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Addicted to Labour?

Nick Robinson | 10:53 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

Do you remember where you were when Peter Lilley was replaced by Francis Maude? What do you mean Peter who? It was a big moment. No really it was.

If you're still struggling to dredge it from the far reaches of your memory the year was 1998, there was a change in shadow chancellor involving two of the people who'd only just been running the country.

Alan Johnson and Ed Balls

I test your memory in order to test myself on a question that's troubling me this morning - will the replacement of Alan with Labour's other Ed matter as much as we news boys have said it will? Or could it be that we're still addicted to reporting on Labour?

Last night we all recalled how Ed didn't get on with Ed when they worked for Gordon...and Ed (B not M that is) wasn't liked by Tony or, indeed, by Alastair who was - by chance - clashing on Question Time with "gorgeous George" before Tony gave evidence this morning.

No surnames needed and no detail explanation because, after all, we all know the plot of the nation's favourite political soap opera, don't we? But could these guys be the Messrs Lilley and Maude of today?

Perhaps but here's why - on reflection - I think we are right to be excited by this shadow cabinet reshuffle. The economy is the central issue of the day. Who is right and who is wrong about the deficit, tax and spending will not just define our political future but many people's personal futures.

The heavyweight clash between Ed Balls and George Osborne will pitch Labour's toughest, brightest, sharpest street fighter against the Tories answer to him. It will involve a clash of two dramatically different approaches to the economy - one which will be dubbed "deficit denying" and the other which will be portrayed as "growth denying". It follows an election which the Conservatives did not win and leads up to one which Labour has every chance of winning.

On this of all days when signs of "Labour addiction" are everywhere to see I'm making a note to myself to keep my eye firmly fixed on the future.

PS Sadly I cannot be at today's gripping examination of the past - the Iraq Inquiry - but my colleagues James Landale and Laura Kuenssberg are there. One thought on the opening exchanges. What is emerging before our eyes is a clash of cultures between a politician who believes governing is, in the end, about one man's judgement and the Whitehall classes who believe it should be about official papers, formal consideration of the evidence and collective decision making.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    "I think we are right to be excited by this shadow cabinet reshuffle. The economy is the central issue of the day. Who is right and who is wrong about the deficit, tax and spending will not just define our political future but many people's personal futures."


    Nick, how can you make such a statement when you know that spending was out of control according to Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury, who said spending under the last government at the Education department (Ed Balls was the minister) and the MOD, and the Health department.


    Why would anyone be excited about Browns cohort in waste, borrow and spend, on contemplation suites etc. being the shadow chancellor.

    All labour need to do now is get Brown back as party leader and keep on denying they had anything to do with the UK financial position to get less MP's than the LibDems at the next general election.

  • Comment number 2.


    Yes, Mr Osborne has a lot to worry about. We see already his policies are not working properly. When this gets worse and all is stripped bare, all that will be left is conservative ideology and the mess that it leaves behind.

  • Comment number 3.

    Agreed Nick, I think a lot of the beeb is addicted to reporting on labour. Pity that its not on the chilcot inquiry though seeing as that will have more real world consequences in the here and now.

  • Comment number 4.

    "will the replacement of Alan with Labour's other Ed matter as much as we news boys have said it will? Or could it be that we're still addicted to reporting on Labour?"

    Do you REALLY want the answer to that???

  • Comment number 5.

    Two Ed's are better than one!

    They should re-instate clause IV and announce a policy to nationalise the entire UK banking system.

    They'd have the next GE in the bag if they did that!

    PS - Boy George is no match for Ed (super spheroids) Balls ;o)

  • Comment number 6.

    "I think we are right to be excited by this shadow cabinet reshuffle. The economy is the central issue of the day. Who is right and who is wrong about the deficit, tax and spending will not just define our political future but many people's personal futures."


    Nick, how can you possibly make such a statement, knowing that spending was out of control according to Sir Nicholas Macpherson the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury, who said spending under the last government at the Education department which Ed Balls was the minister, and the MOD and Health department.

    Browns sidekick Ed Balls was behind or closely involved with forming the FSA which failed to regulate the banks, PFI, selling the UK gold for euros, spending like a millionaire our money on contemplation suites etc.

    Labour are totally finished.

  • Comment number 7.

    There are three things Balls needs to do:

    1. The UK entered the recession with a Government deficit despite the longest boom in post war history. In large part this was because Labour assumed the tax revenues from the City would continue at their historically high levels. Surely not such a massive admission. Cameron and Osbourne were promising to match Labour's spending plans prior to the crash.

    2. Labour's light touch regulation of the City was a mistake. For example it was UK Law as signed off by a major City law firm that allowed Lehmans to keep so many liabilities off its balance sheet. Again surely not such a massive admission given the Conservatives supported light touch regulation.

    3. Having acknowledged those failures he needs to set out his alternative policy on cutting the deficit.

    Until those steps are taken Labour will not be in a position to undermine the Tories policy. Having said that no-one should under estimate Balls - he is a very good attack dog. He will score lots of points against Osbourne but Labour (who ever it is led by) will not be seen as a credible government until it deals with the issues above.



  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    "It follows an election which the Conservatives did not win and leads up to one which Labour has every chance of winning."

    Nick, that's probably the most chilling thing you've ever written. I defy even Stephen King to create a more horrific prospect with the 12 final words you wrote there.

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

  • Comment number 10.

    "The heavyweight clash between Ed Balls and George Osborne will pitch Labour's toughest, brightest, sharpest street fighter against the Tories answer to him."

