BBC Complaints: The link you need!

Saturday, 11 July 2009


In what was little more than a one-day wonder, the BBC got themselves into a frenzy of anti-Tory bias over the 'News of the World' hacking 'scandal'. These allegations were ostensibly aimed at Robert Murdoch's News International, but the BBC - and their Labour allies/masters - tried to fix the focus (at least as much) on Andy Coulson, communications chief to Conservative leader David Cameron and former editor of the 'News of the World'. They did so on the flimsiest of evidence. This evidence turned out to be nothing more than the 'there's no smoke without fire' ruse, the 'but he must of known' dodge and, to top it all, some gossip from anonymous ex-employees of News International - and exes are not the most reliable of judges. There is, the BBC were eventually to admit, no evidence yet - which m'lud means there's no evidence, period (as the Americans say).

Concentrating on just one programme, 'Newsnight', what follows is a study in bias.

Wednesday 10.30 pm

Late on Wednesday night a 2-year old story re-'broke', as the 'Guardian' (the hard-copy version of BBC News) announed that it was reheating the 'News of the World' 'hacking scandal' of 2007. Labour smear-doctors leapt on the news (and, as Guido Fawkes reveals, were already well aware of its coming publication.) Their allies at the BBC were ready to pounce too, & no-one was more ready that that scourge of the Conservatives, Michael Crick (who, on top of his Tory-baiting duties, acts as 'Newsnight''s political editor). He was tipped off by the 'Guardian' and had a report ready for broadcast by 10.30 pm.

The BBC juggernaut began to roll on the Wednesday night edition of 'Newsnight'. Emily Maitlis, in a fetching above-the-knee skirt, introduced the programme with "Tonight claims that go to the heart of the Murdoch Empire and the top of the Tory party...Andy Coulson's a former editor of the 'News of the World' but he's now David Cameron's right-hand man. What did he know of all this?"


Crick, of course, leapt straight on the Tories. Not the 'News of the World', mind you. No, the Tories. His report began, "Tonight Andy Coulson, one of David Cameron's closest aides, faces serious questions over the involvement in criminal acts by HIS reporters during HIS time as editor of the 'News of the World'."

He went on, "Unless Mr. Coulson comes up with a convincing account - and quickly - it could prove highly embarrassing for his boss" and shortly after called the 'News of the World' "Coulson's paper", just to make sure viewers got the point: Coulson='News of the World'. This is essential for the success of the final Crick equation:

Coulson='News of the World'

'News of the World"=criminal acts

Therefore, Coulson=criminal acts

From which a new equation can, of course, be insinuated:

Coulson=Cameron and the Conservatives

Coulson=criminal acts

Therefore, Cameron and the Conservatives=criminal acts

Is this second equation far-fetched as an interpretation (on my part) of the BBC's agenda? Well, as the juggernaut kept on rolling through into Thursday, it grew less and less far-fetched.

Back to the 'Newsnight' report. Nick Davies, the 'Guardian' reporter who led the story for the paper, was interviewed by Crick. (Not questioned, of course).

"Another whose voice-mail was allegedly hacked into was the then Deputy Prime Minister, who tonight was pretty angry", Crick continued. Cue John Prescott, calling for David Cameron to "take action" against Andy Coulson. (Who stirred up Prescott against Coulson? Was it the 'Guardian', the 'Labour Party' or Crick? That would be interesting to know.)

"But the big political story is about Andy Coulson". Cut back to Nick Davies, who went through hoops to suggest reasons why Coulson should resign for a second time.

Crick then read out a statement from Andy Coulson, which says "This story relates to an alleged payment made after I left the 'News of the World' two and a half years ago. I have no knowledge whatsoever of any settlement with Gordon Taylor. The Mulcaire case was investigated by the police and the Press Complaints Commission. I took full responsibility at the time for what happened on my watch but without my knowledge and resigned."

"David Cameron meanwhile is said to be 'very relaxed' about all this. "The ramping up of this story is ridiculous", a spokeswoman said. "This is about a payment made well after Andy Coulson left the 'News of the World'.""

