After the so-called Taxpayers Alliance decided not to contest the unfair dismissal claim brought against it by whistleblower Shahmir Sanni, and in doing so, effectively admitted that all of his allegations were true, one organisation was in deep trouble, and on two fronts. That organisation is the BBC, which not only gives a voice to the TPA and those linked to it, but also has shown itself to be highly partisan over the affair.
The Beeb has invited TPA representatives and alumni to contribute to programmes for some years. The tenuousness of some appearances has on occasion beggared belief, the inclusion of former TPA stalwart Mark Wallace, now at Conservative Home, in a Newsnight discussion on passenger rail franchising, a subject he would have difficulty telling apart from a hole in the ground, being perhaps the most egregious.
But with the TPA admitting “it illegally sacked the whistleblower Shahmir Sanni”, and also that “it illegally vilified Sanni on the BBC in coordination with a network of other ‘linked’ organisations”, the BBC is in one of those Very Difficult Positions. Those “linked” organisations include Civitas, Leave Means Leave, Brexit Central, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and three more of those alleged think tanks that aren’t.
These are the IEA, CPS, and the Adam Smith Institute, this last being a museum of outdated economic thought which has fraudulently appropriated the name of the founder of economics. They provide the Beeb with many of their politics strand talking heads.
So now the Corporation is torn between not having access to its usual roster of pundits, and therefore allowing in someone from the outside world - the horror of it! - and carrying on as before, which means guilt by association at the very minimum.
On top of that, there is the fallout from the Beeb’s coverage of the Shshmir Sanni case and the lawbreaking by Vote Leave on which he blew the whistle. As Zelo Street pointed out at the time, VL kept on being shown to have broken the law, and the BBC kept on spinning this as merely “breaking the rules”. This was not unconnected to political editor Laura Kuenssberg being briefed by Vote Leave supremo Matthew Elliott.
The slanted coverage resulting from those briefings was then compounded by long-serving host Andrew Neil dismissing reporting of Sanni’s story and VL’s lawbreaking as “conspiracist”, which it clearly was not. As the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr has put it, “the BBC was played … [it] wasn't just used as a propaganda outlet. But to break British laws”. For that reason alone, the Beeb should cut ties with the TPA and its pals.
That is, of course, in addition to the explanation the Corporation will sooner or later have to pony up over what looks like deliberate bias in covering this story, from allowing clearly partisan Isabel Oakeshott to shout down Ms Cadwalladr on The Andy Marr Show™ (Ms Oakeshott has since been proved wrong) to the slanted coverage of VL’s lawbreaking, to the allowing the likes of Arron Banks to defame his opponents live on air.
Those opponents, Ms Cadwalladr and Peter Jukes of Byline Media, were then denied the right of reply. The BBC is storing up an awful lot of trouble for itself.
It could, of course, admit the mistakes for once. I’ll just leave that one there.
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