    Or a barely credible egomaniac with a questionable reputation and designs on the top job by means fair or foul... against the tories answer to him. Interesting in that sense, both are dangerous to their leaders in that respect, considering that both of their leaders are fundementally weak, but at least have grass roots election winning appeal within their own parties, which neither of these two have got.


    "It will involve a clash of two dramatically different approaches to the economy - one which will be dubbed "deficit denying" and the other which will be portrayed as "growth denying"."

    Yeah. Yeah, I can buy that. It'll be interesting to see which the great dumbed-down, Celebrity obsessed, fire extinguisher throwing unwashed will buy.

    "It follows an election which the Conservatives did not win and leads up to one which Labour has every chance of winning."

    Thats going out on a limb a bit for a political editor of what is meant to be a neutral state broadcaster, isnt it? Havent you lot always said that a week is a long time in politics? And here you are forecasting and flagwaving for something that is potentially - not necessarily, but definately potentially - another 4 years away?

    Interesting choice of language as well - "did not win" despite having the largest single number of seats, although short of a parliamentary majority. Certainly didnt involve a loss of 90 seats, thats for sure.

    But it the choice of words... "did not win"... this tends to be a phrase used and favoured by one particular media sector. Now, who might that be.....?

  • Comment number 11.

    No, in this instance, I do not believe it is your addition to Labour reporting. This I believe is a real turning point in favour of the Coalition. With the coming of Balls, comes the spectre of all Labour failures and a reminder to the voter of why they ejected them at the Election. Ed Miliband could, until this point, have just got away with saying he had a new approach and a new beginning. This appointment of Balls throws all that out of the window. Because it is not possible to have Browns closest associate and partner in economic matters which brought Britain down, as Shadow Chancellor and say you are renewed and have learnt lessons.

    Very poor decision by Ed Miliband.

    As to Blair it is becoming more obvious everyday, that he made up his own mind on Iraq, and what he was going to do about it, pretty early on. It was just a question for him then, how he was going to convince everybody else. I think the rest is history and we all know the truth, one of the biggest mistakes Britain has ever made.


  • Comment number 12.

    The bBC are certainly addicted to Labour. It's strange how the bBC only report positive Labour details, much like the Labour Blogosphere only reports positive (on party line) details.

    As an example recently the almost deathly silence that came with David Chaytor getting banged up a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure the bBC will be all over Lord Taylor when his result comes in...

  • Comment number 13.

    Irony of all this is that Balls may make Osborne seem more likeable (I know - hard to imagine) - the demonisation Osborne's personna will now be offset by the image of Ball's prowling rotweiler.

  • Comment number 14.

    Addicted to Labour?

    Yes, the BBC is, because the vast majority of the Corporation's overpaid staff vote for them.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    It raises the prospect of Labour's top parliamentary performer up against Graeme Osborne, who, before the general election, didn't have the strongest economic reputation. If nothing else, at least we'll have an opposition back with some bark, always a good thing.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think the crucial difference with your example from 1998 and now is that back in 998 the Conservatives had all been wiped out and didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of getting back into office at the next election. Labour weren't wiped out to the degree that their electoral chances had been destroyed, the Tories aren't dominant at the ballot box as yet. Balls has a reasonable chance of forming part of the next administration so I don't think that it's a reasonable comparison - you'd be better served looking at how Cameron's election as Tory leader and the appointment of Osborne was reported.

  • Comment number 19.

    Of course they're addicted to it - just as they love writing about Shameless, EastEnders, Corrie and all the other soap operas that provide opium to the people.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    Interesting breaking development. Coulson has jumped before he was pushed.

    Very interesting. If for no other reason than showing that there is always a good day to bury bad news. Right in the middle of Blair being recalled to Chilcott and Ed Balls starting back on the road to the Labour leadership.

    Talk about living in interesting times...

  • Comment number 22.

    Further to my last, even more interesting is that Tom Watson, one of Gordon's chief henchmen knew the day Coulson would go as well and had it absolutely nailed.


    Now, how would he know that, eh Nicholas? How could he possibly know....? I think we should be told. A case for the political editor of BBC News, if ever I saw it.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    'It follows an election which the Conservatives did not win and leads up to one which Labour has every chance of winning.'

    Nick, even with your Labour party membership card only half-concealed in your pocket, this is a bit ripe.

    Talking up the prospect of a (back to old) Labour victory with four or more years to go is for politicans, not BBC employees.

  • Comment number 25.

    With the recent resignation of Andy Coulson, please feel free to talk about the Conservatives as much as you want, Nick.

  • Comment number 26.

    Coulson gone? - Rupert next?

  • Comment number 27.

    The media interest in Labour deck chair adjustments could be simply be because of the long wait for an Opposition to evolve OUTSIDE the Coalition. And for some new ideas from Labour. Never going to happen with seedy retreads.

    In the case of the BBC and Labour, there does appear to me to be an instinctive if unintended affiliation.

  • Comment number 28.

    Andy Coulson quits as No 10 communications chief
    Well, won’t Tony Blair, Alan Johnson, Ed Balls et al just love that development today!

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    "one which will be dubbed "deficit denying" and the other which will be portrayed as "growth denying". "

    The latter should read 'growth depriving'. Osborne is not [i]denying[/i] there will be growth. Indeed he claims the opposite - although he may be deluded, as his policy look set to [i]deprive[/i] the country of economic growth over the coming years.

  • Comment number 31.

    Lets see in politics we have the following stories:

    1. Chilcott enquiry - ex PM could be held to have knowingly taken us into an illegal war.

    2. Coulson resigning: what did he know about phone tapping and what did he tell DC; and

    3. Shadow Cabinet minister resigns for personal reasons with no hint of any scandal or falling out with his boss - ie for genuine family issues.

