Wednesday, April 24, 2024
HomeBBC WatchDavid Keighley's BBC Watch: Mardell buries impartiality with his funeral in Berlin

David Keighley’s BBC Watch: Mardell buries impartiality with his funeral in Berlin


Former ‘Europe’ editor Mark Mardell plumbed new depths of BBC bias at the weekend,

His report for The World This Weekend about the German reaction to Brexit was so chock-full of warnings of doom that it filled programme guest Sir Vince Cable – arguably over many years the most fervent Europhile in the UK – with admiration.

After hearing Mardell’s report and on being asked by him to, in effect, amplify the dire warnings, Cable was momentarily temporarily lost for words. He then declared:

“Er…the conversation you had in Germany was actually very good. The only real heavy endorsement of the Brexit position came from that -ex, that, er, the MEP from the extreme right wing German party…” (the full transcript can be read here)

Does that observation open the way to a whole new category of media awards? “Ladeez and gentlemen of the BBC! Welcome to the Sir Vince Cable gong for reporting of the EU filled with sufficient warnings of disaster.”

So what was this ‘conversation’ that Mardell had in his extended report from Berlin?  Most of the media at the weekend were looking at the Remain side’s problems over immigration.   But the peg for yet another Mardell jolly – following his equally biased outings to Portugal and Lake Como –  was an exploration of what he said was ‘the other great debate’ within the referendum campaign, ‘what leaving would mean for the economy’.

In other words, he announced with glee that his aim was to take his own particular brand of ‘the conversation’ back away from the xenophobic Right to what he believed he had established in previous weeks as the ‘exit’ side’s vulnerable flank.

He spoke first to the Reuters Brussels correspondent, who confirmed that there had been secret talks by the EU to deal with Brexit and to head off the (associated) rise in ‘far right’ parties.

Next stop was Artur Fischer, CEO of the Berlin Stock Exchange, who warned that if the UK decided to leave the EU, it would not have the economic benefits it currently enjoyed.

Christian Ehler, from Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrat party, said that a British exit would lead to a ‘nightmare’ – ’Mr Putin will laugh his butt off’. For good measure, he also claimed it would put lucrative contracts such as that of Rolls-Royce with Airbus at risk

Daniela Schwarzer, director of the ‘German Marshal Fund’s Europe programme’, an organisation that fostered stronger relations between the EU and the United States, warned that  was not ‘an easy game’ and that there was a ‘visible cost’ attached to leaving the EU.

Next up was MEP Beatrix van Storch, vice chair of the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party. This, stressed Mardell, was ‘Germany’s hard right party’.  She, too, actually wanted the UK to stay in the EU because it paid so much cash into EU coffers. But she added that on the other hand, she wanted the UK to leave, to show that it could survive and not everything would break down.

Next stop was two students. One said it would be a shame if Britain left the EU, the other wanted to avoid the need for the re-introduction of visas to travel to the UK.

Mardell spoke to Artur Fischer again. It was Armageddon time. He warned first that nationalism was not a good thing. British exit would lead to Germany becoming nationalistic again, and that would lead to the ‘thin layer’ of civilisation collapsing. The EU created the chance of compromise; without it, he warned that Germany would instead look for ‘a winning’.  Gosh. More government contracts for Krupp?

Mardell’s final port of call was Jurgen Maier, the MD of Siemens, possibly one of the most pro-EU businesses in even Germany, which has been warning for many years about the acute dangers of any form of Euroscepticism.

Mardell asked him what sort of a deal the UK would get outside the EU, and then carefully coaxed him to spell out each of the various obstacles.  Maier duly warned that barriers to the imposition of tariffs would first be taken down, then that new rules that disadvantaged the UK would be written – without the UK being round the table – then that German companies, along with those in the rest of the EU, would find it more difficult to invest in the UK, and finally that it would take much longer than two years to negotiate any new arrangements.

In summary in this report from Berlin, Mardell produced two senior industrialists, one senior politician and two students to say that Brexit would be a more or less unmitigated disaster and nightmare for the UK and would lead to the rise of nationalism and collapse of civilisation. Against this torrent of Europhilia, he produced one AfD politician and stressed that she was from the ‘hard right’.  At various other points in the report, he underlined how much of a threat the ‘hard right’ was seen to be and how the EU was fighting to prevent forces such as the Front National in France.

Gisela Stewart, from the Vote Leave campaign was invited to comment before and afterwards, but what she said was totally swamped by Mardell’s update of Funeral in Berlin.

During the referendum, News-watch is monitoring almost all of the BBC’s news output for pro-EU bias. If you spot any examples, you can register them at a special website:

News-watch research is at

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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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