At election time, more than any other time, we expect our national broadcaster to be impartial.
After all, it is funded by a tax on all television owners and, like all broadcasters, is subject to rules on impartiality.
Sadly, the BBC has been far from fair in this election, demonstrating an anti-Conservative bias through the campaign, as these examples show . . .
BBC News Channel, Wednesday April 26
A nurse is quizzed by Huw Edwards while in her uniform, condemning the Government’s public sector pay cap.
It isn’t made clear that the nurse — Danielle Tiplady — is a Labour political activist, and had appeared at a far-Left Momentum rally a few weeks earlier.
Newsnight, BBC2, Monday May 8
The flagship news programme — edited by former Guardian deputy editor Ian Katz — plays out with a bizarre contribution from poet Kate Tempest, who launches into a Left-wing rant against Conservative values, wailing: ‘The myth of the individual has left us disconnected, lost and pitiful.’
Question Time, BBC1, Thursday May 11
The audience in Edinburgh seems to give a remarkable show of support for the Labour Party, represented by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry — despite the reality that Labour is so unpopular in Scotland it was reduced to one seat at the last election.
The BBC audience also seems to strongly support Jeremy Corbyn’s view on scrapping nuclear weapons — despite this being a minority view in Britain.
Any Questions, Radio 4, Friday May 12
Host Jonathan Dimbleby fixates on Theresa May’s refusal to take part in face-to-face TV interviews with Jeremy Corbyn and other party leaders.
Isn’t it ‘arrogant and contemptuous’ of the Prime Minister, he asks Policing and Fire Services Minister Brandon Lewis?
Unsatisfied with Lewis’s answer he asks, again, wouldn’t it be a ‘show of confidence and respect for the voter’ if she would take part in debates with Jeremy Corbyn? ‘Isn’t that part of a functioning democracy in the 21st century?’
Dimbleby does not acknowledge that Mrs May has agreed to take part in a Question Time special taking questions directly from the public — nor does he mention Corbyn’s refusal for months to take part in a live interview on the Today programme.
Dimbleby says the BBC doesn’t know the political leanings of the audience. But there is a remarkably loud cheer for Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott’s rejection of the case for Britain’s nuclear deterrent — a policy shared by only a third of voters.
The News Quiz, Radio 4, Friday May 12
While BBC news programmes do at least try to establish some sort of balance, producers of its News Quiz are perfectly prepared to put nothing but Labour sympathisers on air, on the grounds that it’s an entertainment show, rather than current affairs.
When asked a question about the leak of the Labour Party manifesto, comic Susan Calman doesn’t do what she is supposed to do — make a joke of it — and instead asks if she is alone in thinking that some of the policies ‘might actually be a good idea’?
She goes on: ‘I’m suggesting that maybe we give the Labour Party a chance for once.’
On the panel with her are fellow Left-wing comedians Zoe Lyons and Lloyd Langford and broadcaster Peter Curran.
Tory manifesto launch, News Channel, May 18
While other reporters wait inside an old mill for the Prime Minister, BBC Assistant Political Editor Norman Smith is in the yard outdoors, where the chants of a small band of protesters from the Unite union are clearly audible.
It gives the misleading impression there is a massive protest against the manifesto.
When the launch begins BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg doesn’t so much ask a question as launch into a rant about cuts to free school meals, elderly care and so on, which she then rounds off by asking: ‘Wouldn’t some voters be entitled to say that adds up to a pretty bleak picture?’
As the Cabinet file out of the room Kuenssberg is heard haranguing them with the same question: ‘Didn’t the manifesto paint a bleak picture?’
By contrast she seemed to use more neutral language about the Labour manifesto, calling it ‘something really different’.
She added: ‘The manifesto spells out a vision, for good or ill, of more spending, more tax and more borrowing. And in a big way.’
News At Six, BBC1, Thursday May 18
The main story, on the Tory manifesto, again gives a lot of airtime to the small Unite protest. After several shots at the beginning, Laura Kuenssberg asks them what they think of the manifesto.
‘The Tories coming to a mill in Yorkshire, you couldn’t make it up,’ one man says. A woman says Mrs May wants ‘to take Britain back to the 1870s’. Neither are challenged by Kuenssberg.
