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BBC continues to push Brexit race hate line

BBC continues to push Brexit race hate line

Photo of Gary Younge by boellstiftung

So what is it that the BBC is trying to prove about Brexit?

It looks increasingly that, as the dust settles on the referendum result, they are mounting an all-out campaign to find evidence to support the Corporation’s long-held belief that the who support ‘out’ are motivated by xenophobia and racism.

Last week, on BBC2 Newsnight, reporter John Sweeney chillingly gave a platform to a Pole in Harlow – and indeed seemed to encourage him to say – that Nigel Farage had ‘blood on his hands’ in connection with the suspected murder a local Polish man.

This was before an inquest has been held, and before police had properly begun their investigations. But in the BBC’s book, here was race-hate in action.

The Harlow allegations were re-hashed and claims of post-Brexit xenophobia and racism heavily embellished on Monday night on Radio 4, in the first of a two-part series presented by Gary Younge called Eastern Europeans in Brexitland.

Younge visited Bristol and reported evidence that since the Brexit vote, the lives of virtually all the eastern Europeans living there had become, in effect, a living hell.

According to Younge, the streets of Bristol had overnight on June 23/4 turned into an overt, seething cesspit of prejudice. Eggs were being thrown at immigrants, they were so terrified of being identified as Eastern European that they were afraid to speak their own languages, their cars were vandalised, they were spat at and their children’s hair was being set on fire.

So who is Younge? For the uninitiated, he is an equalities campaigner who, it seems, has a brother who is a senior BBC executive, and who works primarily for The Guardian. Of course, many fine journalist work there, and it may be that what he reported from Bristol was a fair reflection of what is going on out in the sticks (in BBC terms): in effect, a breakdown of civil society and tolerance.

But then again, maybe not. Go through Younge’s past articles, and this is what he wrote on June 30, a week after the referendum result:

‘This (the result) did not happen overnight, and the sorriest conduct of the referendum campaign was only the latest indication of the decrepit state of our politics: dominated by shameless appeals to fear, as though hope were a currency barely worth trading in, the British public had no such thing as a better nature, and a brighter future held no appeal.

‘Xenophobia is no longer closeted, parsed or packaged, but naked, bold and brazen and was given free rein. A week before the referendum, an MP was murdered in the street. When the man accused of killing her was asked his name in court he said: ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.’

Despite such overt prejudice (and poor writing) and huge assumptions about the Jo Cox killing, he was commissioned by the BBC to make this Radio 4 series. It seems that the sole intent was for him to go out and collect material that confirmed his view that the Brexit vote was nothing more than the ignorant expression of deep underlying hatred and malaise.

That exactly chimes with the treatment of the Harlow murder. A third element of this naked display of BBC xenophobia-themed bias also came on Monday in the latest in the series of Radio 4’s PM reports from what they have dubbed Brexit Street (transcript below).

The show’s editors have claimed that this street in Thornaby-on-Tees is ‘typical’ of areas that voted for ‘out’, but it most certainly is not. Houses there sell for a quarter of the national average, and it has number of asylum seekers, because the local councils on Teesside are the only ones in the North-east to have volunteered to take a high quota.

In the BBC’s world, Brexit voters, of course, are almost invariably downmarket, prejudiced against immigrants, talk in difficult-to-understand local accents and are relatively uneducated.

Emma Jane Kirby’s latest report report ticked all the requisite boxes. She has already concentrated heavily on that the asylum seekers are disliked by the locals, have been forced into isolation, and are generally being treated as sub-human.  Their only solace is the local church and a heroic Somalian refugee who has set up an asylum seekers’ football team.

On Monday, her first guttural, angry Brexit Street interviewee, ensconced with a pint in his working men’s club, complained that asylum seekers received benefits but did not work.

Emma Jane was duly deeply indignant. She told the surly Teessider that in effect, he was ignorant, they were asylum seeker so couldn’t work.

