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May 09, 2016



This is the Saint-Simonian approach to journalism, isn't it? I think it's a mistake to reduce politics to policy. In part, politics is about articulating conceptions of the good. It might be helpful to have someone around to tell us what political parties think that involves. You may believe that political correspondents perform that role poorly or not at all. That doesn't mean the role shouldn't exist.


It is the prominence of political journalism that is the issue, because evidence and expert opinion is crowded out. If we are to hear about the spin that political parties put on an issue, that can be after we have heard an impartial discussion of the issue.

Hilary Richards

Absolutely on the money. Those not actively being paid effectively as propagandists are still reporting on politics as if discussing the latest episode of Eastenders. Political pundits are remarkably unaware how they themselves have helped create the narcissistic 'Westminster Bubble'.

gastro george

"All worthwhile issues could be as well or better covered by specialist reporters in other fields."

Are those specialist reporters better? Have economics reporters covered themselves in glory? Have education or health reporters seriously held the government to account?

Peter K.

If Cockburn were still alive he'd be crucifying Krugman has become a sorry hack and troll, analogous to the Blairite rump that is campaigning against Corbyn.

Krugman is good on economics but his recent writing on politics are awful as many erstwhile allies admit.

Oh wait, here is Cockburn on Krugman back in 2003:


"Enter the world of Paul Krugman, a world either dark (the eras of Bush One and Bush Two), or bathed in light (when Bill was king). “What do you think of the French revolution?” someone is supposed to have asked Chou En Lai. “Too soon to tell”, Chou laconically riposted. Krugman entertains no such prudence. Near the beginning of his collection of columns, The Great Unravelling, Krugman looks back on Clinton-time. A throb enters his voice. He becomes a Hesiod, basking in the golden age."


@Chrishanretty - I agree. But it doesn't seem to me that political correspondents do this at all, let alone badly. I wonder why the BBC doesn't have philosophy or sociology reporters who could do it.
@ Gastro - good qn. One problem here is that "due impartiality" is interpreted to mean impartiality between political parties rather than between experts. When Labour kowtowed to anti-immigrationism and austerity, this led to BBC reporting being unrepresentative of expert economic opinion - and hence biased towards what Simon Wren-Lewis calls mediamacro. I suspect the only solution to this is to "depoliticize" journalism. Sacking pol reporters might be just one step towards this.

Craig Murray

A peculiar literalism. It is not attribution error. Absolutely nobody believes Ms Kuenssberg is the sole cause of the situation. Nor that she would ever be sacked after such a campaign. It is purely a way of focusing minds on the issue.


Hanrettyan "rival conceptions of the good" political reporting seems an even remoter possibility than Saint-Simonian non-political reporting! The BBC's approach is the reverse of this - they systematically highlight the flaws in both sides and call that impartiality. What the BBC political news department seems to have done, some years ago (possibly quite a few years ago), is adopt an agenda of its own which is guaranteed to provoke disagreement with everyone - something a bit to the left of the Tories, a bit to the right of Labour, and biased in favour of single-party government to stop the Libs getting ideas - and then criticise every politician's conception of the good by tacit reference to it. The problems they're having at the moment are minor by comparison; people aren't objecting to BBC centrism, but complaining that it's ceased to be centrist - or stayed put while the centre's shifted.

Dave Timoney

Re "Westminster-based political reporting encourages closed hierarchical politics rather than more open egalitarian ones". Hence those whose careers are dependent on insider dealing have cause to resist the "new politics" for reasons other than partisan bias. In other words, the criticism of Kuenssberg should not be that she's a closet Tory but that her "expertise" is too narrow.

The reason she is so disappointed that a coup against Corbyn hasn't been launched yet is that she has no real contacts in his camp. This means she becomes less relevant from the perspective of her bosses at the Beeb (who do care about "balance") with every passing week. What will get her the sack is not a petition but Corbyn sticking around. Her frustration is positively Shakespearean.

Dave Timoney

There is a wider issue here. Since the 80s, coverage has narrowed in many areas, and not just on the BBC. Industrial correspondents have disappeared, business news is predominantly City news, and the coverage of housing (as news) has largely been reduced to prices and mortgages. Journalistic expertise has narrowed in many more areas than politics.

This is both ideological and structural, e.g. the disempowerment of local government has reduced national coverage of regional politics (the North of England has been particularly obscured), while devolution has ironically allowed English audiences to be under-served on Scottish and Welsh politics, with consequences that were only too apparent last year. Much of the difficulty that the Remain campaign currently faces is the result of decades of treating EU news as a matter of elite negotiation.

What we're witnessing today is not just the neoliberal emptying of politics and its substitution with gossip and PR, but the product of decades of increasing centralisation and the incapacity of the Commons to act as an effective check on the executive.

