Is Nick Robinson biased against Labour?

In an almost thuggish way, Tom Watson said that Nick Robinson didn’t report the phone hacking scandal enough because he was ‘favouring the Conservatives’ to put it more delicately.

I know how he feels. It annoyed me that Ed Miliband was getting the headlines on the hacking scandal over true experts like myself who have published research on ‘data misuse’ laws. I made the BBC clear of this dissatisfaction when they basically ignored my expertise.

But let us look at the news articles since 1995 on claims of bias against Nick Robinson as evidence.

March 1995 – Claims of bias were made against Nick Robinson by Labour when he sent a memo, as they saw it, trying to cover up the preferential treatment where the BBC Panorama programme, which Robinson was deputy editor of, interviewed John Major as Prime Minister, but did not offer the same prominence to the other leaders.

August 1995 – The London Evening Standard publishes a story, titled, ‘Labour sees red over new BBC reporter’, which highlights the fact that since March 1995 the party felt that Nick Robinson’s presentation of facts on Panorama were biased in favour of the Tories.

March 2003 – In the Times Nick Robinson, who is currently the ITV political editor, notes in an article there might be a problem with Labour’s perception of him. Highlighting the times that Peter Mandelson would be complaining to the Director General of the BBC about his apparent bias.

May 2003 – For the first time on record ‘anti-Tory bias’ and ‘Nick Robinson’ come together. This time in it is in The Times, with him commenting on the pressure being on Greg Dyke at the BBC and not himself, as Robinson is still working for ITV.

This all builds up to a shock confession:

October 2003 – The Independent runs an article, ‘I do not regret my Tory past, Nick Robinson, ITV’s News’s Political Editor’ which shows that Robinson was once significantly involved with the Conservative movement. The article says he has received claims of bias from both sides, which I might expect having spoken with the editor of my local paper who received the same, but unless the Conservatives have a different word for ‘bias’ I see little evidence of this in my brief search!

I will not look further into the articles, as I became politically active around 2002 in the Labour Party, even speaking to Nick on the Radio 5 Live about how a speech by Tony Blair hit a cord with me, just before he went to ITV I think – On Radio 5 Live he and Brian Hayes were my favourite presenters of that era. On his move to ITV I did start to think he was biased against the Labour Government, but then I would expect no different, as the ITV News programmes that he was reporting for have always seemed to me to be the Tabloid Newspaper of Evening TV, changing the tone of the programme to try to capture the public mood regardless of accuracy.

As I am now a Professional, it is this revelation in October 2003 that strikes me the most salient, even above all the past claims of bias. It is unethical for any professional to take up any form of employment where there can be a ‘perception of bias’, whether they are a former government minister taking up a position in a publicly funded body in the same area afterwards, or a sports official who is refereeing a match where a first-line relative is of the same nationality as one of the competitors.

So, in essence, however much I like him, as someone who famously got insulted for holding an apparently undesirable physical characteristic, by George W Bush of all people, I think he should seriously consider his position.

Even if he is perfectly capable of, on most days, creating a perception of impartiality in line with BBC guidance, is it worth the constant claims of bias against him, and this the questioning of his professionalism, to be in an environment where he can be easily perceived to be biased?

Concluding the issue on the assumption of ‘good faith’ on the part of Robinson, I would say that the reason this perceived bias is so persistent is that Nick is likely to draw on the same social networks that took him into the Conservative Party in the first place, so therefore he is more likely to represent a ‘Tory perspective’ than a Labour one.

So I’d like the BBC and other media outlets to take steps to ensure that it is not the same people from the Old Boys’ Networks that get represented in the media, but many others who have expertise but might not normally make it into public life. If they were to do this then the perceptions of bias, whether ‘left-wing’, ‘liberal’, ‘all-White’, or whatever, would start to disappear.






A typical Friday Night at the Pontypridd Constituency Labour Party

Pontypridd CLP Chairman: Does anyone have any ideas about how we can better understand the meaning or cause of life?

[Disruption while the Councillor for Ty Nant questions the Chairman]

Cllr Darwin: I think we descended from apes, we quite clearly share so many characteristics we must have a common ancestors.

Llantwit Fardre BLP Chairman: Shut up Charles you don’t know what you’re talking about!

Freeman Newton: I have a suggestion.

