Sunday, 5 March 2017

Here is the news

I'm currently reading 'All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class' by Tim Shipman.  It's an analysis of both the Remain and Leave campaigns and has extensive interviews with many of the backroom people as well as the frontmen from each side.

One chapter deals with the BBC coverage in the purdah period in the 30 days leading up to the referendum and whether its duty is to question the claims by each side or whether it merely has to provide balance.  In it (and I never thought I'd say this) David Mundell has something to say which I think will be very germane to the second independence referendum.  This is an extract from the chapter:
The situation [regarding BBC coverage] ought not to have come as a surprise to David Cameron, who had been warned about how the broadcasting rules would play out in the final four weeks by the Scottish secretary David Mundell, who knew better than most what had happened north of the border in 2014.  In a Remain cabinet meeting held after the deal was done, Mundell told his colleagues that the contest would get difficult when the short campaign began.  He says, 'There was a failure to understand that in the final part of the campaign, which is a regulated media part, you just get a quantitative balance on the television.  George Osborne can pop up with a five-hundred-page document, and the other side just need someone else to turn up and say, 'That's crap.'  And that counts as a debate.  It's not a qualitative debate.'  After the referendum Mundell said, 'That's what the Leave side did much better.  They just had a number of simplistic slogans to use for their two-second clip.  There's no point in saying ' here's a 5,000 page report saying everything's going to go belly-up' when somebody else rocks up and says 'No it's not.  We're taking back control.'
The parallels with the last independence referendum are clear.  The Yes side had the 600-page white paper which set out their case for an independent Scotland.  However, the content was mainly never debated.  Instead the No side stuck to a few simple slogans, such as 'What currency will you use?', 'You'll lose your pension' and 'You'll be out of the EU and will have to join the back of the queue'.  Simple concepts, hammered home time after time, and not questioned by the BBC, who saw their duty as providing balance rather than investigation.

We need to learn from this for the next indyref.  By all means have documents setting out the case for independence in great detail, but as far as television news goes, boil it down to some simple concepts.

We need to take our lessons where we find them, regardless of the source.  After all, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

No comments:

Post a Comment