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R4 Brexit Street maligns ‘out’ voters

R4 Brexit Street maligns ‘out’ voters

What could be the biggest threat to Brexit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC snooping intensifies in pursuit of iPlayer licence-fee dodgers

BBC snooping intensifies in pursuit of iPlayer licence-fee dodgers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by dan taylor

Can new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley Sort Out BBC Bias?

Can new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley Sort Out BBC Bias?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Foreign and Commonwealth Office

BBC Front Row: Brexit ‘threatens to generate riots’

BBC Front Row: Brexit ‘threatens to generate riots’

Guest post from The Conservative Woman by Mark Ellse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Benny457

Referendum Blog: June 22

Referendum Blog: June 22

COX BIAS: The lead posting on News-watch about Nigel Farage demonstrates that since the murder of Jo Cox, much BBC coverage has emphasised that those who are opposed to the EU because of related immigration pressures are fired by ‘hatred’.  It has become a ‘dog-whistle’ word. In the BBC1 debate from Wembley last night, London Mayor Sadiq Khan amplified this message in his careful mirroring use of the ‘hate’ word in his remarks about ‘leave’s’ immigration policy. In turn, BBC1 News at Ten continued the ‘hatred’ emphasis by choosing Khan’s soundbite to lead the bulletin headlines.

Clause 5.1 of the BBC’s referendum guidelines (printed in full below) sets out that during the referendum campaign, major news stories not directly on the referendum patch must be treated with great care so that they do not contain bias on referendum issues. The BBC’s editorial handling of the fall-out from the death of Jo Cox – and its related maligning of Nigel Farage over his ‘inflammatory’ anti-immigration poster and related remarks – is thus a clear breach against the ‘exit’ side.

This breach was exaggerated hugely on BBC1’s News at 10 last night (June 21) by the inclusion of an interview with Jo Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox. Laura Kuenssberg, the Corporation’s Political Editor, deliberately steered him towards explaining what ‘hatred’ meant in the context of the EU referendum. This was the relevant extract:

LAURA KUENSSBERG:        Was she worried about our current political culture, do you think?

BRENDAN COX:        Yeah, very worried, erm . . . er, and from left and right. I, I think she was very worried that the . . . the language was coarsening, that people were being driven to . . . er, take more extreme, erm, positions. I think she worried that we were entering an age that  . . .  erm, we hadn’t seen maybe since the 1930s of . . . erm . . .  people  . . .  people feeling insecure, for lots of different reasons, for economic reasons or . . .  security reasons and then . . .  populist politicians, whether that’s Trump in the US or whoever else, exploiting that and, and driving communities to hate each other.

LK:         And this, of course, has happened at a time when Britain is engaged in a big national conversation about our place in the world and our place in Europe. We know that she was clearly for staying in the European Union, but what did she make of how the conversation’s been conducted?

BC:        I think, as everybody knows, that Jo was a passionate pro-European and she definitely worried about the tone of the debate around this. Not that it’s not a legitimate debate to have and that there aren’t completely legitimate views on both sides of the debate, but more about the tone of  . . . erm, of whipping up fears and whipping up, erm, er hatred.

LK:         Do you worry now about people using her in the political debate?

BC:        She was a politician and she had very strong political views and erm  . . . I believe she was killed, erm . . . because of those views. I think she died because of them. And she would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life.

Mr Cox pointed out that there were legitimate aspects of the EU-related debate, but the audience could be left in no doubt that ‘populist’ politicians (a word frequently used in BBC reports to define groups who oppose immigration) were ‘whipping up hatred’. He did not name Nigel Farage but there could be little or no doubt whom he meant.

This sequence and those words in a bulletin which led with a soundbite about hatred from Sadiq Khan was thus deeply biased against the ‘exit’ side.  It should not have been included without balancing comment. The breach of 5.1 was made worse by that Kuenssberg deliberately elicited his comments in a way that linked them directly to the referendum.

There is a further dear danger here.  Today (June 22), has been designated by powerful PR companies Portland Communications and Freud’s. as Jo Cox day, with her central message about ‘hate’ at its core.   It is likely that the Brendan Cox interview with Kuenssberg – billed as his first ‘media’ interview – was a curtain-raiser to the day. The suspicion is that the BBC are already therefore closely involved – and that their coverage of the ‘hatred’ word will continue with huge emphasis into evening bulletins.

This is the on the eve of the poll and without question, the ‘hate’ message is so loaded and so emotive that it could sway voters. If the BBC is not careful, and does not change tack so that it follows its own referendum guidelines, it will be arguably guilty of vote-rigging.

EU Referendum Guidlines: 5.1 Political issues

The cut and thrust of other political stories, which may relate either in part or be separate from the issues of the referendum, will continue during the campaign period.   These should be covered in the normal way, with content producers having regard for the general requirement of due accuracy and impartiality, but also aware of any possible influence of other political coverage on the referendum campaign.

In particular, content producers should take care in considering whether, in covering issues such as the economy, migration, environmental issues etc, they may have direct relevance to the referendum debate, or be perceived as relating to the question of the referendum.

If the Referendum Period overlaps with an election period, content producers must also take account of the Election Guidelines and ensure due impartiality is achieved with regard to both votes.

Where prominent campaigners have other roles – political or non-political – care should be taken to ensure that they do not gain an unfair advantage in the referendum campaign.  Where, for instance, an interviewee (such as a Minister or shadow Minister at Westminster) is discussing a separate political issue and makes a significant reference to the referendum campaign, content producers may need to take steps to ensure there is appropriate balance.  It may be necessary for producers – especially in live output – to remind contributors, when they have been invited to take part in items which are not connected to the referendum, to limit their comments to those issues.

 

 

Referendum Blog: June 14

Referendum Blog: June 14

BERLIN BIAS:BC Radio 1 decided to visit Germany in its Newsbeat bulletin yesterday evening. The referendum vote is now fast approaching…and the need for balance, it would be thought, would demand a variety of opinions would be included. Wrong.  It was what could best be described as a deluge of pro-Remain propaganda. Reporter Greg Dawson first set the scene by noting that on the Brandenburg Gate – in the tourism centre of Berlin – you could not miss the EU flag. Contributor Nicklaus stepped in to say:

The flag symbolise (sic) unity, freedom . . . freedom of rights, freedom of speech.

Dawson expanded on the theme, and noted that the flag also flew from ‘several buildings here, even the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament’.  He added:

You don’t get that in Westminster.

Now it was the turn of contributor Hendrik. He declared:

The pride is not coming from seeing the flag, but more like seeing Germany as a part of Europe.

In case the listener had missed it, Dawson then chipped in to emphasise their point, and noted  that they were both ‘proud Germans’ – but ‘feel strongly tied to  the European Union’.  Hendrik reinforced the theme. He said:

The EU encourages peace all over Europe, so that’s basically the achievement of the whole European Union. And maintain this peace.

Dawson now warmed to the peace theme. He suggested that Berlin was a city ‘with a lot of history, much of it bleak’, and pointed out that reminders of World War II were never far away. He observed:

People here think the decades of peace since then has much to do with the EU.

The next contributor reinforced that. He warned that if Britain left the EU,  the stability (created by the EU) would not be guaranteed any more. To ram home his message about the need to stay, he added:

If Britain would leave, I feel like this stability would not be guaranteed any more. I think the UK at the moment is a very strong player in the European Union, if they don’t see it sometimes maybe.

Next up was Arthur, a Briton who had moved to Germany to work. He, too, seemed very unhappy about the prospect of the UK leaving the EU.  He declared:

My name is Arthur, I’m from Essex in the UK, I moved out here to take a job, I basically had to fill in no paperwork, there was no risk for me, I just turned up and it’s weird to think that all of that might disappear after June 23.

Mel, from Derby, also working in Berlin, also warned about  the problems of leaving:

Being in the EU it’s kind of, it’s kind of . . . it’s brought a lot of benefits more than it brings negatives I think.

Dawson then piled in with an explanation, He said:

That’s probably not very surprising to hear British people living in another EU country being so in favour of Remain. But it’s not just the expats. Germany does a huge amount of trade with the UK. That noise you can hear in the background is one of the big sellers – last year, about one in five German cars was sold in Britain, and there are worries here about what Brexit means for business.

To magnify how important those concerns were, Dawson then spoke to Markus Kerber, who, said Dawson, ran the German Federation of Industries, ‘a group of more than 100,000 German companies including BMW’.  He helpfully explained – presumably to emphasise the importance of the latter company to UK trade – that BMW made the Mini, ‘a car make in the UK’.  Kerber said:

Hundreds of Britons involved in producing that car regularly travel and get trained in Germany, and all that, I think, would become a little bit more difficult – and I’m not sure whether the parent company BMW would see that necessarily as an incentive to invest more in that company.

Dawson wondered whether Germany was acting in self-interest to push the ‘don’t leave’ message.

No, said Kerber:

I don’t think we’re acting in self-interest, we’re acting out of the common interest between Britain and Germany that together we cannot only shaped the European Union, but we can shape many, many other parts of the world.

Analysis

This was not a news item, but rather could have been put together as a party political broadcast on behalf of the ‘remain’ camp.  Every aspect was positive towards the EU and the UK remaining within it – the framing around the EU flag, the selection of the first vox pop contributors, the observations of the Britons working in Germany and finally the warning from a nigh-level German businessman that if the UK withdrew, BMW was likely to cut back on investment in the Mini. The feature was edited to put across the core message that the EU was responsible for peace in Europe, that it brought co-operation and jobs between member countries and was the passport for industrial expansion in the wider world.

