BBC Complaints: The link you need!

Sunday, 23 August 2009


Following on from my last post, I thought, given the man's shocking anti-Tory bias so far this month, that a review of Crick's blog in July might also be interesting. This time there are 9 posts.
It certainly contains a far wider range of stories, and does not fixate any near so much on the Conservative Party. It even looks closely at the Labour government. Still, it continues to demonstrate that Crick is one of the Beeb's most biased reporters, as this review will show.

The first post is a short bit of gossip ('Order, pizza order' 30th July) favourable to Labour's favourite, Speaker Bercow: "I am glad to learn that becoming Speaker has not gone to John Bercow's head. A friend spotted him on Wednesday night eating in the Victoria Street, Westminster outlet of Pizza Express." Elsewhere in the media, you will find plenty of counter-evidence about the modesty (and frugality) of Mr Bercow.

Next comes Crick's ill-fated post on the Tories' Totnes open primary ('Declaring a personal interest in the Totnes ballot', 28 July). His 'personal interest' was that he'd written a letter as a teenager to the 'Guardian' (naturally!) advocating the use of US-style primaries here. "At huge cost the party has sent out postal ballots to every voter in the south Devon constituency asking them to select, from a shortlist of three, the candidate to represent Totnes Conservatives next time round." He was to retract the "at huge cost" bit later. It was only his first criticism. He went on "The trouble is that the process down here in Devon has been rushed. Candidates haven't had the time to organise big campaigns, and voters haven't been given a varied choice." And yet, as he was to concede, it was to be a success. "So the turnout may not be that high when the result is announced next Tuesday, with the danger that what could be a bold, exciting development in British politics is quickly discredited." The turnout, in fact, was much higher than expected. Not Michael Crick's finest hour - and an anti-Tory piece.

A complete change of tone came with 'Cruddas: 'Leadership doesn't interest me'' (23rd July). This was a post about the Labour Party (about time!), but turned out to largely consist of direct quotes from Mr Cruddas himself. Crick clearly approves of Cruddas, calling him 'untainted' and 'modest'. Crick got his story from Fabian News (naturally!). An anti-Labour story? Certainly not.

Next we come to 'Downing Street's army beef' (17th July), which discussed the 'terrible' relations between Gordon Brown and the head of Army, General Richard Dannatt. Now, you will say, we've finally come to a meaty story that might offer a critical perspective on this Labour government of the kind Crick is ever-ready to direct at the Tories. Well, no. Not only was Brown not criticised, he was actually presented sympathetically: "People in Downing Street are especially angry because Gordon Brown's instinctive reaction last weekend, after all the recent deaths in Afghanistan, was to get on a plane on Sunday, and go to visit British troops in Helmand to show his sympathy and solidarity." What a nice guy! No, the criticism was directed at General Dannatt: "I'm told that what especially infuriated Brown and his colleagues in Number Ten however is that on Wednesday morning Dannatt suddenly popped up on the Today programme, speaking from Afghanistan, voicing his scarcely-veiled criticisms of government policy." So General Dannatt "popped up" did he? Crick doesn't use any such derisive phrase in any of his descriptions of Downing Street's actions. Crick later had to update his story thus: "LATEST 21.30PM: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed to me tonight that Gordon Brown did enquire about making a trip to Afghanistan, but that they advised against him going for "operational sensitivities". The MoD insists the Prime Minister was advised by them not to go, and not by General Sir Richard Dannatt." Crick has to correct himself again. So an anti-Labour story? Again, certainly not. A story slanted against General Dannatt? I think so. Click on the link above and see what you think.

You could say that the next piece was about Labour, being about a decision by Jack Straw, but 'Government concedes 'anti-Ashcroft' law' (10th July) was really about one of Crick's favourite targets, the Conservative Party's best-known donor, Lord Ashcroft. Labour Lords (led by Dale Campbell-Savours) forced Straw to introduce "a new law banning people who do not pay UK income tax - or are not liable to do so - from giving money to political parties." Who could they possibly be getting at there?! Crick enthusiastically spells it out: "The measure is clearly aimed at the Conservative Deputy Chairman and election strategist Lord Ashcroft who has given the Conservative Party millions of pounds in recent years, but who has aroused considerable controversy over whether he pays British tax." This controversy is one Crick himself, as one of its stirrers-in-chief, re-visits with indecent regularity. As Crick does go on to say that Labour will lose money too as a result of the new law, I will not judge this an anti-Tory story - though it comes close.

An anti-Tory story is exactly what I would call 'On Coulson's NOTW resignation' (10th July). I spelled out (in ridiculous detail) the bias demonstrated by the BBC in covering this story (and Crick was one of my targets), so I won't respell it out here (click on the 'Crick' label again and scroll down, down and down again for much, much more!). This is a new coda for that piece (which is worth quoting in full): "An interesting account of the atmosphere at the News of the World during Andy Coulson's editorship can be found in Peter Burden's book "News of the world? Fake Sheiks and Royal Trappings". Mr Burden says that on the day the News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for four months for hacking into the voicemails of palace aides, Mr Coulson called a staff meeting to announce his immediate resignation, and told colleagues that he thought Goodman had been treated far too harshly by the judge. According to Mr Burden, Mr Coulson "took the opportunity to vent his anger at the sentence, railing that just that week the Home Secretary, John Reid, had advised judges, in view of current prison overcrowding, that only the most dangerous criminals should be sent to prison". It would be interesting to know if Mr Coulson still takes that view. And still supports John Reid's efforts to reduce prison overcrowding!" And who is Peter Burden? He's a writer for the 'Guardian'. So not exactly a neutral in the story! Crick's post consists of gossip, insinuation and (in the closing sentences) sarcasm. How fitting for a non-story!

Back to Labour for 'Labour waits in Glasgow North East' (8th July)? But, again, it's a sympathetic report (in contrast to his 'Tory' reports), reporting the thinking of "senior Labour sources in Scotland" before having a gentle dig at one of his ex-BBC colleagues who left the BBC to try to become the SNP candidate in the still-far-off by election - but wasn't selected! So no humour at Labour's expense? Surprise, surprise.

The focus remains on Labour(and by-elections) for 'Labour candidate planned degree course in Spain' (2nd July), but even this discussed the personal circumstances of Chris Ostrowski, Labour's candidate, in non-critical terms, without sneers.

Only in the last post, 'A moment of panic' (1st July), is there a joke at Labour's expense: 'There was a moment of panic, I'm told, in the Treasury during Prime Minister's Questions yesterday when David Cameron suddenly brandished an internal Treasury document on government debt. "Luckily," says my source, "it was only one of the tame ones, that doesn't have much more than is in the public domain. Not one of the serious ones which say what a mess we're really in."' Of course, it's also a joke at David Cameron's expense!

What intrigues me here is how (except for the July 2nd post) there are no posts about the Norwich North by-election in Crick's blog archive. This took place in mid-July. Did he write any? Surely he did. If he did, why aren't they here? Are they too embarrassing, given how badly he performed during the by-election, getting most of his predictions wrong and demonstrating bags of bias against UKIP and the Tories. I would have loved to have seen these postings - if they ever existed.

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