THE Daily Mirror, a supporter of Labour since the year dot, yesterday ran a page one lead which claimed that four-year-old Jack, having been diagnosed with pneumonia, had been forced to wait for admission to Leeds General Infirmary on the A&E floor.
In an election period, a red light marked ‘election hype’ or even ‘fake news’ shrieked from every word of the Mirror’s splash.
Boris Johnson was less than sure-footed in his response, and at an election rally later in the day, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour spin team were in full cry with claims that this was clear evidence that heartless Tories were starving the health service of resources, putting children’s lives at risk.
How did the BBC treat this? As manna from heaven throughout the day.
The coverage culminated with the BBC1 News at 10 opening with a snatch-edit sequence of Boris Johnson seemingly tongue-tied in his response. That segued into a shrill and triumphant-sounding Laura Kuenssberg gleefully claiming that this had been a bad day for the Tories and Boris Johnson, and that it showed the election was ‘not over’.
What is the truth? There are claims that the whole story was fake.
But on the same tweet trail, it looks as if Leeds Infirmary have confirmed that there was a delay in admitting Jack. Their account also shows that, although he was made to wait for around four hours without a bed, he was at all times under surveillance. It seems clear that he was never seriously at risk or forgotten.
NHS hype stories have been a feature of British general elections since 1992 when a desperate Neil Kinnock latched on to a glue-ear patient called Jennifer and, despite strong protests from her parents, made her the subject of a party political broadcast attacking the Tory NHS record.
Against that background, the BBC treatment of this Leeds story was sensationalist – disproportionate to the weight of the facts; amateurish for falling for such hype; and potentially deeply biased because the tone of Ms Kuenssberg’s account was so nakedly partisan and triumphant.
It looks at first blush that the news machine, in cahoots with the openly partisan Mirror and the Labour Party itself, went into overdrive to cause maximum damage to the Tories.
Could that be because also yesterday, Boris Johnson suggested that the BBC licence fee was out of date and could be scrapped?
Whatever the truth, John Simpson, the BBC’s octogenarian world affairs editor, has taken to his Twitter account to express his forthright views about Tory policy. He says: ‘The licence fee IS the BBC. Scrap it, and the BBC as it has always existed will disappear. Every opinion poll shows that’s not what the majority of people want.’
The evidence that the BBC has morphed into a campaigning political organisation mounts every day.