There has been much mileage made recently by those media outlets racing to defend BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg against allegations of rank sexism. Even the Daily Mail - the paper that went after the BBC with such venom last year when Ms Kuenssberg was promoted as Nick Robinson’s successor - was on board. But much of the criticism had nothing to do with sexism, and all to do with concerns over potential bias.
Laura Kuenssberg ((c) Guardian)
Last month, the Mail told its readers “Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the campaign to force the BBC to sack its political editor Laura Kuenssberg, which accused her of biased reporting of the Labour leader … The online petition was scrapped yesterday after being hijacked by 'sexist' and 'hateful' abuse aimed at the presenter … This afternoon David Cameron said the Corbyn backers who made the remarks 'should be ashamed of the sexist bullying’”. It was all about lefty sexist bullies!
The Staggers’ Media Mole ventured “Maybe there’s an alternative explanation for some of her more extreme detractors’ intense and personal hostility towards Kuenssberg, one more than hinted at by the petition’s removal from the 38 Degrees website this afternoon - that unlike all her predecessors in the job at the BBC, Kuenssberg is a woman”.
Sadly, neither was even remotely right. The unease began, as Zelo Street noted at the time, not in May with a petition, but in January with the pre-arranged resignation live on air by Labour’s Stephen Doughty from his shadow ministerial position. The problem for not only Ms Kuenssberg, but also the BBC more generally, is not having or breaking the story, but its timing, coming as it did just before the start of PMQs.
This handed Young Dave the advantage of being able to dodge questions by using Doughty’s resignation to attack Jeremy Corbyn. That this would happen was let slip in a blog entitled “Resignation! Making the news at the Daily Politics”. It was not adequately explained away by Robin Gibb, when he replied to a complaint by Corbyn’s spinner Seumas Milne. Nor could it be dismissed by shouting “Conspiracy Theory”.
It got worse: the round of local elections in May brought fresh claims about Ms Kuenssberg’s alleged lack of impartiality, and not just from Corbyn supporters. Tory vote share was declared to be holding up when it was declining, Labour retaining control of councils was painted as valiant rearguard action, and the whole exercise was swiftly framed as being all about Corbyn’s leadership being under threat.
Now has come Ms Kuenssberg’s belated intervention in the election expenses story, not over all the questions facing the Tories, but to tell “And in last few mins, Tories write to Electoral Commission suggesting all political parties spent cash in General Elex as they did”. An accompanying website article quotes the Guido Fawkes blog as if it were a reliable source. Yet anyone criticising her stance is hauled up as a rabid sexist.
Sorry folks, it’s not about sexism, it’s about genuine concern over the BBC - our national broadcaster, in case anyone lost sight of that - giving the appearance of partiality. The election expense story is just the latest manifestation of that. That is all.