My MP, Chris Loder, seems to have a problem with the BBC. In a letter to the new Director General, Tim Davie, a letter that he has milked for maximum publicity, he writes that “the BBC is now increasingly seen by licence fee payers as anti-British and politically biased; focused on delivering for the ‘on-demand metropolitan elite’, and being out of touch with its core audience who want an independent and impartial national broadcaster.”
Now I am probably being too naïve, but I genuinely have not noticed any political bias. I will hold my hands up to being on the left of the political spectrum, so will probably be accused of exhibiting ‘confirmation bias’, and I have to admit to not having done any focused analysis of their output, but I feel the same when my friends accuse it of being biased in favour of the Conservatives. I am assuming, of course, that Chris considers the beeb to be biased in favour of the Left. Maybe he would consider me to be part of the ‘metropolitan elite’, and therefore being fed exactly what I crave? The only problem with this is that the only metropolis that I have lived in for the last forty years is Stoke-on-Trent – and I doubt that anyone would consider that qualifies. Maybe he would consider me being part of the elite, after all I have to admit to having gone to university as a mature student and to like having my intellect challenged. But again, I have never heard the label ‘elite’ applied to graduates from Staffordshire University. And as for its ‘core audience’, I’ve no idea who these people might be.
He was most incensed, however, by the BBC’s decision (now reversed, thanks to Chris’ intervention of course) to not have ‘Rule, Britannia!’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ sung at the Last Night of the Proms: “Our most recent cause for concern is the BBC’s proposed change to the Last Night of the Proms. To our knowledge, not a single constituent has ever raised a complaint about the lyrics or connotations of ‘Rule, Britannia!’ nor ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. As the national broadcaster, the BBC should have explored the full context of those lyrics within British history. Instead, all the BBC can offer is censorship and ahistorical apologism for doing so.”
This, I find, most confusing. As far as I can tell, the only people drawing attention to the association of the lyrics of these two ‘patriotic anthems’ with colonialism and slavery were the people protesting about the decision not to sing them! They were probably assuming that this was just another example of ‘political correctness gone mad. So Chris may well be correct that hardly anyone has complained about their lyrics or connotations. I for one am more than happy to ignore this annual event and leave it to those patriotic souls who feel good at being associated with those elements of our history. No, the BBC originally decided not to have the words sung, to only have orchestral versions performed, because of Covid-19 restrictions. The reaction came from those flag wavers who were to be deprived an opportunity to believe, for just a few minutes, that Britain is a major power who others should prostrate themselves before.
But what I find most concerning about all this is the amount of time and energy he has devoted to the issue. He no doubt feels that this what his constituents want him to do. He has said, after all, that he consulted with us via the local press – though I know of no one who has referred to this consultation. Or at the very least, he feels that this is what will make him attractive to the rural Conservative voter of West Dorset. However, what I want to know is: will he devote the same amount of time and energy to fighting for something really important? Will he, for example, support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill to be laid before Parliament?