Why is the Press Association attacking Jeremy Corbyn over his criticism of the BBC and ITV?

Jeremy Corbyn is no stranger to campaigning, and if a second Scottish referendum is called, he has made it clear that Labour will campaign against Scottish independence from the UK.

It seems the Press Association has accused Jeremy Corbyn of pretending it misrepresented his words – for absolutely no reason at all.

Mr Corbyn suggested there had been “mischievous misreporting” of his opinions on whether Labour should block a vote on a second Scottish independence referendum – but never mentioned the Press Association, which carried out an interview with him, from which his words were taken out-of-context by others including BBC News and ITV News.

Here’s what Mr Corbyn said – as reported by the Press Association:

He was saying that the question of whether a second referendum should be held is for the Scottish Parliament, not Westminster. If MSPs supported it, then that is, indeed, “absolutely fine”.

He didn’t say that he was “absolutely fine” with the idea of Scottish independence.

Here’s how ITV News reported the story on its website:

“Jeremy Corbyn is happy for Scotland to go to the polls in a second vote on independence. Credit: PA” – where did he say that?

Answer: He didn’t.

And look at the comment from Jackie Baillie, claiming Mr Corbyn had undermined Scottish Labour’s work campaigning against a second referendum. He hadn’t.

Nothing he said in that PA interview suggested that Labour doesn’t oppose a second referendum; simply that Labour in Westminster would not oppose democracy, if that was what MSPs supported.

Here’s the BBC News report:

“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that another referendum on Scottish independence would be “absolutely fine”… But Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said her party would oppose any attempt to hold a referendum.” What’s “but” doing there? The two statements do not oppose each other.

“Mr Corbyn told the Press Association it was not the job of Labour ‘to prevent people holding referenda’.” He said it wasn’t the job of Westminster Labour to prevent one in Scotland, if that was what MSPs supported. The clarity is in the statement (in the PA extract, above, when asked what if there was a vote in the Commons [bolding mine]): “We wouldn’t block it.”

Are we clear on this? Mr Corbyn said if a vote for a second Scottish independence referendum was passed, in the Scottish Parliament, Labour in Westminster would not oppose the democratically-voiced will of MSPs – but his words were distorted in news reports on the BBC and ITV websites (for example; there may have been many more).

Now let’s move to the Today Programme interview on Radio 4 on Monday morning (March 13), in which the following was said:

So he said the Labour Party does not support another Scottish referendum, but if the Scottish Parliament decided to have a referendum it would be wrong for Westminster [boldings mine again] to block it. And he said there had been “a bit of mischievous misreporting going on there” without naming any of the mischief-making reporters.

So why, then, did Press Association editor-in-chief Peter Clifton immediately claim Mr Corbyn had cast doubt on his organisation’s impartiality? It’s clear he had not, and there are plenty of other, obvious, examples of exactly the kind of misrepresentation Mr Corbyn described.

Here’s The Guardian, quoting Mr Clifton (in a piece which, by the way, is just as “mischievous” as the BBC and ITV articles – it features one audio clip captioned “Jeremy Corbyn: I oppose second Scottish independence referendum – audio” followed by a video clip captioned “Jeremy Corbyn: second Scottish referendum would be ‘absolutely fine’”):

Peter Clifton, the Press Association’s editor-in-chief, said: “The only mischievous thing about this episode is the suggestion that PA has done anything beyond what it always does – accurately report what politicians say to us in an entirely impartial way.”

Given that there was no such suggestion by Mr Corbyn, doesn’t it seem more likely that – by complaining – Mr Clifton has made himself and his organisation guilty of exactly the kind of mischief that he was bemoaning?

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9 thoughts on “Why is the Press Association attacking Jeremy Corbyn over his criticism of the BBC and ITV?

  1. chriskitcher

    I’m afraid that it is no longer possible to rely on what the main press and media outlets publish/broadcast at the present time.
    Fortunately there are an increasing number of smaller websites that more truthfully report the news and are not the mouthparts of government or right wing press barons.

  2. Zippi

    Exactly the same kind of mischievous reporting surrounded Mr. £ivingstone, following his interview with Vanessa Feltz, regarding Naz Shah’s post. Context, context, CONTEXT!

  3. Mark Forrester

    JC needs to pick his words far more carefully. Thinking that he is ok with a second referendum is a perfectly reasonable inference from his words in the context of the question asked.

    You shouldn’t have to write articles bailing JC out. Nor should you have to write articles bailing out Rebecca Long Bailey as you did on Sunday after she’d made a horlicks of the Marr show by not being across the numbers or realising being sharp enough to point out to Marr that they were comparing different periods.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The reason I have to write these articles is that too many in the mainstream media are writing misleading pieces, encouraging the public to believe, let’s face it, lies.

      1. Mark Forrester

        I agree Mike, the media have given Corbyn a tough time. Let’s face it though the hostility of the press was hardly a surprise. The real issue is that Corbyn and his team don’t have the skills to cope. They’re simply not equipped.

        That leaves you having to bail out and clarify (a thankless task making you the Sean Spicer of the left) when that shouldn’t be necessary. Corbyn’s carelessly chosen words were not the press’s fault and the fact that RLB wasn’t across her own numbers on Sunday wasn’t Andrew Marr’s fault.

        Ideologically Labour seems to be headed in the right direction – but the level of competence at the top just isn’t good enough. I’m not sure you’re doing them any favours by covering for them.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Sorry, what makes you think anyone would be able to cope with a full-on onslaught from the right-wing media? I get to write these articles with hindsight and in relative relaxation.

        No, I am not the Left’s Sean Spicer; he’s usually telling falsehoods.

        The problem with Corbyn’s words is not that they were carelessly chosen but that they were deliberately misinterpreted in an out-of-context way. That IS the fault of those members of the press who were responsible for it. Note: The Press Association didn’t.

        Marr was working very hard to get RLB, as you call her, away from her numbers and talking about his, so his argument really has no legitimacy.

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