I’ve been listening to the News Agents podcast quite regularly since it started. I was intrigued, I’ll admit, mainly as to how these ex-BBC people would handle themselves in terms of balance, now they’re no longer under the BBC cosh. And it has been quite interesting. They’ll interview someone, a Tory, or a Labour person, whatever, but they won’t feel the need to set up a fake “debate” and have somebody on at the same time to interrupt and offer contrary views. It makes for a refreshing change, and much less frustrating to listen to.
They also produced an item about the think tanks and pressure groups who are behind the latest Conservative shitshow: something the BBC could have legitimately done at any point over the past couple of decades. The only real question that needs to be asked is, who are these people and where do they get their money? It remains the case that – following criticism – the BBC are supposed to ask this kind of thing whenever they have a spokesperson on from one of these organisations: but as George Monbiot pointed out in the Guardian this week, they almost never do.
Anyway, I think I can stand to listen to the News Agents, in contrast to the way I cannot bear to listen to any BBC News output these days. I didn’t need Monbiot to point out to me that the BBC had been ‘captured’. All that said, I always bear in mind that the News Agents comes from Global, the radio conglomerate that operates most commercial radio in the UK: and I’ve no idea what they stand for.
I was a bit depressed this morning, because today’s edition of the podcast included interviews with a focus group: so-called “ordinary” voters. They were based in Swindon, which I suppose is classic working class Tory heartland. North and South Swindon were both Labour under Blair, but then went (and stayed) Tory in 2010. So you don’t expect to hear people who can think. And so it proved. They had a moan about the Tories and their tone deafness, but then when asked about Kier Starmer, most of them were absolutely swivel eyed in their hatred of him. In other words, their second hand opinions about Starmer were straight from the pages of the Mail. As for how they’d be voting, it was clear that most of them were feeling disenfranchised: they could tell that the Tories had become a party of extremists, but they couldn’t apparently tell that Labour under Starmer was more or less the Thatcher Lite they crave. I think there’s an ingrained resistance among people like this to the idea of voting Labour. The Labour Party might as well be Communists as far as they are concerned.
Which means that the Mail and the other billionaire-owned press have done a bang-up job in turning people against Starmer, even though he’s the blandest politician you can imagine. In some ways, I suppose, the problem is of his own making. He really hasn’t communicated what he (and his party) stands for. Personally, I’m all for having a Labour government, even it is is just a least-worst option at this stage. I’m no Starmer fan, but I think we can at least trust that he isn’t in thrall to the Ayn Rand crowd. My home constituency is hopeless, though, so I’ll probably throw my own vote away on the Greens.
Anyway, listening to this, I couldn’t help thinking that the opinion polls showing a huge lead for Labour were lying. Because I still think, when push comes to shove, the Haves are always going to vote in their own interests; meanwhile, the Have Nots are often afraid to even register to vote, lest debt collectors catch up with them. So I have 0 faith that these polls will bear fruit. Paddy Power will give you 7/4 on the Conservatives winning the next election. This means a £100 bet would get you a disappointing £275 when they win. These are not long odds.