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Loans, emails and plots

Peter Barron | 16:37 UK time, Monday, 22 January 2007

Guido Fawkes, an anonymous chronicler of political plots, conspiracies and rumour has been on to me about Friday night's programme, on which we led with a story about an embarrassing email sent from one Tory to another in which he referred to a Labour agent as "the cripple".

Newsnight logoWas it a conspiracy or bias that we didn't lead with the story of the arrest of Ruth Turner, one of Tony Blair's aides, in the loans for peerages case? Neither, but I don't rule out the possibility that it was simply a misjudgement. The loans story is one which Michael Crick has been reporting on avidly over several months and he continues to dig away.

On Friday - although the arrest headline was sensational - we didn't feel we had sufficient new information or pictures to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the news output, so we led on our own original story and did Ruth Turner second.


  • 1.
  • At 06:06 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • Tony Blair wrote:

Now now Peter, you know full well that you had been sitting on that story for some time, just waiting for the right opportunity to run with it.

And there was no way that you were gpoing to let the small matter of Ruth Turner's arrest get in the way of it.

All we ask for is the truth, is it that too much to ask?

  • 2.
  • At 06:20 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • Ken wrote:

“…but I don't rule out the possibility that it was simply a misjudgement”, you say. Well, was it? A “misjudgement”, I mean.

I mean, was it a “possible” misjudgement?, I mean do you not rule out the possibility of a possible misjudgement…I think.

Have you ever thought of carrying out an opinion poll of your editorial staff to see if any of them have ever voted Tory in their entire lives ?

Many of us suspect that if you did the answer would be no.

Its that perception (true or false) you need to deal with.

  • 4.
  • At 07:12 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • JG wrote:

On the day that an arrest is made of an advisor near the heart of government, and on the day when China is shooting missiles into space, the BBC leads with a leak of a months old private e-mail. How can we not see this as conspiracy/bias? Where did this e-mail come from, that just happened to fortunately appear on a day that could have been embarrassing for the government. It had obviously been saved up and leaked on this day to deflect attention. Did Michael Crick realise that he had been fed a bit of spin and run with it anyway, or did he not even see this? Bias or incompetence seem to me to be the only reasons could have pushed this story to the first spot.

  • 5.
  • At 07:37 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • b.t.arrowsmith wrote:

Friday was a busy day on the political front.
Not only was there the Turner episode, there was also:
a) the Constitutional Affairs Committee setting up to investigate The Attorney General's legal/political conflicts,
b) the devastating report by the Standards in Public Life on the spinelessness of the Electoral Commission and the consequent massive increase in electoral fraud,
c) Gordo making a pig's ear of things in India.

So not one but four significant stories, each capable of reflecting badly on the government get relegated or ignored for a four-month old minor story that shows some conservatives in a bad light.

And you wonder why the mutterings of bias are getting louder?

And just who it was that tapped into private emails and why - much the most interesting aspect of the story - was ignored anyway.

Sorry, Newsnight.
You're going to have to do much better than that.

  • 6.
  • At 07:45 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • Michael Taylor wrote:

If you can't work out that the PM's gatekeeper being arrested in connection with an investigation into perverting the course of justice is slightly more important than a "leaked" private email between two unknown Tory councillors, then there's not much more to say, really.

I would, however, be interested in how the "leaked" private email got into your hands. Something I don't suppose we'll find out.

A sad episode.

Hello Peter. You say: "I don't rule out the possibility that it was simply a misjudgement", which rather implies that it wasn't you who made that judgement. Was someone else editing Newsnight on Friday? If we accept that the running order was 'simply a misjudgement', it still doesn't explain why Michael Crick et al made so much out of the 'cripple' email non-story (a story based on a private email sent four months ago from a private individual (not even a councillor) referring to someone else as a cripple - a non-story even without the Ruth Turner headlines). Also, can you explain how this email came to be leaked? It was a private email between two people, so unless either of them leaked it themselves (unlikely), how did it come to be leaked to the BBC? Left-wing council employees perhaps? If it was leaked in this way, do you really think that 'public interest' would justify such criminality? Looking forward to hearing from you further, Andrew (Biased BBC).

