Monthly Archives: January 2020

The end of the BBC?

The BBC faces its 100th anniversary. Will it still be around to have a 200th?

The Prime Ministers’ Chief of Staff Dominic Cummings has written much about the need to transform the BBC and expand the ideological space for the right. His thinktank wrote “There are three structural things that the right needs to happen in terms of communications… 1) the undermining of the BBC’s credibility; 2) the creation of a Fox News equivalent / talk radio shows / bloggers etc to shift the centre of gravity; 3) the end of the ban on TV political advertising.”

There are big questions about the justifiable value of the licence fee. The UK’s impartiality rules improve the quality of coverage, but they don’t apply to other online outlets. The BBC’s impartiality rules mean that any party that wants to get their message out through it on television can do so. It tends to give everyone a hard time regardless of their orientation. (I know that there have been some exceptions but usually.)

By comparison, when there is a free market, media organisations can choose who they want to support, as we see with *sigh* Joe Biden on CNN.

In terms of pure political advantage, the right would be better off with a marketplace dominated by conservative outlets, which could be achieved with the ending of impartiality rules. This happened in the US under the entirely bad man who killed the American dream, Ronald Reagan.

This is already the case in the newspaper market. Notably the internet news sites and YouTube are not dominated by the right. The UK political internet has a broad range of outlets and it is hard to argue that the internet is dominated by one ideology or political party. So a lack of impartiality rules does not automatically mean the dominance of the right in every market.

TV news decisions can’t decide elections alone, although they can certainly be a contributing factor. Donald Trump still became the Republican candidate despite being opposed through most of his campaign by all stations. Although perhaps he reflected a deeper bi-partisan news ideology of nationalism and fear of the other that has been reproduced endlessly for decades.

In summary, the BBC probably will not continue to exist in its current form. This will likely be to the BBC’s and Britain’s detriment. But this is the Tories’ and Mr Cummings’ moment. Other opportunities will come. For now, let us mourn briefly for the hope that once was.

Labour’s Dilemma

There was a time when Labour could have, along with other opposition parties, voted to keep free movement alive, or get a second referendum that may have kept the UK in the EU. That time has passed.

If Labour are to succeed now, the they must not support freedom of movement. They must accept the referendum result. They must abandon their internationalism.

Even in the arena of economics, they will struggle to make progress, as the Tories have abandoned austerity and are making positive noises about investing in the north.

Labour must fight on both socially liberal territory, to defeat the Liberal Democrats, and socially conservative territory, to defeat the Conservatives. Even an alliance with the Lib Dems – probably in both parties’ interest – could push Labour into having too liberal a stance on immigration for the electorate to stomach. This is if the Labour membership does not choose someone socially liberal already.

Labour is in an incredibly difficult place. The Tories have dropped their unpopular and self-defeating policies from the Cameron and May years. Even if Labour makes all the right moves they will likely still lose.

The hopes for those who are poorest and most disadvantaged in Britain are slim. We still have some of the lowest pensions in the OECD, a welfare system that is failing, an NHS that is overstretched, massive regional inequality, and large amounts of personal debt.

Stop Voting for Idiots!

Certainly a leader’s ideology matters, as do their policies. But we must not forget the importance of intelligence. People who are not capable of the challenge of leading a country should not be in charge.

The fact that someone as thoughtless, incoherent and delusional as Donald Trump ss the president of the United States is not just foolishness but a moral failing. He does not deserve the office. He is completely unsuitable. This goes beyond his politics. Someone who wanted all the right things, but who did not understand how the US Constitution, US law, the media or sentence structure work would still be wrong as president. A leader does not need to be a genius, but they must be aware of what they are doing and be able to plan and organise and communicate.

Trump does have a kind of animal instinct for saying and doing things that get him attention, but he is incredibly stupid. If the purpose of a presidential election is to ensure that the best person is chosen for the job, then the system has failed.

But the non-US world should not look smugly at the United States and assume that there is no need for introspection. And we should not assume that this is a vice purely of the right. Canada’s Justin Trudeau is a dumb pretty boy who said enough liberal progressive things to elevate him to high office.

In the UK, Labour was led into the last two elections by a man who went to a very good school and managed to scrape by with two Ds at A level. As the commenters will correctly tell me, A levels are not the only indicator of intelligence. But being unwilling or unable to address the electorate’s fears about him, choosing a team that was clearly not up to the task, having an incoherent message and so on all suggest that he was lacking. He did not understand how government borrowing works. And there is no evidence that he is intelligent. If you have lived for seventy years as a vibrant, intelligent, analytical, creative person, you would leave evidence.

This matters in the upcoming leadership election because it looks like Rebecca Long Baily is the frontrunner. Her first piece in the Guardian announcing her candidacy was awful. She gave Corbyn 10/10! She hasn’t thought this through.

This isn’t intended as a point about socialist ideology. There are liberal or “centrist” dummies too, like Trudeau or Biden. And there are certainly plenty on the right cough cough Liam Fox cough cough. But it matters. Labour has only ever won outright under three leaders, each of whom was a crafty fox.

And it matters for more than electability. We should want the people in charge to be capable. We should value understanding and reasoning and creativity. Intelligent work is rewarded immensely by our banks and software companies. Why not value it in our politicians too?