I didn’t listen to much news yesterday, on Sunday, I was more interested in getting out to Snakes and Ladders in Brentford to give the baby an outing. This morning, with the baby in nursery, I have a chance to catch up.
Yesterday’s BBC coverage of the Peter Watt revelations in the Mail on Sunday could only be described as a naked act of partisanship. The BBC, and the Andrew Marr show in particular, got this totally wrong. If you are a Conservative you have got to conclude that the BBC really is the enemy.
I have just been replaying the Andrew Marr show, see it here. The news bulletin was a very smart bit of editing (if your objective is to protect and promote the Labour party). The way they handled the Peter Watt story was to include it but only in a way that minimised its impact. The lead story was the snow. Fair enough. The second story was Brown’s own interview in the New of the World. The only substantial part of that interview was Brown’s comment that he would serve a full term. Surely it is not that news worthy that someone who has only been Prime Minister for two years and is intent on standing again will undertake to serve a full term?
The Peter Watt story came up third before the Togo football team ambush. The line they used on the Peter Watt story was he says that “it will be difficult for the party to win under Gordon Brown”. No reference is made to Watt’s claims that Brown lied directly over the election that never was in 2007, probably the most damming claim made by Watt. No reference to Brown’s lack of strategy.
The BBC website uses the same damage limitation technique. Their main website news story covering the issue leads on Brown’s “silliness” quote from the News of the World and refers to the Peter Watt story in the 3rd paragraph. Yes, suitably prominent but why? The line they use is so anodyne you have to question why it is the third paragraph.
But ex-Labour Party general secretary Peter Watt told the Mail on Sunday they were unlikely to win under Mr Brown.
The only answer can be that the BBC news editors want to be able to claim that they gave the story due prominence without doing any damage to Labour. You have to read through 600 words before they come back to the story:
Former Labour general secretary Mr Watt told the Mail on Sunday: “Gordon is a big political figure but he lacks the emotional intelligence required by a modern leader. If you cannot connect with people you will fail. Leaders like Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher were fantastic communicators. Gordon just doesn’t have those skills.”
In his memoirs he said Downing Street was a “shambles” after Mr Brown took over and said that the prime minister had spent £1.2m on the “election that never was” in 2007.
Mr Watt resigned as the party’s administrative chief in 2007 after admitting he knew businessman David Abrahams had been donating cash to Labour through third parties.
Mr Byrne dismissed the Mail story as “a bit of innuendo and gossip” which related to events that took place some years ago. He added that Mr Watt was “a thoroughly decent guy but the chap’s got a book to sell”.
Even at the bottom of the article they fail to cover Watt’s most damning revelations and go to the trouble of quoting Liam Byrne to further mitigate the damage (to Labour).
Back on the Marr show if you scroll through to 6:40 you get to the most egregious example of damage limitation. Why does Marr choose to discuss the papers with two Labour supporters? Both actress Maureen Lipman and historian Tristram Hunt are Labour people. Lipman is an avowed Labour luvvie and Hunt even worked for the party. Don’t forget that Marr has described himself in his youth as a “raving leftie”. Naturally enough they manage between the three of them to refer to the Peter Watt story without dealing with its implication that our Prime Minister is probably unhinged, that he has no strategy beyond being in power for the sake of being in power and he is quite prepared to lie if it suits him.