Schooling Owen Jones

So, the Greens have some electoral support and thus should get more media coverage:

“Green surge”: these are two words Green party supporters are beginning to say with no little relish. Britain’s old political model – a future miraculous revival notwithstanding – appears to be disintegrating in the face of a multi-pronged assault by the SNP, Ukip and, increasingly, the Greens.

The last of these really believes that its time has come. At the 2010 general election, despite the crusading Caroline Lucas pulling off a historic victory in the tight three-way marginal of Brighton Pavilion, the Greens did poorly. Barely registering a single percentage point, they actually chalked up a smaller proportion of the vote than they had in 2005. Now look at them: beating the Lib Dems in the European elections, usurping Nick Clegg’s party in two opinion polls, soaring party membership. The party’s leader, Natalie Bennett, cheerfully talks of a “peaceful revolution” in British politics – hyperbole, perhaps, but who knows?

The media treatment of the Greens is beginning to look painfully absurd. They had an elected MP years before Ukip appropriated Douglas Carswell from the Tory backbenches; they run a council; they’ve long boasted a presence in the European parliament. And yet the likes of the BBC all too often prefer to act as Ukip’s unofficial campaign team. Remarkable, perhaps, that the Greens are doing quite so well given the relative dearth of airtime.

So here’s how the specific BBC rules work. I was treated to an extensive education in this in the 2009 euro-elections, when working for Ukip. And I’m absolutely certain that everyone would agree that on that traditional goose and gander sense of fairness thing that we British congratulate ourselves upon, one insurgent political party should be treated the same way that the last insurgent political party was.

We do agree upon that at least, do we?

Good. So, the BBC says that the top three parties get equal coverage. In an election period, if the top three are LibDem, Tory and Socialist Idiot then you can’t have the idiot on a program without also including a LibDim and a Capitalist Bastard. That’s their definition of impartiality. If you start to have the fourth, fifth and so on on a show then, well, you don’t quite have to go all the way to the Monster Raving Miliband Party…..the cut off is standing some number of candidates. I think 50 for a GE.

However, it matters how you define who are the top three parties, obviously. And the BBC one is “defined by the results of the last election of this type“.

So, in the last euro-elections Ukip was one of the top three having come second in the one before. Next euro-elections Ukip will be in the top three having come top in the last one. Last GE Ukip was not in the top three as it was not in the top three in terms of seats won in the previous GE. And this time around it won’t be in the top three either for the same reason. And the LibDims will be in the top three for this coming GE as they were third in the results of the last GE. and they won’t be in the top three for the next euro-elections.

And that’s just the way it works. And, of course, we do all sign up to playing by the rules, don’t we? The Greens included: that British idea of fair play, that the coming insurgent party will be, is and should be treated in exactly the same manner the last insurgent party was?

29 thoughts on “Schooling Owen Jones”

  1. So Much for Subtlety

    Owen Jones ought to be glad. I have heard of the Greens and their policies. He ought to be praising the BBC for making sure most voters have not.

  2. I don’t think people are saying UKIP should not be in these debates or other broadcasts, I think the suggestion is that there has been inadequate coverage of the Greens.

    The broadcasters are obliged to treat subjects with “due impartiality”, give them “due weight”, show “a wide range of views” and “consider giving appropriate coverage to other parties and independent candidates with significant views and perspectives”.

    The broadcasters can decide how many participants to include in a debate – a three party debate isn’t mandatory. C4/Sky will show a two party debate, the BBC will show a three party debate, ITV will show a four party debate. IIRC there was an eight party TV debate in Sweden.

  3. The ‘Green surge’ correlates with the LibDem ebb, so it is feasible that the rats departing the sinking ship have swum to a life-raft: it is hard to imagine LibDems swimming to Labour, Conservative or into Ukip toxic waters.

    We know that the LibDem had a substantial Monster Raving Eco-looney asylum wing, one of its patients being in charge of the Department of Climate Doom.

  4. UKLib

    ‘The broadcasters are obliged to treat subjects with “due impartiality”, give them “due weight”, show “a wide range of views” and “consider giving appropriate coverage to other parties and independent candidates with significant views and perspectives”. ‘

    Be nice if the BBC started doing that. I’d be quite happy for the Greens’ lunacy to be fully ventilated; along the way, we could perhaps ask that every Radio 4 comedy show no longer be packed with hard left millionaire ‘comedians’.

  5. Even if Jones were right, though, he’d still be wrong.

    And yet the likes of the BBC all too often prefer to act as Ukip’s unofficial campaign team.