So let’s get this straight. The BBC commissions a series based on a street that it claims is ‘ordinary’ but most definitely is not, not least because an atypical, constant stream of asylum seekers has been housed there. It then highlights how badly these asylum seekers are being treated by the locals – and then starts to berate residents for, in effect, being intolerant and xenophobic, and then imputes that this is the reason for the Brexit vote.

BBC ‘impartial’ reporting in all its glory.

 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, PM, ‘Brexit Street’, 6 September 2016, 5.41pm

CAROLYN QUINN:              Talking about Brexit, the majority of the North East of England voted leave the EU in the referendum, and since the summer we’ve been following the residents of one street, we’re calling it Brexit Street in Thornaby on Tees near Middlesbrough, to try to understand more about the reasons for how they voted.  Although the street, and Thornaby as a whole, has very few migrants from EU member states, it does how’s a large number of asylum seekers.  In an earlier report, we heard from their perspective about life on Brexit Street, today Emma Jane Kirby’s at Working Men’s Social Club, where Paul, John and Colin, who often work in Europe, are discussing immigration over a pint.

PAUL:     I’m an HGV driver, I go all over Europe.

EMMA JANE KIRBY:           Do you like Europe, when you drive through Europe?

P:           Yeah, I love it.

EJK:        But you just didn’t want to be part of the EU anymore . . .

P:           No.

EJK:        . . . the European Union.

P:           Hm. And I voted out for the reasons of, one, I don’t think the country’s being run right as it was, two there was a lot of money being sent over to other countries that, you know, we’re not getting the benefit from, and three, immigration round here is a big part of why I voted for that.  So that’s why I voted Out.

EJK:        What, what about immigration, you mean on your streets there are a lot of asylum seekers, or . . . ?

P:           Oh, a hell of a lot, yeah. They just seem to be doing nothing, they’re getting everything for free which, it does annoy a lot of people, because we have to go to work to provide for our wife and kids and the houses, and people are just getting it willy-nilly and nothing’s going into our system.

EJK:        You know that asylum seekers can’t work, they’re not allowed to work, while they’re . . . ?

P:           But they’re allowed to claim benefits, they’re are allowed to get free NHS.

EJK:        But don’t forget, a lot of these asylum seekers are desperate to work themselves.

UNNAMED MALE:              Oh, don’t give me that.

UNNAMED MALE 2:           (speaking over) (words unclear) neighbours . . .

UM:       (words unclear) work themselves, but they’ll, they’ll do it for minimum wage, and that’s what knacking us up.  But if they’re doing it for minimum wage, they’ll knack it up for the likes of me.  You get asylum seekers going in, ‘I’ll do it for half of what he does it.’

UM2:     (speaking under) Yeah, but the minimum wage is shite.

UM:       Who are they going to employ.

UM2:     (speaking under) The minimum wage is shite.

EJK:        Can I ask your name?

JOHN HORNSBY:  Yeah, John Hornsby.

EJK:        John, how did you vote, and can you tell me why?

JH:          I was working Holland, I spray aeroplanes for a living and we pay dual tax, UK tax and European tax.  So . . . now we’re out of Europe, as long as they don’t have another vote, we pay one tax and one tax only.  But the government are going to turn round and say now, they’re going to have a second vote – why? It’s been done once, that’s it. They should know for a fact, they’re going to lie to us, and turn round and say, ‘Sorry, we’re going to stay in the EU, and that’s what’s going to happen.’

EJK:        That’s what you think is going to happen?

JH:          Yes, definitely.

EJK:        You think we’ll stay in?

JH:          Yes, because they’re going to turn round and say . . . because . . . I can’t swear, but all these bent people down the South of England, where all the money is are going to say, ‘We’re going to lose too much money – shell (?) the North, sorry, but we’re all staying in.’

EJK:        Can I ask who you vote for . . . usually?

JH:          Well, luckily . . . I don’t.  Because I’m only here for about three months of the year.  Ex-pat if you like. I’ll go back to Malta, I can go anywhere, go to Gibraltar.

EJK:        capitalism that a benefit of being part of the European Union, that you can work in all these countries?

