Suppose you were a right-thinking BBC journalist, understandably anxious to foment the approved Labour narrative that the Conservatives are the party of rich, out-of-touch toffs, and you were presented with a rare opportunity to interview David Cameron. Which telling question would you most want to ask the Prime Minister?
Probably something like this one from Monday’s BBC Andrew Marr show.
‘You told the Countryside Alliance magazine recently that your favourite sport was foxhunting. Is that really true?’
Cameron was a little thrown by this, possibly because – as we shall see – he had said nothing of the sort. Marr persisted:
‘You said: “It’s my favourite sport which I love.” Is that true?’
But as the Spectator‘s Camilla Swift noted, Cameron had said no such thing.
What he said was:
‘There is definitely a rural way of life which a born and bred Londoner might struggle to understand. I have always been a strong supporter of country sports. It is my firm belief that people should have the freedom to hunt, so I share the frustration that many people feel about the Hunting Act and the way it was brought in by the last government.
The Hunting Act has done nothing for animal welfare. A Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government Bill in government time.’
How then was the error made?
Marr has since claimed that it was cock-up rather than conspiracy. As too has the BBC, insisting it was an “honest mistake.”
What hasn’t been forthcoming, though, is a formal apology – let alone a televised correction. This is extraordinary given the damage that interview will have inflicted not just on Cameron but (more worryingly as far as I’m concerned) the cause of fox-hunting. As the Spectator’s diarist Steerpike notes, up to two million people per episode watch the Marr show – and a good many of them expressed their outrage at Cameron’s wanton blood-sports-loving toffery on Twitter. How many of these people will since have become aware that the quote existed only in the imagination of some tofu-munching BBC researcher? Passing few, I would imagine.
If the BBC’s “honest mistakes” went in both directions – if, say, they were ever accidentally to show Labour or the Greens or the Lib Dems (as opposed to just Conservatives and UKIP-ers) in an unattractive light – it would be a lot easier for us to accept that they were indeed “honest” and “mistakes.”
But as we saw in yesterday’s climate and energy debate and – h/t Guido – as we see in the outrageous bias of the BBC’s website, the BBC appears to have given up even trying to attempt a semblance of balance in its reporting on the election.
It just wants Labour to win, and there’s an end to it.