The word ‘swullocking’, I’ve just learned, is ‘a near-perfect old dialect word that describes a sweltering, sultry, and all-round sudiferous (sweat-inducing) day.’


It’s certainly been a swullocking day in Morecambe today. The bay is looking like the Bay of Naples and it’s so hot that a volcano has this very afternoon erupted on the Furness Peninsula and within minutes buried Barrow. (Our thoughts and prayers, etc).

Another word that’s been on my mind recently is ‘hardline’.

As you know, ‘hardline’ means ‘advocating or involving a rigidly uncompromising course of action’. Its synonyms include:

uncompromising, strict, diehard, extreme, tough, inflexible, immoderate, intransigent, intractable, unyielding, undeviating, unwavering, single-minded and not giving an inch. It can be a neutral word, but most people don’t tend to use it neutrally. They tend to use it negatively, about others. You rarely find it used as a term of praise.

The BBC has been putting it to quite a bit of use in recent days, especially to describe certain UK politicians. (Can you guess which ones?)

Just looking at BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning (with help from TV Eyes), the BBC presenters and reporters used the term ‘hardline’ about Mrs May’s Brexiteer cabinet members at least eight times, including such phrases as ‘hardline critics of the European Union in her cabinet’.

And Uncle Mark Mardell gave us a particularly fine example whilst telling us a tale on this afternoon’s The World This Weekend (also concerning Mrs May’s Chequers cabinet meeting): ‘The seven hardline Brexit ministers knew they were in a minority in the oak-panelled room.’

Checking TV Eyes again, other BBC TV uses of the term ‘hardline’ this past week applied to President Trump’s immigration policies, a Second World War-era Japanese governor, Germany’s Right-wing interior minister, and – again – Brexiteers (BBC political correspondent Alex Forsyth using the term ‘hardline Brexiteers’ on Friday’s BBC Breakfast).

Is there a pattern emerging there?

Possibly.

So let’s go back to last month when there were 118 TV Eyes results for ‘hardline’. Are there any Remainers described as ‘hardline’ by BBC reporters? Any Left-wingers? Any pro-mass immigration people? Any EU officials?

Well, put simply: no.

Working my way through them all, there are lots and lots more uses of ‘hardline Brexiteers’, that wartime Japanese governor again (a repeated programme), Trump’s immigration policies (again and again and again and again referred to as ‘hardline’ by the BBC – when they aren’t being called ‘controversial’, that is!) ‘hardline tax-cutting conservatives’ in the US, the Right-wing Austrian government for its stance on immigration, the populist Italian and conservative Hungarian governments for their stance on immigration, European governments in general who oppose mass immigration, the conservative CSU in Germany for opposing Mrs Merkel over immigration, a Right-wing politician in Turkey (Meral Akşener), ‘hardline clerics’ opposed to female drivers in Saudi Arabia, and Italy’s Matteo Salvini. And that’s it.

Yes, there’s definitely a pattern there, isn’t there? Opponents of mass immigration, Right-wingers and people who want Brexit to mean Brexit are those the BBC chooses to call ‘hardline’.

Do you think they’re using the word in a neutral sense when so doing? I don’t.

This blog first appeared on Sunday on http://isthebbcbiased.blogspot.com/2018/07/a-hardline-take-on-bbcs-use-of-language.html, and is republished by kind permission.

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Craig Byers is a blogger about the BBC, focusing on the issue of BBC bias while living in Britain's finest traditional seaside resort: Morecambe (the one with the Eric Morecambe statue).