Over to you, Nick

I do not share doubts about the journalistic integrity of a former student Conservative who became political editor of the BBC. You’re unlikely to get any job in journalism unless you have strong views and ideas and it is inevitable that opinion leads to preference, Tory or otherwise.

(I got my own first job at least in part by arguing furiously against Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood immigration speech in an assessment interview and then branding MPs puppets for taking the whip when their priority was to represent the constituents who voted them in. End the party whip, I fulminated.)

The trick with opinions is to check and moderate them when in broadcast mode. I like Nick Robinson’s presentation and suspect it chimes very well with the overwhelming majority of viewers and voters. When I met him in the BBC Edinburgh office maybe five years ago, he was not the nose-in-the-air metropolitan Hooray some Broadcasting types are. He was genuinely interested in someone else’s interpretation of events and readily agreed to an interview – an event strangely missing from his new book!

I depart from him though on the over-egged histrionics he is injecting into the campaign to sell his book. His remarks at the Book Festival sound petulant and self-serving and reveal a lack of awareness typical of the upper reaches of the BBC. I’ve been scanning Roger Mosey’s book mainly about his time as editor of the Today programme – the new destination for Nick – and his self-congratulatory tone radiates from the pages.

Nick has decided that nationalists have no right to protest against what he says on air. That is, I’m sure he’s perfectly at ease with social media questions of his emphasis in a report for example, but how dare 4000 Nats descend on Pacific Quay with banners and chant their disapproval…anyone would think the buggers paid for the BBC.

He has effectively admitted making an arse of his report of Salmond’s news conference and regretting his use of the words ‘didn’t answer my question’ while correctly pointing out that Salmond was playing politics with his answer.

I didn’t think my offence was sufficient to justify 4,000 people marching on the BBC’s headquarters. Young men and women who are new to journalism had – like they do in Putin’s Russia – to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs.

This is just silly. How many would it justify? Or does he mean this was an effective demo because it got to him? He couldn’t just patronise a handful of placard-waving nutters with a smile – he really felt their wrath. And that’s something he couldn’t understand. But why not? We were by that time heading for the end of a two-year campaign and a head of anger had been building over the BBC’s coverage much of which was lamentable if not outright biased (as documented in academic study). Was he unaware of the seething discontent with the national broadcaster?

The reference to Putin is another indication of his propensity for petulance and suggests his understanding of politics is not matched with knowledge of international affairs. Try actually demonstrating in Russia, Nick, then tell us it’s the same as standing outside Pacific Quay. And, frankly if young journalists are intimidated by a non-violent, if hostile mob, they’re in the wrong job.

And how about this section…The broadcaster also slammed the ‘coded’ language used to attack English journalists during the independence campaign by Nationalists, arguing that phrases like ‘metropolitan’ were a reference to their nationality.

This isn’t just silly. It’s offensive. The political editor of the national broadcaster deprecates normal and accurate use of language and ascribes to it racial undertones.

Nick and his colleagues – some of whom are Scots by the way – are correctly described as metropolitan because they come from London. Duh! It doesn’t matter where you were born, it matters what attitude you bring. And one very specific complaint, backed up the BBC’s own Audience Council, was the failure of reporters from London to get to grips with the nuance of an emotional debate.

In the corporation’s annual review, the Audience Council Scotland said some network programmes had appeared to adopt what was described as an Anglified perspective during the independence debate and focused too much on the official campaigns at the expense of the wider civic and community engagement.

This is a very English journalist betraying the constant theme of those unable to grasp what Scottish autonomy is really about. Nick, like JK Rowling, can’t see beyond Anglophobia, so restricted is his worldview and incipient contempt for Scots. If it’s pro-Scotland, it must be anti-England.