    Like any good political journalist you concentrate on the key issue of the day which is...wait a minute, number 3, are you kidding!

  • Comment number 32.

    Its a shame that Coulson has resigned. It seems the in this Country we are quite prepared to give prisoners a second chance and rights, no matter what they have done, but not this man a second chance at a job. Strange Country we live in.

  • Comment number 33.

    Nick you`ve never reported on Labour as far as I can see all you do is repeat what comes out of Tory Party Central Office,your churlish remarks after Gordon Brown resigned are proof of that.All you were interested in was trying to denigrate the man.

  • Comment number 34.

    "PS Sadly I cannot be at today's gripping examination of the past - the Iraq Inquiry - but my colleagues James Landale and Laura Kuenssberg are there."

    Nick, don't be sorry - why on earth is there a need to send 2 leading reporters to the same event from the same organistion?

  • Comment number 35.


    Addicted to reporting on Labour?

    Don't be daft Nick. Unless you mean the addition is all about letting them have their say.

    Compare the news coverage/subject matter when the Tories are in office or in opposition and compare this to the coverage given to Labour in either situation. The difference is quite marked.

    The difference is that the media labours on any and all foibles of the Tories; policies are most often represented by news presenters and considerable prominence given to opposing views by spokespeople in person, or the right of reply to a particular point is moved on to another issue. Last night on Newsnight Tessa Jowell said there wasn't banking regulation before 1997. Huh? Michael Fallon was there but didn't have the chance to reply. It was a bit of a joke quite frankly.

    By my reckoning, if the Tories were to be offered the same degree of coverage that is given to their opponents, then Eric Pickles would run round College Green naked, like something out of Benny Hill. There's something to think about. Or maybe the reason to retain the status quo.

  • Comment number 36.

    2. At 11:22am on 21 Jan 2011, lefty11 wrote:

    So you think by appointing a person as shadow chancellor who still thinks that Nu Labour did nothing wrong and in fact wants to maintain the spending rather than making any savings, even those backed by the then Chancellor and PM. And who is at odds with their current leader....

    Spot on.....

    How long before we have a move made by one Ed on the other?

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    Thank goodness my previous post was moderated. I said the BBC was right but I was wrong.

    Johnson doesn't matter, Coulson doesn't matter, the Iraq enquiry does but the BBC concentrates on the froth and becomes complicit in preventing the public seeing the important matter of why the then PM avoided (in tax terms "evaded") one of his most senior advisors.

  • Comment number 39.

  • Comment number 40.

    The media don't have Labour addiction just the BBC, who continue to report on the Labour party as if they were still in power. You seem to have blithely admitted to your bias without understanding how appallingly misguided it is.

    "It follows an election which the Conservatives did not win and leads up to one which Labour has every chance of winning."

    What an earth are you making a statement like that for? The BBC may not have overtly stated a political allegiance, but the sub text of the reporting throughout the organisation clearly shows who's party flag is being flown.

    Objective journalism has clearly been thoroughly kicked and battered to death, to be tossed into an unmarked grave. Congratulations on such a stunning capitulation.

  • Comment number 41.

    It isn't the fact that Alan Johnson has departed that makes the media interested in it, it is the seemingly salacious events surrounding it. The media isn't addicted to reporting on Labour but on the minutiae of personal lives

  • Comment number 42.

    The media are addicted to giving the self-important mouthings and antics of politicians (of any party) far more significance than they merit.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    9. At 11:37am on 21 Jan 2011, AndyC555 wrote:
    "It follows an election which the Conservatives did not win and leads up to one which Labour has every chance of winning."

    Nick, that's probably the most chilling thing you've ever written. I defy even Stephen King to create a more horrific prospect with the 12 final words you wrote there.

    ==============
    Sounded like a challenge.

    Prime Minister Harriet Harman appoints Gordon Brown chancellor after surprise election win.

    Horrific enough?

  • Comment number 45.

    As a great fan of the BBC, I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that the answer to your question is "Yes", at least in the context of the BBC's Scottish reporting. Labour party assertions seem to get undue weight and attention, and less critical investigation than they warrant. Other stories can go virtually unreported, despite some making front pages elsewhere in the media. Scottish politics as a whole is inadequately reported - try finding much substantial critical reporting about the content and implications of the Scotland Bill, for example, despite its significance to both Scotland and the UK as a whole. Since it's effectively spoiler legislation by the (Scottish) Opposition parties to block the Scottish Government's proposals, one would think it would need a particularly rigorous going over.

  • Comment number 46.

    Nick -it's only you and the BBC that are excited by the cabinet re-shuffle and are always reporting about Labour. On the ITV news it was not even the first item.
    Since Oct 2007 the country has been speculating about General Elections and who would win. That was decided last May. It is most unlikely there will another election before 2015 - and by that time the Conservatives will have re-drawn the electoral boundaries and have all constituencies of a similar size.
    For the media circus in Westminster, the re-shuffle has set the world buzzing. Out in the real world it's pretty irrelevant. Is Ed Balls a catalyst for change? I don't think so.
    The analogy I like to use is that of a bus driver. Alan is a good guy who got on well with people - trouble is he couldn't drive the bus. Ed can drive the bus - but as he showed over the last 10 years - he drives it in the wrong direction.

  • Comment number 47.

    So Andy Coulson has quit at last but I see all eyes are on the Iraq Enquiry. It has to make you wonder if Call Me Dave asked Coulson to make his reisgnation public today in order to hide it behind Blair.

    I wonder who will be next as they seem to be forming an orderly queue it quit the Coalition.

    Anyway I guess Mr Osborne will be unhappy at the appointment of Ed Balls as the Shadow Chancellor - he might actually have to answer some searching questions and the public might get the truth.

