The Daily Mail has criticised the BBC for its Panorama programme on the government’s response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. More specifically, the tabloid has utterly humiliated itself by making a staggeringly moronic attempt to call the programme into doubt.
The Panorama programme was titled Has the Government Failed the NHS?. It sought to investigate “the delays and mistakes that may have put the lives of NHS staff at risk” amid the pandemic. As the BBC explained, it made a number of key revelations:
That the billion plus items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that the government has supplied included cleaning products and individually counted gloves. …
That gowns, visors, swabs and body bags were not included in the pandemic stockpile.
It also revealed that the government took “steps to remove Covid-19 from the High Consequence Infectious Diseases (HCID) list” on the same day it downgraded PPE guidance. Meanwhile, the programme pointed out that there are 21 million ‘missing’ FFP3 respirator masks; because 33 million of them were “specified” in a stockpile list but the government has only distributed 12m.
The Mail‘s attack
The programme also spoke to healthcare workers. As the broadcaster noted in a response to criticism:
More than 100 NHS and other healthcare workers are known to have died with Covid-19 to date.
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So it wanted to include “the personal experiences of doctors and nurses who are risking their lives to treat Covid-19”.
The Daily Mail, however, had a different take on the situation. Its article on the programme, written by Guy Adams, ran with the headline:
How WAS flagship BBC show infiltrated by the Left? When Panorama turned its guns on the PPE crisis, five medics savaged the Tories’ approach. Yet they ALL had Labour links
Adams then proceeded to list the interviewees and effectively ‘out’ them as Labour ‘infiltrators’. One, Adams said, was “an outspoken supporter of Jeremy Corbyn” who attempted to become “a council and parliamentary candidate”. Another played a key role in a “Left-wing lobby group that campaigns against billing migrants for NHS care”. And on and on he went.
You reap what you sow
At one point in the tirade, Adams asked the question:
Why couldn’t the BBC find a doctor or nurse to speak to who didn’t have a long track record of Labour activism?
The BBC has provided its own answer to this, saying:
Some NHS Trusts have discouraged health care workers from discussing the lack of PPE. So it is perhaps not surprising that those willing to speak out are more involved with campaigning around the NHS.
But there’s another explanation that’s best illustrated by rephrasing Adams’s question: why couldn’t the BBC find a doctor or nurse eager to defend the Conservatives after the party has systematically destroyed the health service over the last ten years? Or put into a more immediate context: why couldn’t the BBC find a doctor or nurse willing to defend the Conservatives’ record after the party left them on the frontline without protection against a highly infectious disease? Perhaps simply the question of ‘why are many doctors and nurses prone to Labour and activism?’ would suffice. A big part of the answer to that, of course, can be found in the preceding two rephrased questions.
The problem with the Mail‘s article doesn’t just rest in its inability to see how moronic its central gripe with the programme is, though. The fact it thought that characterising Labour supporters as ‘infiltrators’ rather than, say, people holding a legitimate political position, is also pretty damning.
Are we pretending that Labour is now some sort of illegal group? Why does it matter otherwise? These craven attacks, using people's politics to dispute the truth of their words, are becoming extremely tiresome. pic.twitter.com/EOhuL7MmXH
— ʏɪᴀɴɴɪs ʙᴀʙᴏᴜʟɪᴀs (@YiannisBab) April 30, 2020
The designation speaks volumes about how the tabloid views Britain’s political landscape and the general public.
Also, as academic Justin Schlosberg told The Canary, the Daily Mail‘s reaction to the BBC‘s exposé reveals much about the current state of the British media. Because in this particular instance, the BBC was ‘doing its job’, i.e. holding the government to account, which isn’t often the case in terms of the public broadcaster. But Schlosberg said “it immediately induces flak [for doing so], not as much from the government but astonishingly from other media, other right-wing media”. And he stressed:
On the rare occasion where journalists at the BBC do what should be just a matter of routine journalism, that is calling the government to account for its gross failures in the handling of the pandemic, it is just seen as an aberration.
In short, there are ‘infiltrators’ featured in the British media. But they’re not the doctors and nurses who go public to reveal what our government is doing. They’re those who work in the industry and dedicate their time to propping up the Conservatives and the status quo, instead of holding power to account on behalf of the public – which is meant to be their actual job.
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