One shocking Newsnight clip explains why the BBC is seen as a mouthpiece for the Tories

Emily Maitlis on BBC Newsnight
Tracy Keeling

BBC Newsnight reported on the aftermath of parliament’s ‘Super Saturday’ session on 19 October. In particular, it detailed the ire politicians faced from protesters as they left parliament that day.

Its presenter Emily Maitlis made passing mention that MPs “from both sides” came into contact with the public. But its accompanying clip only showed contact between protesters and Conservative politicians, despite footage existing of someone confronting a Labour MP.

The clip – and the “throwaway” mention of what other MPs faced – explains why many see the broadcaster as a mouthpiece for the Tories.

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Conservative contact with the public

Politicians headed to parliament on 19 October for more voting on Brexit issues. As such, protesters on both sides of the Brexit divide were out in force that day, including those involved a million-strong march calling for another referendum. A number of MPs decided to leave parliament via foot that day. The protesters didn’t stay quiet as they passed. Maitlis explained that:

protesters [were] showing the passion and raw emotion that Brexit has unleashed when MPs from both sides came into contact earlier today with the public

The programme then proceeded to show a clip of that contact between protesters and Jacob Rees-Mogg, Micheal Gove, and Andrea Leadsom. It showed Rees-Mogg and Leadsom subject to chants of “shame on you”. One protester called Gove an “education wrecker”. The police flanked all of them as they walked.

After the clip finished, Maitlis added:

You’ve seen a couple of MPs who had to walk with police guards. Diane Abbott was another one who was confronted.

The other confrontation

Maitlis is quite right, another protester did confront Diane Abbott. Footage of that is publicly available too:

In that confrontation, a protester subjected Abbott to thinly veiled sexist and racist comments. The man asked the MP if she had “Jeremy Corbyn’s slippers on”, insinuating the two had been in intimate settings together. He then said, “you and Jeremy Corbyn need to go on a nice holiday somewhere and stay there”. This differs from a racist ‘go home’ comment but reeks of the same sentiment nonetheless.

But the BBC didn’t include this confrontation in its clip, it only showed those faced by Conservative politicians. This didn’t go down well with the public:

Balance?

That BBC Newsnight didn’t include what Abbott endured in its clip hasn’t done it any favours. By only documenting what Conservative MPs faced, it’s cementing a belief many already hold: that the broadcaster is biased towards the governing party. Because although MPs of ‘all stripes’ did indeed have ‘contact’ with protestors, it only properly detailed what happened to the Conservatives.

Featured image via screengrab/Twitter

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  • Show Comments
    1. ““you and Jeremy Corbyn need to go on a nice holiday somewhere and stay there”. This differs from a racist ‘go home’ comment but reeks of the same sentiment nonetheless.”

      I don’t think most people would agree with you there. It’s more like the same sentiment as telling someone to take a long walk off a short cliff but without the implication of death. It’s not racist just because she’s black and he wants Brexit. One might counter by accusing you of liberal elitism. Corbyn isn’t black. And this bloke used the word ‘holiday’, It’s basically telling them to go away. No suggestion of going ‘back’ anywhere.

      This kind of sensationalist analysis makes the left so easy to dismiss as delusional self-righteous snowflakes. I say that as a lefty. People aren’t stupid. They really don’t need your bias in an article about BBC bias. If this is campaigning journalism you need to be appealing to people who don’t yet agree with you by default, who view what you say with skepticism. There is so much wrong with the right – there’s absolutely no need for your spin. I know how tempting it is to stick the boot in when reporting. But it only hurts your credibility, and the credibility of the left in the minds of people who think the Canary is its mouthpiece.

      1. I agree. If Labour is to succeed, it must eschew tribal preoccupations and language.

        Mr Corbyn’s vision for Labour is a seedling growing from the dung heap left by long overdue collapse of irrelevant ‘Old’ Labour and the failed ‘New Labour’ attempt to replace substance by mendacity and ‘spin’ whilst surreptitiously embracing neo-liberalism.

        If the Canary is a mouthpiece then it is somewhat a ‘curate’s egg’. Some reporting and opinion pieces are excellent exemplars of coherent thought. Sadly, others are dire. Those latter reveal themselves through reliance on ‘Old’ Labour trigger concepts, outmoded rallying cries, and implicit assumption that verities written on tablets of stone are being issued. These are noticeable for reliance on quotation from ‘authority’, e.g. Twitter posts, rather than the author’s mentation: an empty assemblage of vox populi.

        Lack of comments in the Canary suggest it is not serving the purpose of promoting discussion. Too many articles either are unoriginal restatements/applications of traditional doctrine fed to the faithful or so otherwise trite as not to merit attention.

        The Canary might do well by modelling itself on erstwhile intellectual power houses promoting ferment of thought about values and policies distinct from those promulgated by the traditional ‘right’. The Fabian Society heyday comes to mind.

        To achieve that end it needs to commission discursive pieces looking at present day Labour policy options. Discussion should be encouraged and visible. Tucking comments away behind a link under each article requiring a click is no way to promote engagement. Moreover, comments ought be editable for a while and there should be basic tools for layout, e.g. quotation, and emphasis, e.g. italic and bold.

        Additionally, consideration should be given to introducing a reader ‘blog’ facility. Some years ago, before its decline into a sponsored article and product marketing rag, the Daily Telegraph offered this facility (using an external provider) with great success. Amidst occasional dross, thought provoking, sometimes funny too, contributions arose which engendered lively, mostly thoughtful, discussion.