  • Comment number 48.

    11. At 11:41am on 21 Jan 2011, Susan-Croft wrote:

    Very poor decision by Ed Miliband.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Please see my #127 on NR's previous Blog.

    PS: My 'punch up' {figure of speech} with Bryhers was before revelations of gender. But I am happy to debate GB's mismanagement of the UK economy (plus any-one's management, mis or otherwise) with anyone of any gender.

    Your comment is surely not an indication of something else ... jealousy ... perhaps? ;-)


  • Comment number 49.

    Sorry mate, but the BBC lost all journalistic credability over its disgraceful kow-towing to Labour over the "dodgy dossier" and regretable death of Dr Kelly.
    However, when I still (occasionally) tune in to Radio 4 of a morning, I often wonder if Labour actually lost the election. Radio 4 seems to delight in broadcating every word of the Labour MPs and shadow cabinet members, but are content to merely report a brief word or two on the Tory response. BBC should really be called the LBC (yes, Labour Broadcasting Company) from now on. (And no I'm not a Tory fan either).

  • Comment number 50.

    NR: 'Or could it be that we're still addicted to reporting on Labour?'
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Most posters thought you were addicted to reporting on the LibDems ...

  • Comment number 51.

    I am not sure about the media in general, but I am not convinced the BBC is still addicted to reporting on labour - not in the general news anyway.

    Nowadays, the BBC seems more addicted to reporting US politics - you know that country that is 3000 miles away?

    A couple of months ago, the editors on the News Channel cut short a report about terrible strife in Africa to rush live to the Whitehouse where the US President was announcing the resignation of one of his close aids. We have rushed back live loads of times since to hear important news of US domestic policy and presidential statements on some domestic matter.

    Do we do this for statements in Ireland? (A land so close that half the population in the south watch the BBC news and where a huge percentage of their population live here) Or France, one of our closest allies? (Despite what the media likes to lie about) Or Germany, or Italy? The BBC hardly even covers EU politics live - and we pay vast amounts of money to them!

    But one sneeze from The President and all BBC resources are pointed at the States.

    (Note, that the BBC has given up saying "the US President" and just says "The President" - is this because they think that he is probably our president really? Or they would like him to be?)

    The US maybe one of the most powerful countries in the world, but 99% of what happens there has no bearing on us at all. Domestic policy in France is far more likely to affect us since so many of us travel there on holiday and business and we have so much casual as well as large scale trade with France. (Hell, the UK Immigration for people coming into the UK via the Tunnel is based in Calais, not the UK! For that matter - we have a TUNNEL connecting the two countries. How close do you want to get?)

    So, if I was to detect any addiction to a subject, or any political bias, I would say that the BBC is US centric and probably Democrat!

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    The BBC is, definitely.

  • Comment number 54.

    Was both disappointed and astonished at the blind bias and hypocrisy in your article. 'Addicted to Labour'. You certainly are. I shouldn't be suprised by your obvious bias by now, Nick, just as I shouldn't be surprised by the BBCs. However, you are supposed to be a professional, just as the BBC is supposed to be a professional institution. I've even woken up to it for heaven's sake. My radio alarm goes off and Fiona Philips (helping out Richard Madely in Chris Evan's absence) who seems to think we need to hear about her utter bias toward Labour too. She doesn't even get her facts straight... Are you all suffering from amnesia? Professional you are not.

  • Comment number 55.

    It's your job to report on Shadow Cabinet changes.

    It's not your job to act as a hyperventilating fanboy whilst doing so.

  • Comment number 56.

    Nick, I have to take issue with you over your comment:
    "we all know the plot of the nation's favourite political soap opera,.."
    For many, this is not their 'favourite' but rather their most despised soap. Poor actors, pathetic plots, unbelievable scripts, childish behaviour, huge egos at the top, etc.
    It might be exciting when your job is to report on such a rabble. However, for some of us, it would sometimes seem better if they simply closed down the production and let us simply get on with our own lives at a local level.
    Alternatively, to make it more entertaining, since that is after all what soaps are meant to be about, ask Ricky Gervais to appear at PMQT to host the event in lieu of the Speaker. Now that would be entertaining!

  • Comment number 57.

    I don't think the media is addicted to reporting on Labour at all - My impression is that right up until about the Iraq war the media (BBC in particular) were totally in NuLab's(A Campbell's) pockets and very rarely gave the scrutiny that should have occurred.
    So when one of the men responsible for causing the dreadful mess left behind by Nulab comes back into an economic role this should be news, and Ed Balls should be asked how he has the, er, balls (sorry can't resist it!) to come back and try and argue that Nulab should be put back in charge of our economy - frankly a schoolchild could not make such a mess of it

  • Comment number 58.

    Has the BBC reported on the "bombshell" comments of the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury about his former Labour masters? If it has I've missed it.
    They are far more newsworthy than the endless addictive reporting of the machinations going on in the Shadow Cabinet or premature idle speculation about Labour's chances at the next election.
    Is it because such a devastating critique of Labour incompetence from a senior, independent and highly credible source does not sit easily with the BBC's "Progressive" mindset?

  • Comment number 59.

    Blair back at the Chilcott enquiry. Alan Johnson resigning.

    So why has AC decided that today of all days is the day to go.

    Can't wait to see who Rupert Murdock decides should be sent to replace him. Of course in the good old days, I wouldn't have to wait, could just tap up a few phones.

    Good day to bury bad news!

  • Comment number 60.

    @33 - took the words out of my mouth

    I'm more interested to know why nobody is mentioning that Brown's plan saved the banks from total collapse or even that many other countries copied his lead. Rightly or wrongly, the country came to rely on the City for a chunk of it's income more than most (all?) countries so if it got hit so would Britain.

