Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why Did the BBC Not Name the Shamed Labour MP?

On Thursday evening a reader sent me a link to THIS BBC story, about an unnamed MP who has been reprimanded by the House of Commons Standards & Privileges Committee - see the report HERE. A bit odd, I thought, not to name her. It seems I am not alone. Liberal England and Andy Mayer have had the same thoughts. Jonathan Calder of Liberal England has done a quick Google search and found that the MP the BBC feared to name is in fact Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South. One wonders whether the BBC would have been quite so reluctant to name the MP if she had been a Conservative. I'll leave that question hanging in the air as I direct you towards THIS story on ConservativeHome and the Daily Mail that 80% of BBC staff of Facebook describe themselves as "liberal" rather than "conservatives". And in other news today, the Pope reveals he is a Catholic.

I'm on a panel tomorrow morning with BBC Head of News Peter Horrocks. I'll let you know what he has to say on the subject.


Anonymous said...

Hmm.. I don't have the detail on this, but surely the BBC would have had in mind the laws of libel, rather than anything more sinister ? After all, they do have 'producer' or editorial guidelines to work to.

I think you have an overactive imagination to see a conspiracy theory in this, to be honest..

Iain Dale said...

Sorry, am I missing something? How on earth could the law of libel apply here, when they are writing about an official, publicly released report, with the name of the MP in bold letters on the front of it? Do explain that to me. I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...

Mr Dale, I think you will also find that they haven't uttered a word on the 'Cash for access' story that the Grauniad broke yesterday. They do find time to slag off DC though because some people want a referendum before or after ratification of the 'treaty'.

Hmmmm, mild squabbles or more evidence of corruption amongst the political classes. Which do you think is more important?

Geezer said...

This is a typical example of bias by omission, and the BBC are masters of it! It's what they don't tell people, that has helped out, so often, Labour over the last decade.
They can always defend this type of bias, because you cannot say, for certain, that they have deliberately downplayed a story that could damage the Labour Party and that they wouldn't have run the story the same way if the subject was Conservative.
WE know they would have done things very differently if it had been a Conservative MP, but you can never prove that.

Anonymous said...

Emily Thornberry is a dreadful MP, who for political reasons claims to care about the 15,000 in her constituency of Islington South who are waiting for social housing, yet through her husband has snapped up ex-social housing owned by Ujima Housing Association. He paid £572,000 for the house, which is now being let out to an Islington councillor ( Meanwhile they live in a multimillion pound property in one of the most prestigious Barnsbury locations, Richmond Crescent.

Thornberry had previously claimed to condemn the practice of housing associations selling off properties for profits to fat cats like her (both she and her husband are barristers), despite the fact that they own at least four properties.

Anonymous said...

Thornberry's specialities, incidentally, are

Criminal defence, especially drugs,
violence, dishonesty and fraud.
Inquests, Actions against the Police, Court Martials and Extradition.

Geezer said...

Drunken Tory, It's called, setting the news agenda. News outlets decide what they report on, as well as how they report on it. Once again, bias by omission, ignoring bad news for Labour and conveniently, replacing it with an exaggerated anti-Conservative story.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't David Cameron describe himself as a loberal too? He's been doing it all week.

Flora said...

From my reading of the report it says that she did not break the code of conduct. The cross-party committee with the councillor who brought the complaint that it was a misjudgement. I think for this reason the BBC wouldn't want to bring the axe down.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the BBC should have given more covereage to the Lobbying Lord (although they did report it) but the Thornbury story seems like a nothing story, she was cleared by the committee and if the media were to report all standerds and priv's findings it would be very dull and when a member actually does break the code of conduct it will be diminished.

As someone who works in the Lobbying 'trade' the Lords story is a lot worse, and damanging for both Labour, Tories, the HoL and Public Affairs.

Unknown said...

She worked I think for a spell with Michael Mansfield and also many BBC News folks live in that area, so maybe it would have cut through the Islington Dinner Party circuit and remember Christmas is coming Iain..

Anonymous said...

Iain, Mine was the first comment and I think an apology is owed, based on my mis-understanding of the situation. The BBC included the following text...

"Sir Philip Mawer revealed in his annual report the unnamed MP then e-mailed the doctored press release on to the media as if it were an official release.

He said her action had not breached the code of conduct as there had been "no intention... to deceive the public".

I took that to mean that he had referred to an MP,and the scenario, but had not named an individual, due to the code of conduct not being breached. Therefore to have sought out who it was, and done an 'expose' might have been considered libellous if no actual 'breach' had occurred.

On reading it again, it appears that the name was included, and was therefore in the public domain and therefore I agree that they did have the right, if not obligation, to report on who it was.