Remember Scot Gavin Esler scurrying north for an on-the-spot report on a pro Union ‘grassroots campaign by ordinary Scots’? Vote No Borders was a sham set up by a millionaire in England and exposed on social media within hours but in the London newsroom (that’s metropolitan, Nick) it was a huge Get-Up-There-Fast story. http://wingsoverscotland.com/watch-closely-students/

Nick is cynical about the social media which dominated the political debate because he found it not to have been balanced enough for him and was an echo chamber for the already converted. Well there’s truth in there but he avoids the clear question – why did a vibrant social media start up at all? It was of course in protest at the failure of the BBC to capture anything of the sentiments and engagement of the people it is paid to serve. It was also to counteract the disgraceful anti Scottish outpourings of what is still laughably called the media. We in turn regard the BBC as an echo chamber, endlessly relaying Establishment messages mostly uncritically. What do you imagine Nick himself does standing outside Number 10? He is telling you what the Prime Minister’s spokesman has just told him. He is their mouthpiece. He echoes their message. Only a delusional zoomer would imagine that day-to-day BBC political broadcasting is anything other than a conduit for institutional propaganda. Look how outraged the media/political establishment is at the prospect of Corbyn winning and overturning their cosy assumptions.

Flogging a book makes certain demands and public meetings can catch anyone off-guard. I have the odd slip of the tongue myself. But Nick Robinson, entertained by the First Minister this week, has displayed what many Nationalists suspected – an inherent bias struggling to be contained. Maybe try harder on Today, Nick.

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44 thoughts on “Over to you, Nick

  1. Did Mr Robinson go to the Pacific Quay protests to see for himself? No. Did he interview anyone there before making a judgement? No.

    Opinion maker, not a journalist.

  2. I did not “descend” onto Pacific Quay because of Mr Robinson but because that was the last straw in the overtly hostile attitude that the BBC managed so successfully to build over the many months of the referendum campaign. It is niave and egotistical of Mr Robinson to centre himself as the core of the protests. The BBC will surely know this from the deluge of complaints they received on a weekly basis, as the barrage of doom and gloom was dished out by the establishment. I was waiting for the announcement the the sky was going to fall in any day……

    The best thing to do with Mr Robinson is to just quietly say to him ” oh were you a bit upset! ” and leave it there in the past.

    • Good dissection, Derek. I agree with Anne’s post also. This is a guy trying to sell a book and will spin it every which way he can to get somebody to buy it. Unfortunately for his potential profits on this mighty tome, he fell over his own pouting lip.

  3. Don’t forget that ‘anti establishment’ hack, Ian Hyslop supported Nick’s view on AS not replying on HIGNFY.

    That was the day I stopped watching it.

    • Sad to say, but Hislop is firmly a part of the establishment. Their very own “acceptable” critic. Like the boozy Uncle that everyone tolerates in your ‘typical’ Mafia family because even though he occasionally says things they wish he didn’t, deep down he’s one of the family (and pretty harmless). His jokes allow the rest of them to distract unwanted guests from the in-fighting, misbehavior and criminal activities the rest are up to.

    • Margaret Brogan

      Yes, my thoughts too about Ian Hyslop, and he leant forward as he said it, so eager to endorse the Robinson version of events. Private Eye has always been a public schoolboy, puerile publication, much loved by those who think they are anti-establishment. Hyslop has become a caricature of himself.

  4. Many within the PQ building were quietly supportive of the protesters, discretely holding up Yes signs at the windows.

    I suspect that Nick was the only journalist who was intimidated by protesters. All the PQ demos were incredibly good natured and friendly.

  5. Best response Derek?

    Deny his book the oxygen of publicity.

    We are being trolled for the precise purpose of personal profit and publicity and I’m done being used as a stooge for someone else’s personal agenda. In fact, I think we’ve all had quite enough of that at the hands of both politicians and the media.

  6. Agree with Anne J Butler, Nick was the straw that broke the camels back. There had been a couple of smaller demos outside Pacific Quay before Nick thought he could get away with treating us like fools. It is sad to see him still trying to push the lie that it was SNP lead.

  7. What Nick’s tantrum clearly shows is the utterly skewed view of what is deemed to be democracy held by Metropols like Nick.
    They simply cannot look at even a simple, straightforward subject from outwith the London/Westminster bubble.
    To even consider another view point (i.e. vantage point) is incomprehensible to them, because the London view point is the only viewpoint.
    And these people looking outward from their London viewpoint are the only ones allowed and qualified (in their minds) to make comment.
    Healthy democracy is dead and buried in the UK and it will not be resurrected (if it ever actually existed before it’s death) until there is a major political or social earthquake.
    The use of social media represents the first tremors that may be indicate that some sort of change is in the offing, but whether it be Corbyn, Salmond, Sturgeon or a crowd of people protesting about the misuse of their license fee, it will be effectively ignored by Nick and co because in their eyes it is non-legitimate.
    They (the Nick’s of this world) are in for a nasty shock in the coming months and years.

