In this election there have been several candidates in Scotland who were suspended by their parties for allegedly making anti-semitic or racist comments or for allegedly inappropriate behaviour. There have been a number of Conservative candidates, a number of Labour candidates, and an SNP candidate. Guess which one BBC Reporting Scotland decided to headline on Monday and to doorstep? Why yes, it was the SNP one. There was no mention at all that other candidates in other parties have been suspended. Fancy that.
By far the worst of these allegations concerned the Conservative candidate and former MP Ross Thomson who was suspended from the party and his own constituency chair refused to sign his nomination papers after he was accused of a sexual assault – which he strenuously denies – on another MP. Yet from BBC Reporting Scotland this evening, not a word.
Around the same time that Neale Hanvey became the subject of allegations of anti-semitism, the Labour party suspended their candidate in Falkirk, Safia Ali, after it came to light that she had posted allegedly anti-semitic comments on Facebook. If you were waiting for Glenn Campbell to hare about her constituency looking for her, you’d have been disappointed. If you were waiting for Reporting Scotland to even mention that she had been suspended, you’ll still be waiting.
Ali wasn’t the only one. The Labour candidate Kate Ramsden was forced to quit in Aberdeenshire following a row over anti-Semitism. Ramsden was forced to stand down from the Gordon constituency where she had been a contender after the Jewish Chronicle published a blog which she had written which compared Israel to an abused child who went on to become an abusing adult. No mention of that in this evening’s Reporting Scotland hatchet job on the SNP.
Another Scottish Labour candidate, Frances Hoole, was dropped after she shared a meme on Twitter which called for her SNP opponent, Joanna Cherry to be sprayed with bleach and which referred to Joanna as a TERF, which is widely considered to be a term of abuse for women who are gender-critical. Glenn Campbell went to town on that story. Oh no. Silly me, of course he didn’t.
Meanwhile, on Monday of this week the Politics Home website claimed that Labour’s West Dunbartonshire candidate Jean Anne Mitchell had shared an allegedly anti-semitic comment about the BBC’s senior political editor Nick Robinson to a Whatsapp group. The comment was alleged to have claimed that Robinson gave Johnson an easy ride in Friday evening’s leadership debate because Robinson has Jewish heritage. During the indyref, BBC Scotland went to town on independence activists who had the temerity to challenge Robinson’s impartiality – a challenge which was founded in video evidence about Robinson’s behaviour and which in no way referenced his heritage or background. Naturally Glenn Campbell was all over this breaking story about an allegedly anti-semitic verbal attack upon one of the BBC’s most prominent journalists. Oh wait. No. He was off in Fife looking for Neale Hanvey.
The Conservatives have lost as many candidates as Labour. As well as Ross Thomson, the Conservatives have been forced to suspend several other candidates in this election – some of whom were using language which was far more egregious than Neale Hanvey or some of the suspended Labour candidates. Flora Scarabello, the Tory candidate for Glasgow Central was suspended for allegedly using Islamophobic language. Meanwhile the Conservative candidate in Aberdeen North, Ryan Houghton, was suspended for allegedly indulging in the bigotry hat-trick, and making a series of posts to an online forum which were allegedly anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and homophobic. Glenn Campbell was hot in pursuit of all three of them. Oh wait. No. They weren’t mentioned on Reporting Scotland at all.
Neale Hanvey isn’t hard to find, yet the report constructed a faux narrative that a man who is out and about in his constituency in the middle of an election campaign is somehow in hiding. Despite the fact that he has been suspended from the party and cut off from all SNP support, and that Nicola Sturgeon has personally called on SNP activists not to campaign for him – which has earned her the oppobrium of many independence supporters – Labour’s Lesley Laird was given airtime to assert unchallenged that Neale Hanvey was still being supported by the SNP. The report left the viewer with the clear impression that the SNP is the only party with a problem in Scotland, and that it was winking and turning a blind eye to allegations of anti-semitism.
I am not going to get into the rights and wrongs of what any of these suspended candidates is alleged to have said or written. That’s not the point here. Now we have a different issue, one which clearly illustrates how the broadcast media in Scotland scarcely makes any attempt to fulfil its commitment to neutrality, which tells us exactly what we can expect from BBC Scotland in a future independence referendum.
What we witnessed this evening on Reporting Scotland was a ridiculously biased and one sided report which would have left any fair minded observer with the impression that it was only the SNP which has an issue with candidates who have been alleged to make inappropriate comments. There was not even a token mention at the end of the piece that other candidates in other parties had been suspended for alleged anti-semitism, islamophobia, or homophobia. It appears that BBC Scotland has deliberately and consciously set out to tell the Scottish voting public that it’s only the SNP which has a problem here. That’s indefensible. It’s inexcusable.
This happened on the very day that ITV’s Robert Peston and the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg have been accused of spreading fake news propagated by the Conservatives. It was alleged by unnamed “senior Tories” and the story spread by Peston and Kuenssberg that the Conservative Health Minister Matt Hancock was assaulted by a protester outside the hospital in Leeds where a four year old boy with suspected pneumonia had been left lying on a pile of coats. The story was not true. But as the saying goes, a lie has gone around the world by the time the truth has got its boots on. Now the story isn’t just about how Boris Johnson refused to look at a photo of the child, it’s about how the Conservatives invented a lie about the aftermath and that lie was propagated by a media which is all too willing to give the Conservatives the benefit of the doubt – despite their constant and repeated lies.
Whoever wins this election on Thursday, the big loser is what is left of trust in our public broadcaster. The BBC, and BBC Scotland in particular, is unfit for purpose.
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