JH:          Well you can work there anyway.

EJK:        Do you think it will be harder, though, for you to find work when Britain comes out of the European Union.

JH:          Yeah, probably it’s just (two second pause) it’s like swings and roundabouts. The country is not Great Britain no more, that’s the top and bottom of it.  You get all the eastern bloc in, so stop them, kick ‘em out.

EJK:        But of course, the people who are here are not European migrants, they’re not from the EU, they’re asylum seekers . . .

JH:          Yeah.

EJK:        . . . fleeing wars and . . .

JH:          How do you know? The best thing we can do: get out of Europe, close the tunnel, the only way you’ll get into England then is by boat or by plane. You can stop them on flights, you can stop them by sea – but with that tunnel open, they’re just walking all the way through.

EJK:        What’s your name?

PAUL:     Paul. And I voted Out for my grandson who is three years old, to make this country great again, because I think it’s gone to the dogs.  That’s my point of view.

EJK:        How’s it gone to the dogs?

P:           Migrants and what have you.  I’ve been self-employed for, what, 30 year – what am I going to get out of the country when I retire? Nothing.  I’m going to be working until I die, because there is no state pension for me.  I go to work five, six days a week, I’m earning . . . probably two to three hundred pound a week.  And I . . . like when I get told I’ve got pay prescription, £8 pounds, when you get told you got to go to the dentist every month, and you’ve got to pay for them, I just can’t afford to do it and I’m a working man.

EJK:        Can I ask who you vote for generally?

P:           I vote for anybody who is not in, because . . . they all promise they’re going to do this that and the other, and if it’s conservative then, I’ll vote for Labour, and if it’s labour in, I’ll vote for . . . Conservative, or I’ll vote for Monster Raving Loony Party, because they all promise the earth and none of them . . . do it. And it stinks. Instead of closing all these steel places down up here, right, when the government, when we opted out of . . . Europe, right, and they said that they’d save 300 whatever billion a month of whatever, right, why didn’t they say, like, ‘The first thing we’ll do is . . . we’ll plough £2 million into the steel works, get them steel companies back up and running, and we’ll, we’ll supply our own steel rather than buy it in from China.  Put all the money into . . . (exhales)  I’m getting annoyed now, but, you know what I mean? But . . . it wouldn’t take a lot of money to get them up and running again, and getting people back into work.  Would it?  It’s about time we made Britain great again.

CQ:         Paul, ending that report from Emma Jane Kirby, and you can hear all of her reports from Brexit Street on the PM website.

 

 

BBC push Farage race-hate ‘ blood on hands’ post-Brexit claims

BBC push Farage race-hate ‘ blood on hands’ post-Brexit claims

BBC programmes have given a  platform for claims that Nigel Farage has ‘blood on his hands’ for Harlow killing – despite local police warning against ‘jumping to conclusions’ about a ‘race hate’ angle.

In Harlow, six teenagers have been arrested and bailed on suspicion of killing a 40-year-old Polish man who was mortally injured in attack in the town centre on Saturday.

At this stage, very little is known about the crime other that frequent disturbances involving youths have recently been reported in the town centre. Local police say they are following up a number of inquiries.

DCI Martin Pasmore, of Essex police, has said: “The widespread media are reporting this as a hate crime, but that is no more than one line of many inquiries that we’re following. We must not jump to conclusions – let us do the investigation and get the facts right.”

It seems clear from the statement that police, if anything, were playing down the ‘race hate’ angle, – it was only one possibility among many.

That, however, has not stopped the BBC speculating strongly on those lines. The full transcripts of three reports, one on the BBC1 News at Six, the other on BBC2’s Newsnight, and the third on the Today programme on Thursday morning are below so that can readers can form their own judgments about the Corporation’s approach.

In the first account reporter Daniel Sandford stressed in the intro the angle that police thought the attack may have been racially motivated, and then specifically stated:

“The fear is that this was a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum.”

