Sunday, 16 July 2017

Some scoops are more equal than others

It is fascinating which BBC 'scoops' the BBC finds worth running with and which ones it doesn't find it worth running with. 

This morning's Andrew Marr interview with John McDonnell was fascinating on so many fronts, not least of which was Mr McDonnell's 'rowing back' (as the Independent puts it) on Labour's election pledge/promise to wipe out student debt - a pledge that went down extremely well with students (as this HuffPost article demonstrates). 

That 'row back' was so starkly at odds with the promises made by the likes of Mr McDonnell himself during the election, when he pledged to the public that Labour would bring in a free, cradle-to-grave "National Education Service", that, understandably, right-wingers have taken to the media and social media today to demand that this interview be broadcast far-and-wide - and especially towards the young - in order to prove Labour's duplicity.

And it was a scoop for The Andrew Marr Show.

And yet, despite widespread coverage (from the Independent to the Daily Mail, the Telegraph to the Times) and despite even the Guardian making something of this story soon after the Andrew Marr Show interview was first broadcast, the BBC itself held off from making anything of its own 'scoop' for hours after, preferring instead to focus on Philip Hammond's public sector pay comments, making that its lead story.

Finally a BBC website article arrived (some four or five hours after the Guardian) - an article I missed, despite dipping fairly regularly into the BBC News home page. I only found it after Googling 'McDonnell student debt' and then filtering on 'News'. Goodness knows where it appeared first. It's not on the home page even now. It's a low-ranked, small print story on the UK page but, weirdly, is nowhere whatsoever on the Politics page. Its headline Labour: Paying student debt 'an ambition' is a dull take too (uncannily similar to the Guardian's McDonnell: wiping out student loans is 'an ambition' for Labour. No talk of 'rowing back' or 'U turns' from the BBC. 

As I say, it's interesting what captures the BBC's imagination, news-wise, and what doesn't. Corbynistas should be reassured that the BBC doesn't appear to have been acting as 'Tory propagandists' here after all. (Far from it in fact!)


  1. I thought everyone accepted that any of Corbyn/McDonnell/Labour's economic campaign promises were simply ambitions and nobody thought it was real or they could pay for it. Despite McDonnell's silly catchall OBR defense, is it really a scoop when he says, well, maybe we can't do it straight away?

    1. Probably not, though plenty on the Right (including in the media) think it's an absolute 'gotcha' moment, exposing contradictions and hypocrisy galore.

    2. ...and I bought into that too, given that so many young people (as per one of my links) seem to have failed to realise that it was merely an ambition. They appear to have thought it was real. Given how badly the Lib Dems' tuition fee pledge went after 2010, John McDonnell saying that it wasn't a promise or an immediate pledge could play badly with students.

  2. Are people getting confused between debt and historic debt? I think Labour have clarified that wiping out historic debt is an ambition - whereas removing future debt is a pledge.

    Personally I don't find it that crazy a pledge, out of all the Labour pledges. In fact I support it subject to
    it only being applied to courses that are verified as contributing to the country's future wellbeing.

    Wiping out historic student debt would cost £100 billion.

    1. I certainly might be getting confused here!

    2. I know McDonnell has said historic debt before. He's going to pay for that the same way he says he'll pay for everything else: just ask the wealthiest few to pay just a little more in tax and/or borrowing and 'investing'. This is usually followed by the appeal to the OBR authority, which has said before that £1 invested yields £1 in return. Free money, obviously, and never mind what kind of 'investment' the OBR actually meant.

      And of course, the social 'sciences' and social justice studies contribute most to the country's wellbeing, current and future. How dare anyone suggest that not all degrees and areas of studies are equally valid and useful.