BBC chooses Cameron

Sheep-like corporation shows its hand

Final proof that my colleague Mehdi Hasan is right to deny that the BBC is "left-wing" (and that instead, as I have been saying, groupthink has made it fall in love with the Conservative Party) came with an item on Tuesday night's News at Ten, which was advertised as an explanation of the "battle lines" at the next general election.

Both David Cameron and Alistair Darling gave major speeches today about public spending. The Tory leader focused on the issue of curbing subsidised food in parliament, a genuine disgrace, but one he bizarrely blamed on "Labour". The Chancellor outlined the government's approach to public spending in future years. Arguably more important. But for some reason, the flagship bulletin decided to lead instead with the Cameron charm offensive -- which admittedly allowed the political editor, Nick Robinson, to film Cameron putting away a box of cereal at the start of the day.

I have had some experience of the vast BBC, having worked ons Question Time for a year (read my opinion on the BNP invitation in the next issue of the NS). I know that the truth that dare not speak its name is that it is far too disorganised to be "biased" in any direction. But Tuesday's News at Ten is a tiny example of literally scores I have seen in recent years and months which show that the corporation is now treating Cameron's unchanged Tory party as, if not quite a government, beyond any doubt a government-in-waiting.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.