I made the mistake of tuning in to the Daily Politics Yorkshire and Lincolnshire today. Ranting presenter Tim Ireland was ‘interviewing’ Rachel Reeves MP and Andrea Jenkyns MP. And as always, the BBC can’t cover Brexit without going to a Leave-voting area, where it indulges in a series of vox pops with middle-aged and elderly white voters ranting about how Brexit should have been sorted ages ago.
In the following ‘debate’, Ireland made that most crass and lazy of statements, which has come to characterise the faux-exasperated style of the patronising pundit: ‘Are you two not hearing what we are hearing on the streets all the time, people are saying “Why don’t they just get on with it?”?’ Of course this is delivered in a manner intended to convey to the viewer that Ireland is of course a presenter of tremendous insight, in tune with the great British public.
Funny how the BBC never seems as concerned with those who voted Remain, or those who weren’t allowed to vote because they were too young and who will be affected longest. Sure, they will get coverage in occasional dedicated features, but the vox pops that litter our screens daily are inarguably heavily Leave-biased.
Both the vox pops and this style of presenting has become a lazy formula for the BBC’s political commentary on Brexit. The only voters that matter for vox pops are outraged Leave voters, whose views are heard sympathetically and then simply echoed subsequently in the studio as if they contain some unchallengeable truth that politicians should address.
Worse, in the subsequent discussion, Jenkyns was allowed to simply make ridiculous arguments by assertion that went unchallenged around polling, about being a ‘democrat’ (implying anyone who disagreed with her wasn’t) etc.
This is what the BBC passes off as political coverage. No debate. No scrutiny of those views. and it treats the public as idiots just as much as any politician from Leave or Remain with hectoring views.
So here are some ideas.
- Abandon the vox pops. They teach us nothing, just provide fodder for a lazy caricature of our politics that doesn’t show us anything about what the country is thinking.
- Instead, treat the public like grown ups who can make a substantiated argument. When they talk about how things should have been done years ago, challenge them on what they say, ask how it should have been done, take them to task on what they think the answer is. Don’t simply provide a platform for unsubstantiated bollocks. We have Twitter for that.
- Subject both sides of the argument to the same level of scrutiny and double-down on any one drawing false equivalences in their arguments, whichever side they are on.
- Challenge politicians to produce the evidence for their arguments. If they cite polling, ask them to state what polling that is. If they make crass statements on democracy, call them out.
If the BBC did this, it might begin to have a hope of fulfilling its remit as a public service broadcaster when it comes to the Brexit debate.