers as the value of the pound ‘went up by the second’.

The next contributor, Wright’s counterpart in Scotland David Thomson, issued another warning, that the £4.2bn Scotch whisky export was in dire danger. Saladino amplified this, too, by pointing out that although Scotland sold whisky to China, ‘the biggest market was Europe’. Another problem, he said, was that whisky distillers saw ‘EU membership as giving them more clout’. Thomson added (to reinforce the point) that membership was seen as vital because of  ‘the weight of Europe in trade negotiations and protecting their intellectual property’.

Saladino ‘s introduction to Julia Glotz of The Grocer magazine was as glowing as that of Wright and Thompson. The magazine, he said, had been around for 150 years and had covered the UK’s biggest food stories.  Ramping up the drama, he added that Glotz had been trying that week, in connection with Brexit, to keep track of the sheer quantity of stories from inside an industry which was the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. He suggested that exports worth £20bn were at stake.   Glotz in summary, said events of the week had felt more dramatic than the horsemeat scandal, there were ‘very, very urgent questions to answer’, prices of raw materials had gone up overnight, businesses – some in ‘absolute despair’ were very worried about the long-term impact, and whether lay-offs of overseas staff would be necessary.

Saladino introduced Becky Rothwell of the Magic Rock brewery by saying that they had plans to sell in Europe, but were now feeling an immediate effect of the referendum vote. Rothwell said there had already been huge price increases for American hops. A lot of people would struggle with this, they did not know what was happening.  Introducing Illtud Dunsford  oif Charcuterie Ltd, Saladino noted that though Wales had voted for exit, his story painted a ‘less familiar side of the EU’.  He explained that through the EU, he had received £120,000 to build a new processing plant and had ambitions to move into Europe with his products.  Dunsford claimed that all this had changed because Nigel Farage had attacked the European Parliament for not believing him about Brexit. There was an extract from the Farage speech. In the next sequence, Dunsford claimed that this was not the way to reach trade deals. Now everything was at risk without a Plan B, or any plan at all.

Saladino picked up this theme, and introduced Professor Tim Lang, who, he said, believed no plans were in place and this therefore was a ‘serious problem’. Saladino added that Lang’s papers on the EU showed that it had helped keep food prices stable. Lang himself, in this framework, issued a series of dire warnings about the prospects for the food industry. His thesis was the EU had been set up to create security in the food supply, there was no plan to deal with Brexit, and not even the expertise to facilitate it.     Saladino noted at this point that Lang’s papers had also pointed out that a country which only just fed itself was a very fragile state. He asked whether this was an overstatement. Lang’s answer was resoundingly not. For numerous reasons, the food industry was going to suffer. Saladino asked if the UK could import food from the rest of the world. Lang’s answer was simply that Michael Gove had suggested such food could come from Africa. This was impossible because Africa needed to feed itself. He claimed the ‘leave’ approach was thus a ‘fantasy of free trade’.

Saladino made no effort to challenge this, or to suggest Lange had side-stepped a huge  topic (the possibilities of free trade) by an ad hominem attack.  The reality is that African producers do want to export to the EU, but are seriously disadvantaged in doing so because of tariffs and green concerns ion the EU about air transport.

After the sequence with Tim Worstall already mentioned above, Saladino noted that there were claims that the EU created red tape in food production.   Rose Prince’s contribution was to debunk the idea that the closure of hundreds of UK abattoirs in the 1990s , despite what newspapers said, was down to the EU. It was rather overzealous interpretation of the EU rules by British ministry officials.

Saladino observed as he headed towards the conclusion that ‘we are quickly learning that the Brexit story….will take years and more like generations to unfold’. He noted that a cabinet team under Oliver Letwin had been set up. Professor Lang then warned that there needed to be food specialists in the equation, because food had a great capacity to create riots. He finished off with ‘something positive’ – at the invitation of Saladino  – that young people had voted strongly for Europe  ‘because they are Europeans in their food culture’ If the political classes would not accept that ‘we will have to push it onto them’.

Quoting all that has been necessary to show the strength of the anti-Brexit sentiment and opinion included in the programme.  Stripped down it amounted to a tsunami of negative speculation about the likely consequences of Brexit a re-run of the arguments for ‘remain’ that Lang, and the Food Federation had already advanced in the run-up to the vote, and strident complaints that an exit plan was not already in place.   The only concrete development contained in all the comment was that some food prices had gone up to British importers (such as the Magic Rock company) of overseas ingredients in the backwash of the Brexit vote.

Arguably, that was also the consequence, however, of actions of market speculators. Saladino could have chosen to analyse that but chose not to – it was considered only through the negative Brexit prism.

Overall, Saladino acted only as midwife to the compilation of what amounted to a treatise against Brexit. The inclusion of what meagre counter-opinion was qualified by his  undermining by association of the sole at-length supporter of exit.

A further point here is that Professor Tim Lang was projected without qualification as an expert on EU-food issues. He has, of course, written extensively on this subject. But what the programme did not mention at all – or seek to challenge – was that he his highly partisan in his approach. He is a member of the Sustain organisation, which works to influence food policy through the green agenda, and which receives significant financing from the EU.

Equally, the Food and Drink Federation has a highly partisan agenda and for years has been strongly pro-EU. The job of programme such as this is to step outside such frameworks of self-interest and promotion. Arguably, the FDF is big business looking after its own needs. In this programme, its narrow perspective set the whole programme agenda. That is bias of the worst kind.  There was also gross bias by omission – of voices who thought that Brexit offers new horizons for the British food industry.

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, The Food Programme, 4th July 2016, 12.30pm

ANNOUNCER:    Now, a special edition of the Food Programme with Dan Saladino.

DAN SALADINO:                            I need to ask you a question: how has your week been?

UNNAMED FEMALE:       The UK has voted to leave the European Union (cheers)

DAVID CAMERON:          The British people have voted . . .

MISHAL HUSSAIN (?):     There were big wins for Leave.

DC:        . . . and their will must be respected.

MISHAL HUSSAIN:           In The City, shares plunged, and the pound fell dramatically.

DC:        The country requires fresh leadership.

MH:       Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.

NICOLA STURGEON:       A second referendum must be on the table.

DS:        As if you need reminding.  But that question I posed, ‘how has your week been?’ isn’t intended to sound flippant, it’s actually the question I’ve spent the last couple of days put into people whose lives and livelihoods revolve around food and drink, farming and retailing. So, if you are feeling a little Brexited out, I’m genuinely sorry, but the last 10 days has served up a way to big a food story for the Food Programme to ignore.  And in many ways it’s an untold story.  So this our Plan B – a fast and sometimes furious exploration of a newly unpredictable food future.

UNNAMED MALE:           It has thrown what I’ve known pretty much throughout my farming career all up in the air.

UNNAMED FEMALE 2:   I have no knowledge of what it’s like to be outside the EU.

DS:        Think of this programme as less a guide as to what’s going to happen next and more a road map of the food issues to be aware of, or even just what questions we need to start asking when it comes to food. I can’t promise you a huge amount of joy, but I think there’s at least one laugh tucked away in the programme, and I think we’ve found a way of ending on a positive note. But first, let’s hear from a small sample of the people who really matter. That’s you, me, and the other 60-odd million of us, all following events as best we can.

UNNAMED MALE 2:        Food wasn’t something that I heard anyone talk about, or recognise that some things might get more expensive.

UNNAMED MALE 3:        Everybody talks about the price of food going up, and yet, by the pound valuing, British farmers are going to get a better deal from a lot of the supermarkets, we’ll be buying a lot more British products.

UNNAMED FEMALE 3:   I don’t think it will make much difference to ordinary working class people, to be honest. I wonder where my shopping bill’s taking me every week, so it doesn’t make any difference.

DS:        Well, is Brexit making any difference?  Let’s go back to our central question: ‘how has your week been?’, one I put to a man who has an eye across the vast majority of food consumed in the UK. And it’s safe to say his was a stressful week.

IAN WRIGHT:     The real question was what on earth do we do now, because (fades out)

DS:        Ian Wright is the director of the Food and Drink Federation, which represents some of the biggest brands and employers in the country, from Nestlé and Unilever to smaller producers including Nairn’s oatcakes and Hawkshead Relish, and it all adds up to more than six thousand businesses, and a workforce of close to half a million.  He says after the initial shock, he started to plan.

IW:        I’m sombre and of a mood that we’ve got to get on with it and get to a solution now.  We’re faced with a really serious series of challenges; we do not know how the government will respond and that’s because the government doesn’t know how it will respond. There has been, as far as I can see, no planning at all for this eventuality, and now we have to help them plan, very, very quickly.  Now, I think this is the biggest peacetime challenge that the UK has ever faced.

DS:        And an issue for his membership, who make up a large part of the UK’s food supply.  The reason is that 10% of the FDS members are thought to have been pro-Leave – and 70% backed remaining in the EU.

IW:        Because all of the free trade agreements under which we operate are negotiated by Europe rather than the UK, and if they cease to apply we have to go back to WTO tariffs which are in almost every case far, far less advantageous to the UK, and everybody recognised the implications for free movement of labour.  A quarter of our workforce comes from the non-UK, non-Republic of Ireland European countries.  Many of them are very frightened, many of them are actually very, very, very uncertain about whether they should remain in the UK and that puts an enormous strain on our businesses.  And at this stage, we simply don’t know what their status will be.

DS:        And all week, he’s been talking to businesses who import billions of pounds ingredients, and so the immediate shock was watching as costs went up by the second as the pound fell.

IW:        It’s very difficult, in an industry where, remember, the margins are very tight because of the current supermarket competition, the very, very strong price wars.  Any changes to prices in those tight margins are very concerning.

DS:        North of the border, Ian Wright’s counterpart as a man called David Thomson.  Members of the Scottish Food and Drink Federation make up 20% of Scotland’s economy.  David had been looking forward to Friday June 24.

DAVID THOMSON:         I was lucky enough to be wondering around the Royal Highland Show which is a big agricultural show in Scotland, with lots of food companies there.  And most people’s immediate reaction was one of confusion and uncertainty.

DS:        Confusion and uncertainty quickly turned to anxiety for a group of members who campaigned hard for Remain – Scotland’s distillers.

DT:        Scotch whisky is the UK’s biggest food export, and therefore is Scotland’s biggest food export worth something north of £4.2 billion a year.  So, it’s not anything that can be played with.

DS:        Because however popular whisky has become in China and India, Europe remains the biggest market.  But their anxiety isn’t just about sales.  They also see EU membership as giving them more clout.

DT:        Not least of which is the weight of Europe in trade negotiations and protecting their intellectual property all over the world.

DS:        But for others in Scotland, June 24 was a long-awaited day of celebrations.

FISHERMAN:      It’s a totally new ballgame.  We just have to take stock and see where we go from here.

DS:        Unlike the distillers, Scotland’s fishermen wanted Out.

F:           You see I’m a bit emotional.  The strong we’ve had er . . . the last few years, watching the Europeans steal our fish away from us, it, yes, it was an emotional night.

DT:        They feel that they can better manage the seas than Brussels negotiations would ever get them, and so it has not been a unified picture in Scotland.

DS:        Someone else who I asked how their week had been had simply been trying to keep up with the quantity of stories coming from inside the food industry, which, I should mention, is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, with more than £20 billion of exports at stake.

JULIA GLOTZ:     It’s been an absolutely extraordinary week (fades out)

DS:        That’s Julia Glotz, managing editor of The Grocer magazine, and during the publication’s 150 year history, they’ve covered the UK’s biggest food stories.

JG:         I remember the horsemeat scandal very well, but it didn’t feel quite as dramatic as this past week has been.  Some smaller manufacturers in particular, have told us that the price of their raw materials searched overnight and they’re very worried about the impact that is going to have longer term.  The conversations I’ve been having have been more, been more emotional than, than usual.

DS:        You mentioned this felt like a week . . . like no other, I mean, was there one conversation, one story that made you realise that?

JG:         (exhales) It’s the account of our bakery manufacturer, who, who told us just of her absolute despair, her worry for her Polish staff, whether she would be able to retain them, her concern about soaring raw material prices, and as a small business owner just some very, very urgent questions about her future.

DS:        Which got me thinking about a few people I thought might be vulnerable to the clear signs of economic shock, as George Osborne has described it, caused by the Brexit vote.  The young, small food businesses we feature each year in our BBC Food and Farming Awards.  And at this point, I think we all need a drink.

UNNAMED MALE 4:        A pint of (word unclear) please.

UNNAMED MALE 5:        Cannonball, which is our flagship IPA, full of American hops.

DS:        Magic Rock in Huddersfield is one of the UK is 1,300 breweries riding the wave of the craft beer revolution.  Its small, creative and inspirational team produce a growing range of beers, and with plans to expand and sell into Europe.  I arranged to meet one of the Magic Rock team as they arrived into King’s Cross Station to promote their beers in London.  I asked Becky Rothwell about her week.  She told me that after the referendum result there was an immediate effect.

BECKY ROTHWELL:         We’ve already experienced huge increases.  We get a lot of our hops from the USA, our container of key kegs that we used to package the beer cost an additional £800 to what it normally costs.  The . . .

DS:        £800 . . .

BR:        £800 extra, just because of the devaluation of the pound. We’re going to have to reconsider various things erm . . .

DS:        Like what?

BR:        The margins in beer are very small, so I can imagine a lot of people are going to struggle with it.  We just don’t know what’s going to happen.

DS:        Because their approach and their entire businesses is dependent on overseas ingredients – malt from Germany, specialist hops from the US.  Prices of both went up fast.

BR:        It’s already incredibly hard for small UK breweries to secure hops. Although we’re guaranteed the hops that we’ve got, they can’t guarantee the exchange rate.

DS:        One argument is it’s good for British hop growers?

BR:        Well, yeah, that is one of the things, but if you look at modern craft beer, everyone wants these US flavours that are coming out.

DS:        I predict a revival of Fuggle’s.

BR:        (laughs) Well, it’d be really interesting to see if in, you know, a few years we’ve got Fuggle’s IPA . . . is just dominating the market, because of this.

