Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Pro-Labour bias in the BBC?

There was an interesting slot on BBC Breakfast News this morning, discussing the economy. They had two guests; a Liberal Democrat politician, and a man called Simon Woodroffe, the founder of the Yo Sushi! and Yotel brands.

I would link to the program, but the BBC iPlayer does not appear to have it in its list.

The latter was presented as an impartial observer (no political links were mentioned), and basically claimed that the outlook for the Economy was good. His line was suspiciously near to that of the Labour Party.

The name rung a bell, so after the interview was over I went upstairs to check. It turns out that Mr Woodroffe is far from impartial.

From the Independent, dated 16th July 2006:
Meanwhile one of Labour's leading business supporters claimed it was only "human" that donors should give in expectation of honours and that Mr Blair should reward his friends. In an extraordinary intervention, Simon Woodroffe, the businessman behind Yo Sushi! told the IoS that he was sure Lord Levy had not sold honours.

"That said," he added, "would it have crossed the minds of a donor that a possible outcome could be an award at some point? We are but human beings with all our pride and ambition and dreams. Would the Prime Minister as he looked through the shortlist of candidates not have warmed to one who had helped him? Of course he would."

So this man, who says that Labour is managing the economy well, is a leading Labour business supporter, and also spoke in favour of them in the cash-for-honours scandalette.

From Wikipedia :
Woodroffe received an OBE on 17 June 2006
He therefore made the comments above a month *after* having been awarded an OBE.

Why did the BBC not make it clear that this man was far from impartial!

Actually, further investigation shows this to be more complex. Was Simon Woodroffe actually a Labour donor? I find links on the Internet saying that he was and was not a Labour donor:

A blog entry on the Guardian's website states:

Even more amusing than Woodroffe's pronouncements over the weekend was his admission, on Five Live Drive last week, that despite his name appearing on the "proud to fund Labour" poster, he hasn't actually given them any money.

From the Daily Telegraph:
On Tuesday night, I hear, Labour Party chairman Hazel Blears held a discreet meeting of 15 high-level supporters to discuss rebuilding the party's finances. In typical New Labour style, there were plenty of stuffed wallets and fawning luvvies. Chinese gambling tycoon Johnny Hon and sushi king Simon Woodroffe rubbed shoulders with media Lords Alli and Bragg while the most vocal, apparently, was John Reid, Sir Elton John's former manager and boyfriend.

but from the Times : August 13, 2006
More recently, after receiving an OBE, he has appeared in political ads, saying he was “proud to fund the Labour party” (he gave £1,000). He is not a shrinking violet.
Another quote from the same article:
He has also been involved with the Labour party recently. “Not particularly because I am a Labourite but because I think the long term of politics is about management, and UK plc needs to be managed by people with business sense.” He is booked as an after-dinner speaker at the Labour party conference this autumn.
From: The Guardian , Sunday August 19 2007
He is often spoken of as a Labour party donor, but only ever gave £1,000 - though he says he is considering giving more. As a former public school drop-out, he concedes that he does not come from the Labour heartlands but is enamoured of this government. 'Labour are a pretty good management team and I'm scared to change to another management team.'
From The, 7th Actober 2007
He has also appeared in political ads telling people he was ‘‘proud to fund the Labour Party’’.

So, from the above there is indicative evidence that he was a donor, albeit for a small amount of money, and also that he is Labour-leaning, (he appeared in an advert for them).

If the above is true, then why did the BBC not mention this when he appeared? Someone cannot have the history detailed above and be presented as a neutral observer.

This is not the first time similar things have happened. The BBC should make it clear if any of their guests discussing political or economic issues have links with political parties, especially when they make party-political statements. Failure to do so will lead to accusations of political bias, something that the BBC cannot afford.

The BBC is in a position of trust. It is rapidly losing that trust.

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