Questions the BBC must answer here are whether equivalent balancing material has been broadcast elsewhere. News-watch monitoring suggests otherwise, and – for example – Mark Mardell on the World This Weekend and World Tonight have broadcast from Berlin similarly pro-EU material.

It seems scarcely credible that with the referendum just days away, such a blatantly one-sided piece was broadcast. It would have been relatively easy to introduce contrasting opinion in this item.

An issue here is that the BBC are not transparent about how they are keeping track of bias – the Complaints website has no record of any EU-related complaints, and programmes such as ‘Feedback’ have also carried minimal material on the referendum.

Full Transcript:

BBC Radio 1, Newsbeat, 13th June 2016, EU Referendum and Germany, 5.53pm

PRESENTER:       We’re off to Germany next, just ten days to go now before many of us make a massive decision about our future. So should that future be inside or out of the European Union? Our politics reporter Greg Dawson has been to Berlin, where the main message seems to be ‘please don’t go’

GREG DAWSON:              We’re in Pariser Platz, one of the most touristy areas of Berlin, all the cameras here point towards the Brandenburg Gate, one of the city’s main landmarks.  And here’s another thing you can’t miss:

NICKLAUS:          The flag symbolise (sic) unity, freedom . . .  freedom of rights, freedom of speech.

GD:        The EU flag flies from several buildings here, even the Reichstag Germany’s parliament. You don’t get that in Westminster.

HENDRIK:           The pride is not coming from seeing the flag, but more like seeing Germany as a part of Europe.  My name is Hendrik, I’m from Düsseldorf in Germany.

N:          I’m Nicklaus, I’m from Flansberg, a northern town in Germany.

GD:        Nicklaus and Hendrik say they’re both proud Germans, but feel strongly tied to the European Union.

H:          The EU encourages peace all over Europe, so that’s basically the achievement of the  whole European Union. And maintain this peace.

GD:        Berlin is a city with a lot of history, much of it bleak.  The reminders of World War II are never far away, with memorials and even the shells of bombed out buildings.  People here think the decades of peace since then has much to do with the EU.

If Britain would leave, I feel like this stability would not be guaranteed any more.  I think the UK at the moment is a very strong player in the European Union, if they don’t see it sometimes maybe.

GD:        Another thing you notice as you move around Berlin: British accents.  In recent years, the city’s become home to thousands of young people who’ve left the UK to settle here.

ARTHUR:            My name is Arthur, I’m from Essex in the UK, I moved out here to take a job, I basically had to fill in no paperwork, there was no risk for me, I just turned up and it’s weird to think that all of that might disappear after June 23.

MEL:     Hi, I’m Mel, I’m from Derby.

GD:        How long have you lived in Berlin?

MEL:     About five months now.  Being in the EU it’s kind of, it’s kind of . . . it’s brought a lot of benefits more than it brings negatives I think.

GD:        That’s probably not very surprising to hear British people living in another EU country being so in favour of Remain.  But it’s not just the expats.  Germany does a huge amount of trade with the UK.  That noise you can hear in the background is one of the big sellers – last year, about one in five German cars was sold in Britain, and there are worries here about what Brexit means for business.

MARKUS KERBER:           Britain is our second biggest trading partner. We’re probably not closer to anyone else but, er, Britain.

GD:        Markus Kerber runs the German Federation of industries, a group of more than 100,000 German companies, including BMW who own mini, a car made in the UK.

MK:       Hundreds of Britons involved in producing that car regularly travel and get trained in Germany, and all that, I think, would become a little bit more difficult – and I’m not sure whether the parent company BMW would see that necessarily as an incentive to invest more in that company.

GD:        Is this Germany acting in self-interest to say, ‘don’t leave’, because of the impact it might have on your economy?

MK:       I don’t think we’re acting in self-interest, we’re acting out of the common interest between Britain and Germany that together we cannot only shaped the European Union, but we can shape many, many other parts of the world.

 

 

Photo by masochismtango

Referendum Blog: June 6

Referendum Blog: June 6

‘ABOMINABLE BIAS’: Andrew Marr interviewed John Major and Boris Johnson on his show yesterday (5 June). The BBC has characterised in other commentary the battle now as a ‘blue on blue’ fight, and with only two Sunday shows to go before the referendum, these were ‘big beast’ interviews where there would be expected to be scrupulously balance. There emphatically was not.

One set of indicators were that Sir John Major was interrupted 1.4 times per minute, compared to Boris Johnson 3.4 times. Overall John Major was interrupted 22 times, and Boris Johnson was interrupted 60 times. The Major interview was slightly shorter, at 15 min 55 seconds compared to 17 min 34 seconds, but the difference in words – approx. 3,000 in the Major sequence, 3,600 with Boris –  was the result of different rates of delivery, for example John Major speaking more slowly and more emphatically. The Major interview was also not as confrontational, which also meant the word count was lower.

Of course words alone and rates of interruption are not measures of bias. But in this case they were important pointers because – as will be shown in the analysis below – Marr’s approach to Major was mainly to ask him his views and then to let him speak, with only a few challenging or adversarial questions. With Johnson, the approach was mainly confrontational, including allegations that the campaign in which he (Johnson) was a lead figure, was telling on occasions a ‘flat lie’ to voters.

Marr’s approach to Major – as already noted – was mainly to let him outline his case that Vote Leave was advancing ‘squalid’ arguments in their cause.  His first questions, in effect, gave Major a platform to confirm his views that Leave was guilty of deceit. The only points put to him that were slightly adversarial were that Leave was reflecting genuine concerns about immigration, that concern about Turkey joining the EU was genuine, too, because the effects of the referendum vote would apply for 30 or 50 years in the future, and that the direction of travel of the EU was towards a super-state.  Nothing was taxing, Marr gave Major plenty of space to put his answers (the longest response was 372 words), and he had a platform to attack attacked the Leave side with finger-pointing, anger-filled vitriol.  Marr did little to get in the way of this onslaught.

The approach of Marr to Johnson, as has already been partly established by the much higher rate of interruptions, was very different: much more adversarial and challenging.  The longest answer or explanation given by Johnson was around 220 words, and most responses were shorter than 100 words. He had less time for detailed explanation.

Further, Marr used several of the points put by Major as means of attack. He had been provided with ammo which Marr used without compunction. His questioning was focused onthe credibility of the Leave campaign in line with what Sir John Major had alleged. He put it to him that Leave’s claim that EU membership cost £350m a week was ‘squalid’ (adding that the money that came back helped farmers and universities); suggested that the economic performance of the single market was getting better, and even though VL wanted to leave it Johnson had accepted it could cause business uncertainty; that Johnson was saying that David Cameron was untrustworthy, thus personalising the campaign that the VL claim that Turkey would join the EU imminently was wrong; that Johnson had been wrong to mention Hitler in connection with the EU because the EU had been created to ensure European peace; that he had changed his mind about wanting Turkey to join the EU; that his campaign’s  claims about Turkey  were a flat lie and ‘hogwash’; that in the Turkey and the £350m claims, he and the leave side were engaging in ‘untruth politics’, that because of what was happening the Conservative party was falling apart;  and that Major had said that he was pursuing ‘out’ only for personal ambition, he was  following ‘the best route to Downing Street’.

In addition to this, in the interview of Johnson was a central hugely controversial point made by Andrew Marr that undermined both his credibility and suggested that in his views of the EU, he is not impartial. He put it categorically to Johnson that the he had been wrong to raise Hitler in connection with the EU because it had created to ensure peace, whereas Hitler had been bent on pitching nation states against each other. He stated:

‘In terms of the big picture, isn’t it pretty abominable to compare what the EU as it is today with Hitler and don’t you regret that? Hitler believed in strong nation states fighting each other which has been a long European tradition going right back to Gustavus Adophus and all the rest of it. It’s what the Europeans did and we were drawn in again and again and again. And the EU was set up to stop that happening and we have both lived through a period of peace which the EU has to be given some credit for’.

The reality is that the EU was not set up to establish peace.  Peace after the Second World War and into the Cold War was created in ‘Europe’ long before the EU was established by NATO. The EU itself did not exist in its present form until 1992, and before that, its successor body, the EEC had no major role in foreign policy, it was primarily a customs union.  The EU’s alleged role as the creator of peace on the European continent is therefore a myth perpetuated primarily by the EU itself and parroted by Europhiles as a reason for not limiting its powers. The real ideological reason that the EU was set up was that Jean Monnet, the prime mover in steps towards what became the EU from the 1920s onwards, wanted to hobble the sovereignty of Europe by creating a technocratic ruling body that would take their place. His vision of a EU driving force loyal to only the EU itself is now embodied in the European Commission.

For many reasons, therefore, this was seriously unbalanced journalism. Marr gave Johnson a far tougher time, and isolated out that the Leave side was conducting a campaign that included a central ‘flat lie’, ‘abominable’ references to Hitler, and general political untruths.  No similar claims were put to Sir John Major about controversy (for example) linked to ‘remain’ predictions about the dire economic and social consequences that would follow exit.  Marr himself showed his own political bias in the erroneous claims about the origin of the EU, and also ignorance. He compounded that by making this the basis for his claim that Johnson’s conduct had been ‘abominable’.

