The BBC thought the deal was all sewn up – but it seems the Corporation’s bosses jumped to the wrong conclusion, too soon.
Before you jump to conclusions too, dear reader, be advised that this is not about Theresa May’s Brexit agreement with the EU, but about her challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, to take part in a debate about the deal on television.
Around lunchtime yesterday, the BBC News press team announced that Mrs May had accepted the Corporation’s offer to host the debate, on December 9.
There was just one problem, as Jim Waterson explained:
Labour had already publicly agreed to do a debate with ITV and asked Downing Street to confirm. They now feel BBC/Number 10 is trying to bounce them into doing the BBC option, aided by framing the story as a challenge to Corbyn on BBC bulletins. https://t.co/RfTghIViap
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) November 29, 2018
As The Canary reports: “Before becoming May’s director of communications in late 2017, Robbie Gibb was head of the BBC‘s Westminster programmes. Now, Gibb is reportedly insisting that the BBChosts the debate “at all costs”.
“Meanwhile, BBC news bulletins (and reporting from elsewhere in the corporate media, such as the Independent) are presenting May’s BBC debate as a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn. But in reality, the Labour leader said he would “relish” a TV debate with May late on 25 November, immediately after she suggested one.”
Here’s the thing:
He has accepted & it’s on his terms.
ITV or not at all.
How much does she want the debate?
Can she cope without her BBC chums?
Time will tell.
— James! (@James4Labour) November 29, 2018
That’s right. Theresa May issued the challenge, meaning Mr Corbyn should have the right to choose the terms.
And he doesn’t want to debate Mrs May on the BBC.
Can anybody blame him?
Here’s The Canary again: “The difference is that Labour prefers what ITV has tabled: a straight head-to-head debate between the two leaders. And it’s pretty obvious why. Because the BBC‘s format seems to allow for BBC editors to rig the discussion against Corbyn. They will have significant power over the questions and participants involved in the debate”
Not only that: Already we have learned that the BBC apparently hired an actress who runs her own tiny internet church to speak in favour of Mrs May on Newsnight debates. Social media commentators have already linked this behaviour with the debate challenge:
"BBC or ITV?" said the Actress to the Bishop in the mirror.#VicarGate
— TracieWaylingArtASMR (@traciewayling) November 29, 2018
Now it seems the BBC has been discussing the challenge that Mrs May sprang on Mr Corbyn – not-so-spontaneously, it seems – for many weeks.
Why else would the Tories plan TV appearances hosted by the BBC’s David Dimbleby, including a “Question Time style session” and brief the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph about it on Monday (November 26)?
Looks like Number 10 were in bilateral discussions with the BBC for weeks. Their leaked grid on the 6th November mentions an interview with Dimbleby, and they briefed into Monday’s Telegraph they’d have a “Question Time style session” if Corbyn refused a debate pic.twitter.com/veA3wAUxc4
— Matt Zarb-Cousin (@mattzarb) November 29, 2018
Commentators are already concluding that the BBC is colluding with the Conservative Party – so much for the Corporation’s claims of impartiality! – to build support for her Brexit deal and run Labour down:
The terminally awful @bbcnews colluding with Tories over the #brexitdebate to make Labour look bad is the last straw for me. Doubt I'll ever trust the BBC again and I'll make sure everyone I know knows it too.
— Susan (@marthasydenham) November 29, 2018
Some have resorted to satire:
*Breaking*: The BBC have announced that Theresa May has won the #Brexit debate against Jeremy Corbyn, due to take place at some point in the future.
Laura Kuenssberg describes May's performance as "enigmatic & full of honour," adding, "didn't she do well?"
— Jack D 🌹| #GTTO | (@JackDunc1) November 29, 2018
While others have aimed sharper barbs:
When May’s deal gets voted down, her media lackeys are going to pin the blame for an impending no deal entirely on Corbyn.
This will only work if the public forgets that Tory disunity has literally created this entire situation.
We must not let the Tories’ false narrative win.
— Evolve Politics (@evolvepolitics) November 29, 2018
Personally, I like this comment, which bypasses the silliness of the BBC and ITV jostling for position and goes straight to the heart of the matter:
Why have a debate on television, which is presumably an attempt to sway people’s opinion one way or the other, only then not to allow the people to decide what the outcome should be? Makes no sense. 🤷🏻♂️
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 29, 2018
But then, we’re discussing Brexit – a situation in which the elected leaders of the United Kingdom have vowed to follow the wish of a majority of voters in a referendum, even though they know there is no possible outcome in which the country will be better-off as a result of it.
No part of Brexit makes any sense at all. Why should this be any different?
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