ARE we nearly there yet? That’s been the cry from the pro-Brexit newspapers for months now. And now Mrs Maybe has turned around from the driver’s seat and said that, yes, we will be there next Wednesday. Or two years after next Wednesday. Or however bloody long it takes after next Wednesday.
Then she turned back and, grimly clinging to the steering wheel, started to look out for those signs saying: “Big cliff this way.”
Nine months after the UK voted by a narrow margin to quit the European Union, Theresa May will on March 29 invoke article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, formally serving notice that we’re off into the great unknown.
To tie in with her announcement, a group of 72 MPs – mostly but not all Tories – have written to the BBC accusing it of being too pessimistic and skewed in its coverage of Brexit. The shorthand of this complaint is simple enough: these MPs are cross that the BBC isn’t flying the Brexit flag and joining in the hunky-dory chorus got up by those on the hard right. Instead, they complain, the BBC is “unfairly representing” Leave voters by focusing on those who regret their decision.
This letter from MPs is essentially wrapped round a brick which they have just lopped at the BBC’s windows, as it warns the director general that the future of the BBC “will be in doubt” if it is not seen as an impartial broker.
The Tory MP Julian Knight, a former BBC journalist who backed Remain, organised the letter because he disagreed with the stance of the coverage. Well, at least he comes at the matter from both sides. Among the other Tory signatories are the never knowingly less than revolting Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villiers, about whom I have no easily summoned insult. Duncan Smith endlessly spouts pro-Brexit propaganda, so we expect nothing less of the annoying man.
Joining the 60 grumbling Tories – reports the BBC website – are two Conservative peers, three Labour MPs, eight DUP MP, two DUP peers and UKIP’s only MP, Douglas Carswell – the man who, according to his former leader Nigel Farage, is hellbent on stopping UKIP from being an anti-immigrant party (so he’s not all bad then).
Complaints like this are part of the daily grind for the BBC, which does sometimes trip over its own scuffed brogues while attempting to be impartial. For evidence of this, look no further than the prominence given to climate-change sceptics, whose highly partial views are given equivalence with the scientific consensus that global warming is indeed caused by mankind.
Naturally enough some of the usual suspects are flourishing this anti-BBC letter this morning. The Daily Mail splashes on the story under the customary bellow of a headline: “BBC’S BREXIT BIAS STORM.”
“About 70 MPs are understood to have signed a letter…” fumes the Mail, somehow forgetting to add that most of them were moaning Tories. The similarly Brexit-besotted Daily Telegraph tops the page with: “BBC warned over Brexit ‘bias’.”
And the Daily Express as usual goes for: “Are we nearly there yet?” Or in fact the entirely dreary: “MARCH 29th 2019 DATE SET FOR OUR EU EXIT.”
An unkind thought occurs, as they sometimes do, but just how many Yes-voting Express readers will have popped their slippers before we even reach that date? The sense of an older generation getting in a last hurrah and saddling their grandchildren with a long-term problem is hard to shake off. Well, it is for me at least.
As for the BBC being biased over Brexit, that seems like nonsense. Perhaps the BBC occasionally wears a frown over Brexit, but it is surely only biased to those who believe that Brexit is going to be a free-world skip in a post-Europe park where the sun never stops shining.
The BBC defended itself with a routine statement that its job was to “scrutinise and analyse” Brexit issues, and that sounds fair enough to me. Bias is often in the eye of the beholder – and the mouth of the Daily Mail, or whichever newspaper one decides to dislike.
I realise people get their news from many sources nowadays, but those who rely on certain newspapers are being fed a diet rich in fatty pro-Brexit meat. Now that is bias as an art-form.
The BBC can never please everyone, but MPs making dark threats and bullying the Beeb over Brexit bias at the Corporation should remove their heads from Nigel Farage’s bottom, and have a proper look around at the world.