    Surely if Labour were as bad as everyone here likes to think (egged on by a largely right wing media) then why weren't they massacred in the election? (Although first past the post can be blamed for that to some extent)

  • Comment number 61.

    38. At 12:10pm on 21 Jan 2011, pietr8 wrote:
    "Johnson doesn't matter, Coulson doesn't matter, the Iraq enquiry does but the BBC concentrates on the froth and becomes complicit in preventing the public seeing the important matter of why the then PM avoided (in tax terms "evaded") one of his most senior advisors."

    The Iraq enquiry only matters if you have a time machine... the damage is done, British troops are out of the country, Cameron is pretending he never voted for the war in the first place and I don't really care what happens to Blair anymore either. Jail him, don't jail him... doesn't affect me.

    What DOES affect me is the state of the nations finances and a significant Lib-Dem revolt would mean a minority conservative govt, a general election and the real possibility Ed Balls is in No 11.

    Perhaps the reason no one remembers when Peter Lilley was replaced by Francis Maude was that in 1998 the tories were completely spent, Blair had a huge majority and there was no chance of them getting back in for years. The same is not true now, and I'm not suggesting that Labour are any more or less competent than the Tories... simply reminding everyone that Cameron wasn't popular enough to get a majority last May, never mind now with prices rocketing, cuts biting and a lot of promises broken already.

  • Comment number 62.

    35. At 12:05pm on 21 Jan 2011, TerryNo2 wrote:
    "The difference is that the media labours on any and all foibles of the Tories"

    Hardly. The BBC reported 'Gordon Brown beats up his staff' as if it were true (or at least had some proof beyond anonymous phone calls... ) whereas any post mentioning the jail sentence served by a prominent Tory or two will be 'moderated' despite the fact that the sentence served was fact reported at the time and the case proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

    And thats before we get onto the BBC trying to set itself up as the official opposition during the Hutton Report saga.

  • Comment number 63.

    32 SC

    I know what you mean and lets face it, all those bankers who bought the Country to its knees have all been given a second chance come back and finish the job properly.

    Don't worry AC will be given lots more chances given his cv.

  • Comment number 64.

    Goodness, can you imagine the problems we would have if Labour got in again with maniac Balls in charge of the purse strings! I hope it never happens.

    The BBC needs to get over its obsession with the labour soap opera. There are better things to report on and at present, with their blank piece of paper and "too fast and too deep" political posturing Labour are irrelevant.

  • Comment number 65.

    #1 fairandtrue - but the Conservative opposition said it wouldn't alter the Government's spending plans right up to 2007. Besides - what was Sir Nicholas MacPherson doing about it. It was after all his Department that was supposed to be controlling Government expenditure (Instead it was busy trying to do every other Government Department's work for them). Gordon Brown had to face the electorate & lost. Sir Nicholas MacPherson is still in place. I think I'd like to know what he told the Chancellors in 2005-2010 about public spending & the lack of control. Did he make the point seriously? Did he threaten to resign or tell the Public Accounts Committee? I think this was a piece of skin-saving on his part. Besides - the main problem - as economic commentators have pointed out endlessly (but not enough to prevent the "big lie" of the current Tory mantra), the deficit was largely caused by the collapse in tax revenue following a world wide recession, not by public spending (which in any case was necessary after 18 years+ of neglecting schools, hospiatsl, roads, etc)

  • Comment number 66.

    Don't trouble yourself too much about whether you are concentrating too much on the latest Labour reshuffle Nick....I've a feeling the two Eds will be at the helm of this country far sooner than many might care to predict.....
    With the litany of broken pledges from Cameron (NHS,EMAs and the latest on respite care to name but a few)and the deep unease the Lib Dems have about their new bed-fellows and the even deeper unease of those that voted for them (Scottish elections in May is it?) I envisage this coalition unravelling at the seems quite soon now....

  • Comment number 67.

    Nick, I think you're a really good political editor, so don't take this personally, but I think you're completely wrong about Labour having every chance of winning the next election:

    1. They may be 4 or 5 points ahead in the polls, but just ask Neil Kinnock how that is meaningless in the long term.
    2. They lag well behind the Tories in economic credibility ratings.
    3. This Government will be unpopular mid-term, but the economy may well have fully recovered by 2015, which will give it a strong chance of winning reelection.

    You may be right that Labour stand every chance of winning the next election, but so do the Conservatives - more so in my view.

  • Comment number 68.

    If i was the leader of the conservative party i would announce the date of the next general election at the next PMQ's ....that should give the front bench of the labour party a Heart attack.

  • Comment number 69.

    Or could it be that we're still addicted to reporting on Labour?

    Not in Scotland you're not. We have the most feeble and illiterate Labour Opposition imaginable, an embarassment to the country and obvious to all except BBC Scotland, who seem to see everything through heavily rose-tinted glasses.

    Come up here Nick, and give us a true picture of what goes on in our Parliament.

  • Comment number 70.

    Nick, it is the BBC's fascination with all things Labour that has meant in our house it is now referred to by it's correct title - The SBBC.

    Socialist British Broadcasting Corporation

  • Comment number 71.

    29. At 11:59am on 21 Jan 2011, sagamix wrote:
    Fair & True @ 1

    The flaw in Labour’s economic stewardship wasn’t “excessive” government spending, it was a failure to deal with the banks and their culture of reckless, low intelligence growth and risk-taking.

    ==================================

    Yet Saga - if Labour had dealt with the banks in a timely manner to prevent that "reckless, low intelligence growth and risk-taking" then the fake tax income from that sector and fake growth it created would not have occurred and the tax take from it not been available to spend.