BBC Transcript of Interview with Sir John Major

BBC Transcript of Interview with Boris Johnson

 

 

Referendum Blog: June 5

Referendum Blog: June 5

FEEDBACK BIAS: Radio 4’s Feedback, presented by Roger Bolton, ostensibly examined on Friday listeners’ concerns that BBC coverage was favouring the remain side in the EU referendum debate. Michael Yardley from Colchester said:

….I’m concerned about the way the referendum’s being reported by the BBC. It’s my impression that Remain gets better placement in BBC headlines. I also think there’s been a failure to emphasise that many fear-inducing statistical projections made by the Remain lobby are just estimates, guesswork.

Now Roger Bolton – who was editor of Panorama when members of his staff controversially kow-towed to the IRA at Carrickmore – has got form in terms of bias in the presentation of Feedback. In the week when the EU referendum was confirmed back in February, he noted that there had already been listeners’ complaints and observed:

We begin with the much-anticipated announcement of a referendum on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union. And some listeners are already lining up to shoot the messenger.

Before he had even explained what the complaints were, or given any of the complainants a chance to be heard, he was thus dismissing the idea of BBC bias – complainants were simply shooting the messenger.

Four months on, with the referendum now fast approaching, has he and his programme improved at all?

The first point to note is that Yardley’s main point, that ‘remain guests ‘get better placement in BBC headlines’, was not dealt with at all. BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith – who was asked by Bolton to respond to the various points raised by listeners and viewers, did not refer to it, and neither did Bolton.

In the absence of such a response, relevant here is a tally Craig Byers has been keeping on his Is the BBC Biased? website. He noted on 30/5 that in editions of BBC1’s News at Six programme containing headlines about the EU referendum, 21 had led with points from the remain side, whereas only seven were the other way round.  That’s a ratio of 3:1.

The question that Smith did try to answer from Yardley was whether there was a ‘failure to emphasise that many fear-inducing statistical projections made by the Remain lobby are just estimates, guesswork.’ Bolton re-framed this and put it to Smith:

But I wonder if you’re also erm . . . finding it a little difficult to, er, how can I say? Take sides in the way perhaps BBC listeners would like you to take sides on matters of fact. Where one side makes a statement and another one, just, ‘Well that’s not true, it’s all rubbish’, whatever, but are you reluctant to go any further than simply say, ‘One side says this, the other side says the other.’

Smith’s response was extraordinary. He said first that the BBC so much leaned towards the need for impartiality, that they sometimes did not make judgment calls ‘that should be made’.  He cited the example of the Leave side claiming that Turkey would join the EU, and asserted that this was ‘factually wrong’ but said that there had been a lot of debate inside the BBC about this, and that this was diluted within the journalistic commentary to ‘Remain has said this is wrong’.

He stated:

in other words, we attributed the assessment to the Remain side, when we could, of our own, say ‘No, that is factually wrong.’ But, because as an organisation, more than any other organisation, there is a massive pressure and premium on fairness, on balance, on impartiality, I suspect we, we hold back from making those sort of calls, and I do think that, potentially, is a disservice to the listener and viewer.

Bolton then asked him about the BBC stating what the ‘facts’ were in the debate. Smith said there was so much controversy and complexity involved in what were ‘facts’ that it was ‘very difficult to present viewers and listeners with a whole string of unequivocal, clear as daylight facts about the EU.’

The implication being clearly that this was something that was not happening because of the difficulties involved.  Bolton did not press him further on the point and listener Yardley’s point was thus left dangling, there, only partly answered. What Smith did say was entirely in the BBC’s favour – in effect, they were so motivated by journalistic integrity they erred on the side of caution.

Is this true? Well, over recent days, BBC reporters have frequently noted that the economic part of the referendum debate is not the Leave side’s strongest suite, and when leave figures have tried to argue economic points, those same correspondents have stressed how many economists disagree.

In the same vein, the Vote Leave claim that EU membership costs the UK £350m a week has been subject to extremely close scrutiny on all BBC outlets, to the extent when on Today an 18-year-old ‘exit’ supporter mentioned the figure in passing, veteran BBC correspondent James Naughtie snapped at him in headmasterly tones and told him that he was definitely wrong (because the Commons’ Treasury Select Committee said so).

Various BBC programmes, such as Breakfast, have also wheeled out graphics to show how wrong the figure is.

Overall, Feedback was strongly biased against the complaint from Yardley, as it was against the Brexit side.  It was dismissed without considering the key points he made, and with undue focus on erroneous claims made by the Brexit side. Such cavalier dismissal of complaints is  endemic within the BBC.

Full Transcript:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Feedback, 3rd June 2016, Norman Smith and EU Referendum Coverage, 4.30pm

ANNOUNCER:    Now it’s time for Feedback with to Roger Bolton who talks to Norman Smith about listeners views of the BBC’s EU referendum reporting. He reveals which programmes listeners would like to hear much more of and asks is Radio 4 too posh?

ROGER BOLTON:             Hello. Three weeks to go to the biggest political decision for decades and the air is full of personal abuse, internecine strife and questionable statistics. Have you made your mind up yet and is the BBC’s European referendum reporting helping you decide where to place your cross? And who controls the agenda?

NORMAN SMITH:            We are there to report what the main combatants in this referendum say, do, argue and if they keep going on about the economy and immigration then I’m afraid the gravitational pull for us to do so, I think is pretty immense.

RB:        In feedback this week, the BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith admits that the BBC could be bolder in its coverage and that sometimes a desire to be impartial gets in the way. The immigration question has dominated the last few days of the euro debate and Pakistani immigrant families were at the heart of the latest instalment of the Radio 4 series Born in Bradford the presenter is Winifred Robinson.

Extract from ‘Born in Bradford’ and a comment on ‘From Our Home Correspondent’.

RB:        But first, to Westminster. I’m standing outside the Houses of Parliament where party politics are the order of the day and which is usually the centre of political coverage. Not for the next three weeks. The European referendum debate that split the parties, split the countries of the UK, and the vote that matters will not take place in parliament but all over the country on June 23rd. How well has the BBC has been covering this crucial debate which will decide our future for years, probably decades ahead? Here are some of your views.

MICHAEL YARDLEY:        It’s Michael Yardley and I live near Colchester in Essex. I’m concerned about the way the referendum’s being reported by the BBC. It’s my impression that Remain gets better placement in BBC headlines. I also think there’s been a failure to emphasise that many fear-inducing statistical projections made by the Remain lobby are just estimates, guesswork.

LEON DEVINE (phonetic) Hi, this is Leon Devine from Worksop in North Nottinghamshire. The whole debate seems to more about the leadership issue in the Tory party rather than the issues behind the referendum. I think the coverage from the BBC has been more geared to generating controversy rather than illuminating some of the issues.

RB:        One of the corporation’s key journalists covering the campaign is its assistant political editor Norman Smith and I’m going to the BBC newsroom in the Milbank building behind me, to put to him some of your concerns about the coverage. Norman Smith how long have you been covering this campaign, does it seem most of your life?

NORMAN SMITH:            It has been, I suppose, the longest running story in British politics because it is the fundamental story of who are we? Are we’re part of Europe or are we something slightly different? It’s about identity, it’s about those fundamental questions of democracy and sovereignty so it is one of the defining political stories which has shaped our whole political narrative, certainly since I’ve been working as a political journalist.

RB:        And yet, there has been criticism of the coverage of this campaign, some from our listeners, some from other figures, for example John Snow said that it erm . . .  was an abusive and boring EU referendum campaign, he cannot remember a worse tempered one. Do you agree with him?

NS:        I don’t actually, no.  I know what he’s driving at, and that the level of invective, acrimony, even personal abuse, has been pretty ferocious, but I think also we have tapped into some of the big issues and big arguments. I mean, most obviously immigration is right up there in the headlights and we have delved into the arguments about levels of immigration, are they sustainable, what can we do about it and I think it’s also reflected in arguments about the economy. So I don’t accept that it has just been a sort of ‘he said, she said’ row, I think actually there has been quite a lot of grit to this debate.

RB:        It has of course been a fight for the agenda, each side trying to choose the territory they feel is most favourable to them.  You’ve got a dilemma, haven’t you?  On the one hand, you’ve got to report the debates that . . . is happening, on the other hand, you have a wider responsibility to cover the issues that you may, and the BBC may believe are really important and should be taken into consideration?

NS:        Hmm.

RB:        How do you deal with that?

NS:        I think there are limits to how far you can book the news agenda and say, ‘enough immigration’, ‘enough economy’, we think we really ought to be talking about the impact on agriculture or universities.  We are there to report what the main combatants in this referendum say, do, argue.  I don’t think it’s up to us to, as it were, go AWOL and say, ‘Well, fine, but we’re actually going to talk about this, because we think that’s what voters are interested in.’ I think we are to some extent bound to reflect their arguments, and if they keep going on about the economy and immigration then I’m afraid the gravitational pull for us to do so, I think is pretty immense.

RB:        You see, again, criticism from some of our listeners, but also, I think, contained into academic reports suggest a degree of bias and concerns about who is appearing.  Leon Devine says, for example, who tweeted us to say, why Tory politicians dominating the airwaves, while others, especially from smaller parties are ignored.

