A letter from our Chairman:- “How BBC was “nobbled” before our vote to join EEC.”

This letter appeared in the Derby Evening Telegraph on 2nd March 2017

Sir, The President and the Media

Saros Kavina is quite right that a free press and media are important to a free society. But President Trump has shown some discernment in excluding the BBC from his press conference.

What has emerged from the American election is that the media are composed of a collection of interest groups with their own agendas which they promote quite ruthlessly, bending the facts where it suits them.

As a long-serving independence campaigner, I would rate the BBC as amongst the worst offenders. Its part in manipulating public opinion in the Seventies in favour of entering the EEC was fully admitted in a Radio 4 programme “Letter to the Times” of 3rd February 2000. Contributors included Sir Edward Heath, Roy Hattersley and the Conservative marketing man, Geoffrey Tucker, who organised the campaign which brought the influential on side. Apart from the Daily Worker, every single national newspaper supported the European project.

This is what Tucker said.

We decided to pinpoint the “Today” programme on radio and followed right through the news programme during the day…. the television programmes “News at Ten”, “24 Hours” and “Panorama” and from radio “World at One “ and “Woman’s Hour”. Nobbling is the name of the game. Throughout the period of the campaign, there should be direct day by day communication between the key communicators and our personnel – e.g. Norman Reddaway at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Marshall Stewart of the “Today” programme. And in 1970 the “Today” programme was presented by Jack de Manio, who was terribly anti European. We protested privately about this. Ian Trethowan listened and de Manio was replaced.Ian Trethowan, a personal friend of Heath’s, was the BBC’s Director of Radio.”

So the BBC was under daily direction by the Foreign Office as to what it should say to British people, in the interests of a foreign organisation, the European Economic Community. Norman Reddaway went on to a knighthood and to be ambassador to Poland. BBC policy has remained unchanged ever since.

So, to Saros Kavina’s advocacy of the free media, I agree that it would be a good idea.

Yours faithfully

Edward Spalton

That BBC Documentary

As a post script to our piece last week discussing the problems which the EU is currently facing, a number of people have drawn our attention to Katya Adler’s documentary “After Brexit: The battle for Europe“.

The BBC has been in the firing line of groups like the Campaign for an Independent Britain for a long time because of its pro-EU bias –  a bias which dates back to the years when our accession talks were still ongoing, so it was understandably quite a shock to watch the Corporation’s own Europe editor travelling round Europe in a documentary which openly acknowledged the challenges which the EU is facing  in the wake of the Brexit vote. Miss Adler called our departure just “one crisis among many” as far as the EU is concerned and certainly, if one takes the documentary at face value, she is correct.

The progamme features interviews with several euro-critical politicians of varying shades of opinion, including Beppe Grillo in Italy and Marine le Pen in France. Miss Adler also travelled to Hungary to interview  László Toroczkai, the controversial mayor of Ásotthalom, a town near the country’s border with Serbia, who has posted a controversial video warning migrants not to enter his town – totally in disregard of the EU’s fundamental principles, but very much in line with the stance of his Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán.

The prevailing picture painted by the documentary was of an EU caught in the crossfire of several different, albeit interlinked, opposition movements. In Italy, the €uro is the main gripe, whereas in France, an historic bastion of protectionism, globalists are being challenged by what Marine le Pen calls “Patriots”.  Hungary, along with its Visegrád friends, is proclaiming in no uncertain terms its opposition to immigration and multiculturalism.

Of course, Marine le Pen’s Front National is every bit as opposed to immigration – at least Moslem immigration – as Hungary’s leaders while Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland – whose Deputy Leader Beatrix von Storch was among those interviewed by Miss Adler – is as unhappy with the €uro as Beppe Grillo’s party in Italy.  Yet these interwoven strands do seem to have put the EU into something of a stranglehold. Miss Adler finds herself drawing a conclusion which would have been dismissed as poppycock ten years ago:- “Europe’s decision-makers face an unprecedented challenge. Our thorny national debate about Brexit could turn out to be irrelevant. Sooner or later the EU as we know it may no longer be there for us to leave.”

