The BBC should be more right-wing, says shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt. And to counter what he sees as the organisation’s “innate liberal bias” he wants the BBC to start actively recruiting Tories:
“I wish they would go and actively look for some Conservatives to be part of their newsgathering team, because they have acknowledged that one of their problems is that people who want to work at the BBC tend to be from the centre-left.
“That’s why they have this issue with what Andrew Marr called an innate liberal bias. I think the important thing with the BBC is that it belongs to all of us.”
Let’s skip over the obviously questionable assumptions in Hunt’s comments – like, what constitutes a “liberal bias”, and how does he know the BBC has one? (Personally, I think there’s merit in Medhi Hassan’s contention of right-wing bias in the corporation, while Greg Philo’s statistical analysis of the BBC’s Israel-Palestine coverage has shown the Beeb to be strikingly distant from any supposed liberal consensus on the Middle East. But then, perhaps any interest in or adherence to external evidence would be interpreted as a genuflection to reality’s well-known liberal bias.)
Leaving all that aside, we can look directly to what Hunt is asking for – a quota system based, not on externally visible risk factors for discrimination like gender and race, but on the internal and private quality of political affiliation. When Cameron moved to introduce the priority list system, with the intention of engineering an increase in the number of female Conservative MPs, the grass-roots party was hostile; presumably, Hunt has calculated that positive discrimination in favour of media Tories will be welcomed more sympathetically.
There are some cases where membership of a particular political party is genuinely counter to someone’s suitability for a job. I’m supportive of the ban on police and prison officers joining the BNP, because the BNP is a party with openly racist beliefs that would plausibly compromise an individual’s fitness for those roles.
But Hunt is suggesting something else: he’s asking for a cobbled-together parody of proportional representation, in which the publicly-funded broadcaster is forced to become a constitutional mirror of a parliament which is itself a grossly distorted representation of the electorate. It’s absurd, it’s impractical (what if an employee was recruited as a Conservative only to become a late-blooming advocate of Marx?) and – what should make the Toriest of Tories despise it – it’s a supremely state-meddling approach.
Text © Sarah Ditum, 2009