Unlike Crick, I'm not a reporter employed by a supposedly impartial state broadcaster, so I will make it as clear as day that I agree with the Tory spokeswoman. The ramping up of this story was ridiculous - but I'd go further, it was scandalous too.

Next, the Conservative chairman of the (Labour-dominated) Culture select committee made the first of several appearances on the BBC. John Whittingdale was in demand throughout Thursday too. He was a rare Tory. He wanted questions asked of Mr. Coulson & his (Labour-dominated) committee. Fine by Crick and the BBC of course.


Emily Maitlis's first interviews (following Crick's report) were with Andrew Neil, BBC presenter and former editor of Murdoch's 'Sunday Times', and Peter Wilby, former editor of the 'Independent on Sunday'

Lovely Emily prefaced this discussion with the wise words "It IS worth reminding viewers again that these are only allegations at this stage" (perhaps after a word in the ear from a more cautious Beeboid, alarmed at the tenor of Crick's report?) . That didn't stop the ever-entertaining Mr Neil from saying that the "hacking into mobile phones" was on a "mass scale" and that "it's an enormous story and to my mind one of the biggest stories of journalistic practise and ethics of modern times". With a statement like that from a former Murdoch employee, you could guarantee that Andrew Neil was bound to make many more appearances over the coming 24 hours. Neil went on to attack the police and the criminal justice system too for not acting strongly enough on the matter.

Emily repeated the Coulson statement, & invited comments. Both guests were sceptical about it.

Still, both former editors were - unlike Crick - not fixated on Coulson and the Conservatives.

Thursday 10.30 pm

At 5.15 pm (or so) Yates of the Yard had rammed into the BBC juggernaut & knocked its two front wheels off, undermining the 'Guardian' story and, as Tom Bradby on ITV News at 6.30 pointed out, sending the story back into the shadows. Being a juggernaut, however, the two back wheels kept on running for a while - as if nothing had happened. That night's 'Newsnight' soldiered on bravely. They were not pleased, however. Not pleased at all.

Gavin Esler was its presenter, & in his introduction we got the same old story: "The man at the centre of the storm, former 'News of the World' editor Andy Coulson, holds onto his job as a key advisor to David Cameron."

Just why was Coulson at the "centre of the storm" if the main allegation (the Taylor story) related to events after his resignation from the 'News of the World'? Obviously because the BBC, the 'Grauniad' and their Labour puppet-masters wanted him there. Why else?

Esler went on, "In a moment we'll consider the fate of the former 'News of the World' editor Andy Coulson, now a key advisor to David Cameron, who has broken one obvious rule by himself becoming at least part of the story..."

This is hardly fair, is it? Coulson was only "part of the story" because the Beebosphere made him "part of the story". Or should that be "part of the non-story"? That's like blaming a man who has been mugged for walking the streets with money in his pocket.


This concentrated on the allegations against the 'News of the World' and the Press Complaints Council rather than Coulson and the Conservatives. This carried Assistant Commissioner John Yates's devastating statement - or at least a tiny, tiny part of it (25 seconds worth). The brevity of the except was outrageous. I heard the whole statement (which was not that long) &, as I say, it knocked the BBC sideways - despite 'Newsnight's valiant efforts. Comments from Vanessa Feltz and Madonna's barrister Matthew Nicklin (a legal Max Clifford) followed. An anonymous free-lance journalist at 'News of the World' was quoted, backing up the 'Guardian' story against moody, thriller-style background music. (An old BBC trick). Ron Sutton, private investigator, chips in a word.


If you wanted a dream-panel to stoke the flames of this non-story, who would you choose?

How about Labour's John Prescott (allegedly phone-tapped - until the police said otherwise!), sleazebag Max Clifford (allegedly phone-tapped), Lib Dem former Met Officer (and 'Jungle'-loser) Brian Paddick (not worth being phone-tapped) and, of course, Nick Davies of the 'Guadrian' again? Well, 'bingo!' That's the panel 'Newsnight' gathered together on Thursday night. Balanced? Hardly.

