On 4 December, Theresa May’s government became the first in history to be found in contempt of parliament. This landmark event dominated news and headlines. But ‘analysis‘ of the day’s events on the BBC‘s flagship Newsnight programme left many viewers questioning, yet again, just how close to Number 10 the corporation really is. So much so that even a Tory MP hinted that it seemed to be rolling out a memo from May.
No 10 memo
While parliament was still in session, host Kirsty Wark interviewed Conservative MPs Bernard Jenkin and Dominic Grieve. Wark asked Jenkin if he and other hard-Brexiteers would still be voting against May’s Brexit deal on 11 December. In response, Jenkin dropped a bombshell, saying:
I think this was an exercise to try and frighten… people like me into supporting the government, saying that ‘this is the best you’re going to get’ and that’s obviously the briefing that’s been sent out very strongly from No 10 and I even hear you echoing some of that in your questions.
At no point was there any confirmation or denial from Wark on this point. In fact, she didn’t even mention it. It seemed to go unnoticed, as very few people picked it up on social media:
— Janet T Beckett 💚 #GTTO (@carbonsaveruk) December 4, 2018
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
Bernard Jenkin suggests Kirsty Wark is replaying the brief sent out by No 10. #newsnight
— Maureen Fitzsimmons (@mojos55) December 5, 2018
One person called the show a “spoof”:
#newsnight has completely lost the plot tonight. Bernard Jenkin's tells us they "echo" no. 10 briefings. The #towerofpower is hilarious. The Queen's overtaking Corbyn last I saw. When did this show become a spoof?
— gary organ (@stretcherbearer) December 4, 2018
It’s really come to something when even a Tory MP suggests that the BBC is No 10’s mouthpiece.
A good day at the office?
There was a subtle suggestion throughout the show that May won’t lose the Brexit vote next week. And while few people seemed to pick up on Jenkin’s comment, lots noticed a report from Newsnight‘s political editor Nick Watts. In a summary of the day’s events, Watts said:
I spoke to one minister who said this may look like a dreadful day for Theresa May, but actually it was a rather good day in the office.
— The Agitator (@UKDemockery) December 5, 2018
Many people were stunned:
The start of #Newsnight almost suggested Theresa May hasn’t actually had the most disastrous day of any Prime Minister in more than a generation.
Why don’t they just rename the programme “Support May Or Else” and be done with the neutrality act?
— Archbishop Rachael Swindon (For Hire) (@Rachael_Swindon) December 4, 2018
Only the bbc could try and spin May's disastrous day into a triumph for her.
— Not The Rev. Robert Dorsett (@robdorsett) December 4, 2018
And as someone else pointed out in response to criticism that Watts was ‘just’ reporting, the glaring omission here was lack of commentary from a broader range of MPs:
He chose to quote, and I use the term loosely, one unnamed minister to frame the story. On a disastrous for May and her #Brexit shambles why try and spin it as a positive? What about a quote from one of the 300+ MPs who voted against her? Doesn't suit the #Newsnight narrative?
— Paul Smith (@thelobsterboy) December 5, 2018
On one of the most disastrous days any government has ever had, Newsnight’s coverage failed to take it fully to task. When a Tory MP notices this too, that suggests next-level bias, even for the Beeb.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?