08/07/2016 Newswatch


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who knocked out Roger Federer. At ten o'clock, Sophie will be here


with a round-up of the day's news. First, it is time for Newswatch.


The contest to become our next Prime Minister has been full


of surprise, but has BBC News hyped the drama and forgotten


And with plenty of coverage of the battle to lead


the Labour Party too, is there a need for more


journalistic calm in these turbulent political days?


First though, it was 2.5 million words long, covered eight years


of government policy and was seven years in the writing, so it's no


surprise that Sir John Chilcot's report on the Iraq War occupied


a great deal of airtime on BBC News this week.


Opinions are strongly held about the conduct of Tony Blair


in the lead-up to the war and so were opinions


"The BBC News reporting before and after Chilcot's


statement was biased firmly towards the defenders


of the decisions taken before the Iraq war.


I am including the long defence by Blair himself,


But Richard Wright felt the opposite.


"Tony Blair did not act independently, but all the comments


Some of the comments of relatives of casualties were


To blame Tony Blair and only Tony Blair is wrong and unfair."


It is strange to think it was only two weeks ago that a majority


of British voters elected to leave the European Union.


Since then, the world of politics has barely drawn breath.


That has left reporters sometimes struggling to keep up with events


and it has given them other challenges as well.


I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it


David Cameron's announcement that he was standing down


as Prime Minister in the wake of the referendum triggered


a fortnight of further resignations, real and aborted leadership


challenges and, at times, a sense of political pandemonium.


# I've got the eye of the tiger, fire, dancing through the fire...


# 'Cos I am the champion and you're going to hear me roar...


That last treatment of the two candidates to become the next


Conservative leader irked Kate Cashmore, who wrote.


"I was aghast to see coverage of the May/Leadsom leadership


campaign broadcast to the sound of Katie Perry's hit single Roar.


I found it not only inappropriate, but horrendously


I very much doubt that if Michael Gove and Stephen Crabb


were still in the running, you would package up the story


to the tune of Justin Bieber or Kendrick Lamar."


But there have been wider concerns about how the BBC has


been covering politics during these turbulent times.


Here is Evan Davis chairing a Newsnight discussion at the end


of last week about that Tory leadership campaign.


Has it been edifying, are you impressed by


I mean, we all love the drama, the House of Cards stuff,


Well, I don't think anyone in the country


It's been like some kind of astonishing pantomime, frankly.


Viewer Sarah Senior took exception to a phrase of Evan Davis's there,


To suggest that we love the House of Cards drama and


intrigue of it all is a serious misjudgement of the attitude


He appeared to be hardly able to contain his joy as he described


the farcical infighting British politics has become.


Much of this sorry mess is down to the media,


although I had thought the BBC better than that.


Please, this is Newsnight, not Top Gear.


I expect a little more gravitas and a little less


The charge of hyping up and relishing the current political


dramas was also made by Chris Ward, who objected recently to multiple


repetitions of how Michael Gove is stabbing Boris Johnson


"Emotive language and treating political decision-making as theatre


will not help us come together as a united nation.


And it is not just reporting about the Conservatives,


Christine Beardmore e-mailed about the frankly hysterical


"The way Corbyn has been treated is disgusting.


The Six o'clock News close to watching bear-baiting."


So have BBC journalists been using inflammatory, over the top


language and been making drama out of a crisis?


Here is political correspondent Chris Mason speaking


So let's look at Labour first, because that story


For those on the centre ground of Labour politics,


it is a bit like bat the rat with the Labour left.


They had been batting away in the '80s trying to get rid


of the militant movement and Lord Kinnock felt he had been


And here, the left in the guise of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.


I suppose as you know very well, many Conservative MPs


were surprised, as the rest of us, by the way these events have turned


out and perhaps not quite made up their minds.


Some Conservative MPs would just, they found the process


There is a huge amount of anger over the behaviour of Michael Gove.


That Olympian act of school duggery really


Well, Chris Mason joins me now from Westminster.


Chris, thank you for coming on the programme.


With so many developments and twists and turns in British politics


recently, it must be quite hard to report when you really do not


It is very hard because in the last couple of weeks, it has felt


like political reporting only exists to make astrology seem respectable.