  8. I travelled to the various protests against the bbc… & I saw NO young journo or any other member of staff enter or leave the building. I did see some of the staff staring down at the crowds from the “safe” vantage point of the upper floor windows overlooking the plaza. I also noted the occasional discreet appearance of some uniformed police who suggested to any banner waving protester to leave the steps leading to the foyer of the bbc. I enjoyed the spectacle & colour which the bbc did not find interesting enough to report on…. but what’s new there.
    So.. would Mr Nick like to name any of these members of staff who were “traumatized” by the peaceful protesters?

  9. I watched these protests live on the internet. There were, by my estimation, about 2,000 -2,500 people there. They were singing songs, listening to Professor Robertson on BBC bias, and generally have a family day out (yes, there were children, disabled, elderly, teenagers and adults). Some good hearted chanting. No one was challenged or harassed or intimidated. Nick Robinson is arrogant to suggest this gathering had anything to do with him. It was all to do with his employer and their utter disregard for the truth.

    Why, Nick’s own judgement of 4,000 people was exaggerated, while the BBC that day, reported only a few hundred. The truth ,as always with the BBC, was somewhere in between. You can see why these numbers are quoted. It is because it serves a purpose. BBC news downplayed the protest and Nick Robinson is up-playing the number in order to sensationalise his book.

    I don’t buy either number and neither will I buy the book. I am not really into fiction!

  10. He can hardly lay claim to a lack of bias from the BBC when in his own defence he quotes the number of protesters as 4000 yet the BBC reported only some 300. It’s not bloody rocket science!

  11. “Only a delusional zoomer would imagine that day-to-day BBC political broadcasting is anything other than a conduit for institutional propaganda.”

    That’s exactly what some of us have been saying for about the last decade.

  12. “pointing out that Salmond was playing politics with his answer”

    Robinson’s questions were designed to try to humiliate AlexS and he being a consummate politician of course used them to hit back. And very effectively too, since it is clear that Robinson is still smarting about being made a laughing stock at the Press Conference.

    “that phrases like ‘metropolitan’ were a reference to their nationality”

    “Metropolitan” is a term of scorn used by me and others to imply that London hacks are clueless about Scotland, and most other matters outside the London bubble. And that is again being well emphasised by their performance vis a vis the Labour leadership election. So far as journalism goes they are useless since most of their copy is rehashed puff handouts from whichever outfit’s point of view they support. The fact most of them are English is coincidental, although one might have a think about their opinions about Independence in the light of THAT.

  13. Dont flatter yourself there Robinson, Yes indeed there were 400 people protesting in front of Pacific Quay but apart from ONE banner calling for you to resign or be sacked (quire reasonably I thought) the crowd weren’t there because of you my friend they were there because of everything you and you ilk are attempting to defend,

    “I didn’t think my offence was sufficient to justify 4,000 people marching on the BBC’s headquarters. Young men and women who are new to journalism had – like they do in Putin’s Russia – to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs.”

    I was there and I could show you video of kids dancing to a drum band and people singing, and I am not aware of a single person who had to “fight their way through an angry crowd”, it was a Sunday and the BBC car park was nearly empty.

    Hahahaha what an arrogant man,
    your offence was to believe the people who were there gave a single flying f**K about you,
    You Mr Robinson are a pathetic no mark and have absolutely no relevance to why we were there that day other than be just one more pro unionist troll paid for by public money (to lie about innocent people going about their lawful right of protest) that means OUR money ,and dont you forget it!

    • I was there too and you just saved me a bit of typing. (Says she, going on to type a screed.)