Not everyone agrees, Guy Verhofstadt, the ex-Belgian Prime Minister whom she interviewed in Brussels,  sounded very upbeat. He pointed to a rise in support for EU membership in, among other countries, Denmark following the Brexit vote. “A counter-revolution is under way” he said, while reiterating the classic Europhile mantra for solving Europe’s problems:- “We need to work for closer union.”  Federica Mogherini, the EU’s “High representative” for foreign affairs, also sounded very positive, calling the EU ” a miracle” and claiming that as an institution, it remains “indispensable”.

A more sober assessment was provided by Martin Schulz, the former President of the European Parliament. Although every inch as much a Europhile as Verhofstadt or Mogherini, he bluntly stated that “the risk that we  fall apart is very real.” This is a far more realistic assessment of the situation. Gone are the days when the EU project was regarded with admiration by other countries and continents. To quote Miss Adler again, “Few Europeans are happy with the Union the way it is now. The cry for change is deafening. As is the demand for less bossiness from Brussels. EU power-brokers have a choice: to sink or swim differently, and more in harmony with what the people of Europe want.”

This is the crux of the matter. The EU has been doggedly pursuing its building project of a single European state by means of “ever closer union”. The political problems of its currency union, the blatant violation of the Schengen agreement, a smouldering resentment of the power of the institutions in Brussels and growing hostility to its embrace of big multinationals and political correctness cannot be addressed by just carrying on with the same agenda – Mr Verhofstadt’s solution to the  problem. The question is whether it is possible to change direction quickly and radically enough to avoid being swamped by the rising tide of hostility to everything which Brussels represents.

We have reached the point where the EU’s usual “muddle through” approach to crises is no longer adequate. Furthermore, the recent utterances of people like Verhofstadt, Juncker and Mogherini do not suggest that the EU élite has the ability to “think out of the box” which is needed if the EU is to survive in anything like its present form. No doubt critics will read this piece and say that it is nothing more than wishful thinking by a long-standing anti-EU campaigner, but the harsh reality is that it is nothing more than a précis of a documentary fronted by the BBC’s Europe editor  which happens to agree with her assessment.

Photo by motiqua

A wake-up call from the Brexit vote

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”  John Adams

The vote to leave the European Union on 23rd June and its immediate aftermath have tossed the pieces of our country’s political kaleidoscope into the air. Whilst it is still too early to know where they will all eventually land, the Brexit earthquake has created an opportunity to renew our country’s democracy and to show that good government is still possible. However, it has also revealed the obstacles that such a renewal would face.

Playing fast and loose

Many politicians, their sycophants and other members of the ruling establishment were (and presumably still are) prepared to throw responsibility, integrity and good judgement to the wind in pursuit of a political objective or their own narrow self-interests. No holds are barred and the end justifies the means.  We suspected then and now know that ‘Project Fear’ was largely a work of gross exaggeration, if not of fiction. Yet such gross deception would never have happened if the individuals concerned had acted with any sense of integrity, honour, duty and professionalism. Thankfully, there were a few – but alas not many – dissenting voices on the remain side who refused, in spite of establishment pressure and groupthink, to participate in acts of deceit and manipulation of the electorate.

Boldly go where facts, knowledge and analysis are missing

We now know that many politicians, members of the ruling establishment and their fellow travellers in the mainstream media are prepared to make authoritative policy statements with only a superficial knowledge of the subject or issue – in other words, behaving like proverbial fools who ‘rush in where angels fear to tread’. Obviously, they are highly likely to get it wrong often but yet they deliberately shy away from detailed statements based on facts, knowledge and thoughtful, perceptive analysis. Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne have shown, by hamstringing the Civil Service over any sort of BREXIT plan, just how little the political establishment actually knows or understands.

Poor democrats and worse

The ruling establishment has shown itself to be willing to undermine or circumvent the democratic process. Thus we see Remainiacs (with deep pockets) involving themselves in legal action (dressed up in sophistry), while some politicians are still trying to ignore or reinterpret the Referendum result.  Many also do not appear to have grasped that, whatever justification they may give for their statements, they are not entitled to ignore the democratic will of the electorate. The desire to strengthen democracy and restore the sovereignty of our own Parliament was one of the major factors in the decision of many leavers to vote for independence from the EU. In the wake of the result, these opponents of democracy talk down our country’s prospects in the media, using often spurious or selective ‘evidence’.