    If the banks behaviour was "low intelligence" as you say - then it is hardly flattering to those in the economic portfolios of the Government of the day that they did not recognise a bubble for what it was and plan accordingly e.g. by not spending every penny of that false income which their superior intelligence should have informed them would one day disappear.

    Just face it - it takes two to tango. The financial world may have convinced itself that by fiddling with capital ratios it had somehow magically removed risk of boom and bust - but for a government led by supposedly city sceptical politicians to have bought that hook line and sinker and spent accordingly is hardly a ringing endorsement of their intelligence either.

    Mistakes were made - what annoys about banks/bonuses etc. is when they appear to deny the scale of their responsibility and fail to show penitence. What annoys about Labour is their similar apparent denial of their responsibility or justify why their obvious error was not an error.
    It was not just one or the other who carry to the total blame for the problems.

    Balls has a problem - he was very vocal about double dip, whilst he was not shadow chancellor the non appearance of a double dip after Osbornes plan would be an embarrasment not a political problem.
    Now if that double dip fails to appear - Balls will be proven wrong and therefore irrespective of anything, not able to be trusted on any matter economics. Not a recommendation for beign chancellor that.

  • Comment number 72.

    Pity for Alan Johnson on a personal level. Balls though will be a different class and Osborne will be exposed (again) as a spectacular lightweight. Being Leader of The Opposition will be one of easiest jobs in the country until the next election. Balls' appointment will make that job easier still as he exposes the flaws in the current economic programme.
    Ed Milliband has got lucky here. Alan Johnson wasn't really up to it but sacking him would have upset the Blairites. In these circumstances Ed Balls had to be made Shadow Chancellor and even the most ardent Blairites will simply have to swallow it!

  • Comment number 73.

    Ed Balls vs George Osborne? I think poor George is in for a sizable shellacking myself (gotta love that word!).

    I mean seriously, even our dear friends on the right must surely concede that Osborne is no match for Balls when it comes to debating the economy. And Balls is - like Osborne - a fairly privileged sort of chap, so they'll have to think beyond the previous classist japes about a postman with a calculator.

    Still, you've got to pity poor Alan Johnson. Politics aside, that's no fair way for a career to end.

  • Comment number 74.

    In answer to your question the media are not addicted to reporting on Labour, However the BBC maybe given its left bias. The fact that Ed Balls has now been given this job may in the end be a good thing . I dont like his policies but admire his drive and commitment. He was and will be tagged by his role with Gordon Brown in the tresurary . However I think he is thick skined enough to brush it off . George Osbourne has a hard job on his hands which Balls will make harder.

  • Comment number 75.

    PS: Andy Coulson quits!

    Yeah, old news I'm sure. But surely about time.

    Cameron really does know how to pick 'em, doesn't he?

  • Comment number 76.

    Can`t resist this quote from David Aaronovitch in his "Times" article today apropos of a previous blog:-

    "..I say this as a left of centre man who realizes that
    more prisoners,being if not entrepreneurs,then certainly preneurs,would vote Tory than anything else.

  • Comment number 77.

    All I want to know is which one of us is the 'undercover officer' and which one of us is listening to the voicemails of the rest?

    It seems the corruption and deception in our lives is everywhere - so where does that leave the idea that Capitalism breeds freedom?

    Seems to me all it's done is led the weak minded and fragile to their ultimate destruction.

  • Comment number 78.

    From the blog just closed:

    "John. I would like them explained to me in detail."

    Ah John, what did I tell you!!??

    "Anyway back to the main point. How selective we are with history."

    Aint that the truth....

    "Seems that there is little detail in any economic mess that can be attributed directly to mister balls, or at least some blame that cannot be argued wasn’t his fault or wasn’t necessarily “fault” anyway."

    Now theres a novelty... Labour emerge with their reputations intact and the baby eaters get savaged.

    Honestly, If Balls was Brown's rottweiler, then Lefty is Ed Mili's Jack Russell.

    Nothing to do with Labour, No, no, they werent there, they didnt do it. Absolutely not. Them filthy tory bankers, they did it!

    "I hope you are as stringent in criticism of the current govt. Here at least. In the here and now I can factually give you examples of policy made by Osborne and Cameron that are detrimental at best and downright hideous at worst. Actually, forget detrimental. Lets call it as it is.........disgusting."

    So, forget anything "factual" (cos after all, because you dont agree with him, you're a tory and as every good Komsomolskii rabotnik knows, all tories lie. You may have to say, lefty is the sole purveyor of facts around here (because otherwise, he might go off on one...)

    if it wasnt so sad and self delusional, it would be funny. The scary thing is, that theres going to be no shortage of vulnerable, uneducated yokels who'll buy his version of history as well and allow him and Balls and Co to ride on their backs to power so they can resume the demolition job on the UK that they were rudely interrupted from back in May.

    If it wasnt for that, all this red denial would be just plain, Comical Ali style funny.

  • Comment number 79.

    Nick 4 years is a long time in polotics . Granted if an ellections was called now the signs are Labour may win. However if the coalition have got things right and things are improving because of thier actions and the boundary changes take away Labours built advantage to the voting system ,Who knows.

  • Comment number 80.

    Chilcot inquiry: panel member claims antisemitism after impartiality queried
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/28/chilcot-inquiry-martin-gilbert

    *Gilbert and fellow panel member Sir Lawrence Freedman "are Jewish, and Gilbert at least has a record of active support for Zionism," Miles wrote. "Such facts are not usually mentioned in the mainstream British and American media."*

  • Comment number 81.

    Maybe Nick's obsessed by reporting on Labour because he's a Tory?

