BBC’s biased debate demeaned democracy  


On Wednesday morning this paper published what was – by any measure – a document of political significance. A secret Labour policy paper showed Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to throw open the UK’s borders to low and unskilled migrants.

With the election days away and mass migration a huge issue to the majority of voters, you might expect the story to merit significant coverage by the national broadcaster.

But the BBC barely mentioned it. Why? Was it, as we suspect, because it was helpful to the Tories – with their strong immigration policies – and unhelpful to Labour, many of whose voters fear more immigration will harm their living standards?

A secret Labour policy paper showed Jeremy Corbyn's plan to throw open the UK's borders to low and unskilled migrants but the BBC was more focused own election debate programme

A secret Labour policy paper showed Jeremy Corbyn's plan to throw open the UK's borders to low and unskilled migrants but the BBC was more focused own election debate programme

A secret Labour policy paper showed Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to throw open the UK’s borders to low and unskilled migrants but the BBC was more focused own election debate programme

Instead, as the day wore on, it became clear there was only one thing the BBC cared about. Not Brexit, the defining issue of our times, nor the NHS and social care.

No, it was the BBC’s own election debate programme which filled the bulletins, as reporters treated Jeremy Corbyn’s cynical U-turn on turning up like the Second Coming, and demanded imperiously to know why Theresa May wasn’t attending.

As it was, the 90-minute debate showed the BBC at its very worst. The programme was ugly, uninformative, biased, unedifying bear-pit television which discredited everyone involved.

Even by the low level of political discourse at this election, the standard of debate was pitiful. It was also blatantly unbalanced, with five politicians from the Left – and by golly how unimpressive they were – ganging up on Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the unappetising Ukip leader Paul Nuttall.

Presenter Mishal Husain was tragically out of her depth as a moderator, and allowed cheap yah-boo politics, endless interruptions and brazen hectoring. Worst of all, the audience was unashamedly skewed. Indeed, its bias against the Conservatives and Ukip was so obvious, even prominent Left-wingers commented on the imbalance.

The programme was ugly, uninformative, biased, unedifying bear-pit television which discredited everyone involved. Pictured: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

The programme was ugly, uninformative, biased, unedifying bear-pit television which discredited everyone involved. Pictured: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

The programme was ugly, uninformative, biased, unedifying bear-pit television which discredited everyone involved. Pictured: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Seemingly made up almost entirely of vocal Labour sympathisers, the audience behaved like a baying mob, booing every conservative point of view and heckling Miss Husain when Mr Corbyn – cheered throughout – was put on the spot.

In the circumstances, Miss Rudd performed admirably – especially as her father had passed away just 48 hours earlier. She landed clear blows on Mr Corbyn’s economic illiteracy and by the end, stood head and shoulders above her toy-town rivals.

We have expressed our admiration before for the neutrality and objectivity of the corporation’s journalists in the lead-up to the EU referendum. Sadly, it is difficult to apply either word to its election coverage. The truth is the tone and texture of so much BBC output, whether comedy shows or current affairs programmes, betrays a distinctly anti-Tory tinge.

Normally, this paper doesn’t approve of politicians complaining about the BBC, but in this instance, Downing Street is absolutely right to register a formal protest.

Typically, BBC executives have refused to apologise, or accept anything they did was wrong. Instead, they blamed the polling company, ComRes, which selected the audience – and claimed, risibly, that the Left-wingers in the audience were more vocal.

The show was blatantly unbalanced, with five politicians from the Left ganging up on Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall

The show was blatantly unbalanced, with five politicians from the Left ganging up on Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall

The show was blatantly unbalanced, with five politicians from the Left ganging up on Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall

With another election special tonight, this time in York – like Cambridge, the first debate venue, a strongly Remainer city – the corporation must urgently learn the lessons of this fiasco. 

Without assurances of neutrality, Mrs May would be well within her rights to pull out, and her party justified in never again turning up to a BBC election debate.

Wednesday night’s television demeaned the BBC, the political process and democracy itself.

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