In the Newsnight report, presenter Evan Davis and reporter John Sweeney both strongly stressed the ‘post-Brexit’ nature of the crime and then  comment from an alleged friend of the victim was included. This man, Eric Hind, claimed that the Brexit vote had given the green light for British people ‘to do what they want to’.

Then, towards the end,  Sweeney said:

In Harlow tonight people united for a vigil, but for the town’s Polish community the killing of one of their own makes emotions raw.

ERIC HIND:            (fragment of word, unclear) I don’t know if I can mention names but I mean . . .

JS:            Mention names.

EH:           But I mean, Nigel Farage, I mean, thank you for that, because you are part of this death, and you’ve got blood on your hands, thanks to you, thanks for all your decision, wherever you are, er . . . yeah, it’s your call.

JS:            Nigel Farage has always denied this allegation. As the search for clues and answers continues, the fear is that two poisons have come together to a lethal result.

To be fair to Sweeney, his report also contained comment from local people that youths in the town centre had been behaving badly for some time, and there was local concern that police had not done enough to intervene.  So there was some balancing material.

But the main thrust of his report was that this looked strongly to be a post-Brexit race hate crime that was part of a huge national trend – and he gave a platform for the victim’s ‘friend’ to say that Nigel Farage had blood on his hands. Sweeny pointed out that Farage denied ‘such accusations’ but his commentary suggested that the ‘out’ side in the referendum campaign had unleashed ‘twin poisons’.

In the third report, on Today’s business news, reporter Dominic O”Connell  spoke to the deputy Polish prime minster about efforts he was making to boost investment from the UK and the City of London into Poland.  Towards the end, he asked two questions:

“Now Britain, of course, has a large Polish population, do you expect some of them might want to return home after the Brexit vote?”

“And tragically, we had a Polish man attacked and killed in Harlow in Essex on Saturday, do you fear actually that some Poles might be motivated to return simply because they fear the Brexit vote has stirred some racist feeling against them?”

He thus also deliberately linked the Harlow killing to post-Brexit race hate against the Poles.

Overall the three reports, despite the police’s warning about jumping to conclusions, seem to have strongly inflated the race-hate angle, to the extent that it was treated as the main point. Further, in a recorded news report, John Sweeney gave someone an open goal to attack Nigel Farage as the person responsible. The person making the claims, may or may have not known the victim, and may or may not have had other motives for making such a specific, sweeping attack.

But this was of no account. This was highly irresponsible journalism that (as is reported elsewhere on News-watch) fits with the Corporation’s overall strongly negative approach to the Brexit vote and to Nigel Farage.

 

Transcript of BBC1, News at Six, 31st August, Polish Man Murdered, 6.22pm

FIONA BRUCE:     Five 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old have been arrested on suspicion of killing a Polish man in Harlow in Essex. Arkadiusz Jóźwik who was 40 was left with fatal head injuries after an unprovoked attack on Saturday night.  Police suspect it may have been racially motivated.  The Polish ambassador to the UK has visited the scene.  Our home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford’s report contains some distressing details.

DANIEL SANDFORD:          On his first day in the job, Poland’s new ambassador to Britain found himself laying flowers, mourning one of his countrymen – a man murdered while eating a pizza in what may have been a racist attack.  This was compounded by that an alleged  friend of the victim

ARKADY RZEGOCKI Polish Ambassador:   I’m really shocked and deeply concerned on this, on this tragedy.  It’s a great tragedy, not only for Polish community but also for, for British community.

DS:           Arkadiusz Jóźwik was 40, he and two friends were attacked just before midnight on Saturday.  Alerted by one of the men who survived, the manager of the pizza takeaway, who didn’t want us to use his name, told us he was the first to find Arkadiusz as he lay dying.

PIZZA TAKEAWAY MANAGER:         He was on the floor and on his side, it’s . . . a lot of thick blood coming out of his left ear on the floor, and very thick, it’s clumped up really. And . . . you could see that it’s . . . it’s really dangerous, he’s badly hurt.