    I mean he wouldn't want to shine the spotlight on the darker areas of the party of the bourgoisie would he now? It might undermine the ideological failings of the party - the idea that you can have free markets without increasing public spending in order to pay the army of regulators needed to keep up with the corporate monopolies.

    I have to say this coalition is breaking all records - we've not even reached a year yet and they are more unpopular than Labour were - and the coalition have all the mis-information on their side (like the real causes of the financial crisis) to fool the people with.

    It doesn't bode well for the future of the coalition.

  • Comment number 82.

    60#

    a) Because it wasnt his idea, it was the governor of the Bank Of England. See the wikileaks cables for details. and

    b) I'd say losing 90 seats, as Labour did, is pretty bad. Bordering on a massacre. Hardly a landslide, but none of the parties warranted a landslide victory.

  • Comment number 83.

    I agree with those above who think Blair at Chilcott Inquiry or Coulson resigning is a bigger story. Maybe Nick Robinson will do a story on one of these later in the day.

    Does anyone else think Nick would be a good replacement for Coulson?

  • Comment number 84.

    The Tories fate will all depend on the economy.

    Unfortunately the British public have been weaned on unsustainable levels of services and benefits for the last 12 years .So any drop in standards has lead to a lot of head scratching of why ??

    Well its all in the maths . Balls ideology will get us no where....



  • Comment number 85.

    60. At 12:42pm on 21 Jan 2011, SuperSonic4 wrote:

    "Surely if Labour were as bad as everyone here likes to think (egged on by a largely right wing media) then why weren't they massacred in the election? (Although first past the post can be blamed for that to some extent)"

    I would add to that and say "if Labour were truly that bad, then surely even a moderately decent government would be demonstrating a marked difference by now - 8 months in.

    ...and yet we have less growth, more unemployed, higher inflation and increased spending.

    It's almost like they're not in control (do ya think??) and they are in fact at the whim of Capitalism - which makes blaming Gordon rather illogical.

    Still, I suppose this is the only credible argument you can have when you're elected to fix the economy and you don't have a clue how to do it - partly because you never actually expected to win. The blame the previous guy will last for a year or so...then the people will tire of hearing the same old tired excuses.

  • Comment number 86.

    Jack @ 67 wrote:
    I think you're completely wrong about Labour having every chance of winning the next election …

    You may be right that Labour stand every chance of winning the next election …


    >>

    Confused?

    It isn't controversial - or biased, as another poster claims - to say that Labour has every chance of winning the next election. It's not the same as saying they're favourite to win. Personally, I don't think they are, for some of the reasons you mention.

  • Comment number 87.

    My recent comment beginning "Don't trouble yourself too much" posting number 66 has the profile name of you.....but my profile is Birdy....why is this...? Have I done something wrong?

  • Comment number 88.

    In all interviews with with Coalition MPs BBC presenters, Newsnight and Andrew Neil in particular, like to say: "That's not what you said/thought before the election".

    Yesterday in a staged interview on News24 after the appointment of Ed Balls, Matthew Amroliwala asked ex-Labour spin doctor Lance Price "Don't you think the government will be seen as harping on about then past if they refer to Ed Balls time in the Treasury?" Lance gave the expected reply: "Yes they will". - And that's no doubt the line you will be taking from now on.

    There is absolutely no consistency or fairness in your reporting and I'm not sure how many people still expect it.

  • Comment number 89.

    I agree, the media are not only addicted to reporting on Labour but many seem to be left-leaning in their views, including your colleague, Lefty Laura.

    Labour should have been at the point of disbanding based on their abysmal record on the economy in every single term in office they have ever had, and yet they are never nailed as they should be - spin is allowed to stand and lifelong, tribal voting intentions are never challenged.

    Sometimes the BBC can go too far in fence-sitting. There are times when your social responsibility requires that you stand up and be counted in pointing out self-serving wrong-doing and downright incompetence.

    But it seems that only foreign/guest journalists are allowed to "tell it like it is". Shame, the epitaph might read: Nick fiddled while Britain burned.

  • Comment number 90.

    Based on recent experience of Balls in charge of DCSF, he was very much a "my way or the highway" except he removed the option of the highway. I was unimpressed by his department's approach to the CSF Bill and the policy-based evidence-making that supported parts of it. He was big on how much money weas being spent on education, paying scant regard to the results.

    It will be interesting to see how he handles his new post, given that he's currently a ballot box away from being in charge of our money. Given the deficit denial, I dread to think how much bigger our debt would get.

  • Comment number 91.

    snuff 48

    On Miliband a poor decision I will look into your post.

    Snuff, I said, I thought you were brighter than that, in reference to quite another matter. However, I did have to laugh at your comment, goodness me, I would find a much more intellectual being, to be jealous of, if I was going to be. Nonsense is nonsense, however you are quite entitled to be impressed by it, if you wish. I am rather surprised you did not answer at the time, but of course the impact would not be the same would it? Less busy traffic.

    Anyway the point was on gender, he told me himself many moons ago. I just disliked the fact he was going around giving us girls a bad name. It was a remark I thought you would understand, smart as you appear to be, it seems I was wrong. I will try not to be as subtle with you in the future, ok.

  • Comment number 92.

    We'd do well to concentrate more on the mass-hypnosis trick the Tories have played on us, rather than a labour soap.

  • Comment number 93.

    67. At 12:53pm on 21 Jan 2011, Jack wrote:

    "2. They lag well behind the Tories in economic credibility ratings."

    Only in your eyes fella - the rest of us know the difference between a crisis of capitalism and the mis-management of the Economy.

    "3. This Government will be unpopular mid-term, but the economy may well have fully recovered by 2015, which will give it a strong chance of winning reelection."

