One of the few traditional Conservatives to have served on the Tory front bench under Cameron, Paterson was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland before being promoted to the more high profile role of Secretary of State for Defra.

Candidate of the day

Owen Paterson

One day to go and Sir John Major has weighed in. “Labour divides to rule. To win votes they will turn rich against poor; north against south; worker against boss." We hope we don't wake up with them on Friday.

Hero of the day

Sir John Major

Another awful Labour woman. The fact Ed Miliband’s carved his pledges in stone doesn't mean he might not break them, campaign chief Lucy Powell has said.

Villain of the day

Lucy Powell

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THE REAL CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO

Back marriage. Restore grammar schools. Leave the EU.

David Keighley: The lefties in BBC drama turn their guns on the Tories

A hallmark of call-me-Dave’s period of disastrous misrule has been a frequent conspicuous absence of strategic thinking, or the application of good old-fashioned political nous.  Politics, it is often said,   is the art of the possible, but above all, it is avoiding elephant traps.

And boy, has the Right Honourable Dave walked into one over his decision to extend the length of Parliaments to a compulsory five years.

What it means is that the period of electioneering has been extended from what had been accepted for decades, roughly 25 days between the dissolution of Parliament and polling day. Those who devised the rules probably knew that was all that we could stomach. But thanks to Dave, we are condemned to a solid six months of posturing, tub-thumping and `soap box oratory.

The elephant trap is that for broadcasters this is proving a bonanza beyond their wildest dreams. Most of those who work in the media, and of course, especially the BBC, hate the Tories, and now – for the first time ever – they have been able to plan on multiple levels and on an industrial scale how to rubbish them.

In the formal campaign period in April and May, they will still have to abide by the strict electoral law that requires public service broadcasters to achieve political balance – but not in the months of canvassing before that.

And so, this week we have had the debut of the first - and longest-ever - Labour Party election broadcast conceived, shot and put in prime time by the BBC. It’s a drama called The Casual Vacancy, it has cost £5m to make, and the first one-hour episode went out this Sunday.

The plot is based on the best-selling novel by bleeding heart socialist J.K. Rowling.  For the uninitiated, it is set in a variety of ravishing Costwolds towns and villages, has a glitzy cast headed by Sir Michael Gambon and no expense has been spared to make it look as glossy as possible.

It may be pretty and elegant to look at, but politically, it is as subtle as a bag of spanners. All those in the town with any money are shallow, opportunistic, nasty, scheming pieces of work who don’t give a damn about anybody but themselves.

And guess what? The characters with no money are saintly but oppressed, each in different ways, by the rich. In consequence, they are imprisoned in lives of misery, addiction, and drudgery.

The plotting and characterisation is so one-dimensional that it is farcical. It shows mostly that the sainted JK should have confined her literary efforts to Harry Potter. Charles Dickens she ain’t.

But the BBC, of course, don’t care a jot about the niceties of dramatic quality. All they want is ammunition to fire at the Tories – and that’s what they have created. It actually joins a long list of drama productions in the same mould – from Doctor Who to the recent ghastly period saga The Village, which was described as 100 year s of boring lefty claptrap – but the difference this time  is that  production of The Casual Vacancy has been deliberately timed to fit into an election period.

The BBC know they can get away with it because the way they measure is not by individual programmes, but over time and over the full range of their content. The Trustees are the judge and jury of whether bias exists, and their decisions cannot be challenged. Their record for upholding complaints is roughly one in every 10,000 received. Trustee Richard Ayre recently revealed to MPs that not a single complaint about (for example) the BBC’s EU-related coverage has been upheld by the Trustees in the past seven years.

Throughout his time in office, call-me-Dave has been in a position to reform the BBC in a way that removed the stranglehold of lefty liberals and invigorated public service broadcasting. He ducked that opportunity – perhaps because he knew they supported him on such issues as gay marriage – but now his lassitude is coming back to bite him.  The BBC are attacking him with planned, unrestrained glee.

