New Times,
New Thinking.

8 October 2009

BBC sets tone for Cameron love-in

What is "neutral" reporting?

By James Macintyre

I mean this as no disrespect to the political correspondent in question, as his piece is well written, right in there with the conventional wisdom, and therefore precisely what the BBC would ask of him. But as a fellow “political correspondent” who is frequently accused of “bias”, I could not help but wince at this early write-up of David Cameron’s speech to the Tory party conference, which — unlike the editor of the Spectator, who thinks it was one of Cameron’s “best” — I thought was one of the worst of any party leader in modern times.

From the Tory leader came a very personal explanation about why he’s in politics and why he wants power . . . His personal experience was woven into the politics.

He pledged to put Britain back on its feet and fix what he’s dubbed the broken economy, the broken society and broken politics. He condemned big government with a force that was reminiscent of a Republican Party convention. But his political priorities couldn’t have been further away. In a passage that will be replayed many times and will rile Labour, he angrily looked straight into the television camera lens and said it wasn’t the “wicked Tories” who failed the poor but Labour.

There were no new policies in his speech but it sewed up the key conference themes [my italics].

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All week, the giant screen behind the podium has shown computerised clouds drifting across the sky and it has been a bit like a gloomy afternoon in the garden waiting for the sun to come out, a sense stoked by the speeches from the stage. Ready for Change is the slogan that is plastered around their conference and all week would-be cabinet ministers have been sketching out what that change might mean.

It was right that the rain lashed Manchester when George Osborne made his economic forecast in the most important hour of the conference. Under pressure for months to spell out how the Tories would cut the fiscal deficit, the shadow chancellor soberly spelt out what he’ll do: increase the state pension age sooner than Labour, freeze public-sector wages and stop some middle-class welfare payments.

Politically, it’s a big gamble to be so candid and the Tories know it . . .

So, the Tories leave Manchester with a cautiously confident sense of expectation.

Would-be Conservative ministers are not measuring up their new departmental curtains.

But they know that power is within their grasp and after this week there’s a clearer idea of what they’d do with it.

I highlight this only because it is a near-perfect example of the approach to Cameron of the BBC, which has been salivating over his speech all day. Let me just ask this: can you imagine a BBC report outlining a Gordon Brown speech in similar terms?

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