Sunday, 18 October 2009

Lessons from the SNP versus the BBC

Last week saw the political conference season reach its' conclusion with the visit of the SNP to Inverness.

Alec Salmond was in typically bullish mood declaring that he would triple the number of MPs his party would return to Westminster after the general election, while the other main noteworthy events were their declaration that the only difference between all the parties is the size of the spending cuts envisaged during the next parliament and justifying the release of Lockerbie bomber on the grounds that it represented 'Scottish values'.

Far be it from me to pick up any of these points... oh, alright then.

The first is pure speculation and hype, and the second is directly contradicted by the third (notwithstanding the fact that it is a massive simplification of the ongoing debate which plainly distorts the picture).

Malc In The Burgh thinks 20 SNP MPs would be pretty a tall order too.

Still the main thing which got me was watching the segment looking at a potential independence referendum and Mr Salmond's interview with Anita Anand.

Clearly the raison d'etre of the SNP is the affirmation of a separate identity for Scotland even if it means the denial of everything and anything 'British' (including any geographical unity), but I was laughing at the blatancy of Salmond's cheek to call Auntie the 'British Brainwashing Corporation' in his very first breath.

Now, I'm not so naive to think attacking an institution which represents the diverse nature of the country doesn't play well with tribal politicians on the make, but the confrontational interview technique is standard practice.

While Boris Johnson can get away with bluster to avoid challenging questions because he has an image as a bit of a buffoon, other prominent figures without this string to their bow simply look silly and like they are playing to the most insular and prejudiced constituency imaginable.

It was an example of Salmond's popular instinct over-riding his capacity to make honest arguments. It was illustrative of his tendency toward temporary expediency and as such an occasion where we could see him actively making a miscalculation.

Fascinating stuff, I'm sure you'll agree, but more than making me laugh about exactly who was trying to brainwash who it made me worry about the 'knock-on' effects (that's a bit of local idiom, for those of you not from these parts).

On the other side Anita Anand has obviously been well-schooled in how to deal with this response and rose above it.

This was equally interesting as it showed the development of BBC policy in an area which is a strong bone of contention for Conservatives, who continue to ride the wave of criticism for an apparent 'liberal' bias at the corporation (cf Andrew Marr).

Personally I argue a slightly different angle, namely that there is a definite democratic bias written into the BBC constitution, which walks a fine line between popular approval and authoratativeness.

Anyway, watching the exchange made me consider the prospects of tory reforms to hit the Beeb, but left me thinking some sharp operators have already taken pre-emptive action in order to maintain their treasured independence. The BBC is nothing if not political, but it will be nothing if it is ever partisan.

In which case any future Cameron government will be left scratching around with nothing to show his vocal supporter base. And raises more questions about what he is for.

How will he ever be able to weaken the BBC's independence or find any justification which doesn't undermine his platform?

Yet how will he ever satisfy this baying crowd without throwing them a few sacrificial lambs?

And what guarantees will that ever provide they won't come back for more if he somehow does?
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