Deviation From The Mean

The problem here goes a little deeper than Chris suggests. Actually a lot deeper. Whichever model the BBC stood upon it would still exhibit the same bias because it is the state TV station of the British capitalist and imperialist state, and it will always but always represent the interests of those that rule this state. Which in reality is a small % of the overall population.

The specific issue this article alludes to should also include the bias toward those who went to private school or come from the middle and upper classes. But again this is structural and something that can only be changed by revolution in the truest sense of the word. i.e. not some Blairite, Liz Kendall bullshit no-entity of a policy but by folk with pitchforks storming parliament.

Oh and yes, we should campaign for Kuenssberg to be sacked, and this campaign should be pitiless, institutional bias is one thing, but taking the piss is another!

Leigh Caldwell

If audiences want to hear political gossip, surely that's what they will listen to, whether the BBC broadcasts it or not? Of course it would be great if the BBC spent more on More or Less-style analyses of political claims. But if they got rid of their political correspondents would viewers turn over to More or Less - or would they turn over to ITV, Sky and twitter?

nick s

The problem with Keunssberg is that she is a hack, a deeply limited capabilities in the manner of those American political reporters who have long focused on Very Serious People within the bubble of the capital city's political class, seek out bullshit gaffes and gotchas and make themselves part of the headline.

It's definitely a narrowing of coverage that hides how narrow it has become. London once had advantages over DC, as a bigger city with more to do and more complex social networks: journalists covering politics would not necessarily spend all their time in the company of politicians and spin-doctors and spads. I don't get the feeling that Keunssberg breaks out of the political bubble that much.


This is attribution error. Really she is just a front. It is the whole personnel behind her that really is doing the work. Notice how Kamal Ahmad's are pretty similar, in some ways even coming across more as a Tory party spokesman. He is certainly comes across as one of the worst offenders when it comes to looking at the economy as if the only thing that matters is cutting the deficit.

But, it is not the individuals, it is the people they are relying on for the content. So in many ways attacking Keussenberg or Ahmed is unfair.

Pro Cynic

The campaign is more an example of a bunch of noisy on-line-echo-chamber-dwellers who cannot stand anyone disagreeing with them.

Let's have another thought experiment. We have a BBC political correspondent who demonstrably favours Corbyn. Are the same 35,000 people signing a petition?

Deviation From The Mean

"We have a BBC political correspondent who demonstrably favours Corbyn. Are the same 35,000 people signing a petition?"

It would never happen for obvious reasons but the left have talked about the hopeless state of the media before now. And the main thrust is not who they are bias toward, we know they will always be bias toward the ruling class. The issue is the nature of the media.

But, there comes a time when the bias, which always exists, reaches the point of piss taking and Kuenssberg is taking the piss.

Churm Rincewind

“All worthwhile issues could be as well or better covered by specialist reporters in other fields. For example, the junior doctors dispute could be covered by health or industrial relations correspondents; the local elections by local government reporters; the Brexit debate by economics, foreign or diplomatic reporters. And so on.”
I’m sorry, but this is simply mad. Yes, the junior doctors dispute could be covered by health or industrial relations correspondents, but only if you think that these are the only issues of concern in the debate. We know, for example, that the public would like a “seven day NHS” (whatever that means). Are we to overlook their views because that wouldn’t fit into such narrow perspectives? And as for Brexit, is the suggestion here that the debate is solely about economics and international diplomacy? Try telling that to the SNP in connection with Scottish Independence. And I’m at a loss to understand how “local government reporters” can be non-political in their coverage.

Our democracy is based on the idea that politicians are a proxy for public opinion. Not an accurate proxy, to be sure, but representative in the broadest sense.

The alternative, of relying on “experts” for their perspective, fills me with dread. “Experts get it wrong in fields as diverse as football, medicine and politics…there seems no awareness of the fundamental problem - that errors in expert judgment are ubiquitous.”


Deviation from the Mean is spot on. This has been going on pre-Corbyn. One glaring example: The May 2015 election night coverage by the BBC began with undisguised joy from Dimbleby and all the rest of them. Same education trail,same class backgrounds, same ideological assumptions. The BBC isn't 'impartial' and never will be. At least when Anthony King was there, there was some counterweight to the right wingery.


Lets just have done with it rename it British Brexit Corporation or Boris British Corporation because his time on the BBC is highly disproportional and distorts BBC's claims for impartiality.

6 political parties are pro-Europe and most reports emerging from business, academia, professions, defence, other countries, IMF, OECD, finance, banks and the city as well as trade unions and pressure groups. But whatever is covered by BBC news Boris Johnson is given full rights to dispute even when factual input is given ...its like he is the far right wing news reader on the news readers shoulder. Gross, excessive distortion of every serious contribution on remaining in Europe.

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