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BBC ‘making it clear’ in election coverage

[9 June 2015] Burdened by a statutory duty of impartiality in its UK general election coverage, the BBC adopted the slogan ‘Making it clear’ as soon as Parliament was prorogued. On the whole, it seemed to achieve its goal, explaining what was happening during the campaign with help from expert analysts who burrowed deep into the sub-text of each political party’s costed and uncosted claims and promises.

After the results emerged, though, the BBC’s renowned pro-Left, pro-EU, pro-immigration sympathies surfaced like a breaching whale, with large parts of Radio 4 going into mourning at the unexpected meltdown of the Labour Party vote. Programme after programme – Woman’s Hour, Saturday Live and PM in particular – devoted themselves to lamentations from left-wing pundits and Tory haters, with endless coverage of who would win the leadership crown cast off by Ed Miliband. A statement from Chuku Umunah saying he was withdrawing his tilt at the title – which had lasted three whole days – was read out in full on PM, as if most listeners cared.

But the nadir was reached during a Radio Fivelive programme on 11 May in which a spokeswoman from a charity called National Ugly Mugs bemoaned the plight of teachers who moonlight as sex workers and are, she said, often sacked by schools that learn about their second jobs. The Ugly Mugs person felt she needed to provide an example of a similar secondary role for which teachers would not, in her perfect world, lose their main jobs. She offered ‘Tory councillor who supports education cuts’. Neither of the programme’s co-presenters challenged her equation of part-time prostitute with democratically elected people’s representative, despite the electorate’s recent and resounding verdict that not all Conservatives would out-Herod Herod given half a chance.

National Ugly Mugs may have won the Guardian’s charity of the year award for 2014 – well, it would, being so right-on and all – but its English is pretty slovenly. Here’s a typical paragraph from the Ugly Mugs website:

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