Thursday, 12 September 2013

If in doubt, attack the BBC

As an institution, the BBC has not covered itself in glory.  The Conservative and Unionist Party, on the other hand, is a paragon of everything that is morally-upstanding and a pillar of rectitude, populated solely by a noble breed of self-sacrificing public servants whose personal, moral and ethical behaviours could be scrutinised and not a piece of moral grit be discerned.  As the principal client of Rupert Murdoch, the Tories continue to accompany his fiddle in attacking the BBC and what they consider to be an outdated model of impartiality, based on non-partisan control and an editorial regime that does not automatically spew out the garbage produced by the propaganda machines.

There are two complaints generally levelled by Murdoch's sock-puppets about the BBC.  The first is profligacy.  This is probably true, in places, and reflects the contemporary culture of greed almost entirely.  Poor management is not unique to the BBC, or to the public sector, which is something that the Tories tend to forget on a convenient basis when bankruptcy, administration or takeover approach the private sector paradigms they embrace so cheerfully.  However, as a publicly-funded body there is a clear expectation that cock-ups will be addressed and punished, and - critically - unlike the private sector (bankers, self-styled entrepreneurs and all the other 57 varieties of spin) if they are repeated the culprits will be drummed out.  Mismanagement in any organisation is bad, the BBC just happens to do it in public.

The other moan is about left-wing bias.  Now, as a member of the fully paid-up sceptical left, I find this hilarious.  I had a lengthy exchange with the BBC over the seemingly-Tory Nick Robinson's uncritical use of the word "reform" to describe Coalition intentions to allow their cronies to peck over the corpse of the NHS - and it is hardly the case that most news outputs do not reduce even the most complex issue to a game of "he said/she said" rather than attempting to tease out the ambiguities and difficulties of the issues under discussion.

BBC-bashing is a tonic to the backwoods droolers - so the MP for Basingstoke, the laughably-mistitled Culture Secretary Maria Miller, trots it out on a regular basis.  The culture she represents is either based around viruses or bacillae, so should be given the shrift it deserves.  Perish the thought that Cameron failed to get through an uncritical, and illegal, approach to intervention in another sovereign state, or that the facts about the economic recovery are much less benign that the chinless Gidiot would wish us to believe.  The BBC reported these, along with the CPS's interventions in a legal matter relating to a currently-suspended Tory MP.  Traitors - informing people!

There is a need for the BBC to demonstrate it is a good steward of the money and the authority presented to it.  Murdoch and the Tories will never let it have that space as it does not fit a narrative of the evil public behemoth doing down plucky little Sky and the Scum.  Yet it is always a good sign when the neo-con mendacity re-emerges, it means they know that they're are on the run and in for a serious kicking elsewhere.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Clegg: losing his party after he lost the country

There are too many obvious punning headlines around Sarah Teather's decision not to seek re-election as a Liberal Democrat MP.  Given that there was an uphill struggle for any MP with a slim majority over Labour in the context of post-coalition politics, a cynical perspective would be that she wanted to get out in order to corner the market in former Liberal members before there becomes a glut in 2015, but her decision begs the questions as to what exactly is Clegg's political end-game.

Persistent rumours have done the rounds that the Tories would love to turn him into a contemporary equivalent of Sir John Simon and the Liberal Nationals - ostensibly independent but reliant upon the Tories for continued representation in Parliament; this is the equivalent of chemical castration for politicians.  Clegg's main failing is that he has done absolutely nothing that makes this implausible, seeking solace in the coalition and the more congenial company of his Cabinet bed-fellows.  He is not the only Liberal leader to have felt that his party is an embarrassment - but he is rapidly becoming a paradigm for the ostrich who has failed to notice that such views are less-than-cordially reciprocated.

The real opportunity that he would have had in 2010 is to continue to force the agenda towards collaboration and co-operation in politics.  Instead of the equivalent of being human shields to a bunch of chinless and scheming Tories, the party could have worked to build consensus across party boundaries - eliminating the impetus to establish new forms of tribalism.  Going into the 2015 election with a strong message that coalition has delivered better government, rather than tempering the swivel-eyed on occasion, might have been a stronger rallying-cry to the party and its supporters.

For fair-weather voters, this might have been unpalatable.  The Labour defectors who wanted the Lib Dems to be the repository for their consciences over Iraq and Blair's incredible right-wing drift would never buy into that particular kind of narrative.  For the Liberal Democrats, this might have been a viable survival strategy - able to argue where policies were implemented and able to demonstrate changes that could only have been effected with Liberal policies.  Instead there has been a string of policy initiatives that have been under the name of the Coalition - driven by the Tories - and which have not been tested on either of the parties or the electorate.

Clegg has joined the ranks of the leaders dismissive of their own parties.  The SDP in the 1980s hated the activist control of the Liberal Party, so they invented structures designed to neuter it.  Clegg and his coterie are falling into the same trap.  Yet they depend upon the remaining members and the remaining support to see the loss of seats and vote in 2015 remain as tragedy rather than farce.

The Liberal Democrats meet for their conference in Glasgow next week - and it will be interesting to see how much embarrassment could be caused if the party is restive.  The more, the better, at least from the perspective of pluralism.  Clegg and Alexander endorse the Coalition as much as they endorse their own party, and the more that the party can be seen to have its own direction and values, the better it will be for their successors and those of us who continue to believe that the libertarian left position requires clear articulation.  And if Clegg gets a safe Tory seat, he can become a fellow-travelling footnote.