Sunday 2 May 2021

Kuenssberg to the Rescue

Is Boris Johnson a liar? Ask anyone who follows politics, anyone in the Commons, anyone who knows him and the answer is yes. Peter Oborne recently devoted half a book to Johnson's light touch relationship with the truth. And another Peter, this time Stefanovic, has a viral video on this very topic that has been viewed over 14 million times. So we can all agree, right? No. There is one hardy soul standing against the crowd, and they're not one of the Prime Minister's lackeys dependent on him for preference and position. Why, it's the BBC's chief political correspondent, your friend and mine Laura Kuenssberg.

In a lengthy piece (by BBC News standards), she ponders Johnson's propensity to lie and, um, carries on pondering. In a mishmash of psychodrama, gossip, observation, and soap opera we learn that politicians seldom lie ("Only one senior politician still in the game has ever privately told me something that was utterly, entirely, and completely untrue. It was proved publicly to be a lie a few days later"). We also learn Johnson might have a cavalier attitude to the truth, but it comes from an honest place. Yes, really. Drawing a flattering comparison with the late and unlamented Steve Jobs, we're given to understand he was driven by monomaniacal ambition, and inhabited a universe in which his ego was the animating principle. His schemes, whatever they were at any given time, were what mattered and everything was subordinate to them. Including the truth. It's almost as if Jobs didn't have time for such inconveniences.

That's certainly true of Johnson. Vanity has long been the primary motivator, and now the ambition is fulfilled all he has is the reactive business of everyday politics. His lies then for Kuenssberg are less falsehoods, but merely an effect of absent-mindedness, of a brain consumed with other passions and priorities. It's the "pressures of life", or simply an innocuous happenstance of Johnson's contrived efforts to bamboozle and bluster. Besides, she continues, those who voted for him knew what he was like. His "authenticity" is what counts, and if he govern on whims? Oh well, we might as well shrug our shoulders. No harm done.

This is piffle. Kuenssberg's piece is one of the most egregious examples of political commentary designed to obscure, if not alibi her subject. It's entirely sympathetic and circles gingerly around what everyone knows. There is no accountability here, let alone criticism of Johnson. Perhaps more fruitful than considering the content of the piece is why she turned in this sub-par apologetic. And it might have something to do with the new regime at the BBC, which is now run by a clutch of Tory donors. While its status as a fearless promulgator of the truth is something of a BBC myth, even if plenty of its personnel still believe it, the Tories have long targeted its output as not being impartial enough. Or, to put it more plainly, entirely uncritical of their shenanigans. And as they're in government, they're using their position to strip down the BBC and denude it of critical resources. A monoglot of trash with anaemic news outputs, especially as it pertains to politics, is what they want and are working toward.

Where does Laura Kuenssberg fit into this? She did not get to the top by raw journalistic talent alone. She had to play the game, have a feel for the stakes, know the direction the wind was blowing - just like anyone who ascends to the summit of anything. And now with the BBC firmly in the government's scaly grip, she's not about to jeopardise her position by repeating Commons commonplaces from her perch on one of the world's busiest websites. Not that her time in the job has been marked by a thirst for holding senior politicians to account, save one, of course. Indeed, her adjustment to the more overtly Tory BBC requires very little movement on her part. The cosy lunches, the shared text messages, the off-the-record briefings and the seamy stuff they care about but affect to say no one else is interested, her position is compromised anyway. To keep turning in the copy and remaining a player means keeping on the good side of virtually the entire cabinet. And this, her desire to keep this state of affairs going, is a more effective censor than an unwelcome phone call from the chairman.

Image Credit


SimonB said...

Whatever happens the tories benefit: they have a compliant BBC, or one that nobody trusts that can be run down and replaced with a Murdoch mouthpiece.

mikenotts said...

And what really makes me grind my teeth is that we are forced by law to pay an annual tax to support this stuff, or go to prison (as routinely happened to the poorest who could not pay the fines for licence evasion, who the BBC enthusiastically pursued).

Tasker Dunham said...

Saw her piece yesterday and thought it astonishing. She didn't have to write it.

Defund the BBC said...

Johnson is about as authentic as Boffy's Marxism or the Loch Ness Monster.

He is popular with the average John Bull for ‘saying it like it is’, but he is a Bullingdon club Tory toff.
His genial buffoonish voice of the people shtick is built on a lie, actually Johnson's whole personality is a media contrived creation, formed out of Have I got Bullshit for you and the unfree press.

