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Sometimes you have to wonder if the Conservatives are just having a laugh. Admittedly, the jokes would be sick, but it seems the only logical explanation for some of their decisions.
Take the latest attack on the BBC. A Conservative spokesman has said the Corporation should face a cut in its licence fee or be forced to share it with other broadcasters unless it rebuilds public trust after receiving bad publicity over payouts to top executives and the way it handled the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Unfortunately, the spokesman himself is Tory Chairman Grant Shapps, a man who has his own issues in the same area and who is known to have used at least two false identities for shady reasons.
As ‘Michael Green’, in the run-up to the 2005 election and afterwards, he “charged clients £183 an hour for advice on how to make money from the web as well as offering tips on how to beat the recession blues, including splashing out on a jet-ski or learning to play the guitar,” according to the Daily Mail. Apparently he said his use of the name was to keep his business interests separate from his future political work, but he ended his involvement with that business in 2009, four years after he entered Parliament.
‘Sebastian Fox’ was another alias he used on Howtocorp, the web publishing company he created in 2000.
The two aliases were enough for people to make a connection with ‘Chuck Champion’ of a website called Howtopickupwomennow – but the evidence suggests it is unlikely that this is yet another pseudonym. Besides, the two we already had were enough to make the point that the BBC has no need to accept lectures about trust from Grant Shapps.
Of the BBC (and on the BBC News website) Mr Shapps/Green/Fox said: “They have ended up working in this culture which is buried in the last century, which is ‘we are the BBC, we do what we like, we don’t have to be too accountable’.
“But they are raising £3.6bn through the licence fee, which is a tax, and, quite rightly, the public wants to have sight of how the money is spent. Things like the pay-offs have really caused concern, as have, obviously, things like Savile and [Stuart] Hall [currently in prison for sex offences against young girls) and the culture that goes around that. I think it is one of too much secrecy,” said the man who hid his own business affairs behind false names for the first four years of his Parliamentary career.
Shapps said the BBC should open its books to inspection by the National Audit Office, and open itself up to Freedom of Information requests. He added that there was a “question of credibility” for the BBC over whether it applied “fairness” to its reporting of politics.
How interesting that last point is.
Regarding the bulk of the Shapps complaints, the BBC was quick to point out that the NAO already has full access to the BBC, except for its editorial decisions, and that in 2012 the Corporation responded to more than 1,600 FoI requests and volunteered information on hundreds more subjects.
Then we come to that interesting last point. The BBC spokesman said: “Mr Shapps is right that transparency is key to the future of the BBC. So is its freedom from political pressure.” (Italics mine)
It seems bizarre that the chairman of the Conservative Party should be complaining about the fairness of BBC political reporting. He can only be doing this to imply that the BBC is biased against the Conservatives – but we know that this has already been investigated and the opposite was found to be true.
As reported by this blog in August: “The BBC has a broadly right-wing bias. The study showed that the government of the day generally gets more airtime than anyone else (natural considering it is making policy and actually carrying out the business of government) but in reporting of immigration, the EU and religion, in 2007 Gordon Brown’s appearances on the BBC outnumbered David Cameron’s by less than two to one, while in 2012, Cameron’s outnumbered Ed Miliband’s by around four to one. The same ratios occurred for other prominent members of each party. When reporting of all topics is taken into account, Conservative politicians were featured more than 50 per cent more often than those from Labour in both 2007 AND 2012.”
So now the real motive behind the Shapps attack becomes clear. He wants to coerce the BBC into an even more slavish adherence to the Conservative Party line than it has already, with the threat of losing its monopoly of the licence fee hanging over it.
And he wants to get the public on-side by pushing the discredited claim that the BBC is a den of Lefties.
You’ll have noticed, Dear Reader, that Shapps has not referred directly to any individual news stories. Are we to take it that he opposes the BBC’s failure to report the anti-Tory demonstration outside the Conservative Party conference on September 29? More than three times as many people turned up for that (50,000) as there were delegates in the conference, if I recall correctly.
The Shapps intervention has already received the lack of respect it deserves on the social media. “I see Grant Shapps now loudly slagging off the BBC so we’re all diverted from Hunt’n’Gove systematically destroying the NHS and Education,” Tweeted one member of the Great British public. See recent Vox Political articles for the facts behind those words.
And cartoonist Martin Rowson put the whole affair in context: “Does everyone know that unbelievably fatuous poltroon @grantshapps is Cousin of Mick Jones of The Clash? Weird, huh? Though not as weird as this meretricious delusional oaf thinking anyone ever takes anything he’s ever said ever more seriously than a pool of puppy sick.”