Out of touch ruling Élite

The ruling establishment’s agenda – supported by much of the mainstream media – is not shared by many of the electorate. Consequently, many voters, particularly the socially conservative, patriotic, individualistic, financially prudent types, feel that they are no longer represented and have no voice in the ‘corridors of power’.

The establishment generally comes across as having a set of common values, views and interests, including: globalism and destruction of national identities; remaking society into a sort of permissive, compliant image; intolerance of nonconforming views; pursuit of increasing statist or corporatist control. They view the electorate, who do not share these values, as wrong, ill-informed and/or misguided and in need of re-education. Furthermore, they never consider that their condescending attitudes are the root cause of the electorate’s ‘obstinacy’, as they would call it.

Some Implications

The gap between ordinary people and this self-selecting élite is vast. The two groups have very different philosophical outlooks and interpret the world in totally different ways. The élite live in a bubble, consisting of people who largely share the same views, self-interests and questionable assumptions – especially when it comes to the electorate and the opinions of ordinary people. In their isolated world, spin (with its abandonment of precise language) and the resulting superficial depth of thought have replaced humanity, patriotism, experience, actual knowledge and careful analysis.  Their objectives – pursuit of globalism and corporatism, self-interest etc. – are as likely as not to be working against the wishes, aspirations and best interests of much of the electorate. Consequently, we, the ordinary people, need some form of protection.

Traditionally, in our country, protection against abuse of power has been provided by the workings of democratic accountability and transparency and by longstanding systemic (Parliamentary and legal) checks and balances.  However, this approach requires all parties concerned to ‘play the game’. When a ruling élite effectively controls the apparatus of government and gains a stranglehold over economic forecasting and the media, as we are seeing, these protections can be ignored and dismantled.  This process is a slippery slope which can result in our becoming playthings for their sociological experiments  – reduced to nothing more than a resource to be exploited.  As democracy dies, so too do its checks and balances. Like a political version of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, extremism, inhumanity and intolerance rises on all sides to fill the gap.

In conclusion, democracy, like freedom, has shallow roots and must be constantly re-invigorated to remain healthy. The traditional methods of democratic renewal have been education, respect for just laws and active involvement by the electorate. If these tools are not regularly used, our ruling élite will accrue yet more power to themselves and our democracy will slowly wither away.

More positive polling, but here’s what we’re up against

Telephone polls carry more weight than on-line polls. That is certainly the message from the markets. The pound has fallen as an ICM poll for the Guardian has given “Leave” 52% of the vote. A week ago, the dollar stood at over $1.46 to the pound. Now it has fallen to barely $1.44 and the main factor is a realisation that Brexit is looking more likely. Importantly, however, this is still higher the than the exchange rate at the time the referendum was announced, suggesting the markets do not view Brexit as the calamity George Osborne has predicted.

Also casting doubt on the gloomy economic “consensus” is Ashoka Mody, a former deputy director of the International Monetary Fund’s European and Research Departments. This is significant given that the current head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has been very much part of the doom and gloom  brigade.

Mr Mody, writing in the Independent,  questions whether the UK’s trade with te EU will fall. The essence of what he says is that, whatever scenario international traders are confronted with, they will eventually adjust and all productive trading relationships will remain intact. He does not look at the various alternative Brexit scenarios but pours scorn on the idea that permanent damage will be done to the economy. “The vast bulk of those large estimates come from the further assumption that reduced trade will shrink British productivity growth. This is disingenuous. There is simply no evidence that less trade lowers productivity growth”, he says.

He does not predict an economic bonanza, but does this matter? The prophecies of doom and gloom have lowered the bar. We only need to show that the sky won’t fall in and we can move the debate on to other areas. Following on from Allister Heath’s piece, the “remain” camp’s claim that they have irrevocably won the economic argument does not stand up.

They do, however, have other weapons up their sleeve. The ilustration above comes from a step-by-step ‘How To Vote By Post’ guide was sent by Bristol City Council to residents registered for postal voting last week, along with the actual ballots. Note  how the pencil is positioned above “remain”!

Also very worrying is this article about the strange order in which items appear in Google if you search under “EU referendum”. You would naturally expect Richard North’s blog of that name to come top, given the scale of  its readership. Well, it barely makes the top 10, even though it comes top in other searches like Yahoo! and Bing. Very odd.

