The so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance has suffered a setback: this Astroturf lobby group, which proudly declares itself to be “Britain’s independent grassroots campaign for lower taxes”, has long been known to have no discernible grassroots. Now, in a ruling from the BBC Trust, it has also been found not to be “non-partisan”, but an organisation with a political affiliation.
Officially partisan: guff from Tufton Street
This last has been known for years: the TPA is part of the Conservative Movement in the UK, even if it is not formally aligned with the Tory Party. Its alumni have worked their way into mainstream Conservative circles: Susie Squire working for Young Dave and Mark Wallace at Conservative Home are two such. Its sponsorship of the 2012 Conservative Renewal Conference was noted at this blog.
So it was no surprise here on Zelo Street when a complaint was made following a 5 live drive item last April, which featured the TPA’s humourless CEO Jonathan Isaby. The complaint told that “Isaby from the TaxPayers' Alliance was allowed to comment ... as if he was part of a 'non-partisan body' ... [the TPA] is largely financed by private wealthy donors and is 'at the heart of Conservative Party policy lobbying'”.
The TPA will probably contest the inclusion of the word “Party” in that assertion, but otherwise the complainant had it spot on. So what was the Trust’s verdict? “The trust committee ruled that the programme breached impartiality guidelines because the audience 'should have been made aware of the political nature of the organisation'”. That means the TPA gets a health warning in future.
And, as the man said, there’s more: “[The Trust] also judged that there was 'a need for content producers to take particular care in considering when signposting of contributors' credentials is required'”. That would be a bold and underline applied to the health warning. The Beeb’s online version of Ariel, its in-house information source, summed it up in one paragraph.
“The BBC needs to be better at telling its audience when a contributor has a vested interest in a subject or is affiliated with a pressure group or think tank, says BBC Trust”. So what has the TPA to say for itself, given that the BBC Trust gave its verdict yesterday? The answer to that one, thus far, is nothing, zero, zilch, nada, not a sausage, and bugger all.
Jonathan Isaby’s Twitter feed, and that of the TPA, are silent on the complaint. The only thing posted on their website today is another whinge about HS2, a cause they have now well and truly lost. So it has to be assumed that they will not be contesting the BBC Trust decision, and agree with the description of “the political nature of the organisation”. Let joy be unconfined.
Hopefully other broadcasters will follow suit. Call the TPA for what it is.