    This idea has got a lot of traction lately — I think it came over from the US’s insane political debate broadcast rules: that you can measure bias by measuring airtime. Even if the BBC were giving UKIP too much coverage in terms of raw minutes, the idea that that would equate to support is insane on its face.

    Spending five minutes saying “Labour are wonderful” and six minutes saying “Fucking Tory bastards” is not pro-Tory bias. It’s amazing how many people believe it is.

  6. @S2

    Let’s not fall into the trap of believing that Owen Jones really thinks the BBC is biased towards UKIP.

    It’s all about the narrative – again.

    Even quite stupid people noticed a long time ago that Labour pols were given an easier ride than Tory, so, to counter the ensuing moaning, people like Jones have spent a long time now building up the meme that ‘the BBC is anti-left, and is in the grip of the rich’.

    He probably emails the Today prog producers to check the talking points.

  7. About that Green surge…

    Owen Jones – Now look at them: beating the Lib Dems in the European elections

    Sure, but they still got less than 7% of the vote. That’s less of a surge, more of a trickle.

    And their result as a % share of votes was down on the previous European election.

    A reverse trickle, then.

    Owen Jones – usurping Nick Clegg’s party in two opinion polls

    How are the Greens faring in the polls?

    According to the article Jones links to:

    YouGov research for the Sun has Labour on 34%, three points ahead of the Conservatives, Ukip on 17%, the Greens on 7% and the Lib Dems on 6%.

    A static trickle.

    Owen Jones – soaring party membership

    How soaring?

    According to this publication:

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-papers/SN05125/membership-of-uk-political-parties

    Latest estimates suggest that the Conservative Party claimed 134,000 members, the Labour party 190,000 and the Liberal Democrat Party 44,000 […] In June 2014 membership of the UK Independence Party was around 39,000; in October 2014 membership of the Scottish National Party was around 75,000; in October 2014 membership of the Green Party was around 20,000.

    That Green Party membership represents an impressive increase from a very low base, but “surge”? Not so much in the national context.

    No surprise that Jones doesn’t “do” numbers. He also has difficulty with reality:

    And yet the likes of the BBC all too often prefer to act as Ukip’s unofficial campaign team.

    Yes, boys and girls, UKIP folks being asked on to BBC shows to defend themselves against 57 varieties of “but aren’t you a swivelly-eyed racist, mean old xenophobic extremist, and a stinky poo-poo head” counts as the Beeb campaigning for UKIP in Owen’s world.

    Natalie Bennett being wheeled out on Question Time and presented as a brave speaker of truth to power about social justice and climateogeddon, on the other hand, is a terrible affront to Britain’s favourite neo-Luddite party.

    Owen Jones – The Greens’ ceiling of support is potentially high indeed: according to Ipsos Mori, 43% of Britons would consider voting for them

    Just wait till the low-information 43% finds out that the Greens plan for them to live short, nasty, brutish lives as impoverished peasants. No more enjoying central heating all winter. No more foreign holidays. No more being able to afford a car. No more affordable clothes, food, or consumer electronics shipped in from overseas.

    As the Greenies found in their recent spat with Brighton’s binmen, when they’re in a position to implement their batshit insanity things quickly turn to strife. And given that your average Green is a noodle-armed milksop with an ironic little goatee beard and a MacBook Pro, it’s not the miserable green midgets who prevail.

  8. Anyone who thinks the BBC is anything other than slavish in promoting Green politics and the party must be insane.

    “And yet the likes of the BBC all too often prefer to act as Ukip’s unofficial campaign team. ”

    Well, that answers that question then. He must be completely bonkers to believe that.

  9. “The Greens’ ceiling of support is potentially high indeed: according to Ipsos Mori, 43% of Britons would consider voting for them”

    Time for “The Killing Fields” to be played on all TV channels 24/7 for two weeks.

  10. > Spending five minutes saying “Labour are wonderful” and six minutes saying “Fucking Tory bastards” is not pro-Tory bias. It’s amazing how many people believe it is.

    Even the BBC does. It’s their routine defence against claims of bias on the topical comedy shows: “But they accused Ed Miliband of being an incompetent loser, which is clearly criticism of the same order as insinuating that David Cameron eats babies for breakfast!”

  11. Arnald,

    “Farage has been on BBC Question Time more than any other politician since 2010”

    That’s because he’s so bloody good!

    Seriously, it’s obvious. UKIP has been pretty much Farage.

    Therefore if you want UKIP in the studio, in the interests of balance, you get Farage. It’s really not rocket science…

  12. “Farage has been on BBC Question Time more than any other politician since 2010”

    First–whats the source of that info?.

