Fellow Remainers: Hands off the BBC

Remainers indulging in conspiracy theories about the BBC should be careful what they wish for.

Recently, it’s become fashionable in Remainer circles to attack the BBC for the apparent bias in its coverage of Brexit.

In recent days, for example, Lord Adonis’s Twitter feed has been an orgy of attacking the BBC’s impartiality, sometimes bordering on conspiracy theorising, and often using the vaguely sinister hashtag #BrexitBroadcastingCorporation :

Meanwhile Henry Porter has devoted a column in the Guardian to claiming that the BBC is abdicating its responsibilities in reporting Brexit.

Some of this, it appears, follows on from a decision by the BBC not to cover a march against Brexit, while reporting on Farage and Rees-Mogg’s publicity stunt in dumping fish into the Thames. Now, you may think that is right or wrong, but the fact remains that the BBC has to make those kinds of judgment calls all the time. I yield to no-one in my desire to see the UK remain in the EU, but as things stand we will leave next year, and the BBC has to report the news on that basis. The process of the negotiations is newsworthy and people are entitled to be informed on them and the effect they are having on British politics.

Frankly there are marches all the time and the BBC is right to be sceptical about how newsworthy they are. They are never going to be able to cover them all, and every time they don’t, people are going to complain about it. The only way they are all going to be reported is if the BBC adopts a weekly slot on the Saturday evening news to cover that week’s march. March of the Day: look away now if you don’t want to know how many people were on it.

Similarly, there’s been conspiracy theorising about the appointment of Robbie Gibb as Downing Street Director of Communications:

Really? There’s always been a crossover between journalism and political communications. Former BBC political journalist Lance Price was an adviser to Tony Blair during Lord Adonis’s time there, and went on to become the Labour Party’s Director of Communications. There’s not necessarily anything sinister about it.

Over recent years there has been a catastrophic collapse in trust in institutions: often well-deserved but insidious nonetheless. There is a reason why Farage, and Trump, and all the others want to destroy trust in the BBC and in impartial journalism, and we shouldn’t be assisting them with it.

If Britain is to remain in the EU, then it will be because there has been a firm shift in public opinion towards remain, of the kind that the Government cannot ignore. If the electorate are going to change their minds they’re not going to take it from Remainers that it’s the right thing to do: they need trusted, impartial sources of information to help them make up their minds. Undermining those sources is self-defeating.

Those indulging in conspiracy theorising against the BBC, and undermining trust in it, have fallen for the nirvana fallacy: they are comparing the real BBC with an unrealistic, idealised version of how it might be. The BBC is never going to be perfect, because it’s a fallible, man-made institution. The choice is between it as it stands, and no BBC at all. Make common cause with those who would destroy the BBC, and it will disappear and take public service broadcasting with it.

The alternatives to the BBC’s standards of journalism are the likes of Swawkbox, the Canary and Breitbart. Be careful what you wish for.


Fergus Wilson – no charges brought

Last year I reported on prospective Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate Fergus Wilson, and alleged that he was disqualified from standing due to his 2014 conviction for common assault. Subsequently, after Mr Wilson submitted nomination papers, I reported him to Kent Police for making a false declaration in his nomination papers.

Last week I was told by Kent Police that their investigation into Mr Wilson has been completed. I’m informed that Mr Wilson was interviewed as part of that investigation, and that a file has been presented to the CPS, but that no charges are to be brought against him. To bring charges, the CPS must be convinced both that there is a realistic prospect of conviction, and that it’s in the public interest to prosecute.

I was quite happy to let the matter drop there. Mr Wilson’s candidature is at an end, the election is long over and done with, and most importantly he’d promised to “ride off into the sunset” after the failure of his election campaign. He’s not a professional politician and it was over.

However, I see that the following story appears in the Medway Messenger:

fergus nocharges

I’m the complainant. I can confirm that I’ve not been spoken to by the Police in relation to this matter. I stand by my reporting I believed then, and I believe now, that my reporting was accurate and in the public interest. If the Police speak to me, I’ll defend myself vigorously.

Perhaps I’m lucky. A few days ago Mr Wilson was offering to fight a journalist who’d been unkind about his racehorse.

Fergus, it was punching someone that got you into this trouble in the first place.

On leaving Labour.

cardI’ve left the Labour Party today, the Party I first joined in 1989 and I’ve supported ever since. When Jeremy was elected Leader last year, I thought the right thing to do was to stay and fight for the kind of Party I wanted: open, moderate, internationalist, pro-EU. I’ve nothing but respect for those of my colleagues who’ve decided to stay in the Party this time, too: but for me, the end of the road has been reached.

This isn’t the Party I joined. We were always on the right side of British politics, and we always knew we wanted to make the world a better place. Labour was a family I was proud to belong to. I was proud, once, to be a Labour Councillor and Group Leader (though when it was obvious my time as Leader wasn’t a success, at least I had the decency to resign).

Labour isn’t that Party any more. It’s intolerant, it’s authoritarian, it’s a toxic place where the worst kinds of abuse are at best tolerated by the leadership. That leadership regards Hamas and Hezbollah – anti-semites, misogynists and terrorists – as friends, and Jeremy Corbyn himself has appeared on the state propaganda channel of a regime that executes homosexuals. And that’s without mentioning SinnFein/IRA…

Jeremy handed Brexit to the Tories on a plate, and the morning after the referendum result he called for the immediate triggering of Article 50. It’s as plain as anything that he rejects our membership of Nato – an international organisation that Labour helped found.

