Search Results for: BBC Media Action

UK voting system means that anti-EU voters are denied representation

UK voting system means that anti-EU voters are denied representation

One of the early and most enthusiastic supporters of the Electoral Reform Society was the Rev Charles Dodgson, aka author Lewis Carroll.

The ERS has been arguing for proportional representation since 1884, and for all that time they have been viewed as little more than well-meaning cranks.

The Liberal Democrats, of course forced a vote on the issue during the last Parliament, but by then they had shown how nastily Machiavellian, unprincipled and two-faced they were when in power. As a result, many people voted against them rather than the issue at stake. The baby was well and truly thrown out with the bathwater.

Yet what we now seem to be entering as a result of our rigid allegiance to the first-past-the post-system is an Alice Through the Looking Glass world in which 1.5m SNP-voting Scots (out of a registered UK electorate of 46m) could well force us into another kind of nightmare: a reversion to 1930s-style Marxism.

So has as the time come to think of abandoning our current voting system? This is not going to change Thursday’s poll, of course, but the issue could assume crucial importance in the horse-trading that ensues.

One factor in the political landscape that has changed massively over the past five years and is obviously centre stage in this ballot is the huge surge in support for SNP.

This means that the 51% of Scots who now seem likely to vote for the party in the 59 Scottish Westminster seats are likely to hold massive, disproportionate clout. Because SNP support is concentrated in relatively few seats, the first-past-the-post system means they will win. Put another way, around 4% of the electorate could – and would, as Nicola Sturgeon has boasted about – hold the UK to ransom.

This will be – despite Ed Miliband’s protests to the contrary – either as a coalition partner or as a large street-fighting, self-focused, independent faction whose primary purpose is to smash asunder the United Kingdom. The meaning of the Glasgow Kiss will take on a whole new dimension.

They could paralyse a governmental process that has primarily grown round a gentlemanly two-party system and has never encountered such a set of circumstances before.

The other major change is an equivalent rise in support for UKIP. Largely because of the massive negativity towards the party by the media, and especially the BBC, their support now seems to be softening from the 15% that persisted throughout the campaign. But even if it falls back to 10%, it is likely that between 2m and 3m voters will support Farage and his rag-tag army.

The contrast with SNP here could not be sharper. Because of the first-past-the-post system, and because support for UKIP is attenuated across England, even if UKIP achieves double the vote of the Tartan Army, it will win on latest forecasts only a maximum of five or so seats.

In turn that will mean that the issues that it supports – the return of grammar schools, withdrawal from the EU, and end to the insane climate change alarmism and stricter immigration controls – will be totally ignored by the other parties. And put the other way round – three million votes will have very little influence, to the point almost of being disenfranchised.

The problems with our current voting system go much deeper. Voter apathy was so extensive in 2010 that 35% of the electorate did not vote(compared with 22% in 1992). So David Cameron attracted 36% of the votes cast but the support of only around a quarter of the total electorate.

If this pattern continues next Thursday, it could mean that Labour and Conservative combined win the support of less than half of electors.

Sooner or later, that’s a democratic deficit that will cause friction. Just how is, of course, impossible to predict. Almost certainly, however, the English in the South-east, will be increasingly resentful of the Jacuzzis of public cash that already go north of the border. At the same time, the legions of voters who are concerned about the pressures of immigration and have no means of expressing their views other than via Ukip are going to become increasingly discontent.

The unfairness of our voting system means that those that rule us are increasingly out of step with the wishes of the electorate. All the lessons of history –from the Boston Tea Party onwards – suggest that this is a recipe for serious civil unrest.

As Walter Bagehot first noted when he wrote his masterful book on the British Constitution in the 1860s, our system of government worked because it was not written down in formulaic fashion. It continually adapted to changing circumstances.

His analysis of the constitution was of course long before there was the juggernaut of the EU at its heart lucking away the power and disenfranchising voters in a different way. But the threat posed by the SNP is another massive challenge and unless the Constitution now evolves to cope with this massive imbalance, we could be entering very dangerous waters indeed.

