If GB [Gordon Brown] is, should I say, constitutionally unable to utter the word ‘England’, in case he invokes the existence of an unofficial country that could threaten the continuance of the Union (see last post), then doesn’t the media have a duty to do so? By which I mean broadsheet newspapers and the broadcasting establishment as well as the popular press that is already championing the cause of more democratic accountability for English voters.
I was struck by this on listening to the BBC Radio Four news this morning, where they reported that GB was proposing tougher measures to close down failing schools. ‘Failing schools in England‘ was my indignant-from-Tunbridge Wells reflex reaction! But then I thought, why couldn’t they have actually specified that the proposed measures related only to English schools? All they need do is add ‘in England’ to each such announcement of a new policy or piece of legislation. By that simple measure, people would increasingly come to realise that GB and his crew are effectively only an English government in most domestic affairs, or rather a UK government acting as if England were the UK.
Why should the BBC, say, change its policy in this regard – assuming that it is a policy, at all, and not just a case of an unthinking force of habit that means that even the BBC forgets that most UK-government measures now relate to England only; or else, a product of a liberal, pro-Union political position? Clearly, it would suit the purposes of supporters of an English parliament and devolution settlement if the media did start spelling out when parliamentary decisions related to England only or, indeed, to England and Wales only, or to the whole of the UK.
