You may have noticed the glowing praise and admiration from the BBC for Sandi Toksvig’s new “Women’s Equality Party”, an organisation of limited relevance at present as it isn’t even fielding any candidates in the general election. The WEP’s policies for achieving “equality” include seeking “an end to violence against women” (presumably not violence against men) and Toksvig’s main contribution’s to ending sex discrimination thus far has been to write a book titled “Girls are best”.
There’s not so much as a word of criticism or balance in the BBC’s article about the WEP, with Toksvig allowed to spread blatant lies about the gender pay gaps completely unchallenged. Such coverage is in stark contrast the men’s equality counterpart “Justice for Men and Boys”. Unlike Toksvig’s party, J4MB is indeed actually standing in this election, fielding two candidates in Nottinghamshire: party leader and author Mike Buchanan, and Ray Barry, known for his campaigning work on behalf of separated fathers. The party’s agenda essentially consists of bringing gender neutrality to UK laws and government polices, for example protecting all victims of genital mutilation and domestic violence, improving men’s healthcare, and tacking issues such as male suicide. It also strongly insists on meritocratic hiring policies, and therefore opposes sexist practices such as the use of all-women shortlists.
Having been founded in 2013, the party made something of a media breakthrough In January this year, with countless newspaper interviews and media appearances, including an ITV “This Morning” interview, seen by over a million viewers. In spite of all this, even the BBC’s Men’s Hour program seems remarkably determined to refuse to acknowledge the party’s very existence, having failed to so much as to mention it in men’s politics related discussions, let alone invite a party representative onto the programme. The BBC website only contains three mentions of the party of any significance, every single one of which does little else other than attempt to undermine it by constantly questioning its necessity. The most recent mention on BBC East Midlands consisted of an angry radical feminist outraged at the very existence of a party that dares to help men and boys, and in a previous Women’s Hour radio “debate”former BBC presenter and Labour candidate John O’Farrell even referred to J4MB as “the male equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan” (an organisation who’s name he couldn’t even get right).
This hostility and bias against the party from the BBC raised to a whole new level more recently, with an astonishing turn of events in BBC Radio Nottingham’s hustings debates. Firstly, the BBC refused to allow Barry to participate its Broxtowe constituency hustings broadcast, thereby restricting the party to one single hustings debate in Ashfield. This one and only J4MB-featured debate was scheduled for 23 April, and saw Buchanan pitted against shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Gloria De Piero, who’d been selected by Labour by the sexist all-women shortlists to which J4MB were so verdantly opposed. Several days prior to broadcast, Buchanan discovered the BBC had decided to take the unusual step of theming much of the event around the issue of “why women’s votes could be so important at this election”. Further queries to the BBC concerning the format then revealed it had also imposed an all-female audience for Buchanan’s appearance. In other words, the BBC had not only decided to skew the debate directly away from men and towards women, it had also completely banned men from the only hustings event where there was a party actually wanting to discuss men’s issues.
To put events into context, there are some 648 seats uncontested by J4MB where the BBC could have sought women’s views for a hustings event, yet of all these possible locations, they chose Ashfield for this most unique of formats. Not only had the BBC effectively imposed a nationwide ban on men interacting with their own political party, the rigged theme of the debate effectively served to bar J4MB from discussing any of its policies and the make up of the audience excluded much of J4MB’s core support. To further rub salt into J4MB’s wounds, the BBC even selected a female host, Sarah Julian, for the event. By the look of her Twitter account, Julian is a feminist who refuses to so much as touch touch any newspaper other than the Guardian. Julian’s involvement thus completed the total feminisation of the event and Buchanan was prevented from even interacting with a token male presenter.
In spite of complaints from J4MB about the formant, the hustings proceeded as planned. During the broadcast Buchanan was clearly seething at how a supposedly impartial broadcaster had effective sabotaged his party’s one and only BBC hustings appearance. Instead of having the opportunity to challenge the record of his opponents or discuss policy, he was effectively forced to use his opening statement to highlight the astonishing misconduct of the BBC, rightly noting they should be “thoroughly ashamed” of what they had done. At times, the BBC’s ploy to stifle J4MB worked. The question format was such that Buchanan was always asked how he’d help women (and never men), of course his policies pertained to men, boys and families, therefore putting him on the back-foot before he’d even so much as considered his answer. To be honest, you’d have forgiven Buchanan if he was unsure whether his main opponents were the other candidates, the audience or the BBC itself. Anyone in his position might have been half expecting a modern day Jeremy Beadle to unmask themselves at some point and reveal the whole thing to have been an elaborate prank at his expense. In the end, Buchanan settled for a strategy of emphasising the farcical nature of the situation and he often chose to ignore the discriminatory questions completely.