Voting reform may seem a very left-field response, but in this Carollian2015, Looking Glass world, it may be the recipe needed. Both major parties adhere to first-past-the-post because it has given them leverage to create majority governments. Even in Tony Blair’s ‘landslide’ of 1997, he attracted only 43.2% of the vote (compared to 30% for the Conservatives). In the pre-UKIP and SNP world, this did not matter as much. It does now.

Photo by David Holt London

Immigration: Anything but the truth.

BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson has announced that the BBC was once – at an unspecified period in the past – biased in its reporting of immigration issues.
He is reported as saying (in connection with pre-publicity for a programme he has made) that the corporation made a ‘terrible mistake’ in not reflecting the public’s concerns about the numbers and issues involved.
Mr Robinson’s mea culpa resonates closely with a similar confession by former director general Mark Thompson. In July 2011, he conceded that ‘taboo’ subjects such as immigration were avoided by the BBC for fear of its appearing too right wing. He said:
“I think there were some years when the BBC, like the rest of the UK media, was very reticent about talking about immigration. There was an anxiety whether or not you might be playing into a political agenda about immigration.”
What’s striking about these BBC admissions about bias in the reporting of immigration issues, however, is they are almost laughably predictable in substance and form.
It’s a routine BBC reaction to criticism that the corporation admits to problems in the past, but then says with total self-conviction (but no objective evidence) that those errors have
now been totally righted.
Then they hire someone from a BBC background and with close connections with the BBC Trustees – such as Stuart Prebble with his recent report into coverage of immigration, the EU and religion – to agree with them.
The evidence of past bias in the coverage of immigration is abundant. In 2004, for example, Newswatch compiled a report based on three months’ output from seven flagship news programmes for Sir Andrew Green’s group Migration Watch that revealed devastating shortcomings, especially with regard to the failure to reflect public concern and in the relentless thrust to portray those who opposed Labour’s immigration policies as xenophobicand racist.
More recently, the think thank The New Culture Forum produced an equally comprehensive report on the topic that revealed in both the past and the present, the corporation was not reflecting properly public concern. Among its conclusions are:
“It would be no exaggeration to say that a foreigner who subscribed only to the BBC might visit this country and be blissfully unaware of many of the social problems associated with immigration. These have never appeared in the national conversation and are instead whispered of in the shadows. This cannot be healthy.”
Nick Robinson says that these failings have been rectified. They have not. Evidence is easy to find. On November 5, the Today programme gave acres of space in bulletins and the main body of the programme to a report by two academics from University College London, in their survey claimed that EU immigrants had made ‘a particularly positive contribution to the public purse’. The editorial goal in giving the item such prominence was clearly to undermine those who are worried about the more negative effects of immigration.
Danny Shaw, the BBC’s home affairs editor, declared:
“I’ve looked back to see what other similar pieces of research have been done, and this does appear to be the most thorough analysis of its kind.”
On that basis, the report’s authors were interviewed and Justin Webb said in the intro:
“People who come to live in Britain make a substantial contribution to the public finances – they make us richer than we would otherwise be. So says the Centre for Research and
Analysis of Migration at University College London. They’ve been studying the figures in some considerable detail.”
Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch was included in the sequence – ostensibly to give balance – but the set-up and the questioning was undoubtedly designed to allow the
authors to amplify their claim that fears about immigration were unfounded. The effects, despite what public opinion believed, were positive.
What Danny Shore omitted to say – and the BBC has subsequently failed to report – is that even the most cursory analysis of the UCL survey shows that – to put it mildly – the statistical evidence in question was totally unreliable. Who says so? The Civitas think-tank commissioned emeritus professor of statistics at UCL Mervyn Stone to examine the findings. His conclusion?
“Most of the underlying crude assumptions that the all-embracing approach has been obliged to make have not been subject to sensitivity tests that have might been made if the
study had not been so obviously driven to make the case it claims to have made.”
Ouch! In other words, the BBC as recently as November shouted from the rooftops the findings of a report about the positive effects of immigration that the most rudimentary of checks would have shown to be highly suspect.
Danny Shore, the home affairs editor who is paid vast amounts to ensure that what gets to air is accurate, endorsed a report ‘ as the most thorough analysis of its kind’ when it was anything but.
 If, as Nick Robinson maintains, the BBC is no longer biased in their quest to hide and manipulate the truth about immigration – how could this be the case?