DS:        Fuggle’s – as many of you know – is a classic English hop. Meanwhile, in West Wales, another story was unfolding, the sounds of the pedigree Welsh pig.  Meet the owner of these pigs.

ILLTUD DUNSFORD:        I’m Illtud Dunsford and I’m the owner of Charcuterie Ltd.

DS:        As we now know, the majority of people in Wales voted to leave the European Union.  For Illtud, that came as a disappointment because the place where he lives, farmers and is building his business reveals a less familiar side of the EU story.

ID:         The farm’s in the Gwendraeth Valley in West Wales, and we’re classed as an Objective 1 area, so it’s seen as one of the areas with the most poverty really, in Europe, and because of that, because of its classification as an Objective 1 area, we’ve had funding over the last few years to invigorate the area, both in terms of jobs but also in terms of community. We’re a post-industrial area, we’re right on the edge of the South Wales coalfield, very, very high levels of disability, very high levels of unemployment. It’s hard to run a specialist business in an area like this, but it’s the right place to do it because we have access to widespread agriculture, but without that funding we wouldn’t create jobs.

DS:        Illtud’s business produces some of the finest cure meets in the country.  And the EU funding he received – a grant of £120,000 – was to build a new processing facility and create new jobs.  He’s done that.  And those jobs were going to help him sell his products into Europe.  That’s still his ambition, and so he is keen future negotiations with the EU are positive.  But when he turned on the television last Tuesday, he had a bad feeling.

NIGEL FARAGE: I said I wanted to leave a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me – well I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?

ID:         (dry laugh) watching the response of the European Parliament to Nigel Farage, for somebody who wants to, or needs to have a good trade deal, that is not the way to approach it.  Who is the person that’s going to be doing this negotiation?  Because it has such wide-ranging impact on . . . on everything, all our lives. It’s just complete and utter uncertainty. We’re definitely on Plan B – Plan B, C, D . . . I guess it’s business as usual this, this week and for the next few weeks, er, while we, while we work out what the future holds. There was a great realisation a few years ago when one of our staff was talking about getting a mortgage, and . . . that was the key moment for me, that I realised how much responsibility I had as a business owner to my staff.  And since last week, it’s been my responsibility to them that we continue, that we forget about growth, that we forget about expansion, that it’s about securing all our livelihoods.  And it’s scary.

DS:        From West Wales, to a hotel lobby near Victoria train station in London.  I’d arranged to meet someone who’s been researching the implications of Brexit for the past two years, Professor Tim Lang of City University Centre for Food Policy.  Inside the hotel tourists were arriving, all were glued to television screens.

TOURIST:            Scary, yeah it’s just scary.

TOURIST 2:         Yeah.

T:           What’s going to happen to everyone. The, the whole economy in the world.

T2:         Yeah, how it’s going to bring all others into a recession.

DS:        Erm . . .

T:           Is there a plan in place?

DS:        Is there a plan in place? No, says Tim Lang, who is clearly having a bad week.  Because when it comes to food, having no plan translates as ‘we have a serious problem.’

PROFESSOR TIM LANG:  I think it’s deeply troubling time (sic). Our Centre wrote for briefing papers preparing for this, and the analysis we gave was very sober, saying this is an enormous impact on the food system if we choose to do it. We’re now in that reality. And what worries me mostly is that the political class is currently failing us.

DS:        The analysis Tim Lang mentioned consists of four research papers, covering a range of different aspects of the UK’s food system.  The Common Agricultural Policy and other EU food policies are far from perfect, he says, but his team’s conclusion was that they have helped to keep food prices relatively stable.

TL:         We then did a study looking at the big picture, of Brexit versus Bremain, and that made us even more concerned.  We thought the enormity of this really is not featuring in the debate.  Why? Why?  This is food.  This is what was one of the main motivations for the creation of the common market in the first place.  The Netherlands have had a famine in 1944, Europe had been devastated.  And then we did two other studies, one on horticulture in particular, because Britain is highly  exposed, we get . . . huge amount, big percentage of our horticulture, fruit and vegetable, from the European Union.  So, to summarise all of those papers, we concluded we could vote to leave and indeed we did, but if the people chose it a period of major reorganisation was needed.  And that was our final point.  We didn’t think the British state was ready for it, and what we’re seeing now in politics is a sign that we were absolutely right. There is very little civil service expertise, the politicians haven’t thought about it, there’s no Plan B.  The secretary of state even gave a speech in January saying there is no Plan B.  I mean, I nearly tore what her I’ve got left out of my head. There should be Plan B, there should be Plan C, D, E and everything.  So dear British consumer, think very carefully about this.

DS:        Those consumers will have been reading Tim – and this comes from you – history suggests that a country which only just feeds itself is in a potentially fragile state.  Now, aren’t you overstating it?

TL:         No, I’m quoting government figures.  54% of our food is home-grown, about 30% comes from the rest of the European Union, and the rest comes from around the world, coffee or tea for example. And when we look at the figures, the food trade gap is now £21 billion in deficit, so we think that’s, by any definition, fragile situation to be in.

DS:        On my phone, I have a question that’s come in from a Food Programme listener, I’ll just play you this and see if you can provide an answer.

ANGELA FIELD:  My name is Angela Field, and I wanted to know, as a result of Brexit, should we expect the price of imported foods to rise, and should we be looking to buy more from local producers and UK producers?

TL:         That’s a really good question, Angela.  One of the things on which there was absolute agreement among academics who looked was that food prices are highly likely to go up, because the pound, everyone agreed, and indeed it has now, would go down. Therefore imports will cost more.  Is that, the second part of your question, therefore a trigger that Britain produces more of its own?  In the long term, yes.  But who’s going to grow this? We rely upon foreign labour to produce the food, to grow it and to process it in the factories.  And as I’ve said in a Tweet, you know, those who voted for Brexit, are they now prepared to go and work picking Brussels sprouts and cabbage us, and lifting potatoes in Lincolnshire where I’m from?  Do they really want to do that?  I don’t see any sign of them wanting to do that?  Actually it’s eastern Europeans who are prepared to do it.  Come on, let’s get clear guys, this is, call it time here.  Do you want food from Britain?  In which case you’ve got to get going and doing it or not.

DS:        Another point being made is that at this point in time we are still one of the wealthiest economies in the world, we can spend our way out of this.  We can buy food on a global market post-Brexit?

TL:         Mr Gove, in an interview with the BBC, at one point said one of the things that he wanted to leave the European Union for was to open up trade with the rest of the world. So we can (fragment of word, or word unclear) in a throwaway remark he said, ‘We can get cheaper food from Africa’ – I thought Africa had a problem and it needed to feed itself? Is that option really moral and justified? I don’t think so. It’s a fantasy of free trade – very strange politics.

DS:        But not strange to people who spent much of their lives working hard to take the UK out of the EU.

TIM WORSTALL:              My name’s Tim Worstall, I’m a senior fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London.

DS:        Which is a free market think tank and Tim Worstall was having a good week. For him, Brexit is mission accomplished.

TW:       I have actually been writing about this and working towards it for the last two decades.  Wonderful.  Superb.  First decent decision made in 20 years.

DS:        And among the arguments Tim has put forward for Brexit, either as a former speechwriter for Nigel Farage, or in his role at the Adam Smith Institute, many revolve around food.

TW:       I have a great interest in trade and food, obviously, is the most important thing that we human beings have traded over the millennia.

DS:        When you envisaged this moment arriving, did you expect a period that we’re currently going through that is instability, uncertainty and a degree of panic?

TW:       Yes.  There will be a large number of headless chickens running around, and after a few weeks, a month or two, everyone will realise the sun still rises in the morning, but now we get to make our choices.  That’s the only difference.

DS:        On a Skype line from his home in Portugal, Tim Worstall predicted that when things do settle down we can all look forward to a stable, more secure and affordable food future.

TW:       The bigger problem I think that people have got here is that they really just don’t quite understand how markets work. We do not buy food from the European continent because we are members of the European Union. It’s some farmer, it Georges or Jacques or Joaquim or somebody who sells something to Sainsbury’s, and why would that change just because we’ve changed the political arrangement?  Whatever tariffs food faces after Brexit will be determined exactly by the British government.  We get to decide what our import tariffs are.  Why are we going to make the things we want to buy more expensive for ourselves?  So, obviously, you know, we like buying continental food, great, we won’t have tariffs on continental food.  What’s the difference?

DS:        What would you say to people who point to the fact that we have some of the cheapest food in Europe, in fact, the proportion of the income that we spend on food has decreased.

TW:       Yeah, well, I mean that’s, that’s just . . . part and parcel of getting richer.  Food is what called a . . .

DS:        (interrupting) But that, that has happened under EU membership.

TW:       We have to pay quite large tariffs to import food from outside the European Union.  I think it’s something like 30%-35% on sugar at the moment. Okay, so, we’re outside the European Union, we now decide that we want to buy sugar not from the European Union, we don’t have to charge ourselves 35% on importing sugar from Guadalupe or Martinique or wherever, we’re fifth, sixth, seventh, whatever it is, richest nation on the planet. Here in the UK, or you there in the UK, should be growing the high value stuff that Britain grows really well. I mean, our grass-fed beef, for example, is some of the best in the world.  People line up to buy joints of it.  But it’s simple stuff like turnips or wheat.  Why should we even think about trying to grow it in the UK when there’s the vast steps of the Ukraine, or the American Midwest or the Canadians, at hundreds of dollars a ton, and ship it to us? Why would we bother to make this cheap stuff when we’re a high income, high cost nation.

DS:        And his post-Brexit food vision isn’t based on some theoretical economic model, it actually exists.  To find out more, over to Dave Harrison of Beef and Lamb New Zealand, the organisation that promotes the country’s meat exports around the world.  He remembers the 1980s when the subsidy system came to an end.

DAVE HARRISON:            About 40% of our farmers’ income was coming from subsidies back in those days.  But the government had essentially run out of money, and so overnight it had to go. They were there one day and they weren’t there the next. It was a really difficult time for New Zealand.  Once you’re not being paid to produce, which is what we were being paid to produce, and in those days we had 70 million sheep in New Zealand, and so now we have half that number of sheep, our farmers are focused on genetics, they’re focused on . . . you know, what you can do with feed on the farm.  Back in those days when we had 70 million lambs they were . . . small, and there was a lot of sheep that people don’t want to buy, they don’t want a, like a small leg for a Sunday roast.

DS:        And so the livestock and the food produced changed.  And the country’s farmers were forced to rethink their business plans.  But should we expect a future in which food production becomes simpler, more vibrant and free from unnecessary red tape?  Well no, says journalist and food writer Rose Prince.  She spent her week reflecting on a story she investigated 16 years ago.

ROSE PRINCE:    In 2000, it became apparent that the small-scale abattoirs in Britain were closing down in huge numbers, which was a great problem for . . . farmers in areas where there was a long distance for their livestock to travel.

DS:        In fact, between 1985 and today, the number of abattoirs declined from 1000 to fewer than 200. And for the most part this happened without any real scrutiny by journalists.

RP:         It wasn’t seen as exactly a very sexy story for the newspapers.  You had to fight to get this told, past your editor.  The general consensus at the time, whenever you discuss donor’s regulations, that the fault was always Brussels and that Brussels were imposing all sorts of incredibly thick red tape all over the food industry and making it incredibly hard, particularly for the smaller producer, because, of course, regulations always cost the producer money to implement.  So, everywhere I went, I’d hear ‘Oh, it’s Brussels, it’s Brussels’.

DS:        But then, an opportunity came up to fully investigate the issue.

RP:         There were two committees of enquiry at Westminster looking into the meat regulations at the time.  I worked on one of them, as a committee member.  I learned from this information-gathering on the inquiry that it’s not always Brussels, and that very often it is up to the government of whichever member state to interpret rules.  And the real problem is that I think our Ministry interpreted the rules in a way that was so own arrests to the producers, it was almost hostile.

DS:        The decline in abattoirs accelerated in the years that followed the outbreak of BSE.  And so a heavy-handed approach by government might come as no surprise.  But, for Rose Prince, the media’s handling of the story was shocking.

ROSE PRINCE:    There was a willingness to believe that it is all the fault of Brussels.  We would be reading stories about straight bananas and people absolutely loved to believe all of that.  When it came to more difficult subjects like the meat industry, if you went to an editor and said, ‘I really need to tell you that this actually not the case, and it’s our government to have the problem’ they weren’t that willing to go along with that. And I mean, this is where it’s been for absolutely years.  And is even now.

DS:        We’re quickly learning that the Brexit story, including its impact on food will take years, and more likely, generations to unfold.  But things are moving fast, and the head of the Cabinet Office, Oliver Letwin, is now leading a team that will shape future negotiations with the EU. Our food future has to be treated as a top priority, argues Professor Tim Lang.

TL:         In Mr Letwin’s new unit, which Prime Minister Cameron has said he’s setting up, there needs to be a big bunch of food specialists in there, or else people like me are very worried, indeed.  Why?  Because food security matters.  Food has a great capacity to create riots.  Food ought to be for health, for biodiversity, for good things in life, all the things the Food Programme has celebrated since Derek Cooper started it.  We want to maintain that, but we’re now in tricky waters.  Food has got to be in those negotiations, we’ve got to have specialists brought back out of retirement, because DEFRA has sacked huge swathes of its workforce, and we’ve got to make sure that the public health and environmental interests, and consumer interests are right in the centre of those we negotiations.

DS:        Finally, for people listening to this, saying Professor Tim Lang, please say something positive, what would you say to them?

TL:         I think this is potentially the most exciting and interesting time for food democracy in Britain, and I don’t say that lightly. These are times – so why do I think this is exciting? Because in Britain we have an extraordinary food movement, there has been a renaissance over the last 30 years of food thinking, experimentation, and we see this in the generation gap – why have young people voted so strongly for Europe? Because they’re Europeans in their food culture.  So I think there is an opportunity for progressive food movements to come forward and say we want a good food system for Britain.  If the political classes can’t deliver that, well we have to push it onto them.