    2015? - I'd try 2050 - if you think Labour mis-managed the economy....you ain't seen nuffink yet.

    I'd like one person to explain to me how George Osbourne can possibly believe that after cutting thousands of public sector jobs the slack is going to be taken up by private job growth....when the private sector is due to shrink as it can't get any credit from the worthless banks!

    You can fool all of the people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of them all of the time George.

    I agree Labour probably won't win the next election, and nor will the Tories, the Liberals are dead and I suspect most people will have finally realised voting every 5 years isn't getting you what you want and will revert to other means of expressing their democratic voices.

  • Comment number 94.

    The BBC are infatuated with Labour because the corporation's mindset and values are at one with the party. The BBC tends to recruit in its own self-image, so ensuring the perpetuation of this group-think mentality.

  • Comment number 95.

    You're right the next election is labour's to lose - they got it all wrong at the end and I'm not convinced by either Ed. As to the argument that it'll be the same policies that got us in this mess - wrong! The policy that got us here was not holding back the banks who allowed anyone to borrow anything - and that's changing.
    I'm hoping for a sea change in the debate with some real opposition to Cameron's smug sneering.

  • Comment number 96.

    naughty 63

    Sorry too busy to bite.

    However you are correct about AC, I hear Ed Milliband has need of his services and has asked for his CV.

  • Comment number 97.


    Certainly it's generally accepted in Scotland that BBC Scotland hates reporting bad news about Labour.

    For example, just before Christmas 2010 Labour's leader at Holyrood Iain Gray claimed that Montenegro had needed “two world wars, the Balkan conflict, ethnic cleansing, a war crimes tribunal and a UN peacekeeping mission” in order to achieve independence. He was attempting a smart response to a comment on the SNP website regarding those countries that had become independent.

    Not unexpectedly the Montenegrins reacted with fury at the Gray's comment and Marijana Zivkovic, chargé d’affaires at Montenegro’s British embassy, wrote to Mr Gray and boss Ed Miliband expressing her “deep regret” at the Scottish Labour leader’s comments. Ms Zivkovic pointed out that their nation was the only former Yugoslav republic to stay out of the Balkan conflict and actually provided shelter to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the bloodshed.

    She said: “Your statement that Montenegro was involved in ‘ethnic cleansing’, including references to ‘a war crimes tribunal and a UN peacekeeping mission’, is simply incorrect."

    The diplomatic row made front page headlines and was carried by newspapers in Scotland and England.

    However, in a move that provoked further controversy, BBC Scotland failed to report the story which led to accusations that the state broadcaster was failing in its public duty to scrutinise fairly and there were allegations that the story had been suppressed in order to minimise damage to Labour in Scotland.

    The anger intensified when online comments critical of the BBC’s stance were removed en masse from the blog of BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor.

    To date, no BBC Scotland news bulletin has mentioned the diplomatic row and BBC Scotland’s only acknowledgment of the issue was a question on Newsnight Scotland from Isabel Fraser.

  • Comment number 98.

    What we now know about REd is that he appears to have a fabulous ability to put his foot in his mouth at every move.

    So he gets himself collared on 'the squeezed middle' by whom he means everyone from the Duke of Westminster down to tramps under Waterloo Bridge.

    Next he admits labour economic policy is a 'blank sheet of paper'.

    Then we move on to his crapulously awful media appearances where he tells questioners they are 'just wrong' - that's another vote lost then.

    He can't shake off the allegation that he shafted his own brother and didn't win the majority of MPs.

    He hasn't landed a glove on Cameron at PMQs we just get rehearsed, marbles in mouth, ten words where one could do type questions.

    Then he appoints the postie to the highest shadow cabinet post and he resigns four weeks later having succombed to a series of pratfalls.
    He appoints a ex drug addict tabloid journalist to be his media advisor who is quickly accused of 'bullying' the BBC into calling the coalition 'the tory-lad government'.

    And now he appoints the architect of the Brown no more boom and bust model to his shadow chancellorship...

    He has a list as long as his own arm of bungles and misfires...I'll give them three months before civil war breaks out in the labour party.

    It's grim up north London...

  • Comment number 99.

    I test your memory in order to test myself on a question that's troubling me this morning - will the replacement of Alan with Labour's other Ed matter as much as we news boys have said it will? Or could it be that we're still addicted to reporting on Labour?

    Yes, it will.
    Yes, it could.

    'News Boys'?

  • Comment number 100.

    By failing to secure a majority of seats at the 2010 General Election the Conservatives demonstrably failed to slay the Labour economic dragon.

    Reading the persistent and continuing attacks on Gordon Brown and now Ed Balls from the usual array of posters here (who seem to have an inordinate amount of free time on their hands) I find myself forced to conclude that the right wing are in fact acutely aware that they failed to slay the dragon and win the economic argument - nothing to do with deficit denials - and are concerned economically and politically about that.

    Whether Ed Balls succeeds or fails will, I think, largely depend on his performance as shadow to George Osborne rather than his previous associations - and on whether or not Osborne is proved right or wrong on the economy.

    It is really not too difficult to imagine Ed Balls asking George Osborne a question the latter doesn't even understand let alone know how to answer. That probably won't look good for the Conservatives.

    Interesting title to this post from Nick, though. Maybe there is an addiction to Labour from the media or parts of the media but that same addiction is evident from many posters on this and other BBC blogs. A fine example is the one who thinks it is a great time to be a Tory - no matter what the discussion topic is that poster only just attacks Labour (which is why I disregard these and other similar posts and posters).

    The public are getting tired of the coalition parties blaming Labour for everything even if the blame is justified. The Government needs weaned off of Labour too.

 

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