      I didn’t go because of Nick’s behaviour, I went because of the entirety of the BBC’s behaviour. I was slightly startled to see that someone had bothered to get that banner made about Nick, because for me he wasn’t the main issue, he was just one of the symptoms. But why not? It’s not as if anyone seriously imagined the BBC Scotland executives (had they been there on a nice Sunday afternoon) would look out of their windows and instantly decide to get the BBC headquarters to sack Nick Robinson (like that would have been possible). It was a rhetorical gesture, which was spun by others into “calling for a man to lose his job”.

      The way into the building was never obstructed. There were police there to make sure it wasn’t, but in fact a wide corridor was left without anyone having to enforce that. Depending on where you parked your car you might have had to walk through the protest to get to the front door, but people weren’t tightly packed and anyone wanting to move around was given space. However, I didn’t see anyone actually go into the building at all. It was a Sunday afternoon in mid September. People arriving for work were conspicuous by their absence.

      I went because I hadn’t been to any of the previous protests, and this was the last one. I went because a head of fury had been building up in me for over two years, at the one-sided BBC coverage of all things Scottish and constitution-related. I went because I felt utterly betrayed by an institution I had once loved.

      I went because the chair of Yes Borders had given us the day off from leafleting and canvassing, while saying that his personal advice was not to go to Glasgow. But I couldn’t relax, and I had three Plaid Cymru activists staying with me, and a drive to Glasgow to show them the scenery seemed like a fine way to pass the time. They were all impressed by the absence of bad behaviour or even visibly-expressed malice.

      I went because my TV licence had only six weeks to run, and I intended to cancel it.

  14. I of course meant 4000

  15. Oh before I forget, there were (to my knowledge) about 6 policemen at that protest to control and angry mob of 4000, all of whom spent the afternoon having a laugh and a joke with the people who were at the protest, I have video to prove it!

  16. Very few people work at BBC Scotland on Sundays. And in the Newsroom? No, news doesn’t happen on a Sunday: there’s no budget for it.

  17. Duncan Mitchell

    I was there. It was my first ever demo and I am over 60. I just couldn’t take any more of the BBC bias without doing something ( writing to them is pointless ). I went straight from church and was dressed in a suit. I chatted to the police officers on the steps and all of them were smiling and agreed with my suggestion that it was an easy afternoon for them.
    Nick Robinson was ( ans is ) only a minor player and not the very important person that he obviously thinks he is.

  18. With almost no representation of their views reflected in print or broadcast media, indy supporters had little alternative but to express their objections and views on social media and the streets – peacefully. That’s what happened and the BBC was targeted as perhaps the one media outlet most of the protesters felt let down by.

    Peaceful protest is entirely legitimate and it’s not for journalists who enjoy a platform and limitless exposure, in this case at the taxpayers’ expense, to determine what routes others can and can’t use in responding. And the BBC certainly did not interview the protesters to give them a voice.

  19. The thing I remember most, oddly, is the yachts and other boats on the river, most with Yes flags flying, coming past and waving and shouting their solidarity.

    And yes, the police just stood around chatting. If anyone seemed likely to set foot on the steps leading to the entrance doors they bestirred themselves to ask the person to step back, and that was that.

  20. I was there, and on more than one occasion. And I would have been there that day anyway even if Nick Robinson hadn’t done what he did. Because it wasn’t about him in particular – it was about the BBC in general and their failure to report in an even-handed way. My understanding was that I had a deal – I pay a licence fee and they supply fair coverage. If they don’t hold up their end of the deal, I should hold them to account. That’s what I was doing. Same as journalists say they are doing with respect to politicians. If you are paid by the taxpayer, you are subject to public scrutiny. And I can confirm it was largely good-natured. We even saw people from inside the building waving to us. The only damage I could see was to Nick’s inflated ego.

  21. ‘Remember Scot Gavin Esler scurrying north for an on-the-spot report on a pro Union ‘grassroots campaign by ordinary Scots’? Vote No Borders was a sham set up by a millionaire in England and exposed on social media within hours but in the London newsroom (that’s metropolitan, Nick) it was a huge Get-Up-There-Fast story’

    There was a similarity in the GE2015 with Nick’s replacement Laura Kuenssberg making valiant attempts in Aberdeenshire to publicise a grand tactical voting scheme being employed to deny the SNP victory. How did that do?

