Tuesday, 28 July 2009

BBC close to breaking law over UKIP

The BBC's lack of coverage for UKIP at the Noriwch North by-election verged on breaking electoral law for broadcasters, says a respected political commentator.

Under the headline 'UKIP ridiculed for going against the BBC's authorised vision of Europe' the East Anglian Daily Times respected political editor Graham Dines wrote:

UKIP'S coverage at the hands of the BBC came close to breaching election law for broadcasters in the run-up to last week's Norwich North by-election. In effect, the BBC decided to airbrush out of the equation the political party that had done so well in the European Union elections that voters in Norwich were giving serious consideration to their manifesto.

Last week, BBC East organised a debate between the "leading candidates" in the by-election - Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat, and the Greens.(Watch the debate here). I understand that UKIP was so furious that there was a real possibility of an injunction being sought. In the end, the debate went ahead without UKIP, who were mollified by having a filmed insert into the programme.

Just why the BBC decided that the Greens were more meritworthy than UKIP is not difficult to discern. It's all down to the unpalatable policy of quitting the EU.UKIP goes against the authorised version of Britain's relationship with Europe and therefore should be ridiculed - but there again, the Greens are not hysterically pro-Europe and have serious doubts about the creeping EU superstate.

No, the BBC cannot bear the thought there there are perhaps millions of Brits who want nothing more to do with Europe. If the UKIP vision of withdrawal from the EU ever became a reality, the BBC would have to do what it doesn't like doing and stand up for Britain.

The BBC's editorial line should be one of neutrality. It has no mandate to be partisan. But it so likes the Orwellian nightmare - two legs good, four legs better - that it is prepared to risk its reputation for objective reporting.

UKIP had the last laugh, finishing fourth in the by-election with 11.8% of the vote and only 800 behind the Liberal Democrats. Even so, unless there is electoral reform in Westminster elections, UKIP will be hard pressed to get any MPs under first-past-the-post.

As a political party, UKIP is not fashionable. My own personal opinion of the party and Europe is irrelevant - until the UK holds a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon (which for my sins I have read, as well as the European Constitution, and while there are some differences, the two are fundamentally the same document), then UKIP is there to be counted and not ignored by the Guardianista left.

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