Monday

BBC correspondents sympathetic to Labour borrowing spree

I took part in a lunch-time discussion about the pre-budget report on Radio 5 Live this afternoon. We did not know for sure what would be in the report although the leaks from the government have been like a flood.
It seemed at times as though it was me (arguing that extra increases in borrowing would be reckless) versus the man from the Sunday Mirror and the two specialist correspondents of the BBC. The BBC political and economics correspondents generally took a view that was sympathetic to the government but it was the political correspondent, John Pienaar, who showed outright pro-Labour bias. I jotted down a couple of his remarks.
He said that a fiscal stimulus “desperately needs to be done”. This is the Labour Party’s view. It is not the Conservative Party’s view. His job, at the BBC, is to be impartial and not to express a personal view either way.
He then referred to the proposal to raise the top rate of tax to 45 per cent as “a bit of fairness”. This was clearly a remark intended to leave the impression that an increase in taxation of the richest was a) fair and b) a good thing. I wonder whether Mr Pienaar has really thought through what “fair” means and how it differs from “re-distributive” or “equalising”. He probably uses the word to mean “makes people’s income closer to equal”. I will leave aside the fact that history shows that this is not necessarily a good idea and merely remark that a 45% tax rate is not, at this moment, the policy of all the major parties and so, again, it is not for Mr Pienaar to say or imply that it is a good thing. He was taking the line of the Labour Party. It was bias, plain and simple.
He repeated this line about “fairness” a second time, later in the discussion. The implication, of course, is that anyone who opposes this rise must be against “fairness”. That is absurd and indeed, unfair.
He also suggested that the government had got the Conservatives in a trap. This was an extraordinary line to take in the circumstances where a Labour government which claimed to have abolished boom and bust is today bursting through its own fiscal rules, facing a deep ‘bust’ and the prospect of an extra million unemployed. It takes a truly prejudiced correspondent at such a time to suggest that it is the opposition which is in trouble.

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