NS:        I guess because the Tory story plays to a bigger narrative about who governs the country after the referendum. So there is, editorially, a pull because of all the question marks about Cameron . . . leadership.

RB:        But I wonder if you’re also erm . . . finding it a little difficult to, er, how can I say? Take sides in the way perhaps BBC listeners would like you to take sides on matters of fact. Where one side makes a statement and another one, just, ‘Well that’s not true, it’s all rubbish’, whatever, but are you reluctant to go any further than simply say, ‘One side says this, the other side says the other.’

NS:        Well, I, I think that is a valid criticism. There is an instinctive bias in the BBC towards impartiality, to the exclusion, sometimes maybe of making judgement calls that we can and should make.  We are very, very . . . cautious about saying something is factually wrong. As I think as an organisation we could be more muscular about it.  I’ll give you an example, which is one that cropped up, and there was a lot of debate within the BBC about it, was when the Brexit campaign suggested that Turkey was poised to join the EU, and that there was nothing we could do about it. Now that is factually wrong, but when we initially covered the story, I think we said along the lines of ‘Remain had said that is wrong’ – in other words, we attributed the assessment to the Remain side, when we could, of our own, say ‘No, that is factually wrong.’ But, because as an organisation, more than any other organisation, there is a massive pressure and premium on fairness, on balance, on impartiality, I suspect we, we hold back from making those sort of calls, and I do think that, potentially, is a disservice to the listener and viewer.

RB:        But perhaps there is a larger problem that you face – which is . . . we in the country in a very long campaign, a lot of us haven’t made up our minds, in a way want you to tell us how to vote, want you to give us facts.  And there are some facts, but in most instances, this is a matter of judgement, er, about the future, but about a value system about what we hold most dear . . .

NS:        Hmm.

RB:        . . . and you can’t tell us, the answer . . .

NS:        (speaking over) No, I mean . . .

RB:        . . . to those things, can you?

NS:        I’ve done things for erm . . . telly and radio, along the lines of ‘EU Fact or Fiction’ and they are complete nightmares to do, because every fact is a matter of argument, there are, there are no sort of biblical tablets of stone which empirically prove one thing or the other, they are used as ammunition in both camps. And it is very difficult to present viewers and listeners with a whole string of unequivocal, clear as daylight facts about the EU.  And I suspect that is the subject of huge frustration for listeners, as indeed it is, indeed, the journalists.

RB:        Tell me, the answer to this honestly – are you enjoying this debate?

NS:        It’s incredibly physically wearing, because it is honestly exactly like a general election, except it’s a general election which seems to have gone on even longer. But it is enjoyable, because it’s one of those moments in your journalistic life when you are on the cusp of history, because of the decisions we make are momentous, and they will affect not just me but my children and grandchildren, so you genuinely feel you are sort of there is history is being made, and that’s a huge privilege.

RB:        My thanks to Norman Smith, the BBC’s assistant political editor.  The referendum will continue to be a subject that listeners have strong views on, of course, in the meantime I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on referendum coverage or anything you’ve heard on BBC radio lately, good or bad.

Photo by James Cridland

Referendum Blog: June 2

Referendum Blog: June 2

NAUGHTIE BIAS: On Tuesday, James Naughtie, now a roving BBC correspondent emeritus, assembled three Today features about the Scottish reaction to the EU referendum. They were seriously imbalanced towards the ‘remain’ side.

In the opening sequence, at 6.42am, Naughtie explored the views of a young ‘remain’ supporter and an ‘exit’ counterpart. Eloise Reinhardt, the remain speaker, was asked to contribute first and Naughtie let her make her point uninterrupted. Ewan Blockley, who was in favour of ‘out’, contributed next. After speaking less than 30 words, he was interrupted by Naughtie, who told him that his £350m figure for the cost of EU membership was bogus. Naughtie intervened again to stress that it was the Treasury Select Committee that said so.

Before Blockley could explain more, Naughtie cut him off and returned to Reinhardt. At this point, he shifted the agenda.  He suggested to her that if the national vote was leave on June 23, the majority of Scots would want a second referendum on Scottish independence, then that this could lead to Scotland joining the euro. This gave Reinhardt a platform to say she was   a strong believer in Europe because it supported smaller countries.

The agenda had thus been narrowed by Naughtie to consideration of the possibility of a second referendum. On that basis, he asked Blockley  how Scottish independence fed into the ‘Europe’ debate. Blockley replied that there had already been a vote on independence and it stood.

Naughtie then put it to Blockley that the Conservative party in Scotland under Ruth Davidson was more in favour of ‘remain’ than the party as a whole. His observation and question formed the longest contribution so far. It was thus posed a s a major point.

Blockley’s response was that he did not agree and that opinion about ‘leave’ among MSPs was being hushed up.

Naughtie chose not to explore that and turned again to Reinhardt. He reminded listeners that under 16s had voted in the independence referendum. This led Reinhardt to observe:

I think, especially among my generation, I think that erm . . . it was really important, it’s really important to stay within the EU. A lot of people are concerned with jobs, especially at my age we’re all leaving school are looking for jobs, and there was a statistic the other day, something like one in ten jobs are directly linked to our membership of the EU.

Naughtie asked her whether she believed this scare stuff – such as the bogus figure of £350m mentioned by Blockley – because her side had argued at the last referendum that George Osborne had led Project Fear north of the border. He noted that the ‘leave’ side was now claiming that ‘remain’ was a new Project Fear, Did she now believe what was being said?

Her response was that there had been ‘many mixed messages’ that were difficult to decipher. Naughtie – before she answered fully, thus letting her off the hook – asked Blockley why he did not believe the Chancellor, because he was a Conservative. Blockley confirmed he didn’t believe him. Naughtie stressed this was a contradiction, and Reinhardt joined in at this point by laughing.  Blockley said there were definitely differing views (within the Conservative party) but now Osborne was getting his statistics from the CBI and institutions funded by Brussels.

Naughtie again switched emphasis and asked both interviewees if their arguments were based on faith or facts. Both said it was both.  Naughtie finally asked Reinhardt if remain was going to win. She said it would definitely do so. He asked Blockley if his side could ‘pull back’. He replied they could.

Overall, Naughtie’s editing and presentation of this feature led to a strongly favourable projection of the remain case in Scotland.  Blockley was specifically challenged over his figures  pushed continually on the back foot and asked to explain what Naughtie perceived were contradictions in his stance. Naughtie emphasised that the Tories were split on this issue, but less split in Scotland, and favoured ‘remain’. Blockley’s responses to the barrage of pressure were of necessity fragmented and incomplete; he was given no opportunity to offer an uninterrupted expression of the ‘leave’ case from the Scottish perspective. The points that he was able to make were only that   that he believed in sovereignty, democratic will and economic prudence…the figure going from the UK to Brussels was too much; that the ‘leave’ component in the Scottish Conservative party was being hushed up, and that he believed that George Osborne’s Project Fear figures were being fed by the CBI and other Brussels’ sources.

Reinhardt by contrast had three uninterrupted opportunities to put her ‘leave’ case. She said in the three contributions:

I just feel the that if we were to come out of the EU that we would lose our seat at the table, especially within trade, we’re still going to need to pay into Europe, into the trade agreement, and I think that we would lose our seat at the table and that would just be . . . it’s too much of a risk right now…. I think, especially among my generation… I’m, I’m a strong believer in . . . in Europe, I think it’s . . . it is, it’s an institution that’s been there for many years, and it’s supported a lot of smaller countries. I think that erm . . . it was really important, it’s really important to stay within the EU. A lot of people are concerned with jobs, especially at my age we’re all leaving school are looking for jobs, and there was a statistic the other day, something like one in ten jobs are directly linked to our membership of the EU.

Naughtie suggested only one adversarial point to Reinhardt, that the ‘remain’ approach to Project Fear was contradictory, but did not push her to answer, and, in effect, let the matter go.

Naughtie also appeared to have an editorial agenda, which was to push the view that a ‘leave’ vote would lead to a second independence referendum. He steered the discussion in that direction almost from the beginning, and before Blockley had been able to explain fully the ‘exit’ case.  He stressed that the h Conservatives were split about the EU, but less so in Scotland, and focused strongly on a perceived contradiction in George Osborne’s stance to the Scottish and EU referendums. His line of questioning here allowed Reinhardt to join in his discomfiture by laughing at him.

This was projected as an equal exploration of the Scottish ’remain’ and ‘leave’ cases. It was anything but. The ‘leave’ side, because of Naughtie’s approach, was projected more favourably. Through his lens, it was what Scotland wanted.  In sharp contrast, Naughtie put across that the ‘leave’ argument was based on financial inaccuracy, and was being pursued inside a split Conservative party on contradictory statements by George Osborne.

 

SEQUENCE TWO: THE CLYDE

In the second sequence, based primarily in one of the few Clyde shipyards said to be still operational, Naughtie explored differences of opinion between two of the workers there, one of whom supported Brexit, the other ‘remain’.  It turned out, however, that although the exit supporter wanted to leave the EU economic grounds, in other respects he thought it was wonderful.

Before talking in detail to the shipyard  workers,  he included comments from two business analysts in reaction to the point that ship-building as an industry was suffering because it had no national strategy that would engender successful reactions to competition from abroad.  John Whyman, from the Lancashire Institute of economic research, argued that the EU did not allow one section of the single market to be treated more favourably than another, so it was not possible to help firms. He claimed leaving the EU would allow a more active industrial policy.