DS:        Professor Tim Lang, in the podcast edition of this programme, you can hear more on the unfolding story of Brexit and our future food. Including Rose Prince’s take on why we should pay attention to something that at first glance might appear trivial – the 73 British foods that come under the EU’s Protected Name Scheme, from Stilton cheese to Yorkshire rhubarb, Scotch beef to Welsh lamb.

RP:         If we, through leaving Europe, lose the right to participate in the Protected Food schemes, it will be a tragedy. It’s good for our industry.

DS:        And you’ll also hear from chef Angela Hartnett, and reactions to the Brexit vote from inside the restaurant world – a UK industry with a workforce of more than 600,000 people.

ANGELA HARTNETT:       The one thing that comes through more than anything in the restaurant industry is movement of people. My restaurant, 70% are Europeans – easily.

DS:        That’s all in this week’s special edition of the Food Programme’s podcast, and we will of course be following events and bringing you up to speed as this story unfolds. For now, I hope the next time we ask ‘how has your week been?’ the answer is a positive one.

 

Photo by GinkgoTelegraph

Newsnight uses poll to push ‘remain’

Newsnight uses poll to push ‘remain’

At the beginning of Newsnight on Friday night was a poll by Ipsos Mori about alleged post-vote attitudes to the EU referendum.

Presenter James O’Brien said that 56% of leavers and 76% of remainers thought negotiations would not yield a good ‘exit’ deal, 16% thought the UK would not actually leave (with 22% not knowing), and that ‘almost half’ of voters thought there should be a general election to vote on the ‘exit’ deal.  The commentary linked to the 5% disc above, used in the graphics about the poll, suggested that significant numbers of ‘leave’ voters now wanted to change their minds – planting the idea that if there was a re-run, there might be a ‘remain’ vote.

The rest of the programme magnified this, suggested that ‘Brexit’ sentiment was closely linked with the Front National in France and further posited that, against the background of the uncertainties, the 48% who had voted ‘remain’ might now effectively be without representation.

After the poll intro, the next sequence of the programme investigated what was happening over the Labour and Conservative leadership struggles. Political editor Nick Watt concluded:

British politics is being refashioned right in front of our eyes. But even in the middle of a revolution, perhaps it will be the steadiest member of the crew who will guide us to the next stage.

O’Brien then reminded viewers that immediately after the referendum vote, Newsnight had visited a pub in Burnley to canvass opinions. He said that Nick Blakemore had re-visited the pub to find if there had been much change.

The opinions he gathered were:

Delighted with the poll outcome

Got to work together to make it work.

We are all in the same boat – not now leave or remain and must move forward

The UK has left

The UK was leaving but voters had to remember that many had voted remain

Friends who are on either side but not falling out.

England is not an easy touch – you cannot come here and take advantage of the country

Tired of paying out for people who think it a career option to be a dosser, get a council house and take, take, take. We are working men and are sick of this

A remain voter said:

I actually voted ‘In’ last week. The reason was because erm . . .  I just feel that Britain has a massive role to play in the European Union and it doesn’t make sense for me for us to come out of that. I’m a second-generation Italian, so my mum and dad came over here. What I think the biggest thing is that . . .  I was born here but all my friends around here in Burnley have no issue whatsoever with any foreign people coming to this country, because, as long as the foreign people that come here contribute, that is the main thing. The biggest problem this country has is any foreign people who come over here and grab from the state, I think that’s the biggest issue.

I voted leave because I want a say in the laws we make

I voted leave, but I am not sure if it was the right thing to do.

People are making laws that we don’t have a say over 

There’s been a decline in living standards in the North of England, compared with, say, Basingstoke.

Anyone who is annoyed with the vote should get involved in politics.

If the left are to win ever again they have got to realise they have to respect the voice of normal working people.

We are going to get screwed either way.    

The longest most prominent contribution was from a remain supporter who strongly supported immigration and said it made no sense for Britain to leave the EU. The reporter found no one who was equally eloquent in supporting the leave position. By contrast. the ‘leavers’ statements were staccato and fragmentary – they didn’t like scroungers, laws being made elsewhere or being taken for granted by people who thought they were smarter.

James O’Brien then turned to studio guest novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, a man he said was ‘responsible for a lyrical evocation of interwar England so powerful and convincing that it won a Booker prize’. He added that he was thus a literary poster boy for a multicultural Britain and full integration – and was worried that ‘Britain may be in some sort of mortal threat’.

Ishiguro said he thought that the claim was ‘melodramatic’, but there was a serious threat. The nation was now bitterly divided, was leaderless and anxious. He said that if he was a strategist for the ‘far right’ he would now be getting very excited; it was the best opportunity since the 1930s to push Britain towards neo Nazism racism. People had to show decent heart.

James O’Brien suggested that in this connection, there had been some ‘grim tales’ this week. Ishiguro agreed that he was shaken, but despite what had happened, he had faith in the essential decency of the country.  He said he had grown up often as the only foreigner but the National Front and the BNP had never got a hold of the country – the UK did racism really badly. It was important, though, not to get complacent now, the decent part of the country needed something to rally around.

O’Brien responded:

….as you refer to in your piece, who voted to leave the European Union, and will be just chilled by the spectre that you portray as anybody on the Remain side is. It’s a challenge to really separate, isn’t it, the toxicity that seems to have been emboldened by the result and the people who will be just as alarmed by that emboldening as, as anybody else is. How, how can we do that?

Ishiguro said the majority of the people who voted leave were not racist…but some were. He wanted a petition from the leave side to say they were not in favour of the xenophobia and racism that was threatening to take over.

O’Brien asked if he had experienced any of that. He said not but said lots of people were really anxious, and there were reports that things that were not acceptable before were seeming to be so now. O’Brien asked if this included people being asked to go home. Ishiguro said the leave side needed to declare that they were not racist. O’Brien asked if this should include a hashtag. Ishiguro said he agreed it should. He then declared:

. . . you know, thing, I, I’m one of the people that would like to see a second referendum, not a replay of the last one.  But I think we, what we lack now is a proper mandate for the new Prime Minister, whoever it is, on what sort of Brexit we are going to go for.  And I think we need another . . . some sort of discussion for a referendum.

JO:         (speaking over) And you, you’ve, you’ve pulled the pin on a second r— a second referendum grenade just as our time together comes to an end. So we shall, we shall have to leave it there . . .

O’Brien then introduced a sequence about France’s attitudes towards Brexit. He noted that growing numbers of people there might want a referendum. Gabriel Gatehouse’s first port of call was George Bertrand, who during the referendum campaign had appeared on Newsnight to say how strongly he opposed both the holding of the referendum and a UK exit.  They had ended his ‘European dreams’.  His first words in this report were:

I’m sad and angry. I always wanted Britain to be part of European dreams… The results for Britain are extremely complex difficult to manage. But it is not only a domestic issue, but as it concerns us too….We consider Britain as an exceptional country. As itself, the role it has played in two wars, the way democratic life was developed… At the same time, we were absolutely aware that Europe without Britain was not Europe. The English Parliamentary tradition has a very positive influence on the European Parliament started to evolve.

The report then contained a vox pop regretting that Britain was leaving. Gatehouse also spoke to three members of the Front National, who said they were pleased with the referendum result, and linked themselves to other anti-EU movements in Europe, including Ukip.   He then spoke to Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National. She said:

It’s the same cocktail than for the Brexit in a way, it’s anti-immigrant feeling, because it’s an open door to immigration, refugees and possibly terrorism, so the second issue is insecurity, law and order. And the third dimension is anti-elites, the idea that the people who govern us, they are so far away, they don’t understand us, the little people. And they are corrupt.

Gatehouse said:

And here is a curious paradox. In a country with a proud, democratic tradition, many people feel disenfranchised. Sure, they can vote for a choice of parties and politicians, but many feel the politicians are all saying the same things, in a language they no longer understand. It’s not just France. In corridors of power across Europe, politicians, the centrist establishment, the people who by and large have governed this continent since the end of the Second World War, are suddenly realising that for a whole variety of different reasons, vast swathes of their electorate simply don’t believe in them anymore. It’s not that the centrists aren’t aware of the problem, they are. They just don’t seem to know what to do about it.

PIERRE LELLOUCH French Minister for Europe, 2009-10:  People have a sense that they are losing the control of their nation. As a result of globalisation, the arrival of huge companies from the other side of the world, who are now controlling the economy. You are losing control of the economy, you are losing control of the people coming into your nation. A lot of poor whites consider they are losing money, they are paying for the newcomers. And I sense this anger all over the country here in France. And I’m worried about that. Because governments are . . . tend to . . .  For example, right now, they are involved in legislation that has no impact on these issues but you know, but it’s like a theatre.

GG:        You’re irrelevant?

PL:         In many ways, yes. Because of lack of courage, essentially.

George Bertrand had the last words. He said:

Britain used to rule the world. Europe used to rule the world. That’s finished….. I’m angry because we are putting our respective security in danger and democracy in danger. In spite of the economic and social divisions in Europe, we are the most balanced part of the world. The most human part of the world, the most socially-advanced in the world. That could be jeopardised.

James O’Brien opened the final sequence by stressing very strongly that the 48% who had voted ‘remain’ found themselves with ‘absolutely nothing’.  He asserted:

Politically your position is, in many ways, no stronger than if you’d won 0%. With all the Conservative leadership candidates now fully committed to Brexit and the winner of course guaranteed to govern, what will opposition even look like? And who will speak for the 48%?

He introduced his next guests, ‘journalist and broadcaster, Paul Mason, The Times columnist Phil Collins, and adviser to Nick Clegg, Polly McKenzie.’

Paul Mason suggested that the Labour party had scored a ‘fantastic success’ by knocking George Osborne away from fiscal rule. The task now was to push for more investment in business and tax cuts. Collins disagreed and said the reason for the change was the massive shock of leaving the EU.  O’Brien suggested that something more fundamental than infighting and squabbles. McKenzie agreed:

I think something has to change, because as you said in your intro, there’s nobody who really represents the 48%, the people who voted for Remain. And we don’t even have a mandate for a government to negotiate our Brexit. As we were hearing earlier, we don’t know what kind of Brexit we want – a sort of economically sensible EEA-type strategy or, you know, full complete distance and we just cut ourselves off and float in the mid-Atlantic?  And actually, unless there’s some sort of election or some sort of realignment of politics, nobody has a mandate to make that decision.

O’Brien asked what the alignment would look like. McKenzie said it was hard to see the Liberal Democrats leading it because they had only eight MPs. O’Brien noted that leader Tim Farron had committed to a campaign that would involve fighting to get back into the EU. McKenzie confirmed that this was the case and felt ‘very strongly represented by that’, but there was not enough support to build a new party. Collins suggested that if the Labour MPs who did not support Jeremy Corbyn broke away and formed a new party, that would be a great outcome.  Paul Mason said that the ‘centrist politics’ that wanted to re-join the EU would have to be a new party because neither Conservatives or Labour would do that. McKenzie said something needed doing urgently in terms of renegotiation, but at the moment there was a Cabinet office team of only three engaged in it. Collins said the referendum vote did not give a mandate for anything – it was only to leave.

ANALYSIS

What were the aims of this programme?  Clearly a central thread was the Newsnight-commissioned opinion poll. The findings were projected by James O’Brien to suggest primarily that the referendum had raised more questions than it answered, and that many ‘leave’ voters were now, in any case changing their minds.

The sequence from Burnley provided a range of opinions about what people had voted for and what they were expecting in the wake of the ‘out’ vote, but gave most prominence to a ‘remain’ voter whose contribution was that Britain still had a big part to play in the EU, and that immigration was vital to the economy.

Following on from that James O’Brien interviewed Remains of the Day author Yazua Ishiguro, who he said was very able and a strong supporter of multiculturalism. O’Brien worked with him – he asked no adversarial questions – in developing several ideas, including that a second referendum might be necessary, that the danger was that ‘the ‘leave’ vote would be a lever for the far right to introduce Nazi-style policies and that intolerance would increase.

The sequence from France gave pride of place to George Bertrand, who had helped take the UK into the EEC and now was angry because the UK had voted to leave. He claimed that this jeopardised the EU’s achievements and Europe’s place in the world. Gabriel Gatehouse also drew attention, as the main focus of his reporting, to that Marine le Pen, leader of the front National, and her supporters strongly supported Brexit and saw it as a means of reinforcing their own position.

The final section was predicated upon O’Brien’s statement that 48% of the electorate were left with nothing by the ‘leave’ vote.  He steered the discussion with the three supporters of remain so that they were given the opportunity to say that Brexit should not happen without a further election and that a new political party was required to represent the ‘remain’ side. He also gave a platform for former Newsnight economics editor Mason to argue extensively for tax cuts and to claim that the decision by George Osborne to, in effect, end austerity was a victory for the left.

In overall terms, therefore, the programme was focused through the prism of the findings of the opinion poll on giving five ardent ‘remain’ supporters a platform for suggesting that Brexit must not actually happen and was a disaster for the EU and the UK. It was a blatantly one-sided presentation and appeared to be a continuation of what looks like Newsnight’s deliberate campaign to reverse the referendum verdict.

Another major issue was the programme’s use of the opinion poll.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines contain clear advice about the use of such polls. It is stated:

Opinion polls, surveys, questionnaires, phone and online votes are useful and fruitful ways of listening to our audiences.  However, when we report them, the audience must be able to trust that the research – and our reporting of it – is robust.  To avoid misleading the audience, we should be rigorous in using precise language and in our scrutiny of the methodology.

We must also avoid commissioning any of our own research that could suggest a BBC position on a particular policy or issue.

There were three direct infringements of the guidelines.

First, Newsnight does increasingly have a position on the referendum result. It is on a mission to present as much evidence as possible to undermine it. The poll was framed to amplify that message, to show that voters wanted a fresh chance to vote in a general election, and had changed their minds.

Second, in the wake of the referendum, there is clear evidence that in this arena, polls are not reliable. Only two of the surveys published close to polling day predicted a ‘leave’ vote. One poll gave  a 10% advantage to ‘remain’ and Ipsos Mori (Newsnight’s pollster) 4%. In the wake of the referendum polls, Populus has issued a guidance note spelling out that, in effect, there is a huge question mark over how the lack of accuracy can be addressed. They state:

Having now studied turnout at the referendum and compared it to our analysis of the demographic composition of the voting electorate at previous referendums and general elections, we have concluded that turnout patterns are so different that a demographically based propensity-to-vote model is unlikely ever to produce an accurate picture of turnout other than by sheer luck.