Davies called Yates of the Yard's performance "weird" and huffed and puffed, but blew no new houses down. Prescott was unimpressed either, and blustered as only John Prescott can bluster, agreeing with Davies. Paddick sat on the fence, as only a Lib Dem can, but agreed with Davies and Prescott. Clifford agreed with all three of them.

Was Esler, a BBC employee, neutral? Did he play devil's advocate? Was he hell and did he hell. He agreed with all four of them & had a bugbear about the police to boot, reflected in several questions, such as "Indeed, but why would Mr Yates come out and make that statement, which doesn't seem to address the issue that Mr Davies and others are raising. In other words, what's going on with the police here?" and "I'm still trying to get at whether the Met can handle this, or should handle this, or whether some outside force should look at it." (There were others later!!) As I say, the BBC were not happy with the Metropolitan Police for ruining their day. Not happy at all.

The sting in the tail of the discussion, and bound to have spoiled their day even more, was the damp squib revelation from Nick Davies that "To be fair, you've seen the best of what we've got". Well, that wasn't much to start with, was it Nick? Pathetic.


Esler introduced the next segment of the programme like this: "Now Gordon Brown's press advisor Damien McBride was forced to resign earlier in the year after being involved in a story about e-mail smears. Alistair Campbell also quit as a top aide to Tony Blair. But today's statement by Asst Comm Yates of the Metropolitan Police APPEARS to have lifted SOME of the potential clouds from David Cameron's communications chief, the former editor of the 'News of the World' Andy Coulson, who won strong backing from his boss. But, as David Grossman reports, this row - with Andy Coulson in the middle of it - isn't over." (The emphases were HIS.)

Note the attempt to equate Coulson with Campbell, and - above all - the disgraced (and disgraceful) McBride (the man behind Drapergate), insinuating some sort of moral equivalence between them. Then there are those emphases, casting doubt on the idea that John Yates had, in fact, lifted the BBC-generated cloud from over Coulson (and, by extension,the Conservatives). And the 'some', of course, implies the existence of other, unspecified, unremoved clouds.

Grossman's report began with a heavy, BBC-style joke: "As an old red-top editor, Andy Coulson
knows just how this story could play in the tabloids: "FROM SPINNER TO SINNER: Cam's man's a hacking disgrace". The real irony here is that's pretty much how the story was being played at the BBC, with only a little more subtlety!

Grossman goes on to describe Coulson's background as "controversial" (everything's controversial, David, if you and your BBC friends tell us it is). The day's political reactions are reviewed (inside and outside the House of Commons) & Labour MP Martin Salter is invited to comment (and does so in the way you would expect).

Then Grossman concedes that "so far though no-one has come up with any concrete evidence to show that he knew about the way his journalists were getting stories", but then comes a "but": "But somebody who worked for him..."(an 'anonymouse') says he did. The report ends, as it began, with another heavy Beeboid joke - another mock headline: "RED TOP ANDY CAUGHT RED HANDY". (You wish, Beeboids, you wish) - and these final comments from Grossman: "Some papers are itching to write this headline..." (Some papers? Don't you mean the BBC, David?) "...but the evidence doesn't appear to be there as yet". (But a Beeboid can hope, can't he (or she, as you would say) David?). "Even so if the story doesn't die down soon..." (and the BBC could always keep flogging away at a dead horse, couldn't it?) "...David Cameron may conclude that he can't afford to keep his director of communications". (At which, David, you would doubtless think, "Result!")

All this was little more than innuendo. Prove it BBC, or shut up.


Next came another Esler-hosted discussion, now focused squarely on Coulson and the Conservatives. This time we moved from the 'Guardian' all the way across the political spectrum to the 'Independent', but the 'Independent' commentator was ex-Tory MP Michael Brown. This sop to impartiality was welcome. At last, a true Tory! He did describe the idea of Coulson not knowing as "preposterous" however. (Was that why he was invited on?)

Esler did play devil's advocate this time & asked if the Labour and Lib Dems who called for Coulson's head were "whistling in the wind", because there's no evidence against him. Did he ask this to the Tory? No, he asked it to Prescott, who said Coulson "must have known". Despite one brief interruption he allowed Prezza to prattle on at length. Prescott called Cameron's judgement into doubt and Esler echoed him back to Michael Brown, interrupting him with "But isn't it because of the reasons Mr Prescott just said".