        The Labour Party is, to give it credit, offering members opportunity to contribute to policy formulation. However, it’s a stilted bureaucratic process seemingly reflecting time honoured Labour Party management atherosclerosis. The Canary may be in position to create a lively unofficial Labour forum beholden only to its editor and resistant to attempted interference from elements in the party hierarchy. The party is at an exciting juncture, yet there are many things amiss with how it conducts business. Voices, including Mr Corbyn’s, are subject to degrees of bullying aimed at silencing them; the antisemitism nonsense exemplifies it well. Also, sensitivities have become such that robust criticism, even mild questioning, of demands made by the various minority factions accreted to Labour is deemed ‘offensive’.

        Thus, an external organ like the Canary could promote no-holds-barred discussion of topics mired in irrelevant Labour mythology, bureaucracy, and silly sensitivities. Outline policies could be mooted. Some ideas emanating from an unencumbered powerhouse would filter through to the party. Long established ‘think tanks’ feeding ideas into Labour are set in their ideological perspectives and draw upon opinion from a select few. The Canary could upset that apple-cart.

        1. A nice vision. I’d like to see that.

          I think the reason the comments section on this site is so neglected is that the Canary is – by design – a cog in the Twitter machine. Or a gas can to the Twitter “dumpster fire” as it’s often described. But as far as I can tell as a Twitter outsider, it isn’t an ideal platform for “campaigning journalism”. It’s tribal through and through. The response there, I think, to content that challenges one’s tribal doctrine is to click through to content that supports it – never to question one’s allegiance. I don’t know if this is generally the case but either way Twitter is really not much of a discussion forum when even this brief comment would have to be serialised in two.

    2. People with memories spanning decades will be aware that the BBC is always under criticism for bias. If there is bias it is haphazard. Political left and right have frequently asserted the BBC as against them. In fact, most claims have associated the BBC with left-bias. That is understandable in light of the BBC’s charter promoting education, discussion, and exploration of barely charted ideas.

      People attracted to work at the BBC and wont to rise to editorial roles are naturally likely to be broadly free-thinking and questioning of orthodoxies. Those are qualities associated with the ‘intellectual left’ but not exclusively so. The BBC is fair game for disgruntled people seeking to silence the messenger. The BBC does get things wrong occasionally, that goes with the territory; also, it is far too prone to issue apology based on a handful of complaints.

      There is no good reason why individual programmes ought not reflect the world-view of their creators. That goes too for programmes based on political discussion and commentary. Open ‘bias’ ought be accepted so long as it more or less balances across programming. Obscured bias can be destructive; yet maybe it is consequence of programme participants and editors striving for disinterest and dispassionate stance when that is not practicable.

      1. “People attracted to work at the BBC and wont to rise to editorial roles are naturally likely to be broadly free-thinking and questioning of orthodoxies.”

        The BBC is the very definition of an orthodoxy. It operates within the parameters of political opinion which it determines is acceptable, or ‘normal’, never straying too far from the status quo, which is the prevailing orthodoxy. Why would anyone wanting to question orthodoxy want to aspire to an editorial role created to uphold it?

    3. One shocking Newsnight clip explains why the BBC is seen as a mouthpiece for the Tories
      All the protection given to Tory Govt policy + Minister/ Tory M.P. by B.B.C. is so they can trash the Old people T.V. license help and make more cash for B.B.C. already rich board member to run off with.
      ///////
      ///
      //
      To all Tory M.P. + Ministers in Parliament
      Can I have some of them Police Officer in LONDON AREA ONLY
      That I as a taxpayer pay for? look at this way Tory Govt members
      The problem of E.U. mess is of your Tory party making ONLY.
      POINTS HERE
      P-1
      All you Tory member including Tory votes as they voted for Tory Manifesto paper in 2015-2017 G.E. started the problem of leaving E.U. no over party but failed to deliver a FACT.
      P-2
      Your X P.M. David/C started the ball rolling them did a runner on us all
      failed to deliver a FACT.
      P-3
      Your X P.M. Ms May when to bed with D.U.P. party to stay in power ONLY then put back stop in place then failed to deliver a FACT.
      P-4
      Boris is trying to get Ms May OLD W/BILLS passed with the old backstop rule in place that keep us tied to E.U. for every so could,
      also fail in getting us out a FACT.
      P-5
      All Tort Govt member under Boris now are all failing us leave voter plus, NON leave voters they are all now concentrating on protecting their own ASSES, now getting ready for a new G.E. on it way before end of 2019 time frame a FACT.
      FINALLY!
      To Boris how much of 33 Billion pounds of our British taxpayer money have you already give E.U. up-front to pass you’re Not new deal over there, I as a taxpayer wish to know before next G.E. Boris.
      ///
      Also Boris the birds in backroom of parliament say you may or may not have promised more cash to E.U. to fast track your Tory Not new deal in E.U. 27 is this true Boris yes or no?? plus all Minister under you now protecting their ASSES before new G.E. time as we voters may or may Not kick Tory party out of power when new G.E. is held a very good possibility NOW of Tory Govt to loss power.

    4. You are on the Left! No wonder you think the BBC is biased to the Right. This story is a pretty feeble example as they did mention MPs of all stripes. They can’t show endless clips of video.

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