DS:           The fear is that this was a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum.  But while detectives aren’t ruling that out, it may be that Arkadiusz Jóźwik wasn’t targeted because of his race, but simply because he was there when a group of youths was looking for trouble.  People in The Stow shopping precinct said that teenagers had been causing havoc here all summer, and not just harassing Polish people.  But worrying it could be a hate crime, the local MP made this appeal.

ROBERT HALFON MP Conservative, Harlow:           We need to be a kind and decent nation and we shouldn’t allow . . . people who come from the sewers to exploit divisions.

DS:           As people mourn, detectives are pouring through CCTV footage, and have arrested six teenagers, but all have since been released on police bail.  Daniel Sandford, BBC News, Harlow.

 

Transcript of BBC2, Newsnight, 31st August, Polish Man Murdered, 10.44pm

Introduction

EVAN DAVIS:        Also tonight: a Polish man beaten to death in Essex, could it be the latest example of hate crime post-Brexit? And what does it tell us about anti-social behaviour.

ERIC HIND:            Well, to be honest, since the Brexit, I think, you know, all the British people, the Brits here think they’ve got green, er, green light here to do what they want to . . . you know, they feel very kind of, you know, (fragment of word, unclear) secure to . . . to be racist.

Main Report, 10.44pm

EVAN DAVIS:        Now, the town of Harlow in Essex is in something of a state of shock after an attack on two Polish residents on Saturday night, they killed one of them. Arkadiusz Jóźwik died from his injuries on Monday.  Five 15-year-old boys and one 16-year-old boy, all from Harlow, were arrested on suspicion of murder, all but one of them have been bailed.  Now, there are obvious worries in the Polish community, in Harlow at what looks like a hate crime.  The Polish ambassador was in the town today, along with the local MP, to offer support, and our reporter John Sweeney went to hear the local concerns.

JOHN SWEENEY:                  The killing of Arkadiusz Jóźwik, a 40-year-old Pole in Essex was a particular tragedy, and cause for a wider, more general unease about the politics of identity in Britain today.  Saturday night, just before midnight, 15 or 20 youths are here, and they’re trouble.  Arkadiusz the Polishman goes to that pizza restaurant behind me.  His phone rings, he answers it in Polish, and that, people say, is the trigger for what happens next. The story ends with Arkadiusz down on the ground, where those flowers are there now, a dying man. For Poles in Britain, there is mounting anxiety about what happened here. Today, a very public visit from Warsaw’s man in London.

ARKADY RZEGOCKI Polish Ambassador to London:              It’s the beginning of my mission in the United Kingdom, and I’m really shocked and deeply concerned on this, on this tragedy.

JS:            Eric Hind knew the dead man.

ERIC HIND:            Well, to be honest, since the Brexit, I think, you know, all the British people, the Brits here think they’ve got green, er, green light here to do what they want to . . . you know, they feel very kind of, you know, (fragment of word, unclear) secure to . . . to be racist, to, to, to, to, to swear, to say all kind of rude comments, or just to be sarcastic, to, to saying sarcastic comments every day at work. I’ve been there, and, you know, and er . . . it’s not nice.

JS:            All the British people we spoke to told us they were horrified by the killing and had no problem with the Polish community.  Conrad works in the cafe directly opposite the pizza takeaway.  He spoke to us first in English, and then in Polish.

CONRAD:               Three weeks ago, when I was out shopping, there was a group of people sitting on the bench here.  I think they were under the influence of alcohol.  They threw an empty bottle at me, but I didn’t react, I just kept walking, because I didn’t know what would happen, if there wouldn’t be consequences.

JS:            This is not an isolated experience.  What happened here isn’t only a story of the ugly mood in our country post-Brexit. It’s also a story about antisocial behaviour, of people at night being afraid to walk down a British high street.

MANDY SPARKS:                  They terrorise all the shopkeepers. They terrorise people just walking through. It’s awful. Awful. They go into shops, they knock things off shelves, and then walk back out.  Shopkeepers are too scared to say anything.