Like Bristol City Council, Google has denied any wrongdoing, but it is very clear that our opponents are not playing fair. We always knew this wold be the case, but thankfully, it doesn’t mean that we can’t win, especially given the recent polling, but it does show just what we are up against.

The millions in EU funding the BBC tried to hide

Following on from our article about the “nobbling” of the BBC in he 1970s, our attention has been drawn to this article in the Spectator, which appeared last year. Although now firmly in the pro-EU camp, the BBC is not keen to let us know just how much money it receives from Brussels.

Miles Goslett writes:-

Over the last three years the BBC has secretly obtained millions of pounds in grants from the European Union. Licence fee payers might assume that the Corporation would have been compelled to disclose the source of this money in its annual reports, but they bear no trace of it specifically. In the latest set of accounts, for example, these funds are simply referred to as ‘other grant income’.

Instead of making an open declaration, the BBC’s successful lobbying for this money had to be prised out of it using a Freedom of Information (FoI) request lodged for The Spectator, proving that there was never any danger of the state broadcaster’s bosses volunteering it willingly.

The FoI response confirms that BBC staff applied for, and accepted, about £3 million of EU funds between April 2011 and November 2013, most of which has been spent on unspecified ‘research and development’ projects, with the remaining £1 million spent on programming.

Next to the £3.65 billion tax-free income that the BBC receives each year via the licence fee, £3 million is, admittedly, a mere speck of dust – just 0.8 per cent of its annual guaranteed revenue and, obviously, even less than that when spread over 36 months.

However, the size of these EU gifts is arguably irrelevant, even though they are indicative of the BBC’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for public money. What is undeniably true is that the BBC has acted with characteristic slyness by concealing that it ever requested, let alone received, this European cash, suggesting that it is uneasy about the public being aware of its financial arrangements.

With the European elections only three months away, {this article was written in February 2014} the timing of this disclosure is certainly unhelpful to the BBC, fuelling longstanding pro-EU bias concerns.

Rob Wilson MP, an aide to the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, says that he believes evidence of the BBC receiving any EU money leaves it open to attack because being on its payroll risks feeding the perception that is incapable of reporting objectively on European affairs. Mr Wilson also questions why the BBC needed to go ‘cap in hand’ to the EU for funds in the first place when its enviably secure financial position allows it to outgun commercial rivals in so many spheres.

He says: ‘The whole point of the licence fee is to protect the BBC’s political independence and impartiality by providing it with a source of funding that is outside the hands of governments and politicians. Thanks to this FoI response, we now learn that it has been going cap in hand to the EU for millions of pounds on the quiet over the last few years. Such outrageous flouting of the principles on which the BBC is based and funded will only promote cynicism about its political impartiality and lead to a loss of trust in the BBC’s independence.’

In the FoI response, the BBC refuses to name any of the ‘research and development’ projects or television programmes on which it spent the EU grant money.  This, apparently, is information that’s far too sensitive for mere licence payers to be told about.

All it says by way of explanation is that the funds come from two separate sources – the EU Framework Programme for Research and Development; and the European Regional Development Fund. It admits that during the financial year 2010/11 it accepted £956,000 from the first of these funds and that during the following financial year it was given a further £435,000 for the same purpose.

During the first half of the current financial year, between April and November 2013, it was awarded a third EU research and development grant worth £812,000.

More money – none of which is given without a formal application – is expected before April 2014 but the running total for these three tranches stands at £2.2 million.

A BBC spokesman says the money was used for ‘technology-based projects based on existing BBC R&D priorities and business needs’ but would elaborate no further.  The BBC’s response then reveals that it has also received EU grants for programme-making from the European Regional Development Fund.

Although it claims such funding is commonplace among Europe’s public service broadcasters, it has declined to provide a breakdown of the grants beyond insisting that none of the money was spent on news programmes. A helpful BBC insider has worked out that the total amount of EU money spent on programmes over the last three years is likely to have been £1 million.

However, with a straight face, the BBC does explain in its response that Channel 4 has in the past received funding from the same source, and that it used its EU prize money to make the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire.

When the BBC is prepared to use an FoI response to state how a rival organisation spent its EU booty, but refuses to explain how it spent its own, its standards of transparency are surely broken.