We will continue to examine these methodological challenges in producing accurate snapshots and predictions of how the country will vote.  We will not publish another such poll until we are confident that it is right.

In that context of uncertainty, it seems extraordinary that Newsnight decided to commission a poll at all. The suspicion must be that the editors were desperate to find another way of showing that voters were now unsure about the result, and projected the findings as an ‘objective’ and reliable verification of that. Nothing of what O’Brien said gave a warning that there was a huge question mark over the reliability of such polls. This was a direct breach of the editorial guidelines.

Third – and even worse, perhaps – two separate statistics of polling information were conflated so as to overemphasise the numbers who said they would change their vote.

92% of the Ipsos Mori respondents said they would not change their minds if asked to vote in a second referendum (with 4% saying they would change their vote, 3% saying they didn’t know, and 1% saying they wouldn’t vote)

Newsnight presented this 92% figure in the graphic shown above. However, O’Brien then introduced an additional statistic: that 5% of Remain voters and 2% of Leave voters said they would now change their vote. Two smaller circles were duly placed on the chart to reflect this, despite these numbers having no direct correlation to the initial 92% figure. Therefore, the graphics and commentary suggested 7% wishing to change their votes, whereas the Ipsos Mori data itself had given a figure of just 4%.

Further, the two smaller circles of 5% and 2% cannot even be fairly compared to each other, given that more voted to Leave in the referendum than voted to Remain. The only way to have fairly reflected this difference would have been to have introduced a second chart, showing the overall numbers of Leave and Remain voters, and how potential shifts in voting intention might have affected the totals.

A closer inspection of the Ipsos Mori data also reveals that, to produce the 5% and 2% figures, two responses were combined: those who would ‘definitely’ change their vote, and those who ‘probably’ change their vote.

Had Newsnight focused only on those who were certain to change their votes, then the chart and commentary would have been even less striking: only 1.1% of those polled would definitely change their Leave vote, and just 0.4% would definitely change their Remain vote – a far less dramatic statistic than the one selected.

Put another way – bringing in the unweighted sample size of 935 voters who were actual consulted to reach these findings –  only FIVE  people told Ipsos Mori that they would definitely change their mind from ‘leave’ and two people said they would definitely switch from ‘remain’.  On that highly tenuous basis, Newsnight told its viewers, in effect  that 5% of total ‘leave’ vote of 17.4m was considering changing sides. This was a preposterous extrapolation.

Is there other evidence that Newsnight is in such campaigning mode? The News-watch post about the previous Friday’s edition is one instance. Further examples of such bias are on the Is the BBC Biased?  website.

Of all this evidence, perhaps the most devastating is Evan Davis’s hugely negative treatment of ‘leave supporter Crispin Blunt MP last Thursday evening (30/6) in his capacity of chair of the Commons foreign affairs select committee.   Blunt argued that it was likely that the UK could get a positive deal in the Brexit trade negotiations with the EU, and would also be able to influence free movement of peoples. Analysis of the transcript indicates that Davis tried extraordinarily hard to prevent Blunt making his points. The full exchange is below. It was 1,420 words.  Evan Davis spoke 624 words (44%) and Crispin Blunt 796 words (56%). There were 37 interruptions, at a rate of six per minute, among the highest recorded by news-watch in an equivalent interview.

 

Transcript of BBC2, Newsnight, 1st July, EU Referendum, 10.30pm (Extract on Polling)

JAMES O’BRIEN:              For once, the clichés seem almost inadequate. It really was a political earthquake. We really are in uncharted waters and we really do have no idea what happens next. So, the search for clarity, and maybe even some certainty, is underway. And while it’s a little previous to suggest that much dust has settled, a week has now passed since the Referendum result was revealed, so we have, at least, had some time to consider its possible ramifications. Time now, then, obviously, for a poll examining where we were, where we are and where we think we might be going with Brexit. It’s thrown up a few surprises and some rather bad news for anyone hoping that they’d seen the back of the ballot box for a while. Have you had enough of voting yet? Apparently not. In fact almost half of voters polled said Britain should hold another general election before the UK starts to negotiate Brexit, so that each party can set out its own vision for life outside the EU. And maybe this is why. 59% told us they were not confident in Britain’s political leaders getting the best possible Brexit deal for Britain. That rises to 76% of Remain voters. And what about buyer’s remorse? All those voters who supposedly want to change their minds? Well, maybe not. 92% of respondents said they would definitely vote the same way. But of them, 5% of Leave voters did say they would now change their vote, compared to just 2% of Remain voters. And finally, imagine if this all just went away. Well, more than a third of voters they think it might. 22% said they don’t know if Britain will actually leave the EU and 16% think the UK will actively defy the Brexit vote and find a way to stay in. Of course, that’s only part of the post-Ref picture. The real action is unfolding at Westminster where just about everything is up for grabs on both sides of the House.

 

Transcript of BBC2, Newsnight, 29th June 2016, Interview with Crispin Blunt, 10.49pm

EVAN DAVIS:     Joining me now, Conservative MP, and chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Crispin Blunt, who has declared he’s backing Boris Johnson, a very good evening to you.

CRISPIN BLUNT: Good evening.

ED:        (speaking over) You were just explaining something to me, you’re not really worried about the negotiation at all, because you think if it all fails we’re still in an okay situation?

CB:        Well, the Foreign Affairs Committee looked at this and we published our report on the 26 April, I suggest people read it, erm, because it is highly likely our European partners are not going to be able to agree on a negotiating strategy between themselves.  They have to . . . and if they . . . if there’s qualified minority blocking a deal, either those people who want to deal er, er, positively with UK or those who want to be seen to be . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Punish . . .

CB:        . . . to punish us, er, then that doesn’t work, and equally, the European Parliament has to approve this as well . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Right so, if, if, if all of that . . .

CB:        . . . and the mood there is .  .

ED:        (speaking over) fails, then, then . . .

CB:        So . . . then, er, we go to . . . have to sell into the European single market, on most-favoured nation terms of WTO rules, tariffs at about an average of 3% – 10% in some areas, such as on cars and things . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Your point is that is not the end of the world . . .

CB:        That is . . .

ED:        (speaking over) That’s perfectly (words unclear)

CB:        (speaking over) And that’s how we sell into the . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Okay.

CB:        . . . United States. But no, but it’s better than that, Evan, because we then, er, get control of immigration, we have control of free movement of people, and we then don’t have free movement of . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Okay.

CB:        . . . labour into the UK, we don’t have to pay £20 billion . . .

ED:        (speaking over) No, well that, look . . .

CB:        . . . into the EU budget, okay, we then get £10 billion back, but we can at least decide where that £20 billion gets spent.  It gets even better than that.  We are then in a position where we are regulating our own market, and where there are issues . . .

ED:        (interrupting) Okay, so I understand, you basically think the backstop, if everything else fails, is, is, is, not to bad . . .

CB:        (speaking over) I think people should appreciate actually just how strong . . .

ED:        (speaking over) What, what, Boris Johnson, can I just ask you . . .

CB:        . . . the British hand is.

ED:        (speaking over) I want to ask you what you understood by what Boris Johnson wrote in The Telegraph the other day, this line he wrote about British people would be able to go and work in the EU, live, travel, study, buy homes and settle down there.  What do you think he meant by that, when he wrote that was going to be the outcome of the negotiation?

CB:        What . . . I don’t, I don’t know what . . .

ED:        (speaking over) You don’t know?

CB:        I don’t know, I don’t know . . .

ED:        (speaking over) (words unclear)

CB:        I don’t know what, well, well . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Can you, can you foresee any outcome . . .

CB:        (speaking over) I don’t know what Boris, er, meant by that, there is plainly going to be . . .

ED:        (speaking over) You don’t know what he . . . can you see any outcome where that, if that happens . . .

CB:        (speaking over) Yeah, well, if you look . . .

ED:        . . . and we don’t . . .

CB:        (speaking over) Well . . .

ED:        We can restrict them . . .

CB:        Can we go and live in the United States if we have the means and ability to do so, if we get a gre— . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Is that what he meant when he said that? Is that what he meant?

CB:        (speaking under) a green card. Er . . .

ED:        I can’t go and live in the United States . . .

CB:        (speaking over) But . . . but . . .

ED:        I have to get a job and get a green card.

CB:        Er, and get a green card. Now that may be . . .

ED:        (interrupting) Sorry, I’ll tell you why I’m pushing this, you’re supporting him, he’s written this thing which is . . . appears to imply ‘We will stop them coming here, but we will have the right to go there’ . . .

CB:        No, and if that’s . . .

ED:        (speaking over) He’s just been in the middle of a campaign, he ought to know whether that is achievable or not, and I’m asking you whether . . .

CB:        Well, I, I . . .

ED:        . . . you think it is achievable?

CB:        (speaking over) Well . . . er, my view is that, er, we will come, have to come to a deal about how people move between the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union.

ED:        Can you see . . .

CB:        And we go into those . . .

ED:        (speaking over) that they will allow us freedom of movement without us allowing them freedom of movement? Because that is what your candidate . . .

CB:        (speaking over) No, and that’s why . . .

ED:        . . . from Prime Minister . . .

CB:        That’s why . . .

ED:        . . . who is meant to be an expert on this, having run a campaign on it has just (word unclear due to speaking over ‘written’?)

CB:        (speaking over) Well, if you could . . . I’m quite certain that everyone is now going to disinter everything that Boris has said, because there’s obviously a significant campaign to try and . . .

ED:        (interrupting) What?! Is this unreasonable, to take something he wrote in article for which he was paid several thousand pounds, at the end of a campaign, he wrote something that was reassuring . . .

CB:        Well . . .

ED:        . . . about what would be the position for the British, that appears, to most commentators, utterly incoherent . . .

CB:        (speaking over) There is a . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Does that not worry you about the candidate you’re supporting?

CB:        There’s . . . uncertainty all over the place, erm, amongst the candidates, in certainly, in, certainly in the media, please let me . . . to finish this point, and it is extremely important to the national interest now, that we actually get some, as much certainty as possible about what the bottom line is for the United Kingdom. The bottom line . . . for the United Kingdom (fragments of words, or words unclear due to speaking over)

ED:        (speaking over) You’ve explained the bottom line, which is . . .

CB:        And that position . . .

ED:        (speaking over) But if we take the bottom line . . .

CB:        (speaking over) Wait, wait, well, well, hold on, hold on (fragment of word, or word unclear due to speaking over)

ED:        (speaking over) Will I be able to live, travel, study, buy a home, settle down in France, do you think? Under your bottom line?

CB:        Well no, if the, if the . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Right . . .

CB:        . . . if the negotiations (fragments of words, unclear due to speaking over)

ED:        (speaking over) Right. So how can Boris give me that reassurance in his article?

CB:        Well, because that’s no doubt what he is seeking to achieve.  And it is obviously in the mutual interest of both United Kingdom and our European partners that that is the case, in exactly the same way . . .

ED:        (exhales or laughing?)

CB:        Evan, in exactly the same way as it is in our mutual interest that the tariff regime, particularly in the interests of our European partners, that if they sell nearly twice as many manufactured goods to was as we sell to them, that they would want to see those tariffs reduced.

ED:        Can I give you a quickfire round, because there are some issues, which I know . . . well, do you think, immigration from non-EU countries, if Boris, your candidate wins, will go up . . . or not . . .

CB:        (speaking over) (fragment of word, unclear)

ED:        . . . when we have our new immigration regime?

CB:        (fragment of word, unclear)

ED:        Because promises were made to Asian communities that it would be easier to get relatives in.  Do you think immigration will go up or down?

CB:        Well, my view is that we should regulate immigration from outside the United Kingdom (sic?) consistently across, so people face the same rules . . .

ED:        (speaking over) More or less from outside the EU?

CB:        Both the regulation should be the same from (words unclear due to speaking over)

ED:        (speaking over) Okay, you’re not going to answer that.

CB:        (fragments of words, or words unclear)

ED:        (speaking over) You’re not answering it.

CB:        No Evan, this is, Evan, this is rather more serious, this trying to score . . .

ED:        (speaking over) I’m not, these are just really basic questions . . .

CB:        (speaking over) to try to . . .

ED:        . . . which have not been answered in the campaign . . .

CB:        (speaking over) But you know, you know perfectly well . . .

ED:        (speaking over) and which your candidate is now going to stand for Prime Minister . . .

CB:        (speaking over) But . . . but you know, but you know perfectly well that, er, the numbers of people that come into the United Kingdom are not necessarily, depending on what system you set up, is then going to depend . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Right . . .

CB:        . . . how many people come into the United Kingdom, so if you put . . .

ED:        (speaking over) So maybe . . .

CB:        . . . so if you put a . . . cap on the number of visas you’re going to allow . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Right.

CB:        . . . that’s one way of controlling it. Are you going to seek control . . .

ED:        (interrupting) So it can go a lot of ways . . .

CB:        . . . by the number of, (fragments of words, unclear) by . . .

ED:        (speaking over) Any, any . . .

CB:        . . . by issuing green cards.

ED:        (speaking over) Any suggestion made in the campaign . . .

CB:        And finally . . . and finally, we are going to have control over this. So we are then going to be . . . do the very important business of trying to protect British unskilled and semi-skilled labour from having to compete with people who have professional qualifications, from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, or indeed, anywhere else in the world.  That’s why they are not allowed into the United Kingdom (words unclear due to speaking over)

ED:        (speaking over) That is a very long way of saying . . .

CB:        . . . outside the European Union.

ED:        . . . you don’t know whether immigration will go up or not. Crispin Blunt (laughter in voice) sorry we have to leave it there, thanks very much indeed.  Thanks.

 

Transcript of BBC2, Newsnight, 1st July, EU Referendum, 10.30pm

Opening Montage

Music with the lyrics ‘The world turned upside down’ repeated throughout.

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.

EMILY MAITLIS: When you voted leave, was it about the EU, was it picking the government, was about change of any kind? Or was it about something I haven’t mentioned?