The real Johnson voice is l”et the bodies pile up or tallyho dear boy”, and the average John Bull says, “Yeah, you tell em Boris”. If Boris mumbles,” let the darkies die in the sea”, the John Bull’s would all approve too.

You just have to figure out the true message underneath the mountain of bullshit that humans pile onto their base motivations.

If Johnson had been born into the working class he would be sweeping the streets right now, he does remind me of the man who used to sweep the streets round here actually. But instead he has found himself in the position of Prime Minister, no less.

That is great Britain in a nutshell.

RobertJ said...

There is populism, and there is popularitism.

Dipper said...

The problem with banging on about Johnson's awkward and difficult relationship with the truth is that I seem to remember an entire parliament elected in 2017 on a promise to deliver Brexit and spending three years trying every conceivable way not to deliver it, and then Johnson promised to deliver Brexit and delivered it. So in the grand scheme of things, I couldn't care if Johnson occasionally stretches the actuality.

Finding 'the truth' in most important things is very hard and problematic. If I wanted to know the truth, the last person I'd ask is a politician of any affiliation.

Dipper said...

and Kuenssberg ... not all journalists do the same job. Kuenssberg gets privileged access to the government and tells you what they are saying. We are meant to be grown up people and we should understand that is what she is doing. Other journalists have other sources. Other commentators have different analyses. I recommend that you understand that most adults understand how this works and stop wasting effort pointlessly moaning about a person doing her job.

Anonymous said...

Dipper. May's government, of which you speak, did attempt to deliver Brexit - the only problem is that it was undeliverable. Hence why N. Ireland is on the brink.

Perhaps you are correct - Johnson 'delivered' it by doing what he does best - lying, which is why the UK is unilaterally back-peddling on what was agreed.

But, although I believe the choice of Corbyn was also to blame - including all the way back to his half-hearted support of Remain/ tacit for Brexit, without which there would probably have been no Brexit in the first place - you get what you vote for, and I agree they do know what they are getting with Johnson.

The British have voted for a cad and a liar who couldn't care less whether their bodies were piled in the streets or their economy goes down the tubes, and done so in full comprehension of this. Good - that's democracy, and they have no one to blame but themselves, any more than those who supported any bastards throughout history could cry foul when they got what was coming to them.

Dipper said...

@ anonymous. May's government - well, that's the issue. May never wanted Brexit and allowed the EU to use NI as a bargaining chip to make Brexit impossible in any meaningful sense. Without taking acres of screen, there is a solution for NI, which is a fudge like everything else to do with NI and RoI, but the EU don't want to implement it. Give it time. I mean, if the UK just unilaterally abandons checks in the Irish sea, what do the EU do? Day 1 they either have to put a border up between NI and RoI, or between RoI and continental Europe, or just fudge it.

For someone who doesn't care about bodies piling high, Johnson has spent a lot of time minimising deaths, going solo on vaccines, doing largely unnecessary lockdowns.

Far be it for me to criticise your argumentative style, but perhaps, for a change, trying to think of an argument that might persuade your opponents rather than one that just reinforces your own sense of righteousness?

BCFG said...


I think Kuenssberg impartiality or lack of is the issue, no one is disputing your assertion that she isn’t a journalist in any real sense of the word. I take that as given. They are stenographers at the of the day.

She is more watcher than a journalist, makes you wonder why she is paid so well for simply parroting what the bubble says. And they say women are hard done to on the pay front at the BBC!

If they made a film about Kuenssberg it certainly would be more Love Actually than All the Presidents Men, though I am not sure even Meryl Streep can play being that vacuous.

Anon – no it isn’t good when you don’t for the Tories, which the majority of the population didn’t. In fact it is an outrage that a liar and a cad can make these life and death decisions. Hopefully the fact that a half arsed lockdown was imposed meant it was forced upon the cad and will be again if necessary.

Anonymous said...

Dipper, as if you have ever been convinced about anything by posting on this site.

Britain had the highest proportion of dead in the world (at one point) yet they, and their families, are forgotten in the mass hooray we can all get back to the pub.

Johnson is like a WW1 general who, having squandered thousands of lives with pig-ignorant plans, finally strikes it lucky when someone invents the tank. I suspect Hancock and Gove were probably behind the vaccines. Credit where it's due, and I highly doubt it is due to 'The General'.

As per NI, excuse me, I think I have unmasked you - you are David Davis, a nonchalant non-details man. Yes, the crisis the UK caused by Brexit could be solved if only the EU backed down, and if they don't and it sparks war in NI then it's the fault of those damn inflexible foreigners. For the modern conservative, consequences are always someone else's problem.