Naughtie said that Professor David Bailey, from Aston Business School thought this was wrong.  He declared:

There are good reasons for having rules on state aid, so that we get fair competition across the single market. But, this argument that that prevents us from having an effective industrial policy is complete hogwash. I mean, look for example, what happened in the steel industry recently, it was the British government that opposed higher tariffs at a European level against Chinese imports. And if you look at other countries in Europe, being part of the EU has not stopped them intervening to support their steel.

Naughtie then established that Iain Turnball, one of the Govan workers, believed that the EU helped the industry and if there was an exit, he feared they would not get work from elsewhere.  Naughtie then said John Brown favoured a ‘one nation’ industrial strategy, and claimed that other European countries’ failure to follow EU single market competition rules had cost the Clyde orders.

He noted there was ‘an extra ingredient here’.  Brown supported the one-nation industrial strategy, but was ‘never going to be a cultural Brexiteer’. He included a long quote from him:

We like being Europeans, we like being able to go to Spain, go to Seville, go to Rome, we like all that. My grandad’s name was Daniel McConnell, he was an immigrant, I’m married to a Bengali Scottish girl, my son is going with a Kurdish refugee lassie, so I don’t interested (sic) in (word or words unclear) and (word unclear ‘Poles’?) it’s the future for your kids and yourself, and I think a bigger (word or words unclear) that Europe provides us with a safer future, than a tiny wee island.

Naughtie concluded by observing that the question on the ballot paper on June 23 was ‘not the most important question’; the real question was more complex than ‘remain’ or ‘leave’.

Overall, Naughtie, put forward in his editing contrasting views about the way forward for both the ship-yard and its manufacturing sector generally, with reasonably balanced comment from two workers and two economists. The comments brought into play complex themes of industrial strategy and how EU regulations influenced the ability of UK business to compete (or not) in the EU and international arenas.

But the comment at the end from John Brown introduced a substantial imbalance. He argued that the EU was about being ‘European’, being able to travel, being multicultural, and about being safer than was possible in a ‘wee’ island.  No contrasting opinion was included.

 

SEQUENCE THREE: ANGLOPHOBIA? 

In the third of the sequence, Naughtie interviewed Dr Owen Dudley Edwards, an ultra-Scots nationalist who believes that the UK is a ‘grubby little corporation’, and  Alastair Macmillan, a business owner from the Scottish arm of Business for Britain.

Naughtie stressed again at the outset that Scotland was keener to remain than leave and wondered whether this was because of culture or economic self-interest, or what.

Dudley Edwards first observed that the Irish had loved the EU because they had spent so much time on Anglophobia. The Scottish did not dislike the English as much as the Irish, but did think that they got in the way of Scottish self-realisation. He then argued that he thought the Scots saw that the EU intervened in all sorts of ways that were in their interest. He claimed that the MEP Winifred Ewing had gone to the European Parliament in 1979 and it began to mean an awful lot to the Scots because she had ‘got a lot of grants and useful support’.  Naughtie joined in the Dudley Edwards’ explanation and suggested it was then that the SNP had ‘turned on its axis’ and became a euro-enthusiast party and ‘still was’.   Dudley Edwards agreed and said that Ewing had done a splendid job, and was ‘carrying Europe with her’. He said that when people thought about the European Parliament, they thought of her, and then she was succeeded by Neil McCormick. Another MEP just as good.

Naughtie then said MacMillan was a businessman who exported around the world. He asked whether he accepted that in Scotland the debate was more tilted to remain than south of the border. Macmillan said he did but not think the Scots, per se, were less Eurosceptic. Scotland had to be viewed as both part off the UK and at the same time very local.  The problem had been that Euroscepticism had been seen as part of ‘the Tory disease’. He asserted that Scotland was not Tory.

Naughtie responded:

Well, the Conservatives are now the second party at Holyrood of course, and one of the interesting things about that, and just to get you both in on this, is that Ruth Davidson, the leader, who had a very good campaign in the Holyrood parliament, erm, although she says she’s got all sorts of arguments against Brussels, she is leading her party . . . not united, of course, there are a lot of Conservatives who want to leave, but it’s more united than the party south of the border is. What’s your explanation for that?

Dudley Edwards said Davidson was a very practised campaigner, people warmed to her strongly, she had played the gay liberation card well in terms of her lesbian relationship, and  ‘seemed so unlike traditional Toryism’.  Naughtie wondered what Alec Douglas Home would have made of that.  Dudley Edwards observed that Davidson campaigned without mentioning David Cameron if she could ‘possible avoid it’.

Naughtie then returned to Macmillan and asked if the debate in Scotland was tied up with the national debate that can’t be untangled.  Macmillan replied:

I think that people have felt that, you know, they’re told by Labour, they’re told by SNP in particular that Europe is a good thing, and they’ve, you know, if you look to the fishing community, you look to the agricultural community, they’ve actually had to deal with Europe first hand, you know they, they are thinking, you know, a Scottish farmer poll is saying 69% want to come out. You know, the fishing people you know they’re very strong . . . it’s people, we have, up here, normal ordinary people have not had the experience of immigration from the EU which our southern cousins have had to the same extent, and I think . . .

Naughtie interrupted before he had finished and observed he thought ‘that influences it’.  He added:

A last question for Owen Dudley Edwards, it’s often said that if there were a vote to leave across the UK, particularly if, in Scotland the majority of votes had said ‘Remain’ that Nicola Sturgeon would be unable to resist pressure in her party for a second referendum, do you believe that?

ODE:      Yes, very much so, I mean, it has always been (fragment of word, unclear) implicit, because the whole thing was the referendum was carried against independence on the assumption, without anybody (word or words unclear) too much, that matters would remain as they were.  For the whole ballgame to be changed by the UK getting out of the European Union, against Scotland’s wishes, would make it overwhelming demands I think for independence, it would be very difficult for anybody to resist it.

Overall, in the third sequence, Naughtie’s main focus was to give Owen Dudley Edwards a platform to explain why he, a Scots nationalist, thought the EU was now perceived to be so beneficial to Scotland. He explained, in essence – without interruption and with help from Naughtie over why the SNP also came to be pro-EU – that Winnifred Ewing had won EU grants and that had turned opinion around, and also because the EU was a channel through which to attack and limit the influence of England.  Naughtie also gave him the opportunity, as the last word, to say that a vote to leave would be strongly against Scotland’s wishes and would lead to strong demands for another independence referendum.

Macmillan had two primary contributions. In the first – reacting to Naughtie’s point that Scotland was more pro-EU – he argued that the Scots wanted to be part of the UK, but were parochial in output and through what they read, saw Euroscepticism as a Tory disease.  In the second answering whether the argument that the question was tied up with the national question in a way that could not be untangled, he argued that despite what the SNP said, farmers and fishermen especially disagreed with what they had been told and wanted out.

Naughtie also introduced that the Conservative party in Scotland, led by Riuth Davidson, was more strongly pro-EU than in England. This allowed Dudley Edwards to observe that people had warmed to her because it did not seem like traditional Toryism, and that Davidson had made very shrewd use of ‘gay liberation’ in Scotland.

Was this ‘balanced’? The whole discussion was conducted on Naughtie’s framework editorial premise that the Scots were more pro-EU than the English. This this gave Dudley Edwards a strong platform to advance reasons why it was. He introduced a number of factors, including Anglophobia, the importance of EU grants, and the effectiveness of the SNP, the fact that Ruth Davidson was not a traditional Tory, and that she has effectively used the ‘gay liberation’ card.  Macmillan was on the back foot throughout because of the editorial thrust. He had to explain why the Scots were less Eurosceptic, and his answer was that the issue had been associated with Toryism. The second question was also complex, and he only had the opportunity to point out that fishermen and farmers in Scotland actually wanted out, despite what the SNP said. In summary Naughtie gave Dudley Edwards the opportunity to put forward a historically-based case; Macmillan was not afforded the same space.

Overall, the three sequences were strongly favourable towards the remain case. He also was at pains to establish stressed that a ‘leave’ vote would lead to fresh pressure for a second independence referendum.

 

Full Transcripts:

6.42am Young Voters in Glasgow

MISHAL HUSAIN:             Just over three weeks to go to the EU referendum, and in the latest of our series from different parts of the country, we’re in Glasgow this morning where Jim is gauging opinion, good morning Jim.

JAMES NAUGHTIE:          Good morning to you, Mishal, from Glasgow, under a China blue sky here, and we’ll be giving you some thoughts through the programme on the referendum north of the border, because there is, of course, an extra dimension to the argument here where the other referendum after all wasn’t very long ago.  It is of course, the national question.  Now, I’m with two young voters here in the centre of the city who take a different view, Eloise Reinhardt, who’s 18, and Ewan Blockley who’s also 18, they’re involved, incidentally, in the BBC Generation Young Voter groups.  Now, Eloise, you’re an SNP voter and you’re voting to Remain, why?

ELOISE REINHARDT:       Erm, I just feel the that if we were to come out of the EU that we would lose our seat at the table, especially within trade, we’re still going to need to pay into Europe, into the trade agreement, and I think that we would lose our seat at the table and that would just be . . . it’s too much of a risk right now.

