'PM' (6.7.09) featured a section on Britain's international aid policy, discussing some changes of priority and the rebranding of the responsible government department.
Carolyn Quinn interviewed International Development secretary, Douglas Alexander, and his Conservative shadow, Andrew Mitchell. The Interruption Coefficients are a tiny 0.3 for wee Dougie and 0.0 for big Andy. (Alexander was interrupted once and Mitchell not at all.) Bias in favour of the Conservatives? Hardly, if we consider the air-time allocated to each party spokesman:
Douglas Alexander (Lab) 3 minutes 33 seconds
Andrew Mitchell (Con) 1 minute 41 seconds
Alexander got over twice as long to make his case as Mitchell. Air-time is, along with the I.C., one of this blog's preoccupations - and an especially telling measure of BBC bias.
Douglas Alexander is one of Gordon Brown's closest allies and, as you would expect from this kind of grubby career politician, fully signed up to the PM's crude and dishonest strategy against Labour's political opponents. Here comes a classic bit of Labour smear & distortion, worthy of Damien McBride (and Gordon Brown) himself. Thankfully, Andrew Mitchell put the record straight.
After hearing Dougie say of the aid budget that "it was halved by the Conservatives during those long 18 years", Carolyn Quinn then gave Alexander another chance (and plenty of time) to bash the Tories, asking him an open question about their new policy of aid vouchers for developing countries:
CAROLYN QUINN: What do you think of that?
DOUGLAS ALEXANDER: Well, I think the Conservatives have a basic problem, which is they chose to commit to 0.75% G.N.I., the target that Labour had set for the first time, in an effort to detoxify their brand as the Conservative Party. Now what they've discovered is that they can change their branding but they can't actually change their beliefs. Just last week Conservatives...
CAROLYN QUINN (interrupting): I don't know what you're trying to say, actually
DOUGLAS ALEXANDER: Just let me explain to you. Just last week Conservative candidates, 96% of them, overwhelmingly confirmed they didn't want the overseas development budget protected. I believe as a sop to those candidates and to the unchanging beliefs of the Conservative Party, they've decided to promote private education and vouchers in the developing world, which were of course comprehensively rejected by the British people when last offered in a Conservative manifesto in 2005.
Carolyn later restated the point to Mitchell (very inaccurately!):
CAROLYN QUINN: And his point that you're trying to placate some of your Tory candidates, 96 (sic) of whom think the aid budget should be cut?
ANDREW MITCHELL: Well, he's making more politics out of this that he knows exists. This was a question to candidates about whether the aid budget should be the only protected budget. That was the question that they answered, and it's perhaps not surprising as "the only possible protected budget" that there should be such a high number.
Why do Labour politicians do this? They obviously think that such smears will do them good, that's why - and if unchallenged, they may well do so.