Ask a panel to select the two greatest fears of modern life. The two least Pointless answers would be nuclear holocaust and cancer.
Wrap them together and, hey presto, you’ve got Project Fear with knobs on.
I am referring to the BBC’s latest anti-Brexit threat, which involves no less than our fundamental safety from accidental radiation and access to cancer treatment. Oh, and in case I forget, it also means losing all our best nuclear scientists abroad, never minding that Europe’s main centre for nuclear research is bang in the heart of Merry Olde England, at Culham, just outside Oxford, and beyond, I suspect, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, much beloved of the Remoaners.
Leaving the ECJ, you see, will force us out of Euratom. What has that got to do with the price of bread, I hear you ask. Bear with me.
So far this is the most obscure of Project Fear alarms. It began with BBC bulletins on Saturday which led with the alleged news that former Brexit department employee James Chapman had warned David Davis that Theresa May was being too inflexible over Brexit – that Davis had been ‘hamstrung’ by her desire to leave the ECJ and her other ‘inflexibilities’.
What this ‘news’ story did not reveal was that it was manufactured in house. The BBC granted the unknown Mr Chapman a platform on one of its own programmes – The Week in Westminster to make his allegations and develop the questionable thesis that leaving the ECJ meant leaving Euratom.
Who exactly was this luminary? For some reason the BBC forgot to mention his previous position as a key adviser to George Osborne in the devising of Project Fear.
Please listen back for the helpful questions from presenter Sam Coates (The Times). Goodness it was cosy.
How can the Government can buy time, get a breathing space? Sam asked. Ah well, came the solemn reply, a political party is in a bad place when there is more talent on the backbenches, like Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry, than the front benches. And David Davis would be quite liberal on the issue of immigration were he not ‘hamstrung’.
So, continued Sam encouragingly, is there anything specific Mrs May can do to signal a change of approach – a change of direction perhaps? Chapman must have been prepared.
Bang on cue came his reply: ‘There is an issue which is around the Euratom Treaty which governs civil nuclear cooperation, which goes back about 60 years. Brexit may imperil the movement of nuclear waste…it may also curtail access to radioactive iodine’. Why? Because there is ‘a locus for ECJ in the Euratom Treaty’.
My antennae were up. I did a quick Google check and immediately found this very helpful paper on Euratom and leaving the EU http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/posts/2017/02/euratom-and-leaving-the-european-union/ .
Its conclusion? Quite simply that some steps will have to be taken but that it is not complicated.
Like a dog with a bone, the BBC was not going to let it go. Who might oblige and big this up? The World at One’s presenter, Mark Mardell, of course. “Brexit will put at risk a trillion pound nuclear research market,” roared his programme’s opening headline.
The story had evolved. For fifteen minutes Mardell pursued any likely candidate willing to say that this could be a problem, ending with slightly startled and clearly unprepared former Tory minister David Willetts. Hadn’t the Euratom Treaty preceded EU membership? Willetts queried. Being a remainer, Willetts was ‘conflicted’ as to his response.
How clever of the ‘on the offensive’ BBC.
For that, so I have observed over my years of ‘BBC watching’, is what they do when criticism rattles them. And last week it must have got to them. As well as the usual watchdogs here http://isthebbcbiased.blogspot.co.uk/ and here https://biasedbbc.org/ and from yours truly here https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/kathy-gyngell-evan-davis-personifies-contempt-bbc-elitists-brexit/, the BBC faced a barrage from the public too.
Unusually they went on the defensive. Evan Davis shot off a rapid but specious justification in reply https://twitter.com/EvanHD/status/880734772938592256 to my critique of his interview with David Jones MP https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/kathy-gyngell-evan-davis-personifies-contempt-bbc-elitists-brexit/
Then the BBC, unable to ignore the public’s expressions of disgust at Emily Maitlis’s hostile assault first on Mrs May and then on Andrea Leadsom, asked their Newswatch http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08wd8y3 programme to address these complaints. It called in Newsnight’s Editor Ian Katz.
Needless to say he remained intransigent, seemingly totally oblivious to the idea that this approach may be unbalanced. He blithely told the programme’s presenter, Samira Ahmed, that complaints about the Leadsom interview were ‘not representative’ of what the audience thought. How he knew this with such certainty, she failed to ask.
It was yet another example of the BBC acting as judge and jury of its own output. It found itself innocent. It always does.
Yet that is not a view shared by former employees Rod Liddle and Jeremy Paxman as their weekend interview https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/interview-jeremy-paxman-on-corbyn-may-and-life-outside-the-bbc-tlt77793t revealed ‘..the BBC is a parastatal organisation’ that is, it believes in the State’, Paxman declared.
It was an acute observation and does much to explain the BBC’s warped concept of impartiality – as ‘the last defence against a partisan mob’ as Andrew (methinks he doth protest too much) Marr put it in his offensive on behalf of his master in The Sunday Times. ‘It hurts but I have learnt to suppress my views’, he wrote plaintively.
Well he could have fooled me. If he listened to his erstwhile colleague he might begin to understand that: “There is a way of looking at the world if you are part of the BBC and a different way if you work for a commercial organisation. Why (for example) is the story always about the disabled refugee from Syria, rather than the demands that the disabled refugee from Syria might make upon our taxpayers? That’s all too common. It’s a metropolitan-elite problem, isn’t it?”
It is indeed.
But those who fail to share in this – Mr Marr’s – worldview fall into that partisan mob, including no doubt The Conservative Woman.
Albeit superficially persuasive, it is a spurious defence against criticism of bias. Manufacturing anti-Brexit stories and – as was shown in Evan Davis’s interview with David Jones MP – willful distortions of the behaviour of the electorate to support the BBC’s anti-Brexit stance, are, Mr Marr, clear breaches of impartiality, whatever your personal pain.