UNNAMED FEMALE:       It’s everything.

UNNAMED FEMALE:       Everything.

EM:       Right.

HILARY BENN:   I no longer had confidence in his leadership.

ANGELA EAGLE: I feel that I’ve served in the best way I can.

REPORTER:         Here at Westminster in the last few minutes there are more Labour resignations, three Shadow ministers . . .

UNNAMED FEMALE:       He doesn’t need them shadow cabinets, get an . . . get an election and he’ll get in.

JEREMY CORBYN:            Seumas, I’m not sure this is a great idea, is it?

DC:        And I thought I was having a bad day ! (Laughter)

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER:              You were fighting for the exit. The British people voted in favour of the exit, why are you here?

THERESA MAY:  My pitch is very simple, I’m Theresa May and I think I’m the best person to be Prime Minister of this country.

VICTORIA DERBYSHIRE: Tom, Tom, I’m really sorry to interrupt, but we’re just hearing that Michael Gove is preparing to announce his candidacy as well.

JOURNALIST:     What is your to Michael Gove? What is your to Michael Gove?

BORIS JOHNSON:            I have . . . concluded that person cannot be me.

MICHAEL GOVE:              I came reluctantly but firmly to the conclusion that I should stand and Boris should stand aside.

BJ:         I cannot, unfortunately, get on with doing what I want to do, so it will be up to someone else now. I wish them every possible success.

JAMES O’BRIEN:              For once, the clichés seem almost inadequate. It really was a political earthquake. We really are in uncharted waters and we really do have no idea what happens next. So, the search for clarity, and maybe even some certainty, is underway. And while it’s a little previous to suggest that much dust has settled, a week has now passed since the Referendum result was revealed, so we have, at least, had some time to consider its possible ramifications. Time now, then, obviously, for a poll examining where we were, where we are and where we think we might be going with Brexit. It’s thrown up a few surprises and some rather bad news for anyone hoping that they’d seen the back of the ballot box for a while. Have you had enough of voting yet? Apparently not. In fact almost half of voters polled said Britain should hold another general election before the UK starts to negotiate Brexit, so that each party can set out its own vision for life outside the EU. And maybe this is why. 59% told us they were not confident in Britain’s political leaders getting the best possible Brexit deal for Britain. That rises to 76% of Remain voters. And what about buyer’s remorse? All those voters who supposedly want to change their minds? Well, maybe not. 92% of respondents said they would definitely vote the same way. But of them, 5% of Leave voters did say they would now change their vote, compared to just 2% of Remain voters. And finally, imagine if this all just went away. Well, more than a third of voters they think it might. 22% said they don’t know if Britain will actually leave the EU and 16% think the UK will actively defy the Brexit vote and find a way to stay in. Of course, that’s only part of the post-Ref picture. The real action is unfolding at Westminster where just about everything is up for grabs on both sides of the House. To provide a measure of the mayhem, no pun intended, you could probably argue tonight that the Parliamentary party which didn’t want a leadership battle is having one while the Parliamentary party that desperately does want one, isn’t. Yet. Newsnight’s political editor, Nick Watt, is filling his boots.

Nick Watt talks about plans to ‘ease Jeremy Corbyn out of the door’, and allow him to resign with dignity.

What’s the latest? Nick, you have found out about a plan to help ease Jeremy Corbyn out of the door?

NICK WATT:       Yes, all the signs from the Shadow Chancellor today John McDonald work that Jeremy Corbyn is not going anywhere and he’s going to stay. But I understand there was a delegation of Shadow Cabinet ministers yesterday who tried and failed to meet Jeremy Corbyn to suggest a plan to allow him to resign with dignity. They were suggesting that a commission could be set up over the summer and that would in trench some of his ideas about how you democratise the Labour Party and would also push on the party to commit to some of his core policies on inequality. If that could happen and some of the leadership contenders could agree to that, he would perhaps pre-announced his retirement and he would go after the Labour conference. What is really interesting about this is that people like John McDonald are very wary of this because they are scared that the moment he gives up the power, that is it for the left. But I understand that some members on the left who were in that room last year when his candidacy was approved that they thought with great reluctance and sadness that this may be the wise thing to do because they fear that the party could divide.

JO:         I hesitate to ask, but more bad news for the Labour leader tonight?

NW:      Yes, an interesting YouGov poll of Unite members, whose general secretary is one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent supporters and this shows that 75% of people who voted Labour in the general election last year believe that Jeremy Corbyn will not be Prime Minister. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jeremy Corbyn’s opponent in the Labour Party picked up on this to challenge one of his central arguments. That Central argue it is, I may not have any support at Westminster but I do have support in the wider labour movement. Important health warning, election day to admit that YouGov were not able to do the full weighting you would normally expect because they do not know the full and exact demographic breakdown of Unite members. But we shouldn’t forget that there is a contest to choose the next Prime Minister of this country, so what I thought I would do is take a look at how that is going and also see how the front runner, Theresa May is getting on. (package report) Who would have believed it? The plodder of the Cabinet who issues the political gossip and the party circuit is emerging as the front runner in the Tory leadership contest.

DOMINIC GRIEVE Theresa May supporter:           She brings to her work eight professionalism, dedication and hard work, a willingness to confront difficult problems, and that may be in great measure due to the fact that she is a woman. Which is probably a positive at the present time in my view in terms of our national politics.

NW:      There is an unmistakable buzz around the Home Secretary and her rivals are concerned. 36 hours ago, Boris Johnson appeared to be the slam dunk candidate in the Tory leadership contest. After his former friend Michael Gove ended his lifetime’s ambition to be Prime Minister, the question tonight is whether the Theresa May juggernaut is unstoppable. Like it or loathe it, Theresa May is now defining this leadership contest and even influencing wider government policy.

GEORGE OSBORNE:        It’s incredibly important we maintain fiscal credibility…

NW:      George Osborne indicated today that he would abandon his plan to achieve an overall budget surplus, a day after the Home Secretary said she would do just that. And at his campaign launch, Michael Gove had his sights set on Theresa May when he said that the next Prime Minister must be a Brexit supporter. But Michael Gove knows he has to overcome the perception that he is guilty of a double act of treachery against two old friends, David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

PAUL GOODMAN Editor, Conservative Home:     As we sit here today, you have to conclude that it looks as though he has gone over the Reichenbach falls with Boris Johnson, taken him over the falls but done some damage to his own reputation, who was previously above the fray, but he’s now gone down into the marketplace and has been swinging punches like the rest of them.

NW:      Fans of the Justice Secretary say he has the brains and personal touch to make it.

ANNE-MARIE TREVELYAN Michael Gove supporter:          He is a powerhouse of a man, an intellectual I’ve known for 30 years, I’ve watched him develop. He’s a radical reformer and a man who has always led his politics by conviction. He’s the one who persuaded me to in politics. He has the same vision for our country that I do, which is that we can really bring everyone together.

NW:      But momentum appears to be building up behind Andrei led ‘ — Andrea Ledsom. Perhaps she could become the main leadership challenger to Theresa May.

PG:        Candidates with novelty tend to do well in leadership elections. No one had heard of John Major in 1990, William Hague was a religiously junior figure in 1997. Iain Duncan Smith had been a Maastricht rebel. So Andrea Ledsom could come from the outside to give Theresa May a run for her money.

NW:      Some of Theresa May’s supporters hope this contest could be over by next week. They are nervous that if this goes to the second stage, decided by grassroots Tory members, the support for the Remain side could count against her.

PG:        The main test for Theresa May is whether or not she could persuade that Tory members should elect her when she was four Remain and the majority evidence was that a majority of them were for Leave. There is a form in Tory leadership contests being about Europe.

NW:      British politics is being refashioned right in front of our eyes. But even in the middle of a revolution, perhaps it will be the steadiest member of the crew who will guide us to the next stage.

Full transcription:

JO:         We’re off to the pub now. The one in Burnley next where, you’ll recall, we canvassed the immediate post-vote feelings pretty comprehensively. So, have they changed much? Will feuding friends forgive and forget? In a moment, Nick Blakemore will find out, but first a quick reminder of how those Brexit campaigners reacted when they found out the result.

TANYA THOMPSON Vote Leave Activist (Unnamed here):              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.

JO:         So, a week on, how are they feeling? Just to warn you, you may hear some strong language in the background of Nick’s film.

UNNAMED FEMALE:       We’ve got to work together to make this work.

UNNAMED MALE:           It’s like anything, you either go for it or you are left behind.

VOX POP FEMALE 2:       We are all in the same boat. We now move forward. We are not Leave and Remain, we are United Kingdom.

VOX POP MALE:              (speaking over) Leave. No, we are Leave, we’ve left.

VPF2:    We are leaving, but we have to remember that a large percentage of this country voted Remain, and we don’t feel that way.

VPM:     (speaking over)(words unclear) He’s Remain – I’m Out, aren’t I – are me and you falling out?

VOX POP MALE2:            No.

VPF2:    No.

VPM:     We might be in ten minutes, like, but you know . . .

VOX POP MALE 3:           This time we will just carry on. As it were. We just want people to know that England is not an easy touch. You know what I mean? You can’t just come here and take, take, take. To enjoy the advantages of this country, you’ve got to contribute. It’s as simple as that.

NICK BLAKEMORE:          Why do you think Burnley voted for leave?

VPM3:  They’re tired of paying out for people who think it’s a career option to just be a dosser and get a council house and take, take, take. And we’re getting sick of this, you know, you look around, every one of us here are hard working men and that’s what we’re sick of.

VOX POP MALE 4:           I actually voted In last week. The reason was because erm . . .  I just feel that Britain has a massive role to play in the European Union and it doesn’t make sense for me for us to come out of that. I’m a second-generation Italian, so my mum and dad came over here. What I think the biggest thing is that . . .  I was born here but all my friends around here in Burnley have no issue whatsoever with any foreign people coming to this country, because, as long as the foreign people that come here contribute, that is the main thing. The biggest problem this country has is any foreign people who come over here and grab from the state, I think that’s the biggest issue.

VOX POP MALE 5: Did you vote Leave in the referendum?

VOX POP MALE 6:           (words unclear) Did you?

VPM5:  I did, definitely. You know why? Because I want a say over the laws that are made.

VOX POP MALE 6:           I voted Leave which the majority of people round here did. I’m not sure if it were the right thing or the wrong thing, we will soon find out.

VPM5:  People are making laws now that we don’t even vote over. That’s my biggest gripe.

VPM6:  You could definitely say that we’ve seen a decline in our living standards, especially in the north-west. The North of England. I mean, I have family who live down south, like Basingstoke, and you go down there and it’s like a different country.

VPM 5: So, we talk about how it’s . . .  what’s happened down south compared to what’s happened in the north-west, but if you think about it, we, we now have a say over where that money goes. And I’d say to anyone who is annoyed about this referendum, annoyed that we voted to leave and they wanted to remain, get involved in politics right now because at this moment in time it’s the biggest change you can make.

VPM6:  I would say that if that is going to be a left wing ever again, they’ve got to realise that they’re not the super intelligent people that they think they are. They have to respect the voice of normal working people. And we’re not stupid.

BARMAID:          I see the pros and cons, either way, to be honest with you, I think, putting it bluntly, we are going to get screwed, either way!

JO:         Joining me now is the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, the Japanese-born, raised in Surrey and, and as the author of The Remains of the Day, the man responsible for a lyrical evocation of interwar England so powerful and convincing that it won the Booker Prize and was made into a famous film. Kazuo, I mention those three parts of your past because they paint you, in a way, as a sort of literary poster boy for a multi-cultural Britain and full integration, and yet (exhales) you write in Today’s Financial Times of your fears that that sort of Britain may be in some sort of mortal threat. Why?

KAZU ISHIGURO:             Mortal threat may be putting it a little melodramatically but I think this is very serious, you know, in my whole life time here, I have . . . I don’t think I’ve felt this anxious. I mean, the nation is very bitterly divided. It is leaderless, it is very anxious. Erm, if I . . . if I was a strategist for the far right now, I would be getting very excited, you know, this is, this is probably the best opportunity since the 1930s to push Britain towards some kind of neo-Nazi racism, and I think that we have got to . . .  All the decent people in this country, and I mean both, people on both sides of the referendum divide, have got to rally around some sort of decent heart of, of Britain, and I think that’s decent heart . . .  I don’t doubt that decent heart, you know . . .

JO:         Not even a little?

KI:          I . . .

JO:         There’s been some grim, grim tales this week.

KI:          I was, I was, I was shaken, I was a firm Remain person, you know, and I was shaken, like a lot of people. Er, but in the end I, you know, I have . . . I have a faith about the essential decency of this country.  I speak both as someone who grew up as the only visible foreigner at school, I was always the only foreign boy at school, the only foreign kid in the community, over the years I have lived in various parts of Britain, when very large numbers of immigrants came from the Caribbean, Africa, the Asian subcontinent, the Caribbean, during a time of enormous economic turmoil in the 1970s and 1980s, people like the National Front and the BNP have never gained a hold in this country.  You know, I think . . . and just as it was in the first half of the 20th Century, basically, I know, and I can tell from my perspective, everything I know about this country, is that it is essentially a very decent, tolerant country, it does racism really badly, even worse than football!

JO:         (laughs) (words unclear) a part of the country is doing quite well.

KI:          And when fascism was rampaging across Europe, you know, in the first half the 20th century, it couldn’t get a foothold here. But, I think this is . . . we shouldn’t be complacent now. And I think the country does need to . . . the decent part of the country needs something to rally around.

JO:         Well, let’s try and identify what that may be, but of course, there’ll be plenty of people watching this, as you well know, and as you refer to in your piece, who voted to leave the European Union, and will be just chilled by the spectre that you portray as anybody on the Remain side is. It’s a challenge to really separate, isn’t it, the toxicity that seems to have been emboldened by the result and the people who will be just as alarmed by that emboldening as, as anybody else is.  How, how can we do that?

KI:          I absolutely believe that, you know, the majority of the people who voted leave are not racist . . .

JO:         Of course.