Credit where's it due and all that..

Ned said...

The Labourites have managed to infiltrate OUR public also shows on ITV & Sky....The Lib' Dems' have also renaged on the EU refendum..& the two hopefuls seem proud of this stance instead of ashamed.It's also about time The Tories took a much, much harder line..challenging Labour in respect of diabolical domestic policies such as Prisons,Immigration, Crime.. et al .This country should be very worried of the consequences of New Labours ongoing policies!! Whilst people have money in their pockets, & politians such as Emily Thornberry are allowed to flourish it's a hard fix!

neil craig said...

Since the BBC & indeed civil service generally seem to put most of their job ads into the Guardian it is hardly surpring if the counry is run by Guardianistas (or indeed that they put all their job ads into the Guardian). Anybody wishing to reform our government should certainly look at that.

Might hurt the paper which, unlike all the rest of the press seems devoid of ads from B&Q. Oh dear, what a shame, never mind.

Anonymous said...

Ned is right, we need a slash and burn policy to rid England of the enemy within. find out where these
lefties earn a crust and then privatize it.

AloneMan said...

What I don't understand is how this MP's actions did not constitute a breach of the code of conduct.
You get hold of a press release written by a body such as the Electoral Commission, which is supposedly independent of MPs. You insert a (presumably favourable) quote from yourself, and send it to the media as if it come from the Electoral Commission. That's misreprentation, isn't it ? And that's not a breach of the code of conduct ? Good God, what is, then ?

Anonymous said...

Being "liberal" (where liberalism is defined as encouraging plurality) is precisely what the BBC is against. If the BBC believed in a free market there would be no point in having a licence fee. When advocates of the political party that believes in more power for the State describe themselves as being "liberal" it is pure "New Speak".

Johnny Norfolk said...


The BBC are only interested if its a Tory, If its Labour thats OK.

How do the BBC get away with it. Where are the governers or what ever they are called now. No one checks the BBC. They are a law unto themselves and are totaly out of control.

Unsworth said...

The official Report makes for interesting reading. Apparently Ms Thornberry's 'office' regarded the action of inserting items into others' press releases, and then forwarding them on to the local papers for publication under the guise of the original authors, as an acceptable practice. That indicates this has happened before. Of course the electorate is entitled to know when and how many other instances have arisen.

She says "“MPs regularly receive press releases from organisations to alter and forward to local press as they see fit. This system has never posed a problem in the past. However, I have now changed the procedures in my office to prevent any future complaints or misunderstandings.” She obviously is saying that she regards all press releases as 'alterable'.

This seems to have been accepted without demur as fact by the (examining) House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee! Where do we go from here? So it's been acceptable to do so up to now, has it?

Certainly the Committee has not issued an instruction that this must not happen, so no doubt the practice will continue.

Beware all Press Releases emanating from your MP. They may have been 'altered'.

Anonymous said...

80% of the beeb describe themselves as liberal on Facebook? Gives me a fuzzy warm glow even if it doesn't you. Maybe I should try for a job there...

Or is this not a good time perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Understand that the BBC is not right or left wing it is FASCIST, and all becomes very clear indeed.

Fascists do not all dress in Nazi uniforms or ride around in tanks.

They work and run the BBC, and most are so brainwashed they don't even know they are fascists working for a sinister fascist organization bent on world domination.

The BBC believes it is in the center. Which it is.

Its just that its center in a cold place, where far right and far left politics meet. Which is the best definition of Fascism I know.

Real fascism from the dark side about as far away from ordinary people as it is possible to get.

Many times in life you will note that, "what you thought was your best friend turns out to be your worst enemy." The British people are just starting I hope to see the BBC for what it always was.

The internet for the first time in our lives now shows us what a rather clever effort in State propaganda the BBC has always been.

But the BBC should be proclaimed for the almost infinite amount of TRUTH it does NOT tell, rather then the almost infinite amount of outright lies it does.

Anonymous said...

I had a quick look at the report yesterday and I don't think she was named in that either (I could be wrong - does anyone know?). If she WASN'T named then the BBC were right to follow that lead. If she WAS named then they've behaved disgracefully.

Iain Dale said...

Mitch, what part of "her name is in bold type on the cover" is unclear? If you read the report you will have seen it for yourself. Follow the link in the main post.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I take your point that there is a specific report into her conduct. But the BBC aren't referring to that report.

The BBC are reporting on the Standards Commissioners annual report to Parliament (published 24/10). In THAT report she isn't named, there's just a description of the case.

