15 June 2009

The plot to unseat Brown: Were the BBC and the Guardian involved?

Last week Stephen Glover, a commentator on the media and other matters, wrote an article in the Daily Mail suggesting that the Guardian and possibly the BBC were involved in the failed coup against Brown.  He returns to the subject in his usual Monday piece in the Indy.  Both are well worth a read.  They should be seen alongside Allegra Stratton’s blow-by-blow account of what the plotters got up to and Tom Watson's Twitter exchange with the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger.

In the Indy piece, Glover lists the evidence.  These are worth highlighting:

Exhibit Six: During the six days of the attempted coup (from The Guardian's leader to Brown's addressing Labour troops on the evening of 8 June), The Guardian's Polly Toynbee was probably given more airtime on BBC radio and television than all other journalists combined. This indulgence of her is significant because Toynbee, a former Brown groupie turned bitter renegade, is a far more effective and fearless critic of the Prime Minister than any single Labour MP or ex-Cabinet minister.

Exhibit Seven: Toynbee had no direct hand in The Guardian's editorial, which was written by the paper's chief leader writer, Julian Glover, in consultation with its editor, Alan Rusbridger. However, Guardian sources say her recent written tirades against Mr Brown, as well as private conversations, had an effect on Rusbridger's decision to call for the Prime Minister's resignation.

Exhibit Eight: The BBC's role went beyond giving a unique platform to Toynbee. It led bulletins on the morning of 3 June with news of The Guardian's editorial. This probably reflects the BBC's view of The Guardian as the only paper that matters, rather than the existence of a plot involving journalists in the two organisations. The tenor of the BBC's reporting was, however, consistently unfavourable to Mr Brown. The Guardian columnist Michael White, evidently no supporter of the coup, wrote when it was over: "[The BBC] has joined the 'Gordon must go' campaign with a ... lack of wisdom and restraint. Its news reports have sometimes sounded like newspaper columns." Too right.

Let me leave it there. I am far from being a supporter of Mr Brown. I wish he had gone because we would then have a general election. My point is that there is circumstantial evidence that some Guardian journalists were close to the rebels. I suspect BBC reporters were less close, though the corporation's political editor, Nick Robinson, unwisely revealed that he knew who the plotters were but was not going to tell us. Why not?

Glover makes his case convincingly, although there is nothing wrong in a newspaper airing a view so long as this is done in an objective way and without complicity, which would not appear to be so in this case.  The role played by the BBC is far more serious being a public service broadcaster.  On Glover’s evidence, and from what Nick Robinson said, the BBC does appear to have been involved.

Glover has raised some important questions about the role of the media in the plot to unseat Brown.  Both the BBC and the Guardian should now answer the points made.

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