KI:          Some are. But, you know, just at a local level, I would like to see . . . I would like to see some kind of campaign declaration, a petition, I can’t do it, I am from the Remain camp, people from the Leave camp, I’d like them to clearly say that they are against the kind of xenophobia and racism that is threatening to take over.

JO:         Have you experienced any?

KI:          Not personally, no, no, just, just reading . . . I mean, there are a lot of people very anxious, you know, and we’ve heard reports of, just, you know, things that weren’t acceptable before, seeming to be acceptable now.

JO:         (speaking over) People being told to go home (words unclear due to speaking over)

KI:          (speaking over) I think yes, yeah, exactly . . . it’s at that level at the moment, you know . . . I . . . I don’t know how deep it goes, but I would like to see the people from the Leave camp just clearly  . . . isolate the racists, you know, by saying, ‘This isn’t us.’ You know, I would even offer them a slogan, you know “Leave Racism”, you know, you know hashtag whatever . . .

JO:         It needs a hashtag.

KI:          Let’s just, let’s just try and win back the tone of this, this thing.  At a deeper level, at a deeper kind of . . .

JO:         Hmm.

KI:          . . . you know, thing, I, I’m one of the people that would like to see a second referendum, not a replay of the last one.  But I think we, what we lack now is a proper mandate for the new Prime Minister, whoever it is, on what sort of Brexit we are going to go for.  And I think we need another . . . some sort of discussion for a referendum.

JO:         (speaking over) And you, you’ve, you’ve pulled the pin on a second r— a second referendum grenade just as our time together comes to an end. So we shall, we shall have to leave it there . . .

KI:          Okay.

JO:         Kazuo Ishiguro many thanks indeed.

KI:          (speaking over) Thank you very much.

JO:         Of course, the referendum shockwaves reach much further than the shores of these islands. And few countries have been watching events here more closely than France. One of the original architects of the Common Market and, of course, long a historical obstacle to the UK’s membership, the country today hosts a growing strain of Gallic Euroscepticism and may be developing an appetite for what has inevitably been dubbed Frexit. Newsnight’s Gabriel Gatehouse has been taking a breath of French air to find out how events on this side of the Channel have played out over there.

UNNAMED MALE SPEAKER (GEORGE BERTRAND?):          I’m sad and angry. I always wanted Britain to be part of European dreams.

GABRIEL GATEHOUSE:   : It may look like life as normal. Paris in summertime. Cafes, strikes, the odd riot.  But make no mistake, Brexit was an earthquake. The old Europe has changed.

VOX POP MALE:              I was like, no, no! You can’t do that! We have a future together.

UNNAMED FEMALE (MARINE LE PEN?)On the side of the far right, it has come as a divine surprise.

UNNAMED MALE:           One has to react very quickly because as a disease it is very profound.

GG:        In the run-up to the referendum, Newsnight met George Bertrand, one of the founding fathers of the European Union. Brexit, he believes, is a disaster.

GEORGE BERTRAND:      The results for Britain are extremely complex difficult to manage. But it is not only a domestic issue, but as it concerns us too.

GG:        Mr Bertrand played a prominent role in shepherding Britain into the common market. And so, for him, it’s personal.

GB:        We consider Britain as an exceptional country. As itself, the role it has played in two wars, the way democratic life was developed… At the same time, we were absolutely aware that Europe without Britain was not Europe. The English Parliamentary tradition has a very positive influence on the European Parliament started to evolve.

GG:        Today, in France, an unpopular centre-left government is trying to force through reforms to the labour code. It’s not going well. The French, of course, are no strangers to this kind of labour protest. But it does feel now that there is a flight from the centre to the left and to the right. On the left, they see the EU as part of a neoliberal project which they blame for austerity, inequality and rising unemployment. And yet even here, some are dismayed by Brexit.

VOX POP MALE:                             OK, Europe, us, it exists. It’s shit, but we can’t, as we say in French, we can’t throw away the baby with the water of the bath.

GG:        The baby out with the bath water, yes we say the same in England.

VPM:     Yes, we can’t do that.

GG:        In France, discontent with the political establishment is rising. The chief beneficiaries are not on the left but on the right. The Front National was once a fringe movement, the preserve of ageing ex-colonialists bitter about the loss of empire. No longer. Like the left, young FN supporters rail against globalisation, but for them, Brexit is a cause for celebration.

VOX POP FEMALE:          The British have opened the door and I hope they have opened it for us too and for all the other peoples of Europe as well.

VOX POP MALE 2:           It’s a strong message, an historic message.  It’s the most important event since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  It’s very galvanising.

VPF:      In every country, we see the rise of parties with patriotic, anti-globalisation agendas.  We don’t agree with all of them.  We don’t agree with everything Podemos say.  We were very disappointed by what happened in Greece.  We are interested in UKIP, we are interested in the Northern League, Alternative fur Deutschland.

GG:        Polls suggest that the Front National could win the presidency next year. The polls also show a rise in Eurosceptic sentiment. And the Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, has promised a referendum on Frexit.

MARINE LE PEN:              It’s the same cocktail than for the Brexit in a way, it’s anti-immigrant feeling, because it’s an open door to immigration, refugees and possibly terrorism, so the second issue is insecurity, law and order. And the third dimension is anti-elites, the idea that the people who govern us, they are so far away, they don’t understand us, the little people. And they are corrupt.

GG:        And here is a curious paradox. In a country with a proud, democratic tradition, many people feel disenfranchised. Sure, they can vote for a choice of parties and politicians, but many feel the politicians are all saying the same things, in a language they no longer understand. It’s not just France. In corridors of power across Europe, politicians, the centrist establishment, the people who by and large have governed this continent since the end of the Second World War, are suddenly realising that for a whole variety of different reasons, vast swathes of their electorate simply don’t believe in them anymore. It’s not that the centrists aren’t aware of the problem, they are. They just don’t seem to know what to do about it.

PIERRE LELLOUCH French Minister for Europe, 2009-10:  People have a sense that they are losing the control of their nation. As a result of globalisation, the arrival of huge companies from the other side of the world, who are now controlling the economy. You are losing control of the economy, you are losing control of the people coming into your nation. A lot of poor whites consider they are losing money, they are paying for the newcomers. And I sense this anger all over the country here in France. And I’m worried about that. Because governments are . . . tend to . . .  For example, right now, they are involved in legislation that has no impact on these issues but you know, but it’s like a theatre.

GG:        You’re irrelevant?

PL:         In many ways, yes. Because of lack of courage, essentially.

GB:        Britain used to rule the world. Europe used to rule the world. That’s finished.

GG:        Europe is in the grip of a malaise. For some, Brexit presents an opportunity for renewal. For others, it is a dangerous gamble.

GB:        I’m angry because we are putting our respective security in danger and democracy in danger. In spite of the economic and social divisions in Europe, we are the most balanced part of the world. The most human part of the world, the most socially-advanced in the world. That could be jeopardised.

JO:         Lose by 4% of the vote in a General Election and you find yourself in strong Opposition with a fighting chance of halting legislation and embarrassing the Government. Win 48% of the vote in a Referendum and you find yourself with absolutely nothing. Politically your position is, in many ways, no stronger than if you’d won 0%. With all the Conservative leadership candidates now fully committed to Brexit and the winner of course guaranteed to govern, what will opposition even look like? And who will speak for the 48%? Some suggest we’re approaching a fundamental redrawing of traditional party politics but few are prepared to predict what it might look like. Joining me now to survey the scene are, the journalist and broadcaster Paul Mason, The Times columnist Phil Collins, and adviser to Nick Clegg, Polly McKenzie. We’ll get onto the highfalutin stuff imminently, but I’d like to begin by asking you all a very simple question, who’s in the biggest mess at the moment, the Conservatives or the Labour Party, and Polly, I’ll start with you.

POLLY MCKENZIE:           Probably the Labour Party, because at least the Conservatives have a process which will get them to a leader they will broadly all be happy with, even if the country has to like it or lump it.  Whereas the Labour Party, frankly, this could go on for months or even years.

PHILLIP COLLINS:             Well, the Conservative Party’s mess is more important because they are visiting it on the rest of us, they are visiting it on the country. So their mess is more important in that sense, but the bigger mess if it weren’t for that obviously important fact is the Labour Party, which is facing the prospect it might not even exist quite soon.

JO:         An existential threat to the Labour Party, Paul Mason?

PAUL MASON:   Yes, well I noticed your political editor, comprehensive though he was on the unnamed sources inside Westminster omitted to report that there had been tens of thousands of people on the streets here in Manchester, in Cardiff and Birmingham, just tonight, supporting Jeremy Corbyn.  Now, Labour is in a mess and what you’ve seen so far is the equivalent of the kind of Haka before the rugby match. If the actual rugby match actually kicks off, it’s going to get very brutal.  And I think what we all need to do, on all sides of this debate, I’m a Labour member and I voted Remain, is to try and find a way to de-escalate it , because this generation of people who signed up to depose Jeremy Corbyn, these young, centre-left MPs, have no idea what an actual struggle inside the labour movement looks like. Those of us who saw the miners’ strike and have seen what people are getting ready for right now, fear . . .  It is, it won’t disappear, it may, however, seriously split.

JO:         Who speaks for you at the moment, politically? As a Corbyn-friendly Remainer?

PAUL MASON:   Well, Jeremy Corbyn.  I think he’s speaking but we, the wider Labour family, have to find some way of de-escalating this, and of course, focusing on the policies, the policies . . .  The fact is, Corbyn and John McDonnell scored a fantastic success this week, not one you would want to score, but they’ve knocked Osborne away from his fiscal rule.  We were calling for him to do that, he’s dropped it, but now we have to come up with a new fiscal policy for Britain. I would be arguing for a fiscal stimulus, tax cuts for businesses to attract investment now, investment tax spending to boost investment, all that needs to happen, but of course, it’s going to canon straight into the Brexit negotiations.  We need both parties, actually, to be on the ball . . .

JO:         Okay . . .

PAUL MASON:   . . . and thinking in a centrist and national interested way.

JO:         Okay Paul.  Phil Collins, the credit for the fiscal retreat of George Osborne being handed there to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.  I’ll let you respond to that in a moment.  I’m interested also, in the notion of Jeremy Corbyn speaking for Labour Remainers while Labour Remainers in the main blame him for the Brexit?

PC:         Yeah, which I think is a bit harsh, actually, I think there’s a lot more in the vote to leave the European Union than could have been solved by Jeremy Corbyn, so I don’t think it helps to blame him. He was a pretty lukewarm advocate for it but that’s because he’s not very good. It’s not because he had a particular bad day, it’s that he was as good as he can be, which is not very good at all. I think it’s . . . as scientists say of a bad theory, that it’s not even wrong. And it’s not even wrong to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are to gain the credit for George Osborne changing his rule, he’s changed the rule because the country has had a massive economic shock and we’re going to come out of the European Union. It’s perfectly reasonable in politics to try and claim your opponent’s shifts, so I’ve no objection to them attempting to do so, but it’s not credible to think that that’s the reason it’s happened.

JO:         Polly are we looking at something rather more fundamental than the usual local difficulties, infighting and squabbles that typify your world?

POLLY MCKENZIE:           I think something has to change, because as you said in your intro, there’s nobody who really represents the 48%, the people who voted for Remain. And we don’t even have a mandate for a government to negotiate our Brexit. As we were hearing earlier, we don’t know what kind of Brexit we want – a sort of economically sensible EEA-type strategy or, you know, full complete distance and we just cut ourselves off and float in the mid-Atlantic?  And actually, unless there’s some sort of election or some sort of realignment of politics, nobody has a mandate to make that decision.

JO:         What would that realignment look like?

POLLY MCKENZIE:           At the moment, God only knows.  I mean, you know, there is this growth in the Liberal Democrats but with only eight MPs it’s hard to see Tim Farron leading . . .

JO:         (interrupting) Tim Farron has committed to a campaign, a manifesto that would involve doing everything possible to get back into the European Union.

POLLY MCKENZIE:           To get back in, absolutely, and, you know, I feel very strongly represented by that but they only have eight MPs and it’s hard to see that as being enough to build a new centre party.

PC:         It’s possible that a break could come if Jeremy Corbyn digs in and then he’s challenged and he wins again and then the 172 Labour MPs in Parliament who have declared no confidence in him declare themselves a new party, that’s not beyond the balance of possibility at the moment. So we might, we’re closer perhaps than we’ve ever been before. I’m not sure it’s a great solution or a great outcome but that is entirely feasible at the moment.

JO:         Have we found something on which you can all agree, Paul Mason, that a fundamental realignment might well be on the horizon?

PAUL MASON:   I think centrist politics, which wants to rejoin the European Union after this . . . i.e. overtly and proactively rejoin the European Union, would be . . . would have to be a new party. Because neither the Conservatives nor Labour are going to do that, as parties. But I do think there is a big problem for centrist politics, full stop. Centrist politicians from both sides are going to be called upon to act in the national interests in a way that they are not really used to defining.  You know, what should happen right now is we should slash business tax and boost business investment. The moment we do that, the people we are across the table from in the Brexit negotiations, the French and the Germans are going to say ‘hold on a minute – this is unfair competition, Mr’ – whoever it is they are talking to, ‘Please withdraw your tax cut in order to get back into the EEA’ – I favour going into the EEA,  I also favour doing rapid tax cuts to boost growth and business investment. So, we need a political class that knows how to do this sort of thing, they’re not used to it, because they’re used to 40 odd years of multilateralism that they triggered the breakdown of.

JO:         Mr, or of course, it may well be a Mrs . . .

PAUL MASON:   It could be a Mrs, very sorry, yeah, yeah, yeah.

JO:         (speaking over) That’s quite alright, they’ll be negotiating with.

POLLY MCKENZIE:           Most importantly, there isn’t anybody to make those decisions. We’ve had this unbelievably hectic week in British politics but actually we have no more clarity one week on about what on earth we’re going to do next. And it’s that complete vacuum, whatever negotiating strategy we adopt, the truth is we need to start doing something because all across Europe and especially in Brussels, people are planning for how to negotiate this in their interests and not in ours, whereas we, you know, we’ve got a Cabinet Office team of three people thinking about this.

