Landale’s Iffy poem – the BBC responds!

BBC-Logo“Dear Mr Sivier,

“Thank you for your email. Can you give me more detail about what it was about this item that was specifically biased – or sycophantic or offensive?

“The piece by James Landale was intended to highlight one of the key aspects of the EU referendum issue: it hangs on all awful lot of “if”s. There’ll be a referendum if the Conservatives can win the next general election, if the bill enabling it is passed, if the party can unite around what to renegotiate, if the other EU countries accept those demands, etc.

“The Kipling poem seemed a natural vehicle to point up those various hurdles. There was certainly no intention to use it to make a biased political comment – and I confess I’m at a loss to see how it does?

“But get back to me re the particular concerns and I’ll happily look into it further.


“Gavin Allen

“Editor, BBC Political News”

Apparently it hasn’t occurred to Messrs Landale or Allen that the use of that poem as a model implies approval of all of the actions or events it envisages, and the hope that they come true: “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,” as the original runs.

It implies that Mr Cameron’s attitudes to, and policies on, jobs and growth are correct and deserve to be heeded. Yes, it says “if” his party stops talking about other things, but the underlying implication is that they should, and what he says will be right. Many of us see no evidence of this in his actions to date.

“This is a real attempt to reform the EU” the poem states. People will see that as the message, never mind whether there’s an “if” attached.

“If you can get the votes you need in 2015” – in other words, not only does the writer really want him to, but people should vote Conservative in 2015, if they want to have a say in the UK’s membership of the EU (and never mind whether the debate should be framed in those terms or not. Those of us who keep our eyes and ears open know the right-wing media will be determined to get us out, even though it will be very bad for our businesses).

“If you can… keep us in the EU” – implying it will be a great feat of Mr Cameron’s to have kept us in? In fact, he’ll have created a situation and then restored the status quo, and there’s nothing deserving praise in that.

“Walk with Europe’s kings, nor lose the Commons touch” – implying that Mr Cameron is a great statesman, worthy of a place among the highest? We don’t all think that! As for his Commons touch – the wording implies the House of Commons, where every week, in Prime Minister’s Questions, he comes across as a schoolyard bully who can hardly answer a single question that is put to him – and when he does, the factcheckers have to provide correct answers later because his own words are, let’s say, economical with the truth! (There was one today about food banks – Mr Cameron poured scorn on Labour for allowing use of food banks to go up tenfold while that party was in power. This was true, but he was only telling part of the story. Under Labour, use of food banks rose to 40,000 over a six-year period; in the past 2.5 years, under the Coalition, it has risen by a further 88,000 (to 128,000) and is forecast to hit 250,000 by the end of 2013.

“If you can… genuinely settle the European question” implies that he can.

“If you can keep the British people onside” implies that they are onside at the moment.

“Yours is the next election” implies that he’ll win.

These aren’t the only questionable parts – it’s all in extremely poor taste, really, isn’t it? But that’s what I’m considering sending back in response. Does anyone think I’ve missed anything important? Or do I go too far? Or is Mr Allen right and I’m barking up the wrong tree?

I am a news reporter by trade and, while I make my political opinions known on this blog, I would never allow anything like Mr Landale’s poem onto the pages of one of my newspapers (or news websites). I find it unacceptable that the BBC believes it is appropriate and I think that Mr Allen should refer the matter to his own superiors.


  1. wrjones2012 January 24, 2013 at 12:28 am - Reply

    So much for the fictional “left wing bias” at the BBC!

  2. Fiona January 24, 2013 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Its provocative to say the least, and in my view mocking the general public, in the sense that it suggests Cameron is our righteous warrior leader, when in fact he is a self serving emu, and with the help of his Nasty party parasites, is killing his own folk! As for Europe, he’s not popular there either, simply because he keeps changing his mind and brings nothing to the table. He is becoming an embarrassment, out side of this country as well as in it!

  3. Josefiend January 24, 2013 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    That’s an excellent response to the curt, aloof and rather smug Gavin Allen. His response also has the ugly taste of ‘how very dare you challenge this decision to publish?”

  4. Fiona Prothero January 25, 2013 at 12:37 am - Reply

    A truly excellent responce. Thank you

  5. rainbowwarriorlizzie January 26, 2013 at 7:04 am - Reply

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