JN:         Right, Ewan, you’re 18, same as Eloise, you’re saying ‘Leave’ – why?

EWAN BLOCKLEY:           I believe in sovereignty, I believe in democratic will and I also believe in economic prudence, and I believe that if we give £350 million away a week, I think that . . .

JN:         (speaking under, word unclear, ‘Well’?)

EB:         (fragment of word, unclear) You can call it a bogus figure, we’ll say £11 billion . . .

JN:         (interrupting) It’s not me that’s calling it a bogus figure, it’s the Treasury Select Committee, cross party, including some Leave campaigners who say it’s a bogus figure . . .

EB:         Who also in 2003 said the euro was a good idea, so I’m not going to be taking any lectures from them, but . . . of course, and erm . . . I believe that two hundred and fif— 230 million then, I think was the net figure, and I want that money to be spent here in Scotland and in the UK.

JN:         Right.  I mentioned therein introducing the two of you the national question, which of course is live here, the referendum, the decisive vote to remain in the UK nearly 2 years ago, but it’s nonetheless a live question.  How does it play, in your mind Eloise, for example, if Britain, if the UK as a whole voted to leave, would you want a second referendum?

ER:         Absolutely.  I think it’s really important to Scotland, I think we were lied to a lot during the referendum in Scotland, erm, and EU was brought up as such a big issue, it was, ‘You’re not going to be in the EU, you’re not going to . . .’ and all of a sudden (fragments of words, or words unclear due to speaking over)

JN:         (speaking over) In other words, the argument was (clears throat) if you want to remain in the EU – which a majority of Scots, apparently, according to all the polls do – er, you’ve got to vote ‘no’ against independence, that was said to years ago?

ER:         Yeah, absolutely, that was . . . that was such a major argument for many people that I know were undecided up until the very last minute.

JN:         So you would want a second referendum and you would vote for independence knowing that it would mean taking on the euro, because it would, if we were staying in Europe?

ER:         Yeah, absolutely. I’m, I’m a strong believer in . . . in Europe, I think it’s . . . it is, it’s an institution that’s been there for many years, and it’s supported a lot of smaller countries.

JN:         Right, Ewan, why do you, how do you think the, the argument over independence and Scotland’s position in the UK feeds into the European debate?

EB:         Erm, I actually don’t think it does, I think that we voted to remain part of a United Kingdom, I think we voted overwhelmingly, 55% voted in favour of the Union and we’re voting to come out of the European Union or stay in, hopefully, out on my stance, erm, as a United Kingdom.

JN:         One of the interesting things is that the Conservatives, now the second party in Holyrood of course, under Ruth Davidson are arguing.  Now of course, it’s not a unanimous view in the Conservative Party, or amongst Conservative voters, but nonetheless, the party as a whole is, I think it’s fair to say, more convinced about the arguments Remain than the party as a whole in the UK, the split is . . . is, is less – you would agree with that, wouldn’t you?

EB:         Erm, I would disagree, I’m a Conservative party member actually, in Scotland, and I believe that there is a lot more hushed-up talk, people are a lot . . .

JN:         Hushed-up?

EB:         Yeah, so I would say that there are a lot, there are, erm, MSPs who are supporting Brexit and will go and vote it, but aren’t willing to go against Ruth and the team.

JN:         Well, what do you, what do you think, Eloise, the general feeling is here, among people of your generation, and of course, it’s worth minding people outside Scotland that you had vote in the referendum, although you went yet 18, because 16 to 18-year-olds . . . you know had the vote in that referendum.

ER:         Erm, I think, especially among my generation, I think that erm . . . it was really important, it’s really important to stay within the EU.  A lot of people are concerned with jobs, especially at my age we’re all leaving school are looking for jobs, and there was a statistic the other day, something like one in ten jobs are directly linked to our membership of the EU.

JN:         Do you believe . . . Ewan was talking about, we were arguing about the bogus figure, the 350 million, do you believe all the scare stuff, because of course, in the erm . . . Scottish referendum itself, your side argued that that was Project Fear, when George Osborne said all these things.  You’re saying you now believe that in this referendum, you believe these . . . what the other side say are scare stories about the economy? (silence) So, Project Fear, that you complained about in the Scottish referendum, the Leave side say we’re seeing Project Fear again, but you actually believe what’s being said in Project Fear this time, don’t you?

ER:         Yeah, I think . . . I think that there’s been so many mixed messages from erm, sort of the UK and (fragment of word, or word unclear) government, I think it was really, it’s really difficult to decipher and understand that, especially (word or words unclear due to speaking over)

JN:         (speaking over) You’re a Conservative voter, why don’t you believe George Osborne?

EB:         (laughter in voice) Erm, I don’t believe George Osborne as much as I don’t believe Tony Blair with the euro in 2003.

JN:         Did you believe George Osborne in the Scottish referendum?

EB:         I, I did believe him, but the reason why I (laughter in voice) believed him . . .

JN:         (speaking over) Well, she didn’t, and she now believes him . . . you did and you don’t.

ER:         (laughs under)

JN:         You see the problem?

EB:         There, there is a definitely, erm, differing views, but I think (fragments of words, unclear) George Osborne is getting his statistics this time from the CBI and from erm . . . from institutions that are actually funded by Brussels.

JN:         Well, let me ask you something, is this an argument for you about faith in Europe and a belief in Europe, or is it an argument based on looking at figures?  Which is it?

ER:         Faith. Essentially, I think, especially from my generation, I have looked into the facts and figures and I’m, I’m really interested . . . I think that’s slightly unusual for an 18-year-old just leaving school, so I think a lot of our generation (words unclear due to speaking over)

JN:         (speaking over) Not in Glasgow, I would say, anyway . . .

EB:         (laughs) I’m the same, I didn’t look at the facts and figures, it’s very much that I believe my own . . .

JN:         (interrupting) It’s, it’s in your gut?

EB:         Absolutely, I’m British, I believe in Britain and I believe that we should govern ourselves.

JN:         Erm, just one last thing, you’ve got a lot of friends, maybe some common, I don’t know, you’re both in Glasgow, who do you think is going to carry the day, in Scotland, let’s just talk about Scotland for a minute.  Who’s going to win . . . here?

ER:         Erm, it’s definitely going to be Remain.  A hundred percent.

JN:         You’ve got no doubt about that?

ER:         No doubt about that.

JN:         Can you pull it back Ewan?

EB:         Erm, as, as an optimist, I would say that Leave has a chance, being on a street stall yesterday, I believe that once people listen to the arguments that Leave are presenting, that they will be more likely to vote Leave rather than the status quo.

JN:         Ewan Blockly and Eloise Reinhardt, here in the centre of Glasgow, will be back with you in an hour, but for the moment, thank you both very much.

 

7.42am The Referendum, Glasgow and Shipbuilding

JUSTIN WEBB:   Let’s get a further taste of the EU debate from north of the border this morning, Jim is joining us again from Glasgow, morning Jim.

JAMES NAUGHTIE:          Indeed, I’m in Glasgow, Justin, thanks very much, where the older generation look at the River Clyde and realise that it isn’t really the river they once knew, from the city centre here, if you look along the water, you would once have seen cranes and gantries filling the sky, all the way westwards to the sea.  Now, these shipyards from the late 19th Century onwards were the engine of Empire, they built navies and liners, and this was one great river factory.  No more.  The work has dwindled, a new industrial revolution has taken most of it away, and the whole iron landscape has gone.  I’ll be talking to some of the men who still build ships here in a moment about where their story sits in the arguments over Europe.  But first, to the Glasgow University archive, and Tony Pollard, archaeologist and historian at the University, to savour some of the history that made the Clyde.  We looked together at the beautiful plans for the doomed liner Lusitania.

TONY POLLARD:                             She was almost 800 feet long in reality, and what you’ve got here is a cutaway which shows all of the interior, so you’ve got the . . . the lovely salons, the luxurious passenger cabins, the engine rooms, it was liners like Lusitania that had really made the reputation of Clyde shipbuilding.

JN:         Looking back from today, it’s interesting to realise that it was always a precarious business, even the days of its great success, because there was competition everywhere?

TP:         Very much so, and the fact that these companies had to change their products and their technologies took massive investment, and at times that would be misjudged or it would be too late.  So this is nothing new.

JN:         When the Clyde was at its height, from the centre of Glasgow, as far as the eye could see down the river, it must’ve been just a hive of activity?

TP:         It was, and both sides were just chock-a-block with not just shipbuilding but all of the ancillary industries designed to support it.

JN:         And here, beside the Lusitania is a book called Scotland’s Industrial Souvenir filled with wonderful photographs and accounts of what’s been going on here, and a beautifully engraved pager, coloured page, advertising various firms who were doing great things, and prominent among them, the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Ltd, over at Govan, across the river from the archive here.  And I’m going over there now.

NEWSREEL:        A few hours earlier, at Fairfield Shipyard, Govan, the Queen launched the Canadian-Pacific liner Empress of Britain, here is the beauty that can only come from fine craftsmanship, handed down from father to son through the good years on the grim.

JN:         The glory days.  It’s so different now.  At Fairfield’s where so many great hawks were built, BAE Systems are building a few offshore patrol vessels, there are 800 men divided between here and Rosyth in Fife, who are clinging onto jobs.  When I sat down with some of the yard workers, I was reminded, however, that this isn’t new.

