For more than a while the BBC has displayed a curious interpretation of its duty to ensure impartiality. Like it, hate it or – as many are doing – leave it, we have become inured to the Corporation’s liberal/Left Remainer default. BBC balance is a strictly BBC version. Their use of language when it comes to Brexit tells its own story, as we have commented several times on these pages.
But in recent months the BBC’s idea of balance has taken on a new form – what I can only call the default defence of Jeremy Corbyn, about whom it is determinedly ‘fair’.
Take yesterday morning’s Broadcasting House (BBC Radio 4). Invited to review the papers, in between the usual PC Leftie line-up, was David Abulafia, professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge University. You can listen to the section at about 48 or 49 minutes into the programme. He selected an article from the Sunday Telegraph by Sir John Jenkins, former British Consul-General in Jerusalem, headlined ‘For Islamists, Jeremy Corbyn is a useful idiot’.
This he described as an excoriating article, explaining that Jenkins was not accredited to the Government of Israel (not pro-Israel, I inferred) but was, in effect, the Ambassador to the Palestinians and somebody who had the Palestinians’ interests at heart. Yet, he said, ‘here is somebody who really takes issue with Corbyn and his contacts with Hamas’. Jenkins’s criticism of Corbyn was of a man who was talking just to one side, not trying to to talk to the other at all, let alone to the Palestine moderates who ‘get left out completely’.
At which the programme’s presenter Paddy O’Connell, with an edge to his voice, asked: ‘Do you think all politicians should disclose who they talk to in the past?’
If you listen, you will hear Abulafia standing his ground. With significant weight, he said that when it comes to the leaders of major political parties, and some of these contacts are with terrorist groups, ‘then it is a matter of very great public interest’.
Amen to that, I thought. But not so Paddy. Was he content to let it rest there? What, let a guest malign the Left’s leader without a comeback? ‘Ok,’ he said dismissively, ‘let me just end this section by reading what the Labour spokesman told the Telegraph: “Jeremy has a long record of campaigning for peace and democracy and helping to end conflict . . .”’ and so on, as though this was necessary balance to a slightly off-the-wall opinion.
So is this ‘balance’ now the norm when it comes to Mr Corbyn, used to cut off criticism of him?
And is this the exercise of impartiality or the abuse of it? Are BBC executives using a perverted notion of balance to dissociate themselves from criticism of Corbyn when what they should be doing is investigating and reporting on his known terrorist sympathies?