James Forsyth

Is it too painful to say the Tories did well?

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Last night I said that it looked like being a mediocre result for David Cameron, well it looks like it was substantially better than that. The Tories have quietly rattled up 875 gains, far more than the 600 or so that they were expected to get. So the Tories must be considered, alongside the SNP, as the big winners. But you wouldn’t know that from listening and watching the Beeb today, who have diverted their eyes from anything as distasteful as a Tory triumph.

This isn’t the first time the BBC has downplayed Tory local election success. They did exactly the same in 2003 when Crispin Blunt resigned straight after the polls had closed. Their coverage then virtually ignored the fact the Tories had actually made 565 gains to concentrate on their pre-cooked narrative that Iain Duncan-Smith would be forced out.

This isn’t the product of conscious bias but the institutional mindset of the BBC. There was a classic example of this on the Today programme the other morning in an item about the Guardian’s series of 15 great speeches. The presenter started off by questioning Margaret Thatcher’s inclusion in the list, a woman who--whatever you think of her--won 3 elections and transformed the country, on the grounds that she wasn’t historically significant enough. He then pivoted to asking why Neil Kinnock—two elections as leader of the opposition, two defeats—wasn’t included. It was beyond parody, but the saddest thing is that they don’t even realise that they’re doing it.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Topics in this articlePolitics