IAIN TURNBALL:              It’s often been very difficult, you could never plan for a future, because you never knew if you had a future.

JN:         That came about, Iain, because of . . . cheap work elsewhere in the world . . .

I:            Yeah, yeah.

JN:         I mean it was, like, Korea in the 50s, and then China?

I:            Yeah, you’re right there, (fragment of word, or word unclear) I remember being in Govan in the mid-70s, and they started selling the designs to the Japanese, to the Chinese and to other . . . countries.

JOHN BROWN:  You see, we don’t have an industrial strategy in this country.  We have a finance industry.  You cannot compete with the country like China on the basis of selling each other insurance policies.

JN:         The question is, do you need a national industrial strategy?  The director of the Lancashire Institute for economic and business research, Phil Whyman thinks a break with the European Union would help.

PHIL WHYMAN: The EU doesn’t want one section of its single market to be treated more favourably than others, so we can’t help our firms.  Brexit allows the possibility of doing things a different way, it allows the possibility of having a more active industrial policy.

JN:         But to David Bailey, Professor of Industrial Strategy at Aston Business School at Birmingham University, that’s plain wrong.

DAVID BAILEY:  There are good reasons for having rules on state aid, so that we get fair competition across the single market.  But, this argument that that prevents us from having an effective industrial policy is complete hogwash.  I mean, look for example, what happened in the steel industry recently, it was the British government that opposed higher tariffs at a European level against Chinese imports.  And if you look at other countries in Europe, being part of the EU has not stopped them intervening to support their steel.

JN:         Back to the Clyde, and John Brown and Iain Turnbull, workers here for more than 30 years, one thinks Europe helps, the other doesn’t.

IT:          If we come out of Europe, then are we going to get work from elsewhere?

JN:         You think there’s a chance?

IT:          I . . . don’t think there’s a chance, I think it’ll be stopped, we won’t get any other contracts.

JN:         You were shaking your head there?

JB:         In the 80s and 90s into the early 2000’s we were going to Germany and Holland to work, it’s . . . sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. You go to Italy, Germany and Spain, and you see their big shipyards, when a government is determined to save its industry, then forces, money, finance and technology can be brought to save that industry.

JN:         And do you think that is irrelevant to as being in the EU?

JB:         What we need as an industrial policy.

JN:         But there’s an extra ingredient here.  John Brown can see the argument for a one-nation industrial strategy, but he’s never going to be a cultural Brexiteer.

JB:         We like being Europeans, we like being able to go to Spain, go to Seville, go to Rome, we like all that. My grandad’s name was Daniel McConnell, he was an immigrant, I’m married to a Bengali Scottish girl, my son is going with a Kurdish refugee lassie, so I don’t interested (sic) in (word or words unclear) and (word unclear ‘Poles’?) it’s the future for your kids and yourself, and I think a bigger (word or words unclear) that Europe provides us with a safer future, than a tiny wee island.

JN:         So, on the Clyde where the great industries have (word unclear, sounds like ‘winnered’?) away in the last generation, there’s a feeling that wherever you stand on the question being put next month, that perhaps is not the most important question – it’s what government, any government can do to help these industries match the challenges of the time.  And maybe that’s a question that’s even more complicated than Remain or Leave.

 

8.41am Scotland and the Referendum

JUSTIN WEBB:   Let us go back to Scotland now, we’ve been hearing regularly throughout this morning’s programme from Jim who was there, the latest of our series of reports on the EU referendum debate as it is being seen in various parts of the country, and Jim’s in Glasgow again this morning, hello again Jim.

JAMES NAUGHTIE:          Yes, morning again, Justin, now the tenor of the European debate in Scotland is influence inevitably by referendum memories from 18 months or so ago, we’ve been here before.  And that helps to sharpen the sense that the campaign here is shaped by self-awareness in Scotland, sometimes maybe self-obsession to0.  Well, how’s that related to the persistent message from opinion surveys that Scotland is, in general, keener to remain in the rest of the UK?  Is it culture, is it economic self-interest, or what?  I’m joined by businessman Alastair MacMillan who’s part of the Leave group, Business for Britain, Scotland, and also by Dr Owen Dudley Edwards, a nationalist by inclination, an Irishman of course, who’s taught and written in Scotland for most of his life.  And Owen Dudley Edwards, what’s your explanation for, relatively speaking, an enthusiasm for the EU in Scotland that appears to be, at least at this juncture, greater than it is elsewhere in the UK?

DR OWEN DUDLEY EDWARDS:   Well, one thing we could take from the experience of Ireland, Ireland went into the EU and loved it, partly because it had spent so much time (word unclear, ‘on’ or ‘in’?)  Anglophobia.  Now, I don’t think the Scots dislike the English as much as the Irish did earlier in the 20th century, though they certainly don’t do now, but I do think that the Scots in certain ways find the English . . . rule, or rule from Westminster, something getting in the way of Scottish self-realisation.  And from this point of view, the EU intervenes in all sorts of ways which may be, the Scots may feel it’s to their advantage.  I mean, particularly this worked out when Winifred Ewing was elected early in 1979, after the SNP had lost . . .

JN:         (speaking over) As a member of the European Parliament.

ODE:     As a member of the European Parliament, so that from the beginning, in a sense, when Winifred Ewing went to the European Parliament it began to mean an awful lot more to the Scots.  For one thing, she was tremendously successful as MEP for the . . . Minister for the Highlands, er . . . MEP for the Highlands and Islands in getting a lot of grants and useful support for that part.

JN:         And it was at that moment that the SNP turned on its axis and . . . and instead of having been a . . . an anti-European party, winning seats in the early 70s on the basis that the Heath terms of accession were bad, it became a euro-enthusiast party and still is, European-enthusiast?

ODE:     Very much so indeed, and Winifred Ewing, of course, did a splendid job in publicity, one might be unkind to say, for herself, but she was carrying Europe with her.  She liked to be called Madame L’Ecosse – what was really important that she was Madame Europe.  When people thought about the European Parliament, they thought of Winifred Ewing.  And after her, and MEP as good as Professor Neil McCormick, the great, and unfortunately now recently dead, law professor at Edinburgh.

JN:         Well, indeed.  Alastair MacMillan, let me bring you in at this point.  From a business perspective you want to leave, you think it will be better, as a businessman who exports from Scotland around the world.  Do you accept that in Scotland, the tone of the debate is . . . is more tilted to Remain perhaps than it is south of the border?

ALASTAIR MACMILLAN: I do accept that there are . . . is probably at the moment a majority to Remain, but I don’t think that the Scots are, per se, less Eurosceptic.  I think you have to look at Scotland as part . . . as very much, although part of the United Kingdom, it has, you know, a very parochial type of approach to newspapers and things like that are very much lo— far more local, and are far more (fragment of word, unclear) the media  up here, an enormous number of local newspapers, which, for a lot of people, is their main source of news . . .

JN:         (speaking over) Yeah.

AM:       . . . still, which is extraordinary, compared to the rest of the UK. And I think, and, and the media’s very much more deferential.  And added to which the . . . you know, Euroscepticism has been seen as a sort of Tory . . . disease . . .

JN:         (speaking over) Yes.

AM:       . . . and, you know, in Scotland we’re not Tory (laughter in voice) you know . . .

JN:         (speaking over) Well, the Conservatives are now the second party at Holyrood of course, and one of the interesting things about that, and just to get you both in on this, is that Ruth Davidson, the leader, who had a very good campaign in the Holyrood parliament, erm, although she says she’s got all sorts of arguments against Brussels, she is leading her party . . . not united, of course, there are a lot of Conservatives who want to leave, but it’s more united than the party south of the border is.  What’s your explanation for that?

ODE:     Well, for one thing, Ruth Davidson (word or words unclear) herself a very, very practised campaigner, and really made very shrewd use of a general sense of gay liberation in Scotland, and has announced she’s getting married to her lesbian partner.  But I think people warm to her very strongly there, it seemed so unlike traditional Toryism . . .

JN:         (speaking over) Well, I often wonder what Sir Alec Douglas-Home would make of that.

ODE:     But it’s also, I think, very important to realise that Ruth Davidson campaigned virtually without ever mentioning David Cameron and the other people, if she could possibly avoid it.

JN:         Do you feel that this argument here, Alastair MacMillan, is tied up with the national question in a way that can’t be disentangled.

AM:       I think that people have felt that, you know, they’re told by Labour, they’re told by SNP in particular that Europe is a good thing, and they’ve, you know, if you look to the fishing community, you look to the agricultural community, they’ve actually had to deal with Europe first hand, you know they, they are thinking, you know, a Scottish farmer poll is saying 69% want to come out.  You know, the fishing people you know they’re very strong . . . it’s people, we have, up here, normal ordinary people have not had the experience of immigration from the EU which our southern cousins have had to the same extent, and I think . . .

JN:         (speaking over) That, that is, yeah, that’s true, and you think that influences it. A last question few Owen Dudley Edwards, it’s often said that if there were a vote to leave across the UK, particularly if, in Scotland the majority of votes had said ‘Remain’ that Nicola Sturgeon would be unable to resist pressure in her party for a second referendum, do you believe that?

ODE:     Yes, very much so, I mean, it has always been (fragment of word, unclear) implicit, because the whole thing was the referendum was carried against independence on the assumption, without anybody (word or words unclear) too much, that matters would remain as they were.  For the whole ballgame to be changed by the UK getting out of the European Union, against Scotland’s wishes, would make it overwhelming demands I think for independence, it would be very difficult for anybody to resist it.