David Keighley

  • MrVeryAngry

    What to add to that?

  • Mike Fowle

    Quite. I thought Cameron was a sensible, reasonable man when he took office, facing the enormous task of undoing the legacy of the Blair/Brown disasters, but he didn’t even try. He is a poltroon. He left the BBC untouched and it will cost him. Incidentally, I think fixed term parliaments are a good idea but the term should have been four years not five.

    • realfish

      In fairness he has the drag anchor of the Lib Dems in tow.

  • MickC

    Dave wanted to be, and stay, Prime Minister. That was his sole ambition, which he achieved (just). Nothing else mattered to him, and that still applies.

  • misomiso

    I think the BBC has crossed the rubicon now. Even moderate Tories are fed up it.

    If they are in power again, the Tories will be in no mood to tolerate the current settlement with regards to the Media Landscape. They will either have a drastic cut in the liscence fee or abolish compulsory payment, and my guess is they will take away C4’s public subsidy as well..

  • jamesbarn

    Good job too

  • twinscrew

    You reap what you sow,

  • Demon Teddy Bear

    Mrs Thatcher’s failure to break the left’s stranglehold on the broadcast media was probably her greatest mistake.

    • AKM

      That and the failure of her education policy that left the education establishment in charge.

  • Bogbrush

    Being driven by convictions gets you into trouble from time to time, but overall it commands respect even from enemies and prevents exactly this sort of problem. You don’t even have to be particularly brave or confrontational; having deep convictions about what’s right drives the behaviour because the pain of backing away is greater than the discomfort of the short term conflict.
    When you see someone ducking confrontations you know they lack these deep principles. Cameron looks like he’s got this problem; sidelining Gove and trying to sideline the best guy in the government, Ian Duncan-Smith, shows him up.
    It’s why virtually everyone, even the BBC, was captured by the importance of the death of Margaret Thatcher, and why nobody will barely notice the passing of any of her successors, except probably Blair, and him mostly for unfortunate reasons.

  • Leo McKinstry

    I would have been able to take this more seriously if the opening sentence has not been so jaundiced. The use of the term “Call me Dave” is just gratuitous, while it is absurd to characterise his period in office as “disastrous misrule”. Ideologues might not like it, but Cameron has presided over:
    – the fastest economic growth of any major western country
    – dramatically falling unemployment
    – large tax cuts for the low-paid
    – a near freeze in council tax bills
    – a record-breaking drop in crime.
    – a reduction in the public sector workforce of over 600,000
    – the most extensive programme of welfare reform since the Second World War
    – record low inflation and interest rates
    – massive reductions in drug abuse, binge drinking and teenage pregnancy

    • Polly Radial

      That’s not enough for 5 years. Laziness is his basic problem.

      • Oliver J.S McMullen

        “Laziness is his basic problem.” Along with ingrained dishonesty and a total lack of principles.

    • Johnnydub

      And doubled the national debt – something that will plague us long after those transient effects have passed.

    • Oliver J.S McMullen

      Every one of the claims on this list are just dubious unsubstantiated assertions. Just take the claim about crime as an example – it has been quite comprehensively debunked (see links below). Any statistic that is politically sensitive – and every single one in this list is – is subject to fiddling and manipulation. This is simply election year propaganda.

      Links:

      http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2014/11/on-being-right-before-everyone-else-is.html

      http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2013/11/the-fiddling-of-crime-figures-vindication-of-my-warnings.html

      http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2013/01/should-we-trust-official-crime-figures.html

      • Leo McKinstry

        Tax cuts are not statistical assertions – they are fiscal realities. The same is true of the reduction in the public sector payroll. Nor can you dispute that on every measure unemployment is falling dramatically, with three quarters of the new jobs full-time. Are you arguing that the hard-fought measures of welfare reform like the benefit cap – which have been so bitterly opposed by the union, Labour and pressure groups – are just a fiction? The crime figures have certainly not been “comprehensively debunked” much as the anti-Cameron brigade might like to pretend they have. The British Crime Survey, which has nothing to do with police recorded crime, shows dramatic falls, while serious offences that by their nature to be recorded – like burglary, violent assaults, and even murder – have all dropped. Your hatred of the Cameron is blinding you to the achievements of this Government.

