The Cameronista BBC

Let me explain to foaming blog responders

What is it about people who comment on blogs? I have long wondered why the "blogosphere" is dominated by the libertarian right. As in America, the online right's many outlets here are completely co-ordinated and on-message about anything that threatens to damage their beloved Conservative Party. They are able to parrot the same attacks and counterattacks (most recently, say, on the anti-Semite Michal Kaminski) apparently without consulting one another, while the left turns on itself and flounders.

Now I look on in awe as commenters flock to blogs like ours to defend the Tories at all costs. Who are these poeple? Do they work at Conservative Central Office? If they don't, is that even more worrying? If I knew how, it would doubtless be fruitful to check the locations of their computers.

Recently, these people have got very angry about a debate between Mehdi Hasan and Peter Hitchens over whether the BBC is left-wing or right-wing. Abuse has been hurled at Mehdi for daring to suggest the BBC is, contrary to myth, a power-seeking, Establishment-pleasing broadcaster that -- if anything -- is right-wing. Now, while I think Mehdi is right to point to research showing that, for example, the BBC gave more airtime to supporters of the 2003 Iraq invasion rather than its opponents, and in that sense easy myths like "the BBC is anti-war" can be dismissed as nonsense, I would actually disagree with my colleague about the corporation being biased in any direction in a co-ordinated way. This is because it is too shambolic and huge.

Conversely, I agree with Hitchens that the BBC is very pro David Cameron. Hitchens is one of the few writers exposing the many examples of this. I completely disagree, however, with his outlandish reasoning: he says that the alliance shows that Cameron is left-wing and argues, absurdly, that the BBC has somehow converted the Tory party to its (liberal left) side.

In fact, the BBC is devoted to giving Cameron disproportionate airtime, as it memorably did when he talked tough against some of his expense-abusing backbenchers without actually withdrawing the whip as he promised he would. It does that because, outstanding institution though it is, its news culture journalistically is not very sharp. In short, it goes with the flow. This is not about its reporters, some of whom -- including Nick Robinson, James Landale and Iain Watson (the numbers one, two and three on its political reporting team) -- are among the best and most well-informed in the business. (Compared to some other outlets Robinson gave Cameron an impeccably hard time last night.) It is about a sluggish caution and group-mentality among faceless executives and producers.

The media, whose centre of gravity is anyway to the right in this country despite all the howls of fury from blog posters, have decided collectively, with a few exceptions, that the Tory party has changed, has "modernised" and is going to win the next election, probably by a landslide.

The BBC's movement towards Cameron, which results in incessant lead stories about Tory proposals and initiatives, is merely a reflection of this. So, the corporation is not so much biased (though for several years it has been on a recruitment drive to find people who have worked inside or understand Cameron's Tory party) as lazy.

Now, if you can't understand that, and still maintain that the BBC is "left-wing" or a vessel for Labour propaganda, you are going to have to do better than merely post clever-stupid one-liners below. Give me some real examples, please, and put your money where your loud mouths are.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Let's seize our chance of a progressive alliance in Richmond - or we'll all be losers

Labour MPs have been brave to talk about standing aside. 

Earlier this week something quite remarkable happened. Three Labour MPs, from across the party’s political spectrum, came together to urge their party to consider not fielding a candidate in the Richmond Park by-election. In the face of a powerful central party machine, it was extremely brave of them to do what was, until very recently, almost unthinkable: suggest that people vote for a party that wasn’t their own.
Just after the piece from Lisa Nandy, Clive Lewis and Jonathan Reynolds was published, I headed down to the Richmond Park constituency to meet local Green members. It felt like a big moment – an opportunity to be part of something truly ground-breaking – and we had a healthy discussion about the options on the table. Rightly, the decision about whether to stand in elections is always down to local parties, and ultimately the sense from the local members present was that it would be difficult  not to field a candidate unless Labour did the same. Sadly, even as we spoke, the Labour party hierarchy was busily pouring cold water on the idea of working together to beat the Conservatives. The old politics dies hard - and it will not die unless and until all parties are prepared to balance local priorities with the bigger picture.
A pact of any kind would not simply be about some parties standing down or aside. It would be about us all, collectively, standing together and stepping forward in a united bid to be better than what is currently on offer. And it would be a chance to show that building trust now, not just banking it for the future, can cement a better deal for local residents. There could be reciprocal commitments for local elections, for example, creating further opportunities for progressive voices to come to the fore.
While we’ve been debating the merits of this progressive pact in public, the Conservatives and Ukip have, quietly, formed an alliance of their own around Zac Goldsmith. In this regressive alliance, the right is rallying around a candidate who voted to pull Britain out of Europe against the wishes of his constituency, a man who shocked many by running a divisive and nasty campaign to be mayor of London. There’s a sad irony in the fact it’s the voices of division that are proving so effective at advancing their shared goals, while proponents of co-operation cannot get off the starting line.
Leadership is as much about listening as anything else. What I heard on Wednesday was a local party that is passionate about talking to people and sharing what the Greens have to offer. They are proud members of our party for a reason – because they know we stand for something unique, and they have high hopes of winning local elections in the area.  No doubt the leaders of the other progressive parties are hearing the same.
Forming a progressive alliance would be the start of something big. At the core of any such agreement must be a commitment to electoral reform - and breaking open politics for good. No longer could parties choose to listen only to a handful of swing voters in key constituencies, to the exclusion of everyone else. Not many people enjoy talking about the voting system – for most, it’s boring – but as people increasingly clamour for more power in their hands, this could really have been a moment to seize.
Time is running out to select a genuine "unity" candidate through an open primary process. I admit that the most likely alternative - uniting behind a Liberal Democrat candidate in Richmond Park - doesn’t sit easily with me, especially after their role in the vindictive Coalition government.  But politics is about making difficult choices at the right moment, and this is one I wanted to actively explore, because the situation we’re in is just so dire. There is a difference between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. Failing to realise that plays into the hands of Theresa May more than anyone else.
And, to be frank, I'm deeply worried. Just look at one very specific, very local issue and you’ll perhaps understand where I'm coming from. It’s the state of the NHS in Brighton and Hove – it’s a system that’s been so cut up by marketisation and so woefully underfunded that it’s at breaking point. Our hospital is in special measures, six GP surgeries have shut down and private firms have been operating ambulances without a license. Just imagine what that health service will look like in ten years, with a Conservative party still in charge after beating a divided left at another general election.
And then there is Brexit. We’re hurtling down a very dangerous road – which could see us out of the EU, with closed borders and an economy in tatters. It’s my belief that a vote for a non-Brexiteer in Richmond Park would be a hammer blow to Conservatives at a time when they’re trying to remould the country in their own image after a narrow win for the Leave side in the referendum.
The Green party will fight a passionate and organised campaign in Richmond Park – I was blown away by the commitment of members, and I know they’ll be hitting the ground running this weekend. On the ballot on 1 December there will only be one party saying no to new runways, rejecting nuclear weapons and nuclear power and proposing a radical overhaul of our politics and democracy. I’ll go to the constituency to campaign because we are a fundamentally unique party – saying things that others refuse to say – but I won’t pretend that I don’t wish we could have done things differently.

I believe that moments like this don’t come along very often – but they require the will of all parties involved to realise their potential. Ultimately, until other leaders of progressive parties face the electoral facts, we are all losers, no matter who wins in Richmond Park.


Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.