It’s not just about electoral success – though it’s plain that Jeremy can never win a General Election – but it’s become more and more obvious that the toxic mix of people who now constitute the Party’s leadership don’t care about winning. They’re more interested in sixth form debating, on building an organisation which is ideologically pure. That’s a betrayal of everyone who depends on the kind of moderate, centrist politics which this country needs. It gives safe space to the Tories to do their worst.

All of this is a repudiation of the kind of Labour Party I joined.

I don’t believe Jeremy should be Prime Minister. My continued membership of the Labour Party gives him moral and financial support. My conscience won’t allow that. And that’s why, with a heavy heart, I’ve left Labour.

Kent PCC elections: the results in detail.

This post is strictly for politics nerds. Yesterday we looked at the result of the Police and Crime Commissioner and today I want to look at the results in some more detail.

First: a health warning. Direct comparisons between this result and the 2012 election are problematic to say the least. Firstly and most obviously, the winning candidate from 2012 didn’t seek re-election and, as an independent, there’s no party we can use as a basis for comparison. Secondly, the Lib Dems didn’t stand last time. Further, low turnouts in both elections may mean that lessons for other elections are difficult to draw. Nevertheless, I think it’s a worthwhile exercise, if only as a resource for later. Throughout this post, I’m going to talk only about the first round of voting, because that was the only one in which all the parties were represented. And,

This was the result:

1st round share

The following table is the 2016 result in full, with the 2012 result for comparison, and the movement between elections (I’ve not included the Lib Dems):

From this, we can see how the parties have fared in each of the Kent districts:

Change from 2012

All of the major parties have increased their vote share in every district (except the Tories in Gravesham). That’s unsurprising: all of Ann Barnes’s votes from 2012 were up for grabs. The English Democrats’ Steve Uncles saw his vote share fall everywhere: remarkably, on a much-improved turnout his votes went down in every district too. He did particularly badly in Dartford, the district he lives in. I’m not going to pay him too much more attention, except to observe that, on the day London elected its first Muslim Mayor, race-baiting seems to be the fast-track to political oblivion.

Though the Tories won, Ukip will doubtless be pleased with these results. There are some impressive increases in vote share: particularly in Shepway, where it seems to be building up something of a power base. Labour really ought to have done better, though these results are far from disastrous for them: the fact that they didn’t do so is probably more to do with their lacklustre national performance than their local campaign. There’s little here to remind us, however, that there used to be a handful of Labour MPs in Kent: these are just the sorts of seats they need to win back if they are to have any hope of forming another Government.

Finally, the Lib Dems have slipped further into irrelevance.

Update: The Political Medway has a very comprehensive analysis of the results which is well worth a look.

Kent PCC elections: the people have spoken. Well, some of them.

Never mind the Masterchef final, the London Mayoral election or the nomination of Donald Trump to be leader of the free world: the results of the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election were announced today. Sadly, the election doesn’t appear to have captured the public’s imagination, with turnout at 21.5% (up from 16.3% in 2012, but that was in November).

Unsurprisingly, on a good day for the Tories generally, their candidate Matthew Scott was elected. Equally unsurprisingly, the second round also featured UKIP’s Henry Bolton, who had run a strong campaign with an impressive CV. UKIP has done well in Kent over the past few years and will be disappointed not to have snatched victory here.

I’ll post more analysis over the next few days, but it’s worth noting the other winners and losers: besides the Tories and UKIP, Labour’s Tristan Osborne did very creditably, increasing Labour’s share of the vote when the Party has been struggling to make an impact.

The big loser is undoubtedly Steve Uncles of the English Democrats: the only candidate to have stood in 2012, he saw his share of the vote slump to 3.1% (and kissed goodbye to his deposit).  Uncles had faced fierce criticism for his attempts to exploit an alleged rape in Bluewater, stating that the attack had been carried out by Muslims and then refusing to apologise when this turned out to be untrue, so it is perhaps fitting that on the same day that London elected its first Muslim mayor, Kent decisively rejected Uncles.

Steve Uncles – the truth comes out

So. A few days ago English Democrat PCC candidate Steve Uncles was declaring that the men who had allegedly raped a woman at Bluewater were Muslim. When the Police confirmed that the people arrested for this offence are white, English and non-Muslim, Uncles claimed that the Police were lying.

Now Uncles claims have come unravelled. In a bizarre rant posted today, Uncles appears to have abandoned his claim that the people arrested are Muslims.

Rather desperately Uncles blames everyone else. First, he blames the media:

No details were given by the Newspaper that broke the story.  In the current world of political correctness the implication was the culprits were “Ethnic Minority” or some of the groups given special status by multi-culturalism e.g. Muslims.

So, the newspapers are responsible for Uncles thinking the people are arrested are Muslim, because they didn’t mention that they’re not Muslim. Clear?

Secondly, he tries to distract attention from the fact that he posted inflammatory nonsense about this issue, by making a quite strange claim that the Police are still lying: he has announced that the people arrested are members of the travelling community, and according to Uncles travellers aren’t English – so the Police weren’t being honest when they described them as English.

He backs this up with an extract from the ethnic monitoring part of a benefits form, in which there is (along with boxes for other ethnic origins) a box for Gypsy/Traveller. That you might be a member of that community and English, in the same way that you might be black and English, appears not to have occurred to him. We might also remind ourselves that it’s not up to Uncles to decide who is English.

Quite why he thinks we should trust him now is unclear.

And in all of this, he continues to use the victim for a cynical political game.