Sarah Smith on BBC News

I am a little surprised that there has been so little comment about Sarah Smith’s quite disgraceful report in today’s BBC national news at 6.00 and 10.00) on the Scottish election, some of which sounds like the sort of election broadcast Labour would like to make, but won’t because they don’t have the cojones. You can find this here just now (i-player) about 22 minutes in http://www.bbc.co.uk/…/ep…/b076pmhd/bbc-news-at-ten-12042016

In particular, there are two points where her prejudices don’t so much show as come out the screen and punch you in the mouth.
The first is where, after talking to some pensioners in Coatbridge who seem unclear about what Labour stand for these days, Smith simply rolls over their view to say “that is why Labour have come up with eye-catching policies that are obviously to the left of the SNP”. She then goes on to laud their income tax policy as “bold” (I wonder what she thinks about the Greens’ proposals for a 60% top rate?), which are “designed to win back traditional supporters”.

This is followed by an extract where the same interviewees say that they would be happy to pay more tax without really making clear WHO would be paying more tax – i.e. would it be

  • people like the interviewees (all pensioners) who might well be paying more tax under Labour’s “bold” proposals which might not take more money from the bottom 10% (most of whom don’t earn enough to pay tax) but do take it from the second bottom 10%, OR
  • is just or mainly high earners.

The section concludes with the one of the three interviewees, who remains explicitly loyal to Labour, arguing that the SNP are making promises “they will not be able to keep”. This is used by Smith to justify her claim that there is a desire for Labour to be restored to challenge the SNP.
Secondly, having repeated her claim that the Labour Party have moved “significantly to the left to win back traditional supporters and interviewed some younger voters (also in Coatbridge, and presumably aged sixteen or seventeen) who say that they don’t know what Labour stands for, Smith concludes with the claim that Labour cannot win over new voters if these voters are “not listening to their promises”. At this point I half expected someone like Tom Harris or Jim Murphy to step out and say “told you so”.

The difficulty with that assertion is that there is no definitive proof. Labour can point to new policies and lack of movement in the polls to justify the “they’re not listening to us” claim. But without more, it does not disprove the alternative that the electorate have indeed listened to Labour, and don’t like what they hear.
Try to imagine if a BBC journalist were to put up a report with that sort of degree of bias, and I would suggest, pretty naked prejudice toward the SNP. I doubt if their feet would touch. Sarah, given who her father was, is always going to be under suspicion of favouring Labour. She is going to have to raise her game considerably from this virtual party political if she is to avoid that charge in the future.

This post – in an unamended form was originally posted on my Facebook page. One respondent advised that, while it might not achieve anything, I should make a formal complaint in the above terms to the BBC. I have and expect their excuses response in the next week or ten days. I will keep you posted.

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