Eurosceptic Labour MP Kate Hoey, now part of an unofficial coalition of politicians overseeing the privately-funded organisation Newswatch, which monitors the BBC for EU bias at a cost of £60,000 per year, says the FoI disclosure is ‘shocking’. She says:

‘I have grave concerns about the bias of the BBC when it comes to EU matters. I find the whole thing shocking. The lack of transparency is unjustified. Why does it seem so worried about people knowing where it gets its money? What has the BBC got to hide other than knowing that many of us don’t trust them on EU matters and the need for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership?’

Ms Hoey adds that she has concerns that the BBC ‘very rarely’ reports Labour MPs’ views on Europe. She says:

‘Even Today in Parliament [on Radio 4] always tries to convey Tory splits on Europe, and this doesn’t help the perception of an EU bias. There are Labour MPs with strong views on Europe as well. It doesn’t help that the BBC very rarely reports these views.’

The evidence contained in this FoI response is the latest in a series of examples shining some light on the BBC’s relationship with the EU.

Déja Vu

Peter Farrell, one of our supporters has kindly passed on a transcript of a programme broadcast on Radio 4 on Thursday 3rd February 2000, entitled “A Letter to the Times”. It is a shocking exposé of the underhand tactics used by a number of leading Europhiles in the run-up to our joining the EEC in 1973.

In December 1970, six months after Edward Heath’s unexpected election victory, an opinion poll showed that only 18% of the UK electorate supported him in his long-term dream of taking our country into the EEC. A massive 70% were opposed. While the decision on accession was to be taken by Parliament, it was apparent to Heath that he would never gain a parliamentary majority in the face of overwhelming public opposition. While some of the tactics he used are well-known, notably disguising the political project as an economic project and not mentioning loss of sovereignty, other underhand tricks employed at this time have only come out into the open more recently.

The programme revealed one particularly successful tactic: a barrage of letters to the Times during the Autumn of 1970 all apparently written by MPs who supported accession. In reality, these MPs only signed them; they were all produced by an ardently pro-European PA to the MP Sir Tufton Beamish.

But how were the rest of the population, who didn’t read the Times, to be converted? Equally clandestine methods were used. Those of us of a certain age will remember the name Jack de Manio, who presented the Today programme from 1958 until 1971 and who was twice voted British Radio Personality of the Year. He was also strongly Eurosceptic. Geoffrey Tucker, who was closely linked to Heath and who organised breakfasts for supporters of accession, lobbied for his removal. The following year, the programme was reorganised to feature two presenters. De Manio was not happy with the new arrangement and resigned. A coincidence? Whatever, by 1971, the BBC had been effectively “nobbled.” The managing director of BBC Radio, Ian Trethowan, was another friend of Edward Heath and was very willing to accede to the wishes of Geoffrey Tucker’s breakfast group to deal with any broadcasters perceived to be opposed to accession. Far from being an organ of impartiality, the BBC became the main propaganda vehicle used to shift public opinion in these crucial years.

However, the most disturbing revelation in this programme was the funding of the European Movement by the American CIA. Dr Richard Aldrich, a political historian, came across the archived documents of a CIA front organisation which poured millions of dollars into the UK. In typical CIA style, the audit trail had made it difficult to trace the source of the European Movement’s funding, but it seems that even the office cleaners ultimately were being paid by US intelligence!

Heath himself was interviewed in the documentary and he is heard expressing his regret that the job was never fully done. He described the subsequent rise of euroscepticism within the Conservative Party as “the most devastating blow of all.” However, in view of the deceit he encouraged, such a man deserves no sympathy whatsoever. The only person to come out at all well from the programme is Roy Hattersley. Although a pro-European, he was horrified by the tactics being used during this period. He attended one of Tucker’s breakfasts and was so appalled by what he heard that he never went again. In his opinion, the use of spin all those years ago, has prejudiced the argument ever since.

Telling words indeed and vital lessons for supporters of withdrawal as the referendum looms. Already, one has a sense of déja vu as one businessman after another is given air time on the BBC saying how disastrous it would be to leave the EU. Our opponents are not going to play fair, but we cannot allow them to get away with it this time. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Photo by TechnicalFault (formerly Coffee Lover)