Sunday 11 June 2017

The BBC must adopt economic impartiality

After crunching the General Election numbers the result is fascinating. The UK electorate is now split almost exactly 50% - 50% on austerity vs investment.*

In fact there is a tiny majority in favour of pro-investment parties, but a difference of 23,309 out of the entire electorate is so incredibly small it's essentially an exact split.

For seven ruinous years Tory austerity dogma has gone largely unquestioned by the mainstream media, and the BBC have adopted an extreme pro-Tory pro-austerity bias in their coverage, with opponents of austerity dogma almost completely marginalised and the necessity for socially and economically destructive spending cuts routinely presented as an unquestionable economic truth, rather than the wildly speculative, economically ahistorical, and widely criticised dogma that it actually is.

The Labour Party certainly didn't help the situation when Ed Miliband allowed the likes of Ed Balls and Chris Leslie to talk him into pushing an staggeringly unappealing austerity-lite agenda, instead of taking the fight to the Tories against their wanton ideological destruction.

The SNP won their legendary 2015 landslide victory in Scotland (56 of the 59 seats!) with an anti-Westminster anti-austerity agenda. Labour failed to beat an absolute horror show of a Coalition government because their unappealing austerity-lite rubbish failed to galvanise their activists, failed to engage social media, and failed to win people over on the doorstep.

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn from a firebrand back bencher to the most engaging party leader in British politics has now completely changed the political landscape.

Half of the UK electorate are sick of needless austerity cuts, and they've voted for investment-based economic strategies in order to build the foundations of future economic prosperity. They've voted against a continuation of the Tory agenda of asset stripping in an economically illiterate and endlessly self-defeating cost-cutting exercise.

The choice is now clear for the BBC. They can either adopt a position of impartiality by ensuring a 50-50 balance of pro-austerity and pro-investment economic analysts on their news, politics and economics coverage ... or they can demonstrate beyond any doubt whatever that they are indeed just mouthpieces for the Tory party.

The BBC may imagine that pro-investment economists are a rare breed, but that's nonsense. They're only a rare breed in BBC studios. In the wider world there are loads of them (in fact many might argue the majority of them).

If the BBC are unclear where to look for pro-investment economists they could try any of the 130 noted economists who supported the Labour manifesto in an open letter; they could try the New Economics Foundation or Rethinking Economics; they could contact the university departments of the nation; they could try the big trade unions and the charitable sector; they could even contact the notoriously right-wing IMF who proved that austerity dogma in post-crisis economic slumps is a woeful idea in 2012 and have been slowly rowing back on it ever since.

If they want some names to begin with they could try Richard Murphy, Steve Keen, Ha-Joon Chang, Robert Skidelsky, David Blanchflower, or David Harvey, Anne Pettifor, Simon Wren-Lewis, and Yanis Varoufakis. All of these people could all make a cogent case against austerity dogma on behalf of the 14.5 million voters who oppose it.

There is literally no excuse for the BBC allowing the absurd economically illiterate myths to go unchallenged. Opposing views should always be presented whenever anyone tries to claim that the UK economy is like a household budget, or that government borrowing (at the lowest rates in human history) in order to invest in infrastructure and services is somehow akin to reckless credit card borrowing or harvesting a magic money tree.

Yes, they can keep allowing people to spread these pro-austerity economic fairy stories in the name of balance, but they need to ensure that there's always someone there to offer the alternative view (that the time for right-wing elitists programming the electorate to believe in abject economic baby talk is over; "cut our way to growth" is self-defeating nonsense; and sensible strategic investment in strong fiscal multipliers is actually the way forward).

If the BBC refuses to adopt economic impartiality as a matter of urgency, then they will simply prove what millions of people have been saying about their inherent Tory bias, and further undermine the justification for the Licence Fee.

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* = I've discounted the Lib-Dems from either position because they would tie their flag to either mast depending on which was most to their own party advantage.

Before the 2010 General Election Vince Cable won many admirers (including me) by speaking eloquently against austerity dogma, but then the Lib-Dems jumped into bed with the Tories at the first opportunity and Vince spent 5 years at the Treasury helping George Osborne impose his ideological fantasy economics on the nation.

In 2015 and 2017 the Lib-Dems have tried to distance themselves from austerity dogma somewhat, but their track record in government shows that they can't be trusted either way.

Some Lib-Dems may take offence at this characterisation, but it won't be anything like the strength of offence I took at them completely abandoning economic reason in order to prop up a Tory austerity government for five hideous years, so it's more than fair if all they've suffered is hearing some home truths.

As for UKIP and the DUP, both parties are a total shambles with no coherent economic direction at all, but since they're natural bedfellows of the Conservative party, they'd clearly go along with austerity economics for a taste of Tory power (well the DUP already have, UKIP haven't got any MPs, so they couldn't even if they wanted to). 

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