PC:         (word or words unclear) a referendum doesn’t give you a mandate for anything in particular, it’s a mandate to leave the European Union.

JO:         It’s a binary question.

PC:         There are no, sort of, terms . . .

JO:         (speaking over) How big a part do you think that’ll play in the Conservative candidate battle, do you think they’ll be putting forward rival visions of Brexit, or do you think they’ll just be trying to sort of woo the party faithful in the normal way?

PC:         It’s very interesting that the overwhelming favourite appears to be someone who voted Remain, that was on the Remain side, Theresa May. I mean, I guess nobody would have predicted that this time last week, but then I suppose nobody would have predicted anything that’s happened this time last week. But it does appear that she’s moving ahead. As yet, as we said in the introduction, everybody there is committed to exit. I don’t think any of them really have the first idea what it means, yet. So I think, if they do put forward any plans, they’ll be very meagre plans indeed.

JO:         Paul Mason?

PAUL MASON:   Hello?

JO:         I beg your pardon, Paul, I was expecting you to respond to what Philip Colins said.

PAUL MASON:   Yes, look, I’m sorry, look, what is amazing at the moment is the fact we’ve got this, all the political class cannot utter the words that we have uttered on this discussion, EEA, European economic area. It is the obvious solution, to apply for the European Economic Area, to design a variation on free movement, ask for the emergency brake you can get and then start from there. You may not get it and you may have to recoil back to a complete break with the EU, but it’s logical to go for that. What frustrates me on all sides of Parliament is that people are not prepared to do that and that is because the party machinery is fractured.

JO:         Paul Mason, Polly McKenzie, Phillip Collins, many thanks indeed.

 

 

 

BBC CONTINUES PROJECT FEAR OVER EU SCIENCE

BBC CONTINUES PROJECT FEAR OVER EU SCIENCE

On yesterday’s Today programme, Sarah Montague spoke to BBC science editor Tom Feilden about what Brexit would mean to the scientific community.  She said the scientific community was not exactly unified but there was ‘very overwhelming support’ for the EU, ‘not least because they argue the UK gets out more than it puts in.

Feilden said that with ‘one or two’ notable exceptions, the community was devastated with the result of the referendum, and threw in that there were ‘no two ways about that’. He ad,ded that he had spoken to Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse who was shortly to be director of  the Francis Crick Institute. He had described Brexit  as the worst disaster for UK science.  Feilden stated:

…the real underpinning behind that is . . . these days, science is not about one bloke in a garret, you know, thinking away about a problem, like Einstein did, and coming up with a solution, it’s a collaborative venture. And the UK has thrived and played a leading role in this wider collaborative, cooperative atmosphere within the European Union. Erm . . .

Montague asked if it was therefore the freedom of movement that was the principle concern. Fielden agreed and said it boiled down to that the UK had been able to attract the best brains to the best universities, so that the UK had become a ‘scientific powerhouse’ and a ‘leading light for science in Europe’.

Montague suggested that they were also worried about money. Feilden again agreed with her. He responded:

They, they, they, basically the two concerns come down to: we pay in quite a lot of money into the scientific kitty, if you like for Europe, but we get out a lot more in terms of the grants, and that’s because we’re doing so well at science. And the second is this idea of free movement. Those are the two key things, that it is a collaborative venture and people have to be able to move around and come and share their ideas and do their good science here at universities here.

Montague finally asked if anyone had any ideas in the new world, whatever it looked like. Feilden responded:

Well, that’s part of the problem. I mean (fragments of words, unclear) and I spoke to Sir Paul, he talked about a political vacuum, about nobody being in, nobody knows what the plan is, there was no preplanning ahead of the referendum result. And I think, you know, we’re going to hear some initial thoughts from Jo Johnson later today, because there isn’t a plan and the plan depends so much on what deal we can strike with the European Union over the coming two years.

At 7.49am, Montague  said that Sir Paul Nurse, the Nobel laureate, had said that research in the UK was facing its biggest threat in living memory. She explained that UK universities and research centres received billions from the EU and relied on the free movement of people; a quarter of the scientists working at Cambridge ‘were from the EU’. Montague said the science minister Jo Johnson  would be making a speech setting put what would happen next.  She added that Dame Anne Glover had told her of her fears. Glover said that exit would affect funding streams such as Horizon 2020 and would limit the ability to get the best minds to come to the UK and to contribute to science, technology and engineering. Montague said that countries like Turkey had access to the money even though they were not in the EU. Glover said that they had to pay for access and were the poor relatives – they could not influence anything. Montague asked if we were getting more out of the EU than was put in. Glover replied that this was substantially the case, the UK put £5.4bn in and got £8.8bn out. Montague asked if the funding could be protected and free movement of people to get better control of immigration that would satisfy scientists. Glover replied:

Not really, because . . . we want free movement of people, that’s what we rely on to get the best possible advantage from Horizon 2020. And there’s a precedent here in that Switzerland was a full associated country of Horizon 2020, as soon as they voted in a referendum to restrict immigration in Switzerland, overnight they became a non-associated country, and could no longer have access.

Montague suggested that she was doing down Britain’s brilliant scientists and asked what would really happen. Glover said that they would still be here, but the problem was that science was ‘truly global’ and if papers were published with only British scientists on the by-line they would not have the same impact – papers needed international co-authors. Montague suggested that if the UK was out of the EU it could still work with European partners and others from the rest of the world. Glover replied that a funding mechanism would have to be found. She declared:

We have a perfect system at the moment, and that’s going to be undermined or denied to us as part of leaving the European Union.

SM: And on that costing, how much would the UK government need to put in to make up for the loss?

DAG: I think that UK government would have to fund UK science just shy of an extra £1 billion per annum. Now, we could provide that funding, but we still wouldn’t have the minds, so that won’t be addressed just by the UK government putting in a lot of funding.

Montague then introduced Professor Angus Dalglish, who she said was a spokesman for Scientists for Britain’ which had campaigned for Brexit’. She asked him if damage would be done to scientific research by removing free movement of people and limiting funding. Dalglish said this was hysterical. Science was not restricted by borders and leaving the EU would not limit the collaboration that had always gone on.  He added:

What they’re talking about here is the funding which is the money that we pay in and get out, and it’s very focused on, that sum of money which was mentioned there, which is for the peer-reviewed funding. They’ve . . . she didn’t mention the fact that there’s a large structural fund thereto, which we pay a fortune into and get very little out. And the Scientists for EU freely admit that an enormous amount of that money cannot be traced, it just goes on corruption and waste, which I think largely defines . . .

Montague interrupted to ask what size it was and what it was for. Dlaglish said it was 57 billion and Britain got 2 billion out, of the 57 billion, the UK contributed about eight billion. Montague asked if therefore there was a net gain of six billion that could be spent across the board. Dalglish replied: .

Yes, I do. And that, that’s just a part of the budget that goes on scientific related issues, and there’s all the other budget money, erm, that we put in, that we don’t get back. And as you quite rightly say, a lot of other countries participate in these programs without being in the EU, and really, can you tell me that in the European Union, the top ten universities, the top eight are UK, er, one of them is Switzerland, not in the EU, so in the top ten universities.

Montague pointed out that Glover had suggested that when Switzerland had tried to restrict immigration, they had been excluded from the fund. Dalglish said the next step would be to negotiate. Britain was the fifth biggest economy and there would and had high scientific standing. Montague interrupted to say that there was issue of free movement of people. Sir Paul Nurse and probably the majority of senior scientists in this country of all the universities thought ending that  would be bad not just for funding but free movement itself, ‘the ability of people to come and work here’.  Dalglish said people would still want to come – there would be freedom of labour as opposed to people, and there would be no restrictions on people who came for jobs Montague riposted:

Why not, why are the rules about freedom of movement not going to apply to scientists, if they apply to everybody else?

Dalglish said the subject would be settled by negotiation, the UK would not stop essential workers from the EU such as doctors coming to the country, and suggested there had been a confusion between the movement of people and the movement of labour. Montague replied:

. . . so, on the numbers, because a lot of people would say, ‘Look, the numbers have to come down’, you would say, from what you’re suggesting, numbers don’t necessarily have to come down, it’s just who we get in?

PAD:      No, we’ve always suggested that one way round this is a points-style system, like they have in Australia, and then people come immediately back and say that’s to increase immigration, but the same thing can be used here to decide the quality of people who you have, in. And I think that this idea that we won’t get the best brains if we’re outside the European Union is clearly not true.  I can think of half a dozen really top people who are here from Australia and New Zealand, and they’re not in the European Union, so I do not think that for people of really high calibre it’s going to make any difference to [them] at all.

ANALYSIS: Today’s approach assumed from the outset that there was massive support for remaining in the EU from the scientific community.  In doing so, yet again, the BBC was amplifying to the maximum extent the dangers and negativities of Brexit.

But how strong was support for ‘remain’ in the academic community? Professor Dalglish in his comments above underlined that at least some scientists and academics think strongly that Brexit will not affect funding or the range of research.  The organisation he represents, Scientists for Britain, has a website which explains why and also challenges the numbers that think EU support is vital for the science community.   It specifically claims that numbers supporting ‘remain’ have been exaggerated.

Tom Feilden, in his overview report (broadcast at 6.10am), seemed to totally reject this. He said that with ‘only one or two exceptions’ academics supported staying in the EU.

He did not say how he had arrived at this conclusion. One possibility is that the Times Education Supplement published about a week before the poll a survey of the views of academics about the referendum.

If so, Feilden was on dubious territory. Of the 403,385 staff working in higher education in 2014-15, only 1,082 responded to the survey. That equates to around 0.27% (fewer than one in three hundred) of the target group. More than 99% of academics did not feel motivated to vote or were not consulted. It could therefore be argued that the vast majority of academics do not actually care about the EU’s role in research.

Feilden might also have drawn on a release by the formal ‘remain’ organisation British Stronger in Europe, which claimed that 5,000 scientists supported ‘remain’. This was based on that the 5,000 had written to newspapers outlining their concerns. Thus undoubtedly happened and indicated that some of the scientists were militantly concerned.

But the question here is how representative or typical this grouping was. The initiative was pushed by BSE.  Those who signed the letter were clearly politically motivated, and for example, Sir Paul Nurse, one of the key figures behind the letter, is an active member of the Labour party.  These are important caveats which should have been pointed out to the audience.

But Feilden did not do so. He gave the impression instead that the scientific community was devastated and that this, that it was believed, was ‘the worst disaster’ for UK science.  He emphasised this by stating the claims expressed in the BSE letter (and later by Dame Anne Glover) that this was because their research was a ‘collaborative venture’ which would now come to an end.

Sarah Montague compounded the negativity by asking Feilden if (the possible ending) of ’freedom of movement’ was also a ‘principle concern’. Feilden asserted that such movement had allowed the UK to become a ‘scientific powerhouse’. Montague’s then asked if the loss of EU money was also a problem. Feilden noted that the UK paid money into the EU, but ‘got a lot more out’ because the UK was doing so well in terms of science.  Winding up, Feilden pointed out that Sir Paul Nurse, had also warned there was now a ‘political vacuum’  and there was no plan for what happened next.

Thus overall, Feilden put forward that Brexit would be deeply damaging to scientific research in the UK, said all but one or two researchers wanted to remain in the EU, and pushed hard Sir Paul Nurse’s agenda that this was a disaster without a plan of repair or way forward.

At 7.49am, in her interviews with Glover and Dalglish, Sarah Montague in effect picked up where Feilden had left off, and amplified his negativity about Brexit further. She first noted that Sir Paul Nurse, ‘the Nobel Laureate’ – thus emphasising his credentials – had claimed research was facing its biggest threat in living memory. Next she stressed that UK universities received ‘billions’ from the EU, and repeated the claim that this research activity relied upon the ‘free movement of people’ – further emphasising its importance by also pointing out that a quarters of research staff at Cambridge were from the EU.

In the pre-recorded interview with Dame Anne Glover, Montague put a couple of mildly adversarial points – such as that Turkish researchers received money even thought they were outside the EU – but the main aim of the sequence appeared to be to let Glover push that almost everything in this domain was now at risk, that Britain got far more from the EU than it put in; that the free movement of people was essential because science was ‘truly global’; and that Switzerland, which was outside the EU, could not have access to the EU funding because it did not accept free movement. Glover concluded – without challenge from Montague – that the current system was ‘perfect’ and it was now threatened by Brexit.

Montague moved on to Dalglish at this point. She did not tell the audience anything about him (unlike with Sir Paul Nurse) other than he was a spokesman for Scientists for Britain. She could easily have dug out that he is a leading oncology with a distinguished international career and sits on the European Commission Cancer Board, making him especially knowledgeable about the EU, but did not do so. She could also have explained more about Scientists for Britain in terms of its potential credibility but did not. The editorial effort was entirely the other way in underlining that the credentials of those who challenged Brexit were high and impressive.

That said, she allowed Dalglish to put across clearly that he believed that the EU money was not as crucial to scientists had had been claimed, that the UK did not get much money out of the structural research fund, and that reaction to the potential changes was ‘hysterical’; that the EU administration of the research budget was inefficient and even corrupt; that free movement of people was not actually the issue – what counted was that free movement of labour would continue after Brexit, allowing academics to come to the UK. Montague pushed the discussion towards the critical importance of the ending of free movement of people issue, but Dalglish was able to put across his counter views.

The main issue here overall was therefore the undoubted bias of Feilden and Montague in their explanation and determination of the issues being considered. They both in different ways underlined the strength of the scientific community’s concern about Brexit and the related allegations that the UK was going to suffer to disaster level. Dalglish vigorously disputed this, but by the time he appeared the potential importance of what he said had already been undermined – it seemed from the set-up that he was a lone voice against the undoubted and incontrovertible weight of academic opinion.

This was thus another part of the BBC’s continuation of Project Fear about Brexit – greater credibility and weight was given to those who were warning of the consequences, and arguably this was a continuation of the BSE fight against Brexit.

 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 30th June 2016, Scientists and the Referendum, 6.12am

SARAH MONTAGUE:      The Science Minister, Jo Johnson will be speaking to leading scientists today, not least to consider what Brexit will mean for the scientific community and research.  Tom Feilden is our science editor, and Tom, the science community in a way, not entirely unified, but very overwhelming support for the EU, not least because they argue that the UK gets out more than it puts in?