  13. That’s not the interesting question. The interesting one is has Ukip been on more than Labour? Tories? Lib Dems? Greens?

    And as someone who has actually worked in the Ukip press office I can tell you this. When someone asks for “someone from Ukip” they do actually mean Nigel. Offer them another MEP or the like and their ardour to have Ukip on at all notably cools.

    Ukip hasn’t been on more than the others (maybe the Greens). But Nigel takes the lion’s share of the Ukip slots, thus explaining your figure.

  14. Whenever the BBC is talking enviro-lunacy they generally get a Green politician or someone similar on to talk about it. Whenever immigration they get a UKIP. Who else are they going to get to represent the anti position on that topic?

  15. “that British idea of fair play, that the coming insurgent party will be, is and should be treated in exactly the same manner the last insurgent party was?”

    I’m having trouble with this. I bear our host no ill-will, but I suspect that to have shot all the UKIPers so we could now do the same to the Greens would be a price worth paying.

  16. ukliberty,

    “I don’t think people are saying UKIP should not be in these debates or other broadcasts, I think the suggestion is that there has been inadequate coverage of the Greens.”

    But back before UKIP rose, the Greens got lots of coverage, and UKIP didn’t. And for right or wrong, that’s the system the BBC came out with and it sounds like has been fair with implementing it.

    None of this would be a problem if the Guardian left took a serious look in the mirror occasionally and asked why almost no-one voted for them, rather than blaming media organisations for promoting people, like the public would have voted for Tony Benn and Michael Foot in 1983, if only Murdoch hadn’t told them to vote Thatcher.

    I think the BBC has generally been quite fair to Nigel Farage, but the idea that the BBC, where the house newspaper is the Guardian, is promoting UKIP is just bizarre.

  17. Steve, you can start off by getting Tim to post our first articles, possibly under the title “Not Timmy”.

    Build up your fan base here and then bugger off when you’re a success and Timmy a hasbeen. 😉

  18. Philip Scott Thomas

    What Recusant said +1.

    I pass Steve’s comments round the office as an example of genuine wordsmithery. His comments bring a certain joy to life.

  19. On Farage, I remember him saying a while ago in response to (I think Paxman saying UKIP is a one man band) that every time UKIP offer the BBC et al somebody else as a spokesman, they say they only want Farage. Presumably so that UKIP looks like a one man band.

    As to the Greens and Lib Dems, the Libs have always been the party for people whose sandal wearing was too intense to vote Labour. Basically, garden city socialists. So, the Greens would be a natural choice to jump ship to.

    I think this is going to be an interesting election. The last one was very bad for minor parties, as the electorate were quite strongly focussed on who would be Prime Minister. The next one looks like it might be very different, with diasppointment at Cameron and the Coalition and the implausibility of Prime Minister Miliband and the Scottish troubles driving the electorate in all kinds of directions- UKIP, Green, SNP.

  20. Green Surge. Isnt that the feeling you get after a really big night out, just before you have trouble working out which end to get over the toilet?

  21. Ian B –

    Charles Stross blogs similarly:

    “So we have the prospect of two historically ideologically polarized major parties (neither of whom can form a government without external assistance), and two ideologically polarized minor parties (one or both of whom might enable one or other of the larger parties to govern, with a tail-wind and some independent help).

    Anyway: I can’t be sure of the outcome, but as far as I can tell British politics is about to go sideways, very fast, next June—largely as a delayed consequence of the Scottish independence referendum. Order up the pop-corn: this is going to be interesting.”

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/10/who-ordered-that-1.html

    I’m not sure that the LDs will lose as much support as their critics and rivals say they well; plenty of us are both social and economic liberals, hence the Orange Book. They probably will lose many of the ‘false friends’ that defected from supporting Labour over Iraq and civil liberties issues, though.

  22. Steve

    Not much to add to the fulsome praise here – as always cutting straight to the point. The last paragraph in particular is worth redistributing widely. A co- author of Murphy’s was attacking UKIP on Twitter over immigration and I made the point that the Green manifesto basically removes the right to movement by anything other than bicycle or foot transport. It also puts an end to 50% or more of supermarkets’ SKU ranges, and ends their right to foreign holidays – oddly these points are never pressed by either Bennett or Lucas. He had no response beyond an ad hominem, as per usual.

    Arnald – a couple of others have made the point,( and I’d be interested to see whether the combined appearances of Lucas and Bennett come close to Farage) that if people want a UKIP presence it is usually him they want. Paul Nuttall has appeared a couple of times but if you offer the BBC another MEP they usually aren’t interested.

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