JN:         We, we shall see what happens after the 23rd, Alastair MacMillan, Owen Dudley Edwards, thank you both very much.

 

Photo by alasdairmckenzie

Referendum Blog: May 23

Referendum Blog: May 23

FAIR’S FAIR?: With bias, the devil is often in the detail. A sharp-eared listener noticed on his rather congested drive back from London to his home in County Durham that on Radio 4’s PM  BBC correspondents were doing some alleged ‘fact-checking’ in response to queries from listeners about aspects of EU operations. One wanted to know about the European Arrest Warrant. Now that’s a subject that has not figured much so far in the EU referendum debate, if at all – the last references to it on the BBC website via its own search engine are mainly from 2014, when David Cameron – in line with his usual posturing over Brussels – first suggested that the UK might withdraw from EAW arrangements and then a few months later, accepted without a murmur or a fight, all its  provisions. Since then, zip. So how did PM handle this?  Correspondent Norman Smith declared:

Well, the European Arrest Warrant is basically a scheme to enable villains to be picked up wherever they are in the EU, if they do a runner from one country to another, so if you have a villain in Paris who goes and mug someone and goes and steals their jewellery and then does a runner to London, the French gendarmerie can ring up the Old Bill and say, ‘Would you mind picking him up, putting him on a train back to Paris, and we’ll bung him in jug here.’ The problem with it, or perceived problem with it is the view that we’re very good and very diligent and very honest about kicking out foreign villains and everyone else isn’t so good at it. Actually, when you look at the figures, it seems to me to be fair’s fair, because, just looking at the figures here, between 2009 and 2016, we kicked out around 7,500 foreign villains and got back around 800 British villains, which is about 10% in comparison, which is roughly about what the UK is population is as a proportion of the whole EU. So, it seems to be, by and large, the European Arrest Warrant seems to be operating on a fairly fair basis.

So according to the BBC and Smith, fair’s fair, and that’s it.  No reference to concerns such as those expressed, for example, in this Daily Telegraph editorial, that Britons are being unfairly imprisoned abroad without due process by legal systems such as those in Bulgaria and Romania which are primitive and unfair. Instead, a simple focus on numbers which, according to Smith, showed that the UK has kicked out 7,500 EU-based villains since 2009 and in return have got 800 back – in line, according to Smith,  with what would be expected because the UK’s population is around one tenth of that of the EU.

Closer inspection suggests a very different interpretation is possible. Smith got his statistics from the National Crime Agency, and while he gave the basic figures for actual extraditions, he made no reference at all to another rather important statistic –  that in the fiscal year 2015/16 (presumably ending in April 2016, so bang up to date) there were a total of 14,279  requests for the extradition of Britons  from the other 27 EU countries, whereas the UK made only 241 requests. The UK population is around one twelfth (8%) of the total of 508m in EU countries, and yet the total number of EAW requests made by the UK was only one sixtieth of the EAW total.

Now of course, requests are not the same as actual extraditions, and the number of ‘surrenders’ (1,271 to the rest of the EU, 112 to the UK) was more closely in line with the EU/UK population ratio. But offset against that is that all of the 14,279 EAW requests coming to the UK have to be investigated and dealt with. The individuals involved are spoken to, investigated, and often put in great fear of ending up in foreign jails. The Daily Telegraph editorial indicated that at least £27m each year is being spent by the Home Office in processing applications. That’s likely to be the tip of the iceberg and is a hefty price to pay,

Another dimension here is that the NCA figures cover only UK/EU interactions under the EAW.  As with so many aspects of EU operations – which are shrouded in bureaucratic  obfuscation – research by News-watch has drawn a blank in finding up-to-date figures for EU-wide statistics. The newest figures available relate to 2009.  Then,  across the EU as a whole, 15,827 EAW extradition requests were made, and 4,431 were executed;  of that total, the UK made 220 requests and 80 were executed. The NCA figures for the same year are that EU countries made 3,826 requests for extradition from the UK, and 673 (c.20%)  of these were actually executed.  So put another way, almost a quarter of all extradition requests under the EAW were made to the UK. The UK, for its part made only 1.5% of EAW applications, around a third of which were successful.

All this is by necessity rather a complex analysis but it shows that Smith’s ‘fair’s fair’ claim is to put it mildly, open to debate. Britain spends millions enforcing the EAW.  Each extradition costs, if the Daily Telegraph figures are accurate, in the order of a minimum of quarter of a million pounds. The UK is bombarded by requests from other EU countries for EAW extraditions at a far higher level that can be accounted for by differences in population.  The UK does not accept the majority of these, but proportionately, far more UK citizens are extradited to the EU from the UK than are extradited from the EU to the UK.

What does this show? That in ‘fact checking’ mode, the BBC cannot be trusted, nor in its analysis of EU affairs, is it impartial.  Yet again, it erred on the anti-Brexit side. Norman Smith’s fault here may have been that he too hastily looked at the basic NCA statistics without properly examining the framework , controversies  and complexities of the EAW. But whatever the cause, he made sweeping conclusions that were highly simplistic and deeply misleading.

 

Transcript of Radio 4, ‘PM’ ‘News at Ten’ 17th May 2016, Listeners’ Questions, 5.52pm

EDDIE MAIR:      For a third week, we’re setting aside time in the programme to talk about the EU.  Not what pundits want to talk about, not what politicians want to talk about, but what PM listeners want to talk about.  You are still welcome to send us your question, and our assistant political editor, Norman Smith and our Europe correspondent Chris Morris will do their best.  Will start tonight with Alan Beamish, who asks about the European Arrest Warrant.  How many UK citizens have been arrested and extradited to other EU’s states, compared with citizens of other EU states extradited to the UK?  Norman Smith has the answer.

NORMAN SMITH:             Well, the European Arrest Warrant is basically a scheme to enable villains to be picked up wherever they are in the EU, if they do a runner from one country to another, so if you have a villain in Paris who goes and mug someone and goes and steals their jewellery and then does a runner to London, the French gendarmerie can ring up the Old Bill and say, ‘Would you mind picking him up, putting him on a train back to Paris, and we’ll bung him in jug here.’ The problem with it, or perceived problem with it is the view that we’re very good and very diligent and very honest about kicking out foreign villains and everyone else isn’t so good at it.  Actually, when you look at the figures, it seems to me to be fair’s fair, because, just looking at the figures here, between 2009 and 2016, we kicked out around 7,500 foreign villains and got back around 800 British villains, which is about 10% in comparison, which is roughly about what the UK is population is as a proportion of the whole EU.  So, it seems to be, by and large, the European Arrest Warrant seems to be operating on a fairly fair basis.

EM:        Liz Matthews says, can you please explain the difference between European Union, the European Commission and the European Council.  Chris Morris can help you.

CHRIS MORRIS: Basically, Liz, the European Union is the name given to the grouping or partnership of the 28 member states.  28 European countries including the UK that all belong to the EU.  The Commission and the Council are institutions that form part of the European Union and help to run it.  The Commission is like a civil service or an executive body, it proposes new legislation, it draws up the EU’s annual budget, and it manages and supervises EU funding.  At the top of the tree in the Commission are 28 national commissioners, one from each member state.  The Commission’s president is officially nominated by national leaders and then elected for a five-year period by the European Parliament.  Right now, the man in charge is Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg.  The European Council is different.  It has its headquarters just across the street from the Commission, and the Council sets the overall direction and priorities of the EU.  It’s formed by the individual heads of government of the 28 member states, so when David Cameron goes to Brussels for what we tend to call an EU summit, in official language, that’s a meeting of the European Council.  Its president is elected for a 2½ year term by all those national leaders, and part of the role of the president of the Council is to represent the EU as a whole oversees.  The current president is the former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.  So, just to make it clear, if we vote to leave the EU, we’ll be leaving the European Commission and the European Council as well.  But not, sadly some might say, the Eurovision Song contest.

EM:        Titus Alexander says, ‘in the EU referendum debate, much is made of the cost of our EU membership, it would be interesting to put this in context with our membership of other global organisations, how many international bodies does the UK belong to, and what’s the cost in us participating in them?’  Norman Smith can help.

NS:         Well, the answer to this is we belong to an awful lot of international bodies, an awful, awful lot. And some of them cost a lot and some of them don’t cost very much at all.  So, if you look at something like the OECD, well, that costs us around £40 million a year, similarly, the World Health Organisation around £16 million a year. The UN – well, we contribute about £90 million to the UN’s regular budget each year, and a voluntary contribution of £2 billion goes towards the UN’s development and humanitarian operations.  How does that compare with our contribution to the EU? Well roughly we contribute about £18 billion a year, but as we know, we get an awful lot back in terms of our rebate and money that goes to various deprived parts of the UK, which means, in total, we probably contribute about £8 billion-£9 billion.  But I guess the difficulty with all this is your kind of comparing apples and pears, with the EU, clearly, we hope to get a lot out of our contribution to the EU in terms of access to the single market and that sort of thing, with contributions to the World Health Organisation and the UN, we’ll, we’re not really anticipating and getting much back, we’re trying to promote overseas aid and global development, so, the difficulty really is you’re comparing very, very different organisations.

 

Photo by Luke McKernan