TOM FEILDEN:   Well, I certainly think it’s fair to say that the scientific community, with, as you say, one or two notable exceptions was devastated by the result of the referendum, there’s no two ways about that.  I spoke to Sir Paul Nurse yesterday, that’s the Nobel laureate, he’s going to be boss of the new Francis Crick Institute, former president of the Royal Society.  He described it as ‘the worst disaster for UK science . . . ever.’ Erm, and (short laugh?) (fragments of words, unclear) the real underpinning behind that is . . . these days, science is not about one bloke in a garret, you know, thinking away about a problem, like Einstein did, and coming up with a solution, it’s a collaborative venture.  And the UK has thrived and played a leading role in this wider collaborative, cooperative atmosphere within the European Union.  Erm . . .

SM:       So it’s freedom of movement is their particular concern?

TF:         Yeah. I mean, basically, what it comes down to is we’ve been able to attract the best brains to the best universities, some of the best universities in the world and have really been able to become a scientific powerhouse here in the UK, a leading light for science in Europe.

SM:       They’re also worried about money though, aren’t they?

TF:         They are. They, they, they, basically the two concerns come down to: we pay in quite a lot of money into the scientific kitty, if you like for Europe, but we get out a lot more in terms of the grants, and that’s because we’re doing so well at science. And the second is this idea of free movement.  Those are the two key things, that it is a collaborative venture and people have to be able to move around and come and share their ideas and do their good science here at universities here.

SM:       And does anybody have any ideas as to how to address those concerns in the new world, whatever the new world looks like?

TF:         Well, that’s part of the problem. I mean (fragments of words, unclear) and I spoke to Sir Paul, he talked about a political vacuum, about nobody being in, nobody knows what the plan is, there was no preplanning ahead of the referendum result.  And I think, you know, we’re going to hear some initial thoughts from Jo Johnson later today, because there isn’t a plan and the plan depends so much on what deal we can strike with the European Union over the coming two years.

SM:       A story we’ll be returning to, not least at ten to eight this morning, Tom Feilden, thanks very much.

 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 30th June 2016, Scientists and the Referendum, 7.49am

 SARAH MONTAGUE:      The Nobel Laureate and former president of the Royal Society, Professor Paul Nurse has said research in this country is facing its biggest threat in living memory.  UK universities and research centres receive billions from the EU, and the scientific community relies on free movement of people.  A quarter of the scientists working at Cambridge from the EU.  The science Minister, Jo Johnson, will be speaking to scientists today who want to know what happens now.  Dame Anne Glover was the first and last scientific adviser to the President of the European Commission, she is now at Aberdeen University.  And she told me about her fears.

DAME ANNE GLOVER:   My concern will be that a negotiation to leave the European Union will somehow affect our ability to be able to access both the funding stream, which is Horizon 2020, to influence the strategy of what that funding is focused towards, and will limit our ability to get the best minds in the world to come to the UK and to contribute to science, engineering and technology here.

SM:       But there are countries like Turkey and Israel who have access to Horizon 2020 funding, and they’re not part of the EU.

DAG:     They have to pay for what they get, they cannot influence anything done in Horizon 2020, so they’re really poor relatives.

SM:       And the argument is that . . . what, as things stand we get more funding out of the EU than we put in?

DAG:     Substantially, when it comes to research.  So, if we look at the last funding programme, we got about €8.8 billion out of that program, and our proportional contribution was €5.4 billion.

SM:       If there was some way to protect that, but to change freedom of movement, so we have better control of immigration, would that satisfy scientists?

DAG:     Not really, because . . . we want free movement of people, that’s what we rely on to get the best possible advantage from Horizon 2020.  And there’s a precedent here in that Switzerland was a full associated country of Horizon 2020, as soon as they voted in a referendum to restrict immigration in Switzerland, overnight they became a non-associated country, and could no longer have access.

SM:       Okay, say the worst happens, and we lose these things you’re talking about, what difference would it really make, because a lot of people would say, ‘hold on a second, you’re doing the UK down here, we have brilliant scientists, we’ll still have brilliant scientists.’?

DAG:     Yeah, and you’re absolutely right, we still will be able to science.  But science is unusual, because it is truly global, and so if I publish a paper but just with other UK scientists, all the evidence says that that paper will have less impact than if I publish with international co-authors.

SM:       But you absolutely made the point, science is global, sites will still be global if we are out of the EU and we can still work with European partners as well as the rest of the world, surely?

DAG:     But we have to find a funding mechanism to allow us to do that.  We have a perfect system at the moment, and that’s going to be undermined or denied to us as part of leaving the European Union.

SM:       And on that costing, how much would the UK government need to put in to make up for the loss?

DAG:     I think that UK government would have to fund UK science just shy of an extra £1 billion per annum.  Now, we could provide that funding, but we still wouldn’t have the minds, so that won’t be addressed just by the UK government putting in a lot of funding.

SM:       Dame Anne Glover, talking to me earlier. Well, here in the studio is Professor Angus Dalglish, who’s a spokesman for Scientists for Britain and campaigned for Brexit, good morning to you.

PROFESSOR ANGUS DALGLISH:  Good morning.

SM:       Do you accept these arguments about the damage that would be done to scientific research by removing free movement and limiting the funding?

PAD:      No, I don’t.  I think it’s rather hysterical actually, because science . . . er, scientists are rather like fish, they don’t really know where the waters are, territorial boundaries, etcetera, and er, I really don’t think it would interfere with the collaboration that we’ve always done.  What they’re talking about here is the funding which is the money that we pay in and get out, and it’s very focused on, that sum of money which was mentioned there, which is for the peer-reviewed funding.  They’ve . . . she didn’t mention the fact that there’s a large structural fund thereto, which we pay a fortune into and get very little out.  And the Scientists for EU freely admit that an enormous amount of that money cannot be traced, it just goes on corruption and waste, which I think largely defines . . .

SM:       (interrupting) Structural funding, how much? What sort of . . . what size is it and what’s it for?

PAD:      The size is about 57 billion (no denomination given) and we get less than 2 billion out of it.

SM:       How much do we put into it?

PAD:      About 8 billion, as far as I (word unclear due to speaking over)

SM:       (speaking over) So you’re saying there’s a net gain of £6 billion that we could get from that, which we could spend on, on, across the board?

PAD:      Yes I do. And that, that’s just a part of the budget that goes on scientific related issues, and there’s all the other budget money, erm, that we put in, that we don’t get back. And as you quite rightly say, a lot of other countries participate in these programs without being in the EU, and really, can you tell me that in the European Union, the top ten universities, the top eight are UK, er, one of them is Switzerland, not in the EU, so in the top ten universities . . .

SM:       (speaking over) But she made a point about Switzerland, which is that the mo— . . . when they voted to restrict immigration . . .

PAD:      Hmm.

SM:       . . . overnight they were effectively excluded from this fund?

PAD:      Well, one of the things I think we have to negotiate, we’re not Switzerland, we are the fifth largest trading organisation in the world, we’re probably the most important scientific voice in the world, we have more Nobel Prize winners, etcetera, and they impact on the rest of Europe, so I don’t see why we’re not going to have a voice if we just participate as we’re doing, and I don’t see (fragment of word, unclear due to speaking over)

SM:       (speaking over) (fragments of words, unclear) I mean, (fragments of words, unclear) there’s the funding, there is also this question of free movement, you have Professor Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel Laureate, you have the majority, probably of senior scientists in this country, all the universities saying that this would be bad, and if not just for the funding but also for the free mood (sic) movement. That ability for people to come and work here.

PAD:      The ability for people to come and work here has always been the case, and I don’t think it’s going to be affected by this.  What we’re talking about is freedom of labour, as opposed to freedom of movement of people, and if we don’t . . . we will not have restrictions on people to come here for jobs, and for basically (fragments of words, unclear due to speaking over)

SM:       (speaking over) Why not, why are the rules about freedom of movement not going to apply to scientists, if they apply to everybody else?

PAD:      Well, they’re not going to apply, this is one of the things that’s going to be thrashed out in Brexit, they’re not going to apply to people who you really need.  You’re not going to stop people from the EU coming to be doctors or nurses etcetera here, when there’s a job to go to.  That’s not going to change. I mean, half the people who come here aren’t even in the EU, and that’s not going to change if they’re needed. So I think that that’s . . . there’s been a big confusion about movement, freedom of movement of people and freedom of movement of labour.

SM:       So can I . . . so, on the numbers, because a lot of people would say, ‘Look, the numbers have to come down’, you would say, from what you’re suggesting, numbers don’t necessarily have to come down, it’s just who we get in?

PAD:      No, we’ve always suggested that one way round this is a points-style system, like they have in Australia, and then people come immediately back and say that’s to increase immigration, but the same thing can be used here to decide the quality of people who you have, in. And I think that this idea that we won’t get the best brains if we’re outside the European Union is clearly not true.  I can think of half a dozen really top people who are here from Australia and New Zealand, and they’re not in the European Union, so I do not think that for people of really high calibre it’s going to make any difference to [them] at all.

SM:       Professor Angus Dalglish, thank you very much.

Photo by Trondheim Havn

Craig Byers: Mardell anti-Brexit bias continues

Craig Byers: Mardell anti-Brexit bias continues

This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?
Mark Mardell’s latest website article in the wake of the Brexit vote focuses on “society’s sharp divides”.
It’s classic MM, in that it doubtless believes itself to be impartial and to be acting as the ‘BBC voice of reason’ throughout whilst being riddled with bias from start to finish.
Allow me to explain (with apologies, at some length)…
It begins by saying that the referendum has been a bad thing, socially-speaking. It’s done harm in itself and made even worse the problems that were there before:

The referendum has carved our country into two camps, sharpened existing divisions, and created some new ones. 

And “a silence, a vacuum, an absence” has followed immediately, politically-speaking. And “chaos”, “the great divide”, “betrayal” are facing us in coming months.
His first link takes us to passionate pro-European Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post. He then links the Tea Party to Trump, and then both of them to the “I want my country back” tendency here in the UK.
The words “I want my country back” are “a code”, he tells us. They could mean this or it could mean that, but in the US “for some, it is a yearning for a time there was a white man in the White House, and official signs weren’t in Spanish” – i.e it’s simply racism.
And immediately after whistling at any passing dogs with that ‘racism’ hint he writes:

We heard the same slogan in the referendum too. 

Work out the British meaning yourself.

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Ah but…the irony is that it’s now “another lot who feels they have lost their country” (linking to the New Statesman). “To describe these people as “bad losers” is to miss the point”, write Mark (linking, in a contradictory spirit, to Richard Littlejohn, boo!, in the Daily Mail, double boo!)

It’s then on the “heartless” grief and agony of the losing Remain side – an agony “sharpened by the apparent increase in assaults on people assumed to be foreign or immigrants”, which “many who voted Remain…may suspect” is a result of Brexit.
All the ways to stop Brexit are then mentioned. And Mark says that Leave supporters would have reacted just as furiously and tried just as hard to overturn the referendum result if they’d lost.
Or so he admits he “assumes”. (I’m not so sure that Leave supporters would have behaved like that. Some would, but I suspect not anywhere near so many).
“Everyone” might soon be really “betrayed” and “left behind” Mark continues, just as cheerfully.
Mr. BBC Impartiality then looks at the issues through Labour’s problems before sketching out the two ‘outlooks’ in doubtless unconsciously loaded language, eg:
Leavers tend to believe in a strong unitary state, based at Westminster, ruling over the whole of the UK.
They dislike devolution and the EU in equal measure, and believe not so much in the old British Empire, but in what some have called the English Empire.
Those in the “Remain” camp tend to be more relaxed about more diffused sovereignty and identity, and with power either devolved down to the nations that make up our country, or up to supra-national organisations such as the EU.
And then ol’ Cheery Chops ends by returning to the ‘badness’ of the referendum ‘and that which it hath wrought’:
Referendums tend to be a device to keep divided parties together.
This one has not only torn the parties asunder but divided the people.
It is hard to see how the political process over the next few months and years will serve to heal it.
Woe, woe and quadruple woe!
Incidentally, his previous BBC website piece Brexit: The story on an island apart, written a day after the result, is cut from similar cloth – though doing a James Naughtie and clothing the bias in ‘historical’ and ‘literary’ perspective.
Its framing device is to cite John of Gaunt’s famous paean to England from Richard II (his ‘this sceptred isle’ speech). It begins positive, but ends negative:

We see ourselves as separate, and so we shall soon be cut out of councils and commission that are still shaping a continent. Some in Brussels may reflect smugly on how John of Gaunt’s speech in Richard II concludes: “That England that was wont to conquer others/Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.”

In between, while trying (briefly) to be ‘fair’ about Eurosceptics, he argues that – for everyone but the UK – the EU has been “a bulwark against history, against horror”. “For all its bureaucracy”, the EU “is a deeply romantic project”, Mark says.
Then he lists all the reasons why we Brits are considered wrong-headed. They cried when they heard that we wanted to leave them. (We wouldn’t do that, Mark said). They speak English. We‘ve won over the EU’s economic agenda. They‘ve treated us with kid gloves. Etc….
….and Mark Mardell, as so often, steps out from merely ‘reporting’ into ‘editorialising’. After citing Neil Kinnock joking that “the EU changed forever when the Swedes arrived and started saying “good morning” in the lift”, Mark writes:.
One might think that is trivial. But maybe it highlights something we rarely realise in our desire for hard power – the extent of our soft power.
(The “perhaps” in that paragraph is unlikely to fool anyone, I suspect!)
And on MM goes, listing yet more of our ‘successes’ regarding the EU’s direction. And, having made that point (at length) he then writes:
Now we want to be outside the whole shebang. Don’t be surprised if the instinct of some is to make sure that we feel some discomfort on our way out.
(Aren’t we ungrateful! And haven’t we got it coming!)
The piece goes on, but you’ve doubtless heard enough about it already. Please read both pieces for yourselves though and form your own judgements.

Photo by The Nick Page