Analysis comment

IFS director’s actual words expose gross dishonesty of BBC’s false equivalence on manifesto credibility

BBC’s shameless presentation of IFS analysis of Labour and Tory manifestos exposed by IFS director’s own comments during interview

Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson

A BBC Radio 4 interview on the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) assessment of the manifestos of the UK’s two main parties has turned into a classic example of the way in which the BBC’s bias toward the Tories is often expressed in false equivalence of the performance of the Labour and Conservative parties.

A similar example occurred last week when, as Jeremy Corbyn was assessed by the public as the emphatic winner of the BBC’s Question Time leaders’ special, the Corporation’s next-day reporting of the event focused on the leaders being asked hard questions – and not on how well the leaders performed in answering them.

In today’s World at One programme on Radio 4, the BBC was determined to present an evaluation of the IFS’ evaluation of the Labour and Tory manifestos as being equally critical.

But the interview that it then played, in which IFS director Paul Johnson gave details of his actual assessment of the manifestos, there was nothing remotely approaching equivalence.

Of Labour’s manifesto, Johnson’s main comment was that it was radical in terms of redressing the imbalance of a decade of deep Tory spending cuts – but that Labour’s tax and spending plans would do nothing more than bring the UK into line with the average for western European nations in terms of spending and the scale of the state.

But of the Tory version, Johnson pointed out not only that it contained numerous uncosted promises, but also that it basically did nothing to major issues in spite of years of broken promises and inaction – and would result in austerity being ‘baked in’ to the UK’s social structures.

Not remotely equivalent at all – and yet the BBC presenter segued between the two by repeating that the IFS was ‘equally critical’ of both and that it was ‘a plague on both their houses’:

As an example of the BBC’s consistent ‘bias-in-disguise’, it was perfect.

But the reality is that the Tory manifesto is a cross between cloud-cuckoo land and ‘more of the blighted same’.

By contrast, Labour’s fully-costed manifesto, which will transform the UK, is entirely credible – and is not remotely outlandish but will simply restore the UK to its rightful status as a civilised nation after years of savage and unnecessary Tory cuts.

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  1. I heard the piece which was a Masterclass in obfuscation. Part of the problem is the Presenters rarely allow anybody to finish an answer and quite often stop them before they’ve even started! Answers aren’t what they want, Everything is about the Presenter’s view of things. Egos gone potty.

    1. I could not agree more. Witness Andrew Neil’s recent interview with Jeremy Corbyn. Neil emerges as a boorish, right wing bully. Corbyn tried to provide considered and comprehensive answers to all his questions, attempting to put them into context. But Neil would have none of that, frequently interrupting Corbyn aggressively, accusing him, by implication of lying because he would not answer the question as a ‘sound bite’ in the way that Neil wanted.

      For instance, Neil placed before Corbyn a hypothetical situation in which he, as Prime Minister, is informed by security services that they have located a top Isis commander. Neil then asks Corbyn what he would do about it, hoping to corner him as someone who would not be ready to safeguard the people of Britain. Corbyn states that he would need to give careful consideration to what he has been told and weigh up the consequences of possible responses before deciding what to do. He also makes reference to the rule of international law and states that in most cases it is better to capture the miscreant alive and bring him to trial rather than give a precipitate command to shoot to kill, Neil then accuses Corbyn of not having what it takes to be Prime Minister. He proceeds to grill Corbyn mercilessly at this point, with Corbyn repeating. like a patient teacher to a recalcitrant and not-to-bright child, that decisions like this cannot be made in advance and that he would need to weigh up the situation at the time.

      Of course, Neil may be unprincipled, but he is not unintelligent. He knows full well the cynical game in which he is engaged. Unfortunately, voters have been trained to accept only simplistic “Yes/No” responses to questions by the MSM, denying the multifaceted complexity of the real world and real situations. The interview was indeed “awful”, but not because of Corbyn’s responses. It was rather Neil’s overbearing and oppressive determination not to allow Corbyn any room to make his case that made the whole interview painful to watch.