MAX EDWARDS:                  We have no problem against any foreign people, there is a problem with the police controlling a group of 25 youths, wheeling pushbikes up and down here.  The police have not got the power to come and do it until it’s too late, like today, and now they want to come and deal with the situation.  Well, it’s too late, someone’s died, someone’s lost their family now – all because the police can’t control the situation.  Why is there a group of youths hanging around here anyway?  The police should disperse them.

JS:            It was not supposed to be like this.  12 years ago today, then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, visited Harlow – why? To laud the local success in tackling antisocial behaviour.

ROBERT HALFON MP Harlow (Conservative):          I believe that Harlow is a kind and tolerant place to live, I’m very proud of being MP here.  The vast majority of people are tolerant, we actually have lower levels of antisocial behaviour than other parts, er . . . of Essex, and er, er, the country, relatively.  However of course there are problems in certain areas, we need to find out what has happened.  Today is a day for the family and the Polish community, and the people of Harlow, but we need to find out what has happened, why it’s happened, and lessons that can be learnt from it.

JS:            In Harlow tonight people united for a vigil, but for the town’s Polish community the killing of one of their own makes emotions raw.

ERIC HIND:            (fragment of word, unclear) I don’t know if I can mention names but I mean . . .

JS:            Mention names.

EH:           But I mean, Nigel Farage, I mean, thank you for that, because you are part of this death, and you’ve got blood on your hands, thanks to you, thanks for all your decision, wherever you are, er . . . yeah, it’s your call.

JS:            Nigel Farage has always denied this allegation. As the search for clues and answers continues, the fear is that two poisons have come together to a lethal result.

ED:           John Sweeney in Harlow.

 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, Today, 1st September 2016, Business Update, 8.40am

DOMINIC O’CONNELL:     Ever since the Brexit vote, continental capitals have been laying plans to lure away some big institutions from the City of London, today its Poland’s turn, and with me in the studio is the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, thank you for joining us, minister. What’s the purpose of the trip? You are hoping to persuade some big institutions to invest in Poland?

MATEUSZ MORAWIECKI:                  Good morning (fragments of words, unclear) the first purpose is to make our friendship between the British nation and the Polish nation, and our two countries even stronger.  Poland is a very good place to invest and many British companies know this very well, regardless of British Brexit referendum. Er, we already host lots of international companies from Great Britain, and, and we have a roadshow across many different countries and we invite British companies, German companies, American companies, because they realise . . . and there are lots of assets, we have a highly educated staff, very and erm . . . high level of security, we have just had World Youth Day and no er, crime happened over the five days, and there were . . . this was, the (word unclear) was visited by 2.5 million people.

DO:          But do you think the Brexit vote provides you with an extra opportunity?

MM:        There might be some opportunity, but we simply continue our job we, we, we really are doing similar things than, as we were doing, erm, before the Brexit referendum.  We will be the biggest economy in the European Union, 40 million people nationwide, the biggest economy in Central and Eastern Europe, er, so a land of opportunity for British companies, and we have a very good track record in our GDP growth over the last 25 years, the only country in the European Union that did not have recession, stable in a regulatory environment, so a good place to invest.

DO:          Now Britain, of course, has a large Polish population, do you expect some of them might want to return home after the Brexit vote?

MM:        Yes, I think so, I, I believe there will be many people coming back, I don’t know how many, but, erm, apparently there are some, there are some . . . 900,000 people, er, here in the Great Britain, I think a couple of (fragments of words, unclear) hundreds of thousands, er, may come back over the next five, er, ten years, and Poland is now a very low level of unemployment, highly educated staff and, and businesses are growing as nowhere in Europe.

DO:          And tragically, we had a Polish man attacked and killed in Harlow in Essex on Saturday, do you fear actually that some Poles might be motivated to return simply because they fear the Brexit vote has stirred some racist feeling against them?