People are always asking me to predict what might happen next.


And to be honest, the honest and truthful answer at the moment


seems to revolve around saying, I simply don't know.


That is how astounding political times are at the moment.


Those of us paid to professionally observe it are frequently taken


Some reviewers have taken you to task, some of the language


Dealing with the Labour left is like a game of bat the rat.


Michael Gove's Olympian act of skulduggery.


Those sorts of phrases, apparently revelling


in the kind of chaos, actually not helpful


Look, I am going to plead guilty to a penchant for the occasional


On that, you definitely have me bang the rights.


On that, you definitely have me bang to rights.


That is partially because a lot of the time in reporting politics,


I am keenly aware, and this is what is so exceptional


about the current period, I am keenly aware that reporting


politics a lot of the time, in my view, does need to be told


very well otherwise there is a grave danger that a lot


I think that political journalists should firstly plead guilty


to the fact that we do find times like this exciting.


That phrase that I used last weekend I think it was about the game of bat


the rat that Labour sometimes feel they are playing,


that was reflecting on a conversation I had


had with a Labour MP, that was a phrase put to me


by a Labour MP which I then broadcast.


We have to be aware that when news is big and political news is big,


that is often because people are depending on their view excited


or worried and that should be reflected I think


But I don't think that should mean that we revert


We should continue to report in a way that it is as ear grabbing


I think what people are saying is when they hear this discussion


from correspondents about this excitement and drama,


that maybe you have forgotten since the EU referendum that a lot


of people are genuinely worried about the


I think that theatre is always going to be


And that theatre is part of what we have a responsibility to cover.


Whilst at the same time, asking probing questions about how


the next Prime Minister and her team will manage those negotiations out


We also have to be well aware that whilst there are a lot of people,


especially those who have voted Remain in the referendum


who are both angry and nervous about the future, there


are millions of people very excited about it as well.


Those who back Jeremy Corbyn say that he has a lot of support


out in the country at large and the media focus


on the Westminster bubble, where they say he does


not have much backing, and you're part of that Westminster


Yes, it is a really big challenge at Westminster.


Because the very nature of being a political correspondent


is you report on MPs at Westminster and you have a lot


And you have far less contact with ordinary party members.


The central element of the Labour story is the gulf between a lot


of Labour MPs and a lot of Labour party members, so we have


to be careful about that but, at the same time,


we would be failing in our duty if we were not reporting how


astonishing the current times are in the Labour Party.


I think it's fair to say that confidence in British politics has


Do you think political correspondents like yourself


have a role to play in rebuilding that confidence?


That is a really, really good question because what I am


struck by when I go home to the Yorkshire Dales and I talk


to my friends and family, frequently, a conversation goes


Chris, why on Earth do you want to work at Westminster


when there are those MPs with their snouts in the trough


and they all think the same thing and they have not got any principles


That is the gist of the kind of conversation I have.


And instinctively, I always defend politicians.


I think aspiring to be an elected politician is a noble calling,


A lot of them could earn a lot more doing something else.


All of them could have an easier life.


And so I am firmly of the view that, yes, we are paid to be


professionally sceptical, but we should never be cynical


about a politician's intentions and we should never easily


impugn their motive either, unless we can be certain


It is certainly not our job to encourage people to vote,


for people to decide of their own free will,


but I don't think we should be in the business of


Away from politics, there was another resignation this


week, that of Chris Evans from the newly relaunched Top Gear.


Some people felt there was too much attention given to this


given to this bombshell, but Dave Johns from


"For months, we had BBC News ramming Chris Evans down our throats,


now he leaves and we get a simple statement, how come BBC News are not


investigating the money Evans was paid and the loss to BBC


Worldwide from being able to sell this now unpopular series,


and how will the revenue drop affect other programme making?


So many questions to answer, but BBC News goes mute,


so clearly it was just a corporation stouge


Thank you for all your comments this week.


If you want to share your opinions on BBC News and current affairs


or even appear on the programme, you can call us...


That is all from us, we will be back to hear your


That is all from us, we will be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News


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