  22. Nick knows that we know he’s being disingenuous, but he relies on others not having the objectivity to check his facts or to get both sides of the story. That fact that people have woken up in Scotland and are doing exactly that, doesn’t suit him. So he hangs a victim placard round his neck and ramps up the rhetoric to make it seem as though hordes of woad-painted, hairy savages bent on fear and loathing were clambering all over the facade (I use the term intentionally) of Pacific Quay.

    He might have a word with the police. They get on well with Yes crowds because Yes crowds, while noisy and exuberant, are peaceful. They’ve even danced with us. The fact that only six police were needed to manage the event is a credit to our reputation for being peaceful. No vans, no horses, no dogs, no batons, no riot gear. Video proves it.

    Climb down, Nick.

  23. Lillias Fabbroni

    Until the affair with Salmond, I had always regarded Robinson as a credible reporter. However, as another has said on this forum he is still smarting and no wonder – being mocked by the world press for his remarks must surely have been a blow to his ego. I would not, though, have ever considered him to be a fantasist until I heard his interview this morning which, in my opinion, has left his credibility in tatters.

  24. Steve Asaneilean

    Derek – I am confused.

    You start by saying that you don’t share the doubts about Robinson’s journalistic integrity and then go on to detail all the reasons why we should.

    He effectively sought to deceive in his Salmonid report at a time when he was chief political dude for an organisation whose entire reputation lies in it being truthful.

    Personally someone given that position of trust cannot ever be trusted again if they break that trust.

    How can you not doubt his professional integrity? Please explain.

  25. Good one Derek; you’ve come a long way!

  26. Steve,

    I read that as, I know he’s an arse, and have no doubts about it.

    Just my take on it.

  27. Liked the comment about news not happening in Scotland on a Sunday as there is no budget for it! Nor does it happen on holidays. Not for us on those days the deathless phrase “and now for the news where you are……..”

    I attended one of the earlier Pacific Quay protests and the only thing remarkable to me was the orderly, good natured mood of the crowd. Police presence was minimal and there were no arrests. The event was not covered at all by the BBC Scotland newsroom although they could have been filmed without them leaving the building. I attended from Oban, which meant a long day for me, as I had come to the reluctant conclusion the BBC Scotland simply ignores written and telephoned complaints about their presentation of the political landscape in Scotland. In spite of the referendum and the subsequent dramatic change in the political scene here the attitude remains the same. Although there is now a newspaper supporting independence the bulk of mainline media, in print and broadcast, is Metropolitan. If Mr Robinson doesn’t like the terminology -tough.

    I feel sure that those in Scotland who do not share Nick Robinson’s high opinion of himself or of his employers will not care greatly about his perceptions. It is a sad fact that the BBC, once regarded as a beacon of truth, balance and integrity has largely lost its credibility north of the border.

  28. my bones will be buried here………..

    remember people that despite what you face your bones will be buried here

    they will be buried but will shape your child and their children

    I utterly know what it feels like to watch the heartbreak of the referendum on the young……..but then again I know that to give them hope is to forgive……….would that not be a lesson we learned from world wars

    ok so this guy gets radio4……..not much of a promotion…….so does anyone who attended the demo…..as I did……..

    do you really wanna be buried in this land with one ounce of hatred for him……looks like he has got a right kick in the teeth

    one thing YES proved…….we are bigger and better than that

    and remember in your heart you will never taint this land as you are laid to rest in her……….

    you will fight, but not in revenge,
    you will suffer for what is right to value,
    you will defend no matter what it cost you

    and then you will be buried with that in your heart in this land of ours………and her heart will beat so much stronger for it

    so……..let him go…….and walk through the heather, and run your fingers through the stream of scottish water and smile as you touch the utter beauty of this land………

    and pass that on………for your bones will be buried here…….and could any man (or woman) wish for a better resting place

