In the latest Mandrake, Tim Walker takes a look at the BBC’s Brexit Burnley, and a remarkable reverse ferret at the Daily Mail.
In any ‘random’ BBC street interviews with members of the public about Brexit, it appears to be custom and practice to include at least a few folk saying, without any challenge or qualification: ‘I don’t understand why we haven’t left. We should just get out.’
The process by which differing points of view are sifted for these ‘vox pops’ is disturbing. My colleague Alastair Campbell appeared in a report earlier this month that purported to show how Burnley – a solid Leave constituency – now thought about Brexit.
BBC reporter Christian Fraser travelled with fans of the local football team to an away match with Wolves. He had fixed up an interview not just with Alastair – a life-long Burnley FC fan – but also Steven Barnes, a local engineer. When they met, the BBC reporter had told Steven he wasn’t required as they had already found a surfeit of Remainers.
‘Christian told me they were looking for more Leave voters who hadn’t changed their minds since the referendum, but were struggling to find enough of them,’ says Steven. ‘He also mentioned how, on the supporters’ bus down, they’d had a show of hands on Brexit and the majority of them had been Remain supporters, which had surprised him.’
Steven was surprised when he watched the ensuing BBC report. ‘The only view aired similar to my own was Alastair’s, but none of the ordinary local supporters who were in favour of a vote on the deal got on,’ he says. ‘It was very disingenuous. I thought the camera shot showing only the Brexit supporters with their hands up on the bus was distorting. I’ve long been a supporter of the BBC, but I’ve become concerned with how they have been reporting some issues, particularly Brexit-related.’
A BBC spokesman chose not to get into the specific issues, but said simply: ‘The report featured as part of our week of special in-depth coverage on BBC News to mark six months to go until the UK is due to leave the EU, which, like all of our Brexit coverage, included a wide range of different perspectives across our news output.’
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay may feel the odds are stacked against them as owners of the Daily Telegraph – down 21% in the latest figures – but not, you would have thought, at their casino.
Their Ritz Hotel Casino business – based beneath their famous hotel – has, however, just reported an £11million loss for 2017 because of that perennial problem in this line of business: ‘a number of customer wins’. The firm had a turnover of £22m for the year, down £10m on the £32m it made in 2016.
To add to the woes of the Brexit-backing twins, there is a note in the accounts that says their business is in ‘dispute’ with HMRC ‘with regard to the calculation of gaming duty in connection with incentives offered to customers’.
The Barclay family, meanwhile, spent £17,325 buying jewellery from their Ritz Fine Jewellery business that is also housed in the hotel, but, for all their efforts, the business closed earlier this year.
Mandrake wonders, incidentally, whether many of the Barclays’ neighbours on the Channel Islands approve of their continued support for Brexit: Sir Philip Bailhache, Jersey’s former external relations minister, said independence may be the only option for the island if the negotiations unfold unfavourably.
Staff at Northcliffe House – home of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday – are at sixes and sevens. Geordie Greig, who has lately ousted Paul Dacre as editor of the former title, is quietly re-positioning it as a more europhile title. That is perhaps just as well after a poll found only a quarter of its readers believed Britain would be able to secure a good deal with the EU.
On the Mail on Sunday – now edited by Edward ‘Ted’ Verity, a Dacre loyalist who still has to report to the old Brextremist – its stance seems, meanwhile, to be switching from europhile to europhobe. Its editorial over the weekend sounded as if Dacre himself might have dictated it: ‘Many Remainers, seeing Thursday’s display of euro-arrogance, will have begun to share the view long held by Leavers, that Brussels has an inflated view of its importance and an inability to appreciate the needs and difficulties of individual nations.’ Dear, oh dear.
As a former school teacher, Layla Moran doesn’t take kindly to those who do not obey the rules. The Lib Dem MP told me several weeks ago that Boris Johnson should declare his Daily Telegraph income in the Register of Members’ Interests immediately. He has chosen to ignore her.
MPs should inform the Commons standards watchdog they have signed up for outside work with within 28 days. Johnson signed his contract on July 12: this weekend, he will have kept the authorities waiting 80 days – and counting.