The BBC on the BNP

Radio 1's Newsbeat interview is shameful

Regular readers of this blog will know that I tend to harp on about the self-serving, right-wing "myth" of the BBC's supposed "liberal left bias".

For those who remain unconvinced, let me point you towards Radio 1 Newsbeat's "interview" with two "young BNP members", on the BBC website. It is so staggeringly soft, woefully weak and uncritically unchallenging that I feel sick to my stomach. Here, in full, is the absurd attempt at rigorous and impartial journalism on the BBC (I mean, Radio 1, what is the point of it?):

 

Do you think it's OK for people who aren't white in this country to call themselves British?

Joey: Civic-ly British they are. You cannot say they are ethnically British. It's denying our heritage. It's taking that away from us.

At what point do they become ethnically British? How long do they have to be here?

Joey: Well I think it would be an awfully long time before someone would become ethnically British.

So when you see someone like Ashley Cole play for England, are you happy to watch him?

Joey: If he wants to come to this country and he wants to live by our laws, pay into society, that's fine.

But if he wanted to call himself British that would be a problem?

Joey: He cannot say that he's ethnically British.

Why is the idea of races mixing such a bad thing?

Joey: If everybody integrated it would take away everybody's identity.

Mark: I would be upset if there were no more giant pandas, I'd be upset if there were no more lions, if there were no more tigers, so equally I'd be upset if white people weren't here any more.

But we're the same species which makes it a bit different, doesn't it?

Mark: You could say that but if all of a sudden there weren't any sparrows and there were only crows, I'd still be sad there weren't any sparrows.

Can you understand that some people are happy to mix?

Mark: No, I think people have been brainwashed. I think the media, the government, have forced it down people's throats and they've indoctrinated people.

You don't think people are bright enough to decide themselves?

Mark: I think when people are bombarded 24 hours a day to force multiculturalism upon them, people are going to succumb to that. We shouldn't have to bend our ways to people who've been here five minutes.

You're talking like people here are on holiday. They've lived here, some of them, for a generation, some of them for longer. Doesn't that count?

Mark: Are you trying to compare somebody, or a group of people who've lived here for maybe 30 years, to people who've lived here for 40,000 years? There's a vast, vast difference in time scale there, my dear.

My point isn't the difference in times between one group of people and another, it's saying they're not visitors, they are not holidaymakers, they are people living here.

Mark: If I went to live and work in another country, then I would still adhere by their culture and they should adhere by ours.

Is anyone else as shocked as I am by the soft, naive, piss-poor questioning? Why the pleading tone from reporter Debbie Randle? Where in the interview are these two BNP "kids" properly challenged - on the criminal convictions and dubious backgrounds of leading BNP figures; the party's nakedly racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic discourse; the BNP's policies on (voluntary) repatriation and mixed-marriage bans, etc? Why is the piece headline "Young BNP members explain their beliefs", as if they are innocent members of, say, Amnesty International or on an Alpha course, rather than of a party whose members are banned from becoming police officers or prison officers?

In May, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) published "race reporting guidelines" for the media, which included this particular point:

When interviewing representatives of racist organisations or reporting meetings or statements or claims, journalists should carefully check all reports for accuracy and seek rebutting or opposing comments. The antisocial nature of such views should be exposed.

Does anyone think reporter Debbie Randle stuck to those (voluntary) guidelines, or even to basic common sense (i.e. if you're interviewing young members of a racist party, those members' views should be challenged and their racism exposed)? According to her profile on the BBC website, she is a "Senior Broadcast Journalist" and someone desperate to interview Prince William, who once wanted to be a singer, cites Jon Snow as her favourite "reporter" because "he's so cool" and had a first job working in a bingo club. Judging by this abysmal interview, and the pass she gives the odious BNP and its "young" members, she should probably head back to that bingo club while her Radio 1 bosses hang their heads in shame for commissioning this awful feature.

The normalisation of the BNP in our political and media discourse continues apace - aided and abetted, as usual, by our public-service broadcaster. It's disgusting and depressing.

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.