Crick returns, talking to Gav, to give us his thoughts. "Well, it's a fascinating story, this", he enthuses, "because of the glimpse it offers into the sort of power play in the new establishment" (of which you're a part, surely, Michael?) . "The role and strength really of News International and those four Murdoch newspapers. Now a few weeks ago, Rebekah Wade, the editor of "The Sun" had her wedding and you had so many leading politicians, David Cameron and others, (pause...cogs in the brain working...'oh, I suppose I must mention this too or else someone might notice...'), Gordon Brown, there." He goes on to describe how these same leading politicians have NOT turned up at former News International boss Les Hilton's wedding party.

Crick went along to badger the guests (probably hoping to catch Tories) and got a good response from former 'Sun' editor, Kelvin McKenzie, "I can officially tell you it's a load of socialist claptrap. I know, I know Andy. He had nothing to do with it. It was a bigger shock to him and it cost him his career at the 'News of the World' and all this has just been got up by a collection of old dinosaurs, like Prescott and Clarke." Good man, Kelvin! Crick pestered him further, along with the 'Telegraph' editor (at whom Crick shouted "How come you didn't cover it this morning?" Answer came there none, but answer should have come, "Because it wasn't worth covering. Why did you cover it, Crick? Because you want to smear the Conservatives?" Opportunity lost.) Phil Woolas, Labour MP, was there "as a friend of the bride", calling for Coulson to go. Crick did not pester him.

Crick told Esler that the story was not going to be covered by most of the papers. He said it would be investigated by "The 'Guardian' and..and..and..various broadcasters". (The BBC i-Player shows a wonderfully smug look on Esler's face at this moment). In other words, the 'Guradian', possibly Channel 4 News and, of course, the BBC and Michael Crick. Crick is placing his hopes on Parliament's select committees and vengeful Labour MPs: "Andy Coulson is going to have to give a convincing account in public of what he did and what he knew." He goes on, "...and Labour MPs are also going to make the utmost effort to go after the documents that the 'Guardian' has based its stories on, other documents that may exist, and it could prove to be a pretty important the new speaker, John Bercow, in helping those committees get hold of those documents." I will be watching intently to see if this warning shot across Bercow's bows is followed up by Michael Crick. I suspect it will be.

At 35.51 on the BBC i-Player, the programme at last moved on to another story.

Friday 9.30 pm

No-one could accuse 'Newsnight' of moving on. On Friday Esler was back to keep the dying embers burning. However, the heart of the story had dimmed & the Coulson element fell away. The frenzy has ebbed.


Richard Watson, however, returned with another report. This mentioned News International's "detailed rebuttal" but didn't go into many details about it - as I would have expected of a decent news organisation & which would, surely, have been interesting to hear). Instead, Watson had "spent the day taking" to another anonymous ex-employee of News International ("We agreed to conceal his identity"), and this 'ex' formed the basis of his whole report. The source didn't give any evidence about Andy Coulson, or even mention him.

Defeat for Crick?


Like Carrie, Crick will not remain dead. His hand reared up from the grave with a new anti-Tory story. What had Michael Crick "discovered" now? Guess what? It was another Labour Party - and therefore Crick Party, obsession: Lord Ashcroft, the Conservatives's chief donor. The Labour Party are forever attacking Ashcroft. So is Crick. They are both at it again.

"Well, this week we've seen Andy Coulson, David Cameron's close aide, in the spotlight". (You put him there Michael!!). "Now it could be Lord Ashcroft. I've learned tonight that Jack Straw is bringing in a measure, almost immediately, to ban anybody who doesn't pay British tax or who is not liable to British tax, from making any donations to a political party. Now this could well affect Lord Ashcroft. There's been a lot of controversy.." (from Labour and the BBC, that is) "..about whether he pays tax or not. He's been a big donor to the Conservative Party in recent years."

Anything to harm the Tories.


Michael Crick will be watched, watched very closely. This blog will be watching.

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