By Peter Oborne Politics Daily Telegraph Last updated: March 27th, 2014
British political journalists love to pretend that they are independent and objective, but the majority are nothing of the sort. In Britain we have a system of client journalism, with reporting a manifestation of political class dominance.
Last night’s debate between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg was a very good example of this phenomenon. The lobby wanted a Clegg win and, as Harry Cole notes here, collectively called victory for Clegg the moment that the debate was over.
It was only when the YouGov poll came through showing that Farage had won the debate hands-down with the public that lobby journalists were forced into an abrupt U-turn.
I am not going to embarrass reporters by naming names. However, it is fair to hold both Sky and the BBC to account.
Yesterday Newsnight’s panel was a classic case of the endemic BBC bias against Ukip that dates back years. Newsnight invited three reporters into the studio. One was George Parker, respected for his excellent Lib Dem contacts, and political editor of the dogmatically pro-European Financial Times.
The second was Phil Collins (a former speechwriter for Tony Blair) of the Times, a paper which has been running a virulent attack campaign against Ukip. Only Melanie Philips shared some of Ukip’s views.
In short, Newsnight loaded its panel against Farage. The BBC political editor Nick Robinson gave a curt and dismissive mention to the YouGov poll (giving the name neither the name of the pollster or the enormous scale of the victory to Farage) poll when giving his verdict here.
Meanwhile, Sky correspondent Anushka Asthana went down to Dover to hold a “focus group” of four voters. Bizarrely two out of the four appeared to be migrants from the EU (one was a “Polish gardener” and another a “fiercely pro-European PhD student”). Asthana didn’t ask but it wasn’t immediately obvious that they were British voters.
Farage is leading a political insurgency. Last night was a reminder that Ukip’s opponents are not just the other political parties, but also the mainstream British media.