      Corbyn’s demeanour throughout the verbal assault to which he was subjected by Neil was exemplary. He was calm, considered in his responses and respectful to his interviewer. He was just the kind of Prime Minister to have in a crisis. The world has far too many politicians in the Donald Trump mode – brash, impetuous and belligerent. We need Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to peace, diplomacy and principle.

      It is a good job Neil did not have someone of my temperament in the hot seat. He would have had my knee in his nuts in less than 10 minutes.

      1. “Neil emerges as a boorish, right wing bully.”

        He has always been like that and in times such as this (rattled establishment) he ups the anti. Calmer times he is awful to all.

      2. Where the so called public service provider/s really let the public down is that in using this aggressive type of questioning no one actually learns anything about what the person subjected to the inquisition is trying to say. Of course this is the main object but it does nothing to serve or educate the public.
        During a GE this is a grave disservice to the public and what veil of democracy is left.

      3. I agree with you. I’ve never seen anybody cope so well with the bristly bulldog – I was very impressed. Imagine my surprise to wake up the next morning to discover it was the worst interview, the biggest disaster in the history of the World!

  2. one is a manifesto to end the dog eat dog casino economy,
    the other is a continuation of socialism for the 5%

  3. Ofcom are equally to blame for this situation they have done nothing and allowed the BBC to carry on unabated. They could have stepped in numerous times over the BBC’s blatant bias. It’s lead to some of the worse bias we’ve ever seen from our State Broadcaster. This Twitter feed @bbclaurak being the main culprit it pumps out Tory propaganda non stop.

    1. I keep reading about OFCOM and BBC but last I knew the BBC polices itself (rolls eyes) though of course I assume BBC comes under election purdah… not sure which agency polices that for media.

      1. I think it’s the Electoral Commission. They did issue a warning to the Tories, I believe, earlier in the campaign. Forget which incident it was over (there’ve been so many!) but they did say if it happened again, “decisive action would be taken”!

        Yeah right. In other words, as you were, Boris!

  4. I’m going to be busy tonight with complaint 2 and 3 me think. Kuensberg last on news at 10 about the selling off of the NHS was a disgrace. You’d believe she was an actual Tory Cabinet member!

    1. Torys and BBC think the public are so thick that because the label NHS is not in the documents it is safe… rofl. Sadly too big a percentage will buy that line. This is why I keep promoting the films made about the long term covert NHS privatisation of the ‘privatise the world’ neoliberal era. All major parties in Gov have done their bit including ‘New Labour’.

      This from 2014.

      Good luck with your complaint.

  5. At the risk of upsetting somebody. Complain to OFCOM, there is nothing to lose.

    1. Certainly worth a try… lots of tries. I gave up complaining to BBC years ago, now I just boycott it… since Jan 2015 and I feel so much better.

  6. Yes but the IFS as a socialist economist argued tends to look at the economy through a Neo-Liberal capitalist lens. My thoughts, don’t remember the IFS predicting the 2008 Bankers Crash!
    The Tories have spent £435b on QE – the Tory Electronic Magic Money Tree since 2010 which has only kept the economy STATIC! Labour’s plans are costed and will STIMULATE the economy and PUTTING MORE POUNDS IN PEOPLES POCKETS will mean people buy more commodities to also boost the economy!
    What’s spooked the Tories, probably Labour activists reporting 8 posters for Labour in posh area of Tory marginal.
    Perhaps more of these reports from below as well as the heavyweight stuff from the top. Canvassed quite a bit now and great cameradie amongst activists and a large turnouts of members, I think we we will remember these moments. Solidarity & X

  7. ‘False equivalence’. Shlaym!

    The Institute as been criticised for being overly-neolberal many times – even by Darling and Brown’s nice tories, aka New Labour – but this is something else, the IFS is having panic attacks when they rrealise how near to power Corbyn is.

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