The BBC is attacking democracy itself by branding Corbyn ‘far left’ and, by implication, an extremist, writes PHIL HALL
TO a political innocent viewing politics from within “the rigged system” that Jeremy Corbyn referred to in his first election speech, the BBC may appear to be slightly to the left of centre, but it is not.
The BBC is reflecting an outdated democratic consensus, defending the British ruling class and violating its own charter in an attempt to place Labour’s leader beyond the pale.
The BBC is attacking democracy itself by branding Corbyn “far left” and, by implication, an extremist.
Why is the BBC, a nominally independent, public corporation with a charter that demands it be impartial, portraying Labour’s leader as an illegitimate and unqualified political actor? Why do they ridicule him?
Corbyn has been a respectable, upstanding, hard-working parliamentarian for many decades. He has the support of hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members in what is now the biggest political party in Europe and he has the support of millions of British voters — he is the elected opposition candidate.
It is pertinent and important to ask this question because the impartiality of the BBC, its current political editor and its former political editor have recently been seriously called into question.
If the “commanding heights” of the BBC are biased, then this will certainly be reflected in all its news broadcasts and programming.
Are Laura Kuenssberg and Nick Robinson imbalanced and partial? According to the BBC Charter itself they are.
Point 4 of the BBC Charter says that being impartial means reflecting the prevailing political consensus and only allowing the voice of significant minority opinion to be expressed occasionally. Furthermore, it insists that BBC journalists should not express their own personal preferences.
What is the idea that the BBC considers to be radical and outside the current consensus?
The essence of Corbyn’s platform is that people come before profit; that people, not Peter Mandelson’s filthy rich, are the wealth creators.
The reality is that the British state is now firmly in the grasp of the British ruling class and the BBC’s political outlook clearly reflects this.
It is behaving like an agent of the British state, not an independent public broadcaster.
So it is not the views of all the millions of Corbyn supporters voters the BBC is taking account of.
The BBC began to flourish at a time when Clement Attlee, the Labour prime minister, was saying that nationalisation was the policy that put the needs of all the people before that of one section of the population. As a public corporation run for the common good, not for profit, the BBC reflected this outlook.
Attlee and his colleagues propounded “the doctrines of abundance, of full employment and of social security [which would] require the transfer to public ownership of certain major economic forces and the planned control in the public interest of many other economic activities.”
The objective of the British government at that time, according to Aneurin Bevan, was to look after every citizen “from the cradle to the grave.”
This was the central idea of politics. Even the Tories nationalised industries in order to protect them and save jobs in the ’70s.
But from 1979 onwards, the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher took the fulcrum of British politics much further to the right and the BBC gradually came to reflect this.
As Thatcher boasted, Labour under Tony Blair was her greatest political legacy. This is the rigged system Corbyn referred to in his first election speech — a system where the BBC asks us all to agree that Blairites represent “the moderate left,” Ukip “the right” and the Tories the right of centre. Corbyn, however, is sidelined by the BBC as an outlier.
Wrong. Corbyn’s Labour has an enormous amount of support, especially from young people. The BBC should respect Corbyn’s Labour. Our political past is coming back into fashion very quickly and the BBC should take this into account, despite its obvious class allegiance.
The period from the ’50s to the ’70s sounds almost paradisical to the millennial generation.
The millennials dearly wish they could rent cheap social housing. They wish for protection and workers’ rights, for unionised full-time jobs with all the benefits.
They don’t want to pay tuition fees and they do want study grants. They want all schools to have playgrounds. They wish they did not have to face the prospect of being locked out of working and living in Europe by a Tory “hard Brexit.”
They would like to be represented by a moral government that didn’t join the US in its wars. They wish we would give more in foreign aid and that we were kinder to genuine asylum-seekers.
They wish companies were not allowed to recruit en masse abroad at minimum wage levels. They wish that corporations didn’t push the government around and that their taxes were used to help fund investment in services and infrastructure.
The millennials don’t want to have to face the prospect of an impoverished retirement, the possibility of living in poverty on a punitive dole system, the necessity of using a rundown health service.
They wish that the rail and bus fares were cheaper and that the government would protect the environment and provide clean air in the cities. They want free water, reasonably priced electricity and publicly owned utility companies that aren’t in existence solely to make a profit.
It is only by joining a modern-day mass movement and participating actively that we will be able to make progressive social democracy and socialism the fulcrum of our shared society again. Most trade unions, Momentum and many other grassroots organisations understand this fact very well. After the war it took 4.3 million demobilised ordinary working Britons and their families keen to get rid of “upstairs-downstairs” Britain to bring in the Labour Party reforms.
We should be just as keen to get rid of the Tories’ “bargain-basement” zero-hours contract Britain today.
To change the balance of power and achieve a fairer society we need an equally powerful mass movement.
Perhaps only then will the BBC decide to give Corbyn’s “old-fashioned” Labour fair coverage.