    I know I couldn’t………..
    independent or not……
    this land is my home…
    this land defines me

    and I will remain true to her

  29. Looking at the BBC Audience Council review, Nick Robinson is not the only one with a ‘ way with words’. I was at one of the reviews and while I appreciate there was more than one , the views I heard were quite clear regarding Reporting Scotland and the Referendum.
    Anyone who attended the meeting I was at, left under no illusion how frustrated the audience were with the BBC , including the two UKippers I unfortunately found myself sitting next to .
    Their complaint was about how Nigel Farage was being portrayed and the scaremongering v the portrayal of the Tories by the ‘ big ‘ BBC. This had led them to lose any trust in the BBC full stop. Perhaps the BBCs coverage of Jeremy Corbyn will have restored it ? haha.
    The rest of the room – hit every nail on the head. From that Metropolitan James Nauchtie ( fail) to Jackie Birds sneery interviews ( fail) to the three versus one ( fail) .
    As for Nick Robinson , it’s about what we’ve come to expect from our corporation PR guys or the media as they like to call themselves .

  30. You are wrong to say that AS was playing politics which his answer. What he did was to correct Nick’s misunderstanding regarding payment of corporation tax by international subsidiaries. He then had to correct Nick’s misunderstanding of corporate law and personal taxation. All of these misunderstandings underlay Nick’s political interpretation of the fiscal situation post independence which predicated his questions. The International reporters present seemed to understand AS’s points, but Nick was left floundering, much to their amusement.

    • I guess Derek was referring to Alex’s point about the release of market-moving information and his expectation of a full inquiry re. same. Which is of course smart politics… but not only politics.

  31. Good post and good comments. Not much to add.

    If the highlight (what Nick, and everyone else is talking about) of this man’s book is having a political difference of opinion during the referendum, then I doubt it’s worth much. Thousands could write several books on that.

  32. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EMLOTsimSs

    Robinson is playing down his role in this, claiming that it is reduced to a single poor choice of words. Well, someone had to edit the piece into context and if Robinson didn’t know that was happening he shouldn’t be where he is. Also, let’s not forget Norman Smith’s role in the stitch up that went on that day.

  33. Wrong choice of words? He asked his question, which was based on a mistaken understanding about location of corporate taxation. In response, Alex Salmond gave a very full answer explaining the reality in detail, and pointing out that the premise of the question didn’t apply.

    Banks pay tax on profits in the jurisdiction in which they’re made, not where their registered head office is. So there’s no question of the Scottish taxpayer making up a shortfall in RBS corporate taxes if it moves its head office to England. Because the amount of corporation tax will be the same. There was no question of a move of operations, so the payroll taxes will be the same.

    Ergo – any issue about the way “he didn’t answer” could be phrased pales into insignificance beside the deliberate cover-up of Salmond’s response, which is a

    LIE !

    AS was very careful not to give ol’ Nick a “SALMOND DENIES TAXPAYERS MUST COVER LOST RBS TAX” headline, by answering “no”. Was Robinson was so caught up in his cheap tricks that he couldn’t follow the discussion? Oblivious, introspective and self-absorbed.

    But the BIG FAT LIE is the killer.

  34. Robinson’s deliberate “misreporting” of his Salmond questioning will go down in broadcasting history as the moment the bbc shed any pretence of impartiality in its coverage of Scottish politics. Robinson and the bbc: both equally disgusting.

  35. The idea that, in general, journalists are objective and un-biased is preposterous. Everybody has a “belief” system, some stronger than others. Robinson has been a conservative since his youth and rose to be Chairman of the National Young Conservatives and President of the Oxford University Conservative Association. He is steeped in it, so the notion that he has left all that behind and that Conservative thinking never influences his reporting is ludicrous. I’d rather believe in Santa Claus.

    We see this all the time in BBC reporting – for example, austerity is never challenged, it’s always presented as “cuts have to be made”, never that taxes on the rich and companies could be raised to pay for services. They rarely allow a dissenting economist air-time. Peston is another exemplar, his analysis is firmly rooted in neoliberalism, so the public are given the government line all the time.

  36. I went to Pacific Quay aka the old Ocean Terminal for bulk carriers to protest about BBC bias and not to protest about Nick. When the BBC begin to loose the “bulk” of Londoninium control it will once again be respected but that is not going to happen is it? Right now its in Specific Terminal decline!

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