There’s a fundamental problem with BBC impartiality with BBC business reporting and cost of living stories are bringing it to the fore. Last Wednesday Guido asked whether a BBC interviewer had ever asked a minister “Why don’t you cut taxes and let people decide their own spending priorities with their own money?”. The problem is while Tory spokesmen can expect to be challenged with left-wing criticisms, the BBC’s approach to Labour’s policy offerings are also to attack them from the left, not the right. The BBC’s approach to probing questioning seems to always be to frame them from the perspective of ‘why don’t you spend more’…
This morning’s Today interview of Starmer is a prime example. Of the 15 questions posed about the economy and his energy cap policy, 10 were from the perspective of ‘that’s not left-wing enough’. A usually fair Martha Kearney cited critiques of Starmer by a former Corbyn advisor, the TUC, Gordon Brown and John McDonnell to name a few. Nothing that could be construed as from a non-left perspective. The IFS’s inflation warning got one intervention, the concerns about backdating the windfall tax and its effect on business confidence got two, and the Bank of England’s argument on wage-price spiralling got one.
Here are the interview interventions Sir Keir received:
📈Everybody’s going to be benefiting from the cap freeze so why aren’t you targeting the help to the people who need it most?
📈Your support for those on pre-payment meters is only £45 a year, welcome to them but given the scale of what we’re talking about is a drop in the ocean
📈There will be lots of households who can afford their bills, and Richard Murphy – a left-wing economist who advised the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn – has been writing “Starmer will subsidise the best off 20% of households by more than £10 billion, when they’ll definitely not be in fuel poverty”
📈But you could, for example, have decided to spend the billions and billions of pounds on giving people on Universal Credit a temporary uplift
📉On inflation you’ll have heard the IFS saying earlier in a way this is an illusion because inflation will go up again after six months
📉Are you contemplating that the freeze could continue beyond the next six months? This is already costing £30 billion, increasing it for a year would be £60 billion – on the scale of furlough
📉You would backdate the windfall tax – hugely unpopular with business and a huge deterant for investment in this country won’t it
📈Your criticism of the energy companies raises the question of renationalisation. John McDonnell former shadow chancellor says that it’s a “short term solution of giving £29 billion of public money to energy companies with nothin in return”
📈You’re propping up energy companies
📈The TUC are saying it’d be £2.5 billion to renationalise energy companies, but given you’re looking at £30 billion over six months and haven’t ruled out taking further action, could be £60 billion over the course of a year, why not spend that money on renationalising the companies and give security to their customers?
📈Gordon Brown doesn’t agree with you, he says as a last resort the government should opperate their essential services from the public sector until the crisis is over
📈Do you agree with calls for higher public sector wages?
📈Do you support NHS strikes?
📉Do you agree with the governor of the Bank of England that wage increases help fuel inflation?
If you watch US business television news channels – Bloomberg and CNBC for example – covering the same issues, they tend to frame questions in a technical way, seeking enlightenment and practical solutions rather than political prognostications. The not-for-profit BBC invariably reports profits as problematic, not a sign of success to be celebrated. Liz Truss recently told Tom Newton Dunn “This is the problem with the way every question is framed… You’re framing it in a left-wing way Tom. The whole media does it all the time, it drives me mad.” It drives Guido to despair too. You only end up with a set of questions of this kind, if you have an organisational groupthink that fundamentally believes the solution to all problems is more government spending…
The Today Programme went off-air for about 15 minutes this morning as a fire alarm – broadcast live on the airwaves – forced Nick Robinson and Martha Kearney to evacuate the building and start out in the cold for the duration. Listeners were instead treated to blissful periods of silence, followed by a World News report on t-shirts. Thankfully it was a false alarm. The broadcast of the Today Programme is one of the official measures the Royal Navy’s nuclear command uses to prove that the United Kingdom still exists. Thankfully they can stand down…