Reviewing the BBC's live election blog (so far) today reveals fascinating insights into BBC bias.
The first substantial post of the day began at 6.45 with "Have unveiled their secret weapon?" Their "secret weapon" turned about to be Sir Alex Ferguson, who is well-known as a Labour supporter, so hardly "secret."
What followed througout the morning was a long sequence of posts that quoted Labour figures advancing their party's cause, or (more often) attacking their opponents. On and on they went. From 8.00 until 12.15 (when a short post gave the first hint of the catastrophe for Labour to come) there were 9 posts that meet my criteria of using direct or indirect quotes from Labour politicians, and many others about Labour that don't. I think they are all worth quoting for the sake of posterity:
1147: Gordon Brown defends his policies on education, immigration, the deficit, health and "helping people" in a sparky exchange with a woman in Rochdale. Starting off with heckling from a distance, the woman ended up telling him about her grandchildren and travel delays from ash. Mr Brown even complimented her choice of coat today - red. DESCRIPTIVE
1133: From hairdressers to tree-trimmers, Gordon Brown continues his push to meet the voters with a visit to a community scheme in Rochdale. DESCRIPTIVE
1109: Mr Brown takes up the offer of a visit to the hairdressers in Oldham, but declines a trim, opting instead to talk business. The customer in the chair looked quite bemused, as a media scrum surrounded the small shop, reports Jane Hill. DESCRIPTIVE
1017: An entrepreneurial Oldham hairdresser comes right out and offers Mr Brown a haircut if he has five minutes to walk across the road to her salon. He'll even get a discount. He does have a TV debate coming up on Thursday...DESCRIPTIVE
1011: Phil Woolas is relishing his job as compere, saying he'll be like Robert Kilroy-Silk - talkshow host, reality show contestant and former MEP. Presumably Mr Woolas isn't planning an appearance on Big Brother. TRIVIAL
1003: PM Gordon Brown praises the success of neighbourhood policing, saying it's important to him that everyone feels safe in their homes and streets. In an echo of his predecessor, he says: "We are the party that is tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime." SIGNIFICANT
0954: Phil Woolas gets a rousing round of applause as he introduces "the boss" (that's Gordon Brown, in case you were unsure) to the audience at the Oldham community centre. DESCRIPTIVE
0944: The community centre in Oldham has been festooned with red balloons and rosettes for the visit of the prime minister, reports Jane Hill. His question-and-answer session could take about 45 minutes. DESCRIPTIVE
0930: While his ministers have been explaining crime and spending pledges to reporters in London, Gordon Brown is on the verge of a visit to a CCTV monitoring centre in Oldham, where he'll also take questions from the public. DESCRIPTIVE
0903: Lord Mandelson comments on continuing speculation about a hung parliament. With a straight face, he says Lib Dem Nick Clegg is sometimes talking to "the man in the moon, happy to go into a coalition with him". SIGNIFICANT
0853: Greek troubles are mentioned again, and Lord Mandelson is asked: Could we go the way of Greece? He says that it shows the "fragility" of the situation, so it would be wrong to take risks with the recovery. "Britain is not Greece," he says. SIGNIFICANT
0846: Katie Piper appears after Alan Johnson and outlines the role CCTV played in her case. She was badly injured when an attacker threw acid on her face on a busy high street in daylight. CCTV was key to securing a conviction. She says when she feels uncomfortable in public, she'll move to be near a CCTV camera. SIGNIFICANT
0843: Home Secretary Alan Johnson outlines the problems, including binge drinking and teenage pregnancy, but says Labour has the solution. He then moves on to CCTV and its role in policing. People could have the right to request CCTV in some areas, he says. SIGNIFICANT
0837: Labour's Lord Mandelson says Britain needs answers to problems it faces. He begins his speech with criticism of the Tories about its "misuse" of crime statistics. SIGNIFICANT
0831: The Labour press conference is about to get under way with Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Communities Secretary John Denham in a "rare appearance," reports Laura Kuenssberg. They'll be focussing on CCTV and cutting down on crime. Appearing with them will be Katie Piper, who was badly hurt in an acid attack by a boyfriend. DESCRIPTIVE
0822: "Fantasy politics" is how David Miliband describes the Tories and Liberal Democrats when the issue of a hung parliament is put to him on the BBC Today programme. How about sharing Downing St with Nick Clegg? "Our leader is Gordon Brown, we have chosen our leader. We're not having the leader of other parties telling us who our leader should be." DESCRIPTIVE
0819: With the stock exchange nervous about events in Greece, Foreign Secretary David Miliband praises the IMF for action on helping the Eurozone country during its financial crisis, but he criticised David Cameron for comparing the British and Greek situations as similar. "Let's put the Greek bit out of this equation," he said. SIGNIFICANT
0808: Following Tuesday's appearance of an ex-EastEnders actress at a Tory event, another one has stepped into the campaign. Michelle Collins, aka Cindy Beale, is fronting a video criticising Tory plans to give tax breaks to married couples. DESCRIPTIVE
As you can see, that's a lot of coverage (18 posts) - and it's almost entirely free from criticism (the one exception being the slight dig at John Denham), or indeed of any clouds of negativity. All is sunshine and friendly banter with the public (oh, how deliciously ironic!) Labour could hardly have wished for better coverage. Moreover, as you can see, Labour's campaign messages are quoted across a wide range of subjects. That could only be seen as a great success for them.
How does this compare to the BBC blog's treatment of the Conservatives between those hours? I think you'll agree it could hardly be more different:
1210: Shadow chancellor George Osborne tells the Institute of Directors that under a future Tory government, there will be a new sign erected over the country, saying "Britain is open for business". He also wants to see a more balanced economy, with a banking sector that supports the British economy rather than one which "enslaves" it. SIGNIFICANT
1159: Shadow chancellor George Osborne sets out his stall on the economy at the Institute of Directors conference. The parties have been defending their spending plans amid claims they are not being upfront about the scale of future cuts. DESCRIPTIVE
1049: A thirsty Mr Cameron thanks his hosts, makers of a world-famous beverage, and then drops a heavy hint - "they haven't given me any yet". Campaign donations have increased since the televised debates began, so maybe he's hoping for a bit more in the final few days. TRIVIAL
1037: David Cameron is facing some tough questions from the Coca-Cola workers. Immigration, child tax credits, homeownership, the benefit system, foreign takeovers of British companies, and planned cuts have all been raised. DESCRIPTIVE
1025: David Cameron asked workers at Coca Cola in Wakefield what the secret recipe was for Coke. They answered that's the $60m question. TRIVIAL
And that's it! Only one post (out of a not-so-grand total of 5!!!) reports a Conservative politician putting across a campaign message.
The posts at 10.25 and 10.49 fall within my criteria of using direct/indirect quotations, despite being utterly trivial and not very helpful to the Conservative cause (compared to all those serious points being made by Labour), and so they will have to appear in my figures tomorrow. They don't deserve to!!
Moreover, unlike with Labour, Mr Cameron is reported as "facing some tough questions". It's not all sunshine and friendly banter here. The post at 11.59 frames George Osborne's coming speech with general comments about criticisms of the parties over their not being "upfront" about spending cuts. Why mention that in this particular post, rather than in a separate post? To tie the idea of "not being upfront" about spending cuts to Mr Osborne in particular perhaps? Most importantly of all though, why was nothing other than the quip of Mr Cameron's about not being offered a drink quoted from Mr Cameron. It seems he answered a lot of questions on a lot of subjects. The BBC saw fit not to report any of them!!
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