Whatever one’s view of J4MB, they, or any other party, have the right to feature in a hustings debate, and that debate should be conducted by a fair manner, with a neutral and representative audience and a relevant and diverse set of questions. If the J4MB manifesto focuses plight of men and boys in the UK they wish to attack misandrist feminists within the Labour Party, then it’s their democratic right to do so. The BBC has no business in attempting to shield incumbent Labour candidates from scrutiny and nor should they be involved in silencing and sidelining J4MB or any other party.
I complained to Mike Bettison of BBC Nottingham about his station’s treatment of men and the only party set up to represent them. To be honest I was fully expecting some sort of standard BBC response, pretending the format had been a sheer coincidence and they were terribly sorry to have disadvantaged J4MB and ignored men’s voices. Incredibly, there was no such apology, and the reply I received openly admitted that the entire fiasco had been entirely pre-meditated, and the BBC intentionally selected J4MB’s (and De Piero’s) hustings for a female audience and women related topics! The following is taken from the BBC’s response:
“As far as the Ashfield debate is concerned, we organised this to reflect the fact that gender differences have featured strongly in the election campaign. Mr Buchanan’s campaign is specifically raising the rights of men v women and he has chosen to stand against Gloria de Piero, a candidate who is closely identified with women’s issues. In fact her party has itself placed gender on the political agenda through its Pink Bus and associated campaigning.
“ In these ways, Mr Buchanan and Ms Piero’s campaigns are linked – both have specific policies – whether it be, for example, changes to laws on abortion (J4MB) or changes to the provision of childcare (Labour) – which would have an impact on women . It is therefore editorially justified to unpick these issues in front of a female audience in a constituency where such issues have been placed on the agenda by two candidates.
“ However, this was a one-off – all our other election coverage has been open to all – this has included two other hustings events and numerous phone-ins.“
So, the BBC rightly recognises a campaign about “gender differences”, about the respective rights of women and men, and about Labour’s Pink bus (and also J4MB’s battered old Ford Escort van). However, in this debate between a party wanting to discuss men’s issues and a feminist representing women, the BBC sides 100% with the later in every conceivable way. They eliminate each and every last male is from the audience, they gerrymander most of the questions to focus exclusively on women and to top it all off the whole event is controlled by an obligatory Guardian-reading feminist presenter. As to how the hell this ensures an impartial and balanced “debate on gender” as Bettison goes on to describe it in his email is beyond me. It’s clear the BBC firmly believe feminists have the right to absolute dominance of the narrative when it comes to gender issues. In the world of the BBC, it seems the concept of sexism against men simply doesn’t exist and anyone trying to raise such an idea must be silenced at all costs, even if it breaches all known BBC guidelines and completely ruins the broadcast for the audience.
In retrospect, and in spite of the BBC’s blatant attempts to sabotage their election campaign, I’d actually argue J4MB still won the debate hands-down. Not because their answers were any better than the opposition, (after all, they couldn’t possibly have been thanks to the debate format). Nor did they win because of their policies, nor because of the reception they received (which at times included booing and angry women screeching “shame”). J4MB actually won the debate before it had even begun and did so without Buchanan so much as moving his lips. Why is this you may ask? Well, the BBC saw Buchanan’s platform as such a threat to their feminist agenda that they took the unprecedented step of completely throwing the BBC Charter and democracy out the window and intentionally sabotaged the sole hustings appearance of one of the county’s smallest political parties. In doing so, the broadcaster marginalised not only said party, but also men and boys, the many issues they face and advantaged women and feminist politicians too. The prevalence of these very phenomena in our society are at the core of all J4MB’s arguments and its philosophy, and so by showing we’re not even allowed to discuss such matters on an “impartial” broadcaster, the BBC proved J4MB’s point better than any speech or debate ever possibly could. If BBC resorts to such tactics, then it’s surely because they and Labour have no answers to Buchanan’s arguments.
As for the losers of the debate, well it wasn’t any politician who lost but instead the licence fee payer, not to mention the Ashfield constituency electorate. Thanks to the BBC’s blatant contempt for men and boys (not to mention democracy itself), the voters of Nottingham had their money wasted on a farcical hustings event and were denied the chance to make an informed choice as to who to elect on Thursday. So, the next time you despair at the BBC’s blatant anti-UKIP or anti-Tory bias, perhaps spare a though for those who have it even worse than these parties and who have their campaigns activity sabotaged through license fee funded broadcasts. The next time you see one of Labour’s sexist segregated audiences, remember they’re actually still way-ahead of the BBC itself. And the next time you see Harriet Harman’s hideous pink bus, remember the BBC are not only firmly onboard, they’re probably in the driving seat too.