PM programme, Radio 4, Thursday May 18
PM has been running a digest of each party’s manifesto — all written by the Labour-supporting Guardian’s sketch writer John Crace. Dealing with the Conservative manifesto, he tries to ridicule Theresa May on Brexit by saying: ‘Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what my plan is.’
He then pokes fun at plans for free school breakfasts rather than lunches, saying: ‘It will be best for children to go hungry later in the day.’ He fails to acknowledge free school meals will remain for children from low income families. He then makes the bizarre remark that in a Conservative Britain ‘smiling will be permitted between 4pm and 6pm’.
Question Time, BBC1, Thursday May 18
Another Question Time, another Left-wing audience. There are huge cheers when Corbyn’s name is mentioned, when Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner makes claims over arms sales to the Middle East, when she says student tuition fees should be abolished, and when Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartlett says aid spending should be increased to 1 per cent of GDP.
This audience seems seriously out of line with public opinion: a poll last August found 70 per cent wanted the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target dropped.
Newsnight, BBC2, Thursday May 18
Like the News At Six and the BBC News Channel, Newsnight gives plenty of airtime to the Unite protest — the third airing this tiny demo has now had on the Corporation.
Two members of the public are then interviewed on the street, one who plans to vote Conservative and another who is turning to Corbyn. It is a very different story from Tuesday’s Newsnight, where one Corbyn supporter after another was interviewed.
‘I’ve waited all my life for a manifesto like this,’ said an Aslef activist. ‘There’s something special about Jeremy,’ said another.
The News Quiz, Radio 4, Friday May 19
Panellist Francis Wheen — a Left-wing writer — uses the programme to set out his angry objections to Tory policies, likening Theresa May to Cruella de Vil and dismissing policies on workers’ rights as a stunt. There’s no similar treatment for Labour’s manifesto. On the contrary, comedian Angela Barnes says ‘the thing is the manifesto’s good’ but hints Corbyn has an image problem.
Today, Radio 4, Wednesday May 24
Campaigning has been suspended for a second day following the Manchester bomb.
But while interviewing Home Secretary Amber Rudd over the decision to raise the threat level from ‘severe’ to ‘critical’, presenter Sarah Montague says: ‘You know there will be those who look at this situation, say we’re a couple of weeks away from a General Election, we’ve got the prospect of tanks on the streets and soldiers in response to a terror attack, that there is a sense of opportunism.’
Later, colleague Mishal Husain is happy to help Labour’s mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham make his electoral pitch. ‘What would a Labour government do [to the Prevent strategy]?’ she asks.
Today, Radio 4, Friday May 26
The programme is part-broadcast from a failing secondary school in Southend — the inference being that it is failing because a nearby grammar school is stealing the brightest pupils.
Nick Robinson interviews the head of a primary school whose ten-year-old son has just failed what Robinson calls ‘the dreaded 11 plus’. There is no acknowledgement of the fact grammar schools are hugely popular with the public.
He then interviews three boys from the grammar, and wants to know if they think they go to a ‘posh school’. He then goes on to ask them: isn’t a bit a hard on the children who haven’t got a place?
The News Quiz, Radio 4, Friday May 26
Another heavily biased edition. The programme begins with a question about Conservative social policies, which include such jibes as referring to the ‘minister for workhouses and pensions’.
In the interests of balance there is then a question on Labour. But the question — about its alleged ‘surge’ in Wales — ends up with yet more anti-Tory commentary, with one panel member suggesting people were voting Labour because half of Wales ‘had suddenly woken up and spontaneously remembered the Eighties’.
News At Six, BBC1, Wednesday May 31
The BBC seems miffed Theresa May has decided to skip the corporation’s leader’s debate.
Laura Kuenssberg asks the PM, in strong terms: ‘Isn’t your decision not to take part in a debate tonight a metaphor for your whole campaign? You’re very happy to repeatedly criticise the Labour Party but for your own plans you’re reluctant to give us very much detail at all, whether it’s on Brexit, your future immigration system, how many people will use your winter fuel allowance . . .
‘You’re basically saying on these issues: “I’ll get back to you.” ’