The article above (click to enlarge) appeared in yesterday's Daily Mail. The Mail, although one of Britain's most socially conservative papers, has been consistently hostile to the Iraq war. Its editorial line has been indistinguishable from the left-leaning Independent. Yesterday the Mail gave a platform to Gavin Esler, part of BBC2's Newsnight team and author of the programme's US elections blog.
Mr Esler did not hold back in his analysis:
- "The political wisdom in America is that "all politics is local" and that most voters are interested in the issues in their state or city. Not any more. This election proved that in the midst of an unpopular war in Iraq, the focus of American politics now is national and international." It is of course true that national factors made many Republican candidates vulnerable in these elections but there were many local factors that were very powerful. Without Montana GOP Senator's allegedly unethical lobbying links and Virginia's George Allen gaffes the GOP would still be in charge of the Senate. The Democrats shifted towards the conservative end of the political spectrum in their choice of candidates in key battleground states. They picked a pro-lifer in order to win Pennsylvania; a pro-gun military man to win Virginia and a Bible-quoting candidate in their near-miss campaign to take Tennessee's open Senate seat. Readers of the Mail column would be no wiser about this Democrat tactic after reading Gavin 'public service broadcaster' Esler's piece. They could have got all of the above from The Guardian.
- "No amount of White House gloss can disguise the evidence that is all around them: Wages stagnating, house prices in a slump and - in the words of one recently published book - a 'War on the Middle Class' is going on against ordinary Americans who cannot afford health care costs or university fees for their children." Mr Esler does not mention that US unemployment is down to 4.4% - a rate the eurozone can only look at with envy - or that George W Bush has eliminated the Democrats' polling advantage on the economy. It is true that President Bush has many political problems but the tax cut-driven economic success of America isn't acknowledged by Mr Esler.
- "Even people from the American heartland - places like Missouri and Ohio - have delivered a huge vote of no confidence in George Bush." Not so fast, Gavin. The article focuses on Iraq but the corruption of Congressional Republicans was a slightly bigger factor according to exit polls.
The British licence fee payer paid for Mr Esler to be in America and I wonder if the fee from The Mail for that piece will end up in Mr Esler's pocket?
The Republican Party needs to wake up to the power of the BBC as a media player in America. Its online services, in particular, are widely read in the US and BBC foreign coverage informs how many US journalists see the world. I sat in the White House three years ago and recommended that the GOP develops a strategy to work with London-based media. I met other GOP officials with the same message earlier this year but nothing GOP appears to have been done.
The BBC remains a respected brand around the world but opinions like those above are not impartial. They do not amount to a public service. They could have come straight from editorial pages of The Guardian or The New York Times.
As I listened to the BBC Radio 4's midnight news on Thursday morning I heard two BBC correspondents inform their listeners that the election results amounted to a repudiation of the whole Iraq strategy. Perhaps the correspondents were partly right but I can't remember the BBC reporting that Bush's 2004 win over Kerry amounted to a vindication of the Iraq strategy. When it fits the BBC's worldview they are trigger-happy to draw big conclusions to their audiences' attention. At other times they are strangely silent. Funny that.
Related link: We are biased, admit the stars of BBC News