CLP Chairman: One minute Issac, the Councillor for Efail Isaf wants to speak.

Efail Isaf Councillor: Well I think it’s disgusting we’re having this conversation in the first place. No one thought to invite the science minister, and why are we holding the meeting at 5 o’clock in the evening, it must be that the executive want to stifle debate.

Freeman Newton: Can I…

CLP Chairman: One minute Issac. Stephen, you wanted to say something?

Cllr Hawking: Far from being mathematical curiosities which appear only in special cases, I think singularities are a fairly generic feature of general relativity.

Dr Einstein: I agree, the source is not mass. In my opinion mass is part of the energy-momentum tensor, which includes both energy and momentum densities as well as stress.

CLP Chairman: You wanted to say something Issac?

Freeman Newton: I was going to say that a body’s motion can be described as a combination of free or inertial motion, and deviations from this free motion. But Albert and Stephen have moved on since then.

CLP Chairman: Are we ready for the minutes?…

The Big Society is a big step forward

Jonathan hopes the Big Society will do what it says on the tin – put people in control of their own lives and end State suppression of innovation

David Cameron announced his ‘Big Society’ proposal today. It is shaming the Labour Party’s logic on the issue: Tories are bad, the Big Society idea is a Tory initiative, the Big Society is bad.

As a geniune co-operator I have been arguing for this for years – It doesn’t bother me which party introduces it. I do accept Labour concerns that its a cover for cuts, but I think a lot of Labour MPs’ complaints are typical of those who beleive in controlling state socialism.

If you look at the news, it seems there is little real money behind the proposal. I personally think the State’s purpose should be to collect tax to redistribute to strategically important initiatives run by the third sector, and groups individuals who the market would fail. Some how I think David Cameron is against redistributing wealth, especially if it is his and his cabinet colleagues’!

Some have also complained about the Tories’s other proposal today – the academy system – saying that a Comprehensive School education is better. However, I don’t think you should have to be disabled to get an individual learning plan – every child should have an education tailored to their needs. The Comprehensive system won’t ever provide that, whether academies will is another question. Equality of opportunity doesn’t mean giving everyone the same education, it means helping each child reach their potential by recognising that each child is different.

Only good for making cuts

Jonathan believes that the media should report the facts and not misrepresent the truth. He was glad the Pontypridd Observer gave him the opportunity to correct such innacuracies.

I believe Chad Rickard and Alan Speake were inaccurate in their suggestion that Rhondda Cynon Taf Council was almost bankrupt under Labour (Observer, April 29).

As a matter of fact there were reserves of £4m and the so-called lost council cash was because of accountancy errors, not mismanagement by Labour.

The nationalists might be able to claim that the corporate side of the council has improved, in that it no longer makes accountancy errors, but the policy development and delivery side has got worse ‐ not better.

We are not seeing essential repairs to council houses being made, with some houses in a state where they could cause injury to somebody.

We are not seeing any commitment to increasing play provision for children or any commitment to providing for our senior citizens.

It appears that the only thing this council are committed to is cutting back on essential services and failing to deliver on its promises.

Conference was about health, education and Iraq

Whilst Jonathan was not a delegate at this conference, he believes that delegates should use the Internet to communicate with the constituency they are representing.

I’ve just returned from the Labour Party National Conference in Blackpool. I was only a visitor this year, but I had a great time going to Young Labour and Labour Student events. I didn’t get a chance to question Tony Blair at the Sky event; if I had I would have asked him what he sees the role of Parliament as in the age of devolution.

I went to many of the fringe meetings on devolution, most notably the Campaign for the English Regions. Tony Robinson was chairing it, and there were many interesting speakers presenting the case for devolving power down to the English regions. With Welsh devolution working so well, I think English devolution is the natural next step for bring decision-making of health and education closer to the people.

The main discussion at the conference floor was health and education. There is a lot of talk of the post-comprehensive era in England, which is not going down well with the delegates from Wales, where comprehensive education is progressing well.

The other big discussion here as you would expect is whether or not Britain should use force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. I’m not sure where to stand on this issue. Saddam Hussein is torturing and killing many of his own people and something needs to be done to stop him, but I’m still not sure using force against another sovereign state is the answer.

At present, I think Ann Clwyd has the best idea. She is proposing a non-violent option of bringing indictments against leading members of the Saddam regime for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.