#War043 - TELEGRAPH - Dan HANNAN - 25-Jul-2009
Daniel Hannan is a writer and journalist, and has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. He has written eight books on European policy, speaks French and Spanish and is author of The Plan: Twelve months to renew Britain Anti-UKIP and pro-Green: the BBC at its most blatantly biased
By Daniel Hannan Politics Last updated: July 25th, 2009
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Several weeks ago, the BBC decided to start running stories about how well the Green Party would do at the Norwich North by-election. It is far from clear whether programme editors thought that this would happen anyway, or whether they hoped to make it happen. After all, what minority candidates most crave is airtime: to be treated as mainstream, and so to anticipate the “wasted vote” argument.
The BBC obliged. Lord, how it obliged. Throughout the campaign, it ran programmes with Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green spokesmen. Now don’t get me wrong: I rather like the Greens. But there was no basis to the claim that they were the fourth party, either nationally or locally. The last test of electoral feeling was June’s European election. The United Kingdom Independence Party won 13 seats and came second; the Greens won two seats and came fifth. In local elections on the same day, UKIP beat the Greens in most Norwich North wards.
UKIP activists politely drew these facts to the BBC’s attention in the hope of fairer coverage. They misunderstood the Corporation’s mindset. In Beebworld, Greens are essentially nice, and deserve a fair crack of the whip. But UKIP are anti-immigration, anti-Brussels and, worst of all, sceptical about climate change. They are not Our Sort Of People, and should be covered accordingly, if at all.
Newsnight, Look East and Radio 4 all chose to disregard UKIP and treat the Greens as the main story. Three days before the poll, the BBC’s Eastern region TV held a hustings meeting for four candidates: Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green.
What was the result in the event? UKIP won 11.8 per cent of the vote - comfortably ahead of the Greens and remarkably close to the LibDems (or “worryingly close” as I just heard a Radio 5 Live presenter put it).
Did our state broadcaster apologise for its mistake? No, alright, that would have been expecting too much; but was it, at least, a little abashed in its tone? Nope. It simply edited UKIP out of its coverage. On the one o’clock news, a little bar chart came up to represent the results: blue for the Conservatives, red for Labour, yellow for the LibDems and, er, green for the fifth-placed Greens. The party that had come fourth, and been just 800 votes behind the LibDems, wasn’t represented. Nor was UKIP mentioned on the contemporaneous radio news.
Like everyone else, I’m habituated to a measure of one-sidedness from the BBC. When, earlier this week, one of its senior controllers called publicly on the Corporation to “foster left-of-centre thinking”, I didn’t become especially exercised. This, though, goes beyond the general Leftiness which we’ve come to expect in drama, comedy and consumer affairs programmes. It is an issue of measurable bias between political parties, of empirically identifiable partisanship.
I hold no brief for UKIP, but this dispute transcends party loyalties. It is one engagement in a wider Kulturkampf. The BBC simply can’t bring itself to be fair to to those it regards as being outside the Left-liberal comity. All of us, including those who fight against UKIP at elections, should be angry on that party’s behalf. If you haven’t yet joined Charles Moore’s licence fee boycott, do so now.
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Clearly Dan Hannan has once again displayed his grasp of what is going on - if only David Cameron were not so predictably out of touch and misguidedly pro vassal status in TheEU!