MM:        This is a very sad day, this was a very sad day (words unclear ‘a sad event day’?) er, I think this, this might be the case that some people might think about this in that context, I know one line of the investigation erm, investigation by the police was that it might have been a, a hate crime, it remains to be seen what were the reasons, so condolences for the family and for the local community, I hope it will never happen again, but, but, but yes, this will, this will pose a question mark in many families, Polish families in Great Britain.

DO:          Thank you very much, Mateusz Morawiecki

 

BBC comedy ’spoof’ about Farage sounds alarm bells

BBC comedy ’spoof’ about Farage sounds alarm bells

So finally, then, the BBC is going to make a programme about Nigel Farage.

Not – as might maybe expected from the UK’s main public service broadcaster – a documentary explaining his remarkable role over 20 years in triggering the UK’s exit from the European Union.

That’s not yet in the pipeline. The Corporation is still far too busy finding different ways of telling us what a mistake Brexit is. Monday’s Today programme, for example, had an Oxford historian commenting on whether it was a foreign policy disaster that ranked with Suez.

No, instead, the boys and girls in the BBC so-called comedy department – fresh from this week’s disastrous re-make of Are You Being Served? – have in mind something a bit more in keeping with their thoughts about the former Ukip leader.

For those who did not have the doubtful pleasure of seeing the Grace Brothers’ revival episode, Michael Horgan, the Daily Telegraph’s TV reviewer is helpfully to hand. Among his comments were that it ‘crammed innuendos into the script with a crowbar’, and he then noted:

‘It was 12 minutes before candyfloss-haired Mrs Slocombe (played by a gurning, hammy Sherrie Hewson) made the first reference to her pussy and 17 minutes until Mr Humphries (Jason Watkins) trilled “I’m free”. Both were greeted with cheers yet it wasn’t enough to save this turgid, interminable half-hour.’

What Horgan didn’t say was that the script, by Benidorm writer Derren Litten, also converted the department store’s Young Mr Grace into a nasty speculative, people-hating opportunistic, capitalist who could have walked straight out of the pages of Jeremy Corbyn’s ’nationalise everything’ policy manual. How very, very BBC.

So what do the comedy department plan for Farage? According to the Radio Times, it’s a jolly one-off ‘special’ called Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back, and it will feature ‘the former politician coping with life out of the limelight’.

Now, of course, it may be that something very funny is on the drawing board. And politicians must expect to be the target of satire and mickey-taking as part of being held to account.

The BBC news department – and especially presenters such as Evan Davis – have always faithfully delivered in this respect. They have with clockwork reliability in dozens of interviews treated Farage as something of a a joke, and mechanically – even maniacally – asked questions about him being the BNP in blazers, a one-trick wonder, and worse.

Former BBC perennial presenter Sandi Toksvig – whose mindset underpins much of BBC comedy – was also in on the act, though a touch less subtly. She compared Farage to Hitler at the Hay literary festival.

Something in this equation of Farage + the BBC + comedy sets special alarm bells ringing. One clue is that ‘insiders’ told the Radio Times that his character was already being described as a ‘cross between Basil Fawlty and Enoch Powell.’

A second flash of warning comes from Kevin Bishop, the actor/comedian who has been selected to play Farage. He told the Radio Times:

‘Nigel Farage is the gift that keeps on giving…there is the moustache and now the appearance at the Trump rally, it’s going to be fun’.

Now, of course that might be true. But somehow, in a ‘spoof’ project emanating from the BBC, that juxtaposition suggests that ‘fun’ is likely to be the perennial, wearisome innuendos about of racism and right-wing extremism that have been the hallmark of the Corporation’s entire treatment of Farage.

Craig Byers, of Is the BBC Biased?, has observed:

‘And yes, alas, apparently his wife really will be brought into the mockery too. Which other well-known politician would the BBC do this to? Astonishingly, reports even say, “If the episode is a success it could be given the green light to be turned into a full series”. Just imagine that with your ‘BBC impartiality’ hats on!’

Quite. The BBC would do this to no other politician. Not even Jeremy Corbyn.

Photo by Jennifer Jane Mills

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.

 

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