      • Chris Whiteside

        On the contrary, every one of the claims on Leo’s list is either supported by independent statistics or is a factual description of identifiable government policies which even the most bitter but honest opponent of the government might disagree with but can hardly dispute has taken place.

        It would be possible to make an intelligent critique of Leo’s comments – which, I’m afraid, Tim’s and Oliver’s posts most emphatically did not – not by challenging whether all the statistics he quotes are true (all of them are) or suggesting that there is no underlying truth behind any of them (you can make this case for one or two but not most of them) but by producing an alternative argument in the specific cases where there is a real debate, or questioning whether the government deserves credit for those which would have happened anyway.

        For example, a critic of the government who unlike Tim and Oliver was using intelligent rational thought rather than firing off a barrage of their own unsupported allegations and prejudices might have argued that the fall of inflation to almost zero is mainly due to a drop in the world oil price, that the drop in crime survey figures is a long-term trend which started under a previous government.
        They might have argued that the massive increase in tax thresholds is one of the reasons public borrowing has not come down as fast as the government planned, and there are plenty of intelligent critics of IDS’s welfare changes but it is difficulty to dispute that they are the most radical for decades.
        It’s more difficult to think of a way an intelligent critic would complain about nearly two million new jobs, but I suppose you could make an argument linking this to Britain’s unacceptable low rate of productivity growth. I wouldn’t entirely agree with it but it would be more rational that pretending that the growth in employment hasn’t really happened.

        A person who argues that the achievements in Leo’s list have come at a price for many human beings, while I would not necessarily agree with all of his or her arguments, may well be putting a case which is firmly rooted in the real world. Someone who pretends that none of them have happened is not.

        Simply pretending that the points Leo made were “unsubstantiated,” or making the laughable claim that every single one of them is no more than a dodgy statistic, demonstrates that you either have no interest in a rational argument or are divorced from reality.

  • Deneb

    I don’t understand this – what has ‘Call me Dave’ to do with Conservatism?

  • launcher

    Tories are a bit dim really. They insulted loyal supporters like me and many like-minded people into forsaking them, I have no sympathy.

  • michael

    i started to watch it , i was doubtful because of the authors reputation ,(in my mind ) as a left wing fanatic however i was prepared to give it a chance ,up to the first pro socialist anti tory outburst from one of the cast , i then switched it off and i will not be returning ,if i want to be brainwashed i will limit my viewing to QUESTION TIME at least the opposition is given SOME chance to express an opinion . Michael.

  • Oliver J.S McMullen

    “Most of those who work in the media, and of course, especially the BBC, hate the Tories,…”

    But do they really? Or is this rather just a broad brush exposition of standard leftist dogma? I recall Peter Hitchens mentioning an incident in which he overheard two BBC producers talking about how they must avoid a Tory collapse. All the more intelligent left know that the Tory party is a fraud that benefits their agenda, and that if and when it collapses people are likely to wake up to reality. There would then be an opportunity to form a truly conservative political movement. They do not want this to happen.

    No what they truly hate most of all is real conservatism – and they know that while the Tory party exists there can be no representation for real conservative views. To talk of media “Tory bashing” gives a false impression that they are actually conservatives. I and others here have indulged in a fair amount of Tory bashing ourselves, and rightly so. If the BBC is attempting anything it is an outright victory for Labour rather than a severe bashing for the Tories.

