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David Keighley: Cameron, Miliband and the BBC all conspire to shut down debate on quitting the EU


This is without doubt the no-choice, phoney election. Take the EU.  Opinion polls say that the majority of Britons would vote to leave if given the chance. That is why David Cameron and Ed Miliband are actually working to shut down debate on both the UK’s relationship with the EU and its closely-related bedfellow, immigration.

David Cameron is as much in his own way a Brussels enthusiast as Kenneth Clarke, Ted Heath or Michael Heseltine. He certainly fits into the same tradition of Conservatism.  His declared ambition is that the EU’s domain eventually stretches from the Atlantic to the Urals. At every opportunity he and George Osborne say that they want the UK to stay inside what has now become arguably a bigger socialist/statist experiment than the USSR ever was.

There have been no military invasions, of course. But the erosion of self-determination and national sovereignty has been ruthlessly relentless.

Cameron says he is offering a blend of ‘renegotiation’ and in/out referendum, but the details have remained conspicuously and suspiciously vague.

For his part, Ed Miliband makes no bones that he wants to cosy up to the Eurocrats and the federalists in the same way that Tony Blair did. Without doubt, five years of a Labour-SNP government would enmesh us even deeper in the Brussels mire.

Both MIliband and Cameron clearly know that their approaches to the EU are hated by a significant part of their core vote. But their calculated, cynical gamble is to focus their electoral fire elsewhere. Their hope is that the country’s deep and visceral distrust of the EU won’t really count when the ballot boxes are opened. And afterwards, whoever is elected will carry on regardless in their pro-EU trajectory.

Where does the BBC fit into this anything-but-the-EU-and-immigration election?

The Corporation, of course, loves Brussels with a passion because of its core Marxist-socialist founding principles, its dismantling of and disdain for British common law, history, institutions and traditions, and its stance on issues such as climate change.

In this space it is impossible to unpick the full range of Corporation bias as the election approaches. Suffice it to say that they are enthusiastic partners in the Camerband dance. A primary feature of coverage is that there has been massive bias by omission – an editorial avoidance of discussing the issue of withdrawal itself.

Another aspect of the endemic bias is that editors bust a gut to find and explore the views of those who oppose withdrawal – and virtually ignore those who favour it. Tony Blair’s intervention in the election is a classic case in point. Blair’s pronouncements on the economic disaster that would ensue if the UK left the EU were given maximum exposure and weight – and those who genuinely disagreed did not get a look in, as analysis of the flagship coverage on BBC1 News at 10 shows.

David Cameron, of course, was wheeled out to say that Brussels’s iron opposition to changes in immigration and general reform could be overcome. But for the reasons already mentioned this was emphatically not a pro-withdrawal, or even a balancing, contribution. Cameron actually agrees with much of what Blair said. It was the false optimism of an EU sycophant.

The clearest evidence of BBC bias in the News at 10 sequence came in the final contribution by economics editor Robert Peston.

Pulling the lens back for a moment, BBC news now treats these contributions by correspondents as a main fulcrum of their coverage. Major stories are not complete without them. The idea is that they explain, put into context and summarise the key points. But in an organisation with its own agendas – which the BBC now has in areas such as the EU and climate change – they have instead become a powerful propaganda tool.

And that’s exactly what happened with Peston in the Blair item. This is what he said in full:

“Well, the UK is an economy particularly dependent on big multinationals; in fact, it’s been a point of government policy for about 30, 40 years to attract them here. Why do they base themselves here? Well, it’s for access to the single market of the European Union – the biggest market in the world of its sort. Now, in the couple of years or so, if the Tories win the election, that would be the run-up to a referendum there would be considerable uncertainty about the outcome in that period, there is a risk that those multinationals would stop investing, or at least put investment on hold. That would be a cost. That would slow down the economy.

“If in that referendum we were to vote to leave the European Union, well, a group like Open Europe, which is fairly critical of the way the European Union runs itself, it estimates that the potential costs by 2030 of leaving on worst case basis would be about 2 per cent, a bit more than 2 per cent of GDP. They do address the Ukip argument that we would have more control over things like red tape imposed on businesses, how to tax ourselves, you know, how to run our economy. They say the best case, if everything went to plan, would be an improvement in GDP of 1.5 per cent. So they’re saying the worst case outcome is significantly worse than the best case outcome of independence. So they would say the costs massively outweigh the potential, well, not massively, but they outweigh the potential benefits.”

Put another way, Peston declared loud and clear that Blair was spot on. Not only that, he amplified Blair’s prejudice by suggesting that what he had argued was based on well-researched facts. If Britain left the EU, Britain would lose at least 0.5 per cent of its GDP – an immense sum (GDP is currently around £1.9 trillion).

What he chose not to say was also outrageous bias. Peston knows perfectly well there is a wealth of well-documented material which – unlike Open Europe – suggests that leaving the EU would boost the British economy. This document, by economist Ian Milne for the Bruges Group, shows that 90 per cent (by value) of UK trade is not with the EU – 10 per cent is, but 80 per cent occurs within Britain and 10 per cent with the rest of the world. And this paper, by Michael Burrage, for Civitas, concludes that the trade advantages of being in the EU are virtually non-existent because the volume of trade with EU countries is exactly the same now as it was in 1973 when the UK joined.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Peston could have included a snapshot of this opinion and analysis – instead he deliberately emphasised the importance of the UK staying in the EU.

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David Keighley
David Keighley
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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