So from the annual report alone you'd know the details but not her name. That's why the BBC couldn't name her. Maybe the BBC should have dug further but, as I say, based on the annual report alone, they're accurate.

Barnacle Bill said...

Of course they are used to doing this sort of thing.
A certain dossier springs to mind as another example of NuLabor politicians being creative!

Anonymous said...

Here's the relevant bit from the Annual report (which the BBC are referring to):

"3.16 The fifth of the ten reports made to the Committee in 2006-07 concerned a complaint
that a Member had, without permission, altered an electronic copy of an Electoral
Commission news release by inserting a quotation from herself before forwarding it to the
news media in a form which suggested that it remained an official Commission release."

So she's only referred to as 'a Member'. From this report alone the BBC couldn't name her. I think that's fair enough.

Anonymous said...

The problem here is not one of BBC bias but of BBC laziness.

The Report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards dealing with Emily Thornberry was published in June 2006. This is the report to which Iain has provided a link. The report covered by the BBC, however, is the Commissioner's Annual Report for 2006-07, which has just been published. The report summarises the cases dealt with by the Commissioner over the past year, but it does not name any of the MPs involved. It is this report that the BBC has picked up and covered a case that is more than a year old - and not bothered to check the original report to discover the name of the MP.

Anonymous said...

Friday Night's Newsnight on BBC2 did a fair piece on Lord Hoyle's cash for access, Crick made a perceptive comment about Hoyle's mediocrity, and did not mention the Tory MP's role in giving the lobbyist a pass in the first place.

So if we are going to knock the Beeb, let's be fair about it.

The judgement on Thornberry seems odd in the extreme - but I want to know why MPs can issue passes to anyone, it seems, including lobbyists?

Anonymous said...

drunken tory - that's not really true, it was the lead story on yesterday's newsnight!

Anonymous said...

Had she been a Tory the Beeb would have published a photo, (taken from a low angle, to make her look fascist) and ten-year-old footage of her mouthing the words to Jerusalem.

Anonymous said...

Most people I know don't put any political opinion down on Facebook, and not all BBC staff on Facebook will join the network; lots of people avoid work related networks in case they should get into trouble.

This whole argument of course ignores the thousands of BBC staff who are not on Facebook at all.

Most people who put 'Moderate' (a lot) may well be Cameron's Conservatives.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, this whole debate is a mess.

The B.B.C. are staffed by liberals so they must support Gordon Brown. However, Brown and Blair’s New Labour have passed some of the most illiberal measures ever known in this country. They aren’t liberals.

B.B.C. = liberal. Consequently, we would expect the B.B.C.’s political correspondent, Nick Robinson, to be a former member of the Liberal Democrats. No, actually he is a former senior member of the Young Conservatives.

Are you getting confused yet?

This has all got a little difficult but one thing is clear, I am afraid. Iain Dale is a competitor to the B.B.C. and we never like our competitors.

Anonymous said...

anonymous [3.45 PM] You're right, of course. It's just laziness.

There are too many journos in the BBC (and elsewhere, e.g. on the Independent) who think the job is about re-packaging press releases. They lack the nagging curiousity and appetite for hard work which are the hallmarks of the true journalist.

Anonymous said...

OK Iain, so what did Horrocks have to say for himself?

Anonymous said...

The term Liberal, as used by socialists, is the best example of socialistic wordplay in action.

They take a description of people that are popular, and mould the description to their own likeness - killing off the original term and description.

Ever wondered why the BBC insists on calling all the extremists parties like the BNP right wing, when they are just racist socialists? Its the BBC socialist wordplay game again!

A classic liberal is also known as a Libertarian - ask anyone in the BBC to describe one of those and you'll get the famous Dave quote, a Tory with no kids!

On your other issue, Facebook is very interesting in that the BBC have over 14k members - more than any other company in the world.

Any real business knows that Facebook is not the place to do business - and, judging from the latest membership figures for Facebook, even the kids are getting fed up with it.

Roll on the next bandwagon!

Lobster Blogster said...

Iain, your posts get nuttier by the day. Emily Thornberry's name is in big letters on the front, but in Section 11 it clearly says:

"We do not therefore uphold Councillor Hitchins’ complaint."

So whatever the BBC report might have said, the committee didn't reprimand the MP. If you are going to do posts like this, you should at least try to understand the material you are presenting.

Unknown said...

I am glad the BBC folks have time to spend so much time updating Facebook..So they are not too overworked Thommo ?

Great use of the licence fee..I shall go onto face book and check out a few and monitor the hours they are being used ..

Anonymous said...

The BBC has now included an apologetic-sounding explanation for the omission--and Thornberry's name now appears in the story. Just keep filling in the gaps out there!