    As for David Cameron – does anyone here recall the meeting he had with the then DG Mark Thompson? It was never publicly revealed what was discussed, though I think we can fairly surmise that some form of agreement was reached. It is nonsense to suppose that the ultra liberals who dominate and control the un-conservative Tory party would ever try to reform the BBC. And the BBC for its part is happy to provide a platform for left wing Tories in order to show “balance”. Any “bashing” that’s going on is purely a form of shadow play.

    • Johnnydub

      “No what they truly hate most of all is real conservatism” – hence their maniacal loathing of UKIP, who whilst not conservative per se, are about the closest we’ve got at the moment.

  • The_Average_Joe_UK

    If we could get Tory voters wholesale to stop paying the licence fee, that would hit them where it hurts.

    • George Scoresby

      Which Tory voters?

  • Aaron D Highside

    Our national treasure State broadcaster biased, eh? Well, well, well – who would have thought?

  • realfish

    Or as Ben Stephenson, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning once said “We need to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking.”

    He might have gone on to say; ‘And when do we want it?…As close to the election as possible.

    I wonder if Pamorama will ever get round to investigating a corrupt state broadcaster that takes money from the EU (and rubbishes the EU’s opponents); that digs up an eight year old banking story, the detail of which has been known about for five of those eight years, that produces drama like this, just in time to steal the election for their preferred political party.

  • flipant

    to be fair though you did get to look at Keeley Hawes…t…acting ability

  • EnglandLaments

    The perfect ripost to the institutionally leftist BBC is here:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11420489/Anti-Labour-bias-at-the-BBC-What-a-fiction.html

  • madasafish

    Anyone who refers to the PM As “call me Dave” is a polemicist and not worth reading.

  • El_Sid

    Predictability for the media is a small price to pay for the whole of government having a predictable timetable on which to spend £100bn’s of taxpayer’s money in long-term capital projects. It makes a big difference to your ability to plan if you know that there will be a constant political direction for 5 years, rather than going into limbo 3.5 years into a Parliament because you don’t know when an election might be called.

    It’s a really under-rated virtue of fixed terms, but is arguably the most important.

  • ablanche

    Like any sensible person I find myself occasionally infuriated by the outrageous political bias of the BBC especially in its unfunny comedies and undramatic dramas BUT then you realise that apart from an audience of pliant affluent labour supporting donkeys (who would vote for Milliband even if he said he was going to nationalise the banks) typically living in a bubble in the affluent parts of large cities no-one else buys this stuff; and they certainly don’t decide how to vote on the basis of banal sub-Brechtian agit-prop.

    The Village, which I agree is breathtakingly awful had 8.17m viewers for its first episode by the end of the first series it had lost nearly half of them and continued to lose viewers on an almost episode by episode basis so that by the end of the second series it was down to just over 4m viewers. I see they plan to make another 3 series. By which time only the writer, the cast and their mothers will be watching.

    The real sadness is that the arrogant and low grade functionaries in jobs for life at the BBC (like the dreadful present chief commissioner of drama who hasn’t basically had a hit ever Outcasts and Jamaica Inn anyone?) are actually destroying the organisations artistic and news gathering credibility (on an episode by episode basis)and it will catch up with them.

  • JabbaTheCat

    I’m reminded of that leftie propaganda Boys From The Black Stuff in MrsT’s day, didn’t have any influence beyond the faithful and the Tories consistently kept getting decent majorities in the general elections…

  • 07052015

    Lighten up its fiction – tories still hold all the best cards -the four main newspapers coordinate the crosby line and this defo influences sky news ,less so the beeb.

    Funding advantage too of course tho labours decision to move to effectively an individual members ballot for leadership will further reduce trade union influence which will affect their donations.And that means change eventually on state funding.

  • SonofBoudica

    It is well beyond time for the BBC to be wound up or sold off. For a politically biased broadcaster to use public taxes for propaganda to suit its own leanings is an affront to democracy.

  • TNL

    I really don’t think you can claim that Doctor Who is designed to give ammunition against the Tories. That’s not really credible.

  • Mr_Twister

    For me it was a conscientious decision……when I realised they hated ME!