It was almost a shock to the system when the BBC’s Sunday Politics actually ran an item on Cambridge Analytica yesterday. That is because the Corporation seems determined to look anywhere else for its top stories - even leading last night’s main news with a story about Australian cricketers - and appears hell bent on rubbishing those who have spent many long months bringing the Brexit vote scandal to public view.
Moreover, this is not just one isolated incident being considered, but at least three, with the first eyebrow-raising event the failure of the Beeb’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg to pick up on the growing scandal, as she gave prominence to Dominic Cummings’ furious pre-buttal of the Observer’s splash yesterday, and missed the rather obvious fact that a Downing Street advisor had viciously outed a former partner to try and shut him up.
Yet all the attention was focused on Cummings, who is not a reliable witness. He is also regarded by many who have had the misfortune to have to work with him as a psychopath. Why did the BBC political editor take that stance? That much we are not told. But we do know that the attempts to avoid the issue continued with The Andy Marr Show (tm) yesterday, especially the conduct of the show’s paper review.
Alongside the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr was rabid Brexiteer Isabel Oakeshott, whose deliberate shouting down of the Obs’ story - demanding “one provable link” between Cambridge Analytica and Vote Leave (perhaps she should have read the article beforehand) - and sneering “why aren’t you investigating the Remain campaign?” was not subjected to any intervention by Marr, who himself suggested the story wasn’t up to much.
By this point, exasperation with the Beeb’s approach was growing, with Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy having to point out “Quite a lot of missing the point on twitter and BBC #Marr. A pro-Brexit campaigner alleged illegal spending by Vote Leave and reported it to Electoral Commission. Then a top Downing St adviser outed him in the course of a rebuttal. That was the story”. Shahmir Sanni was one of three whistleblowers who had presented evidence to the Electoral Commission last week.
Now has come the news that BBC Panorama has dropped the story, which it in preparation, I am told, for at least two months. The programme’s journalists had interviewed both Chris Wylie and Shahmir Sanni. Then, suddenly, the excuse was deployed that there were doubts about legal issues. This is drivel. The Corporation is showing the same craven attitude to the Tories it last showed during the 1980s.
Even the Evening Standard is prepared to report on the scandal, telling readers today “Three top barristers have concluded there is a possible case for criminal prosecutions in the scandal over alleged cheating in the Brexit referendum, it is revealed today”, following that with “A 46-page legal opinion prepared by the trio has been handed to the Electoral Commission, which is already looking into allegations of rule-breaking, with a call to investigate whether the law was broken”. What is the Beeb waiting for?
The potential abuse of the electoral system is a national scandal. One might have expected the national broadcaster to try a little harder to give it some coverage.