  • 8.
  • At 10:37 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • Bryan wrote:

I'm waiting for the day that the BBC's misjudgement works in favour of the Tories/the US/Israel/the pro-life lobby/Christianity/fox hunting....

If and when that happens, the BBC's continual denials that it is biased will have some credibilty.

Until then....

  • 9.
  • At 09:13 AM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Shame on you, Peter. I'm not sure which is more concerning: a BBC which is not conscious of such bias, or one which knows but doesn't care.

I doubt that any of the programme's staff have voted tory, as I suspect there are very few people of pensionable age employed on the programme.

  • 11.
  • At 11:38 AM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

I think it shows that the BBCs stockpile of "Tory Sleaze" must be running low if this is the best they can throw out. Maybe it is time for the BBC to fall back on their old favourites - after all nobody does repeats like the BBC.

Just think the next time that New Labour screw up we could hear classic tales of Tory misdeeds rather then the BBC risk upsetting their beloved masters.

I think it shows that the BBCs stockpile of "Tory Sleaze" must be running low if this is the best they can throw out. Maybe it is time for the BBC to fall back on their old favourites - after all nobody does repeats like the BBC.

  • 13.
  • At 01:45 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • James wrote:

I find this depressing. It makes me feel more politically extreme than I actually am. All I want is a BBC that uses its enormous powers of influence wisely and in the interests of the WHOLE population, not just a narrow section. This is not currently happening which is very sad. The current generation of BBC staffers are rapidly spending the reputation that their predecessors spent decades building up. How very short-sighted and arrogant. Shame on you all.

  • 14.
  • At 03:30 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Elizabeth O'Hare wrote:

Take some advice from me - get an early night when dross such as is served up. You'll feel better for it!

  • 15.
  • At 12:27 AM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Charlene wrote:

I'm not a UK voter and don't have a dog in this fight, but I would point out that it's not your responsibility to deliver a product with "sufficient new information or pictures to distinguish [itself] from the rest of the news output". It's your responsibility to present the news, and an important yet dull story should receive more, earlier, and better coverage than an attractive but ultimately less important one.

  • 16.
  • At 11:46 AM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Bernard wrote:

So again the BBC shows it's clear bias towards Labour.
Do you actually really care about the points that keep getting made about your left-wing stance?, I suppose that it is just chance that no Labour supporters ever complain about right wing bias by the BBC?.

  • 17.
  • At 12:27 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

Bernard, some extreme left-wingers do claim that the BBC is right-wing - probably because they don't broadcast in front of a red flag and call us all "Comrade".

The BBC uses this as evidence that they are balanced (they get complaints from both sides).

In much the same was as someone who constantly racially insults a minority and insults the BNP as well is clearly "balanced"

Hello again Peter, I know you're a busy chap, but from the questions and comments here it is plain that a lot of people are interested in answers to the questions that I posed above. They're perfectly reasonable and straightforward questions - can you spare me, the 1,600 daily readers of Biased BBC and the rest of the tellytaxpaying public a minute to give us some replies please? Thank you, Andrew (Biased BBC).

  • 19.
  • At 07:00 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

Bryan (#8) - it's because the remainder of the British media (including ITV and Sky television news, and the red-top newpapers which find their way into half of all our homes daily) ALWAYS skew the news in favour of the Tories / Israel / pro-lifers / Christianity / fox hunting that I find the BBC's output (which in most cases is simply impartial and balanced rather than biased one way or the other) very refreshing.

They're not perfect, especially on 'non-political' items (I've made my criticisms of the BBC's approach to the 'obesity agenda' very clear in the past) and have been known to jump on bandwagons and hype stories out of proportion (although they're hardly alone in this!), but as I'm sure you're aware this country has lurched sharply to the right in recent years, and with the majority of news and opinion promoting / reflecting conservative priorities, some acknowledgement of the opposite approach has never been more important.

Oh, and whilst I may be an unashamed lefty, I despise New Labour, and I think if you ask most of my persuasion they'd agree that there is very little emphasis given to society, fairness or equality by the current administration. I don't know who they speak for now, but it's certainly not us...

  • 20.
  • At 09:20 AM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • Chloe wrote:

Again the BBC having to defend the indefensible, it must be obvious to everyone that the BBC is 'not fit for purpose', all it has become is another Labour Government Department.

As James wrote in #13 hits the nail on the head, due to the biased reporting of the BBC people are being much more vocal in their displeasure with the Guardian/BBC left-wing mandate they keep trying to ram down our throats.

I think Peter Barron's already "'fessed up," to the error of putting a story about some cantankerous Tory's, unsurprisingly, backward language above the arrest of a key Labour functionary.

But the tone of outrage in the majority of these remarks makes me laugh.

Most of them seem to see the mistake as proof of another Bolshevik conspiracy within the Beeb.

What's completely missing from these comments is the recognition of the continuing investigations - which Newsnight does a great job of airing - that are deeply embarrassing to Tony Blair and his cronies.

Sometimes, "a cigar is just a cigar..."

  • 22.
  • At 03:51 PM on 26 Jan 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

Guido Fawkes isn't anonymous, or at least hasn't been for a while, he's Paul Staines (check his entry out at wikipedia). Also, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. A lot of muck is being thrown about in the 'blogosphere' at the moment about Guido's alleged New Tory bias.

  • 23.
  • At 04:49 PM on 27 Jan 2007,
  • Almir Mumovic wrote:

Keith in post #21 says that the outrage of most of these posts make him laugh!, well Keith, lets see who laughs last when Labour are voted out, and hopefully the BBC will have to stop pandering to Islamic fruitcakes and any PC activist who wishes to impose their minority view on the majority.
Tell me Keith if the foot had been on the other foot would you not also be outraged that the BBC was showing such biased reporting about a serving Prime Minister?.
What worries me most is that the BBC refuses to see how out of touch with the public it really is, the BBC seems to think that the world begins and ends in Islington and that everyone should read it's holy book which they (BBC) call the Guardian and which the rest of the UK calls a disgrace to the British public for it's treatment of moral values.

  • 24.
  • At 11:47 AM on 28 Jan 2007,
  • TC wrote:

Watching and reading events in Britain over the last ten years. What a shame. Oh what a sad pointless lost and irrelevant nation you have become. Unable even to agree on who or what you are and what it means to be British any more. Indifferent to what is right and wrong. Slaves to the shallow media savvy 'Now Culture'. Lost in a sea of politically spun mediocrity. Save for the courage of your soldiers there's almost nothing left of a nation that once gave so much. Well done Tony Blair. Well done politicians of Britain who sold out on your own country while no doubt collecting all your pay and expenses.

  • 25.
  • At 10:27 AM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Stephan Neuman wrote:

The Birmingham arrests are a non-event until charges are brought unless the story is of heavy-handed plod. The Downing Street arrests, however, are of great interest to all and should be the lead story. It is illustrative of why prisons are full - the lead our leaders give us! What better illustration of couragous independent policing could there be?

  • 26.
  • At 07:17 PM on 04 Feb 2007,
  • hahahahahahahaha wrote:

"it's because the remainder of the British media (including ITV and Sky television news, and the red-top newpapers which find their way into half of all our homes daily) ALWAYS skew the news in favour of the Tories / Israel / pro-lifers / Christianity / fox hunting that I find the BBC's output (which in most cases is simply impartial and balanced rather than biased one way or the other) very refreshing."

That's a very very funny joke. Perhaps you should turn professional comedian?

  • 27.
  • At 02:46 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

If the lead story on the BBC web site is "Dog gives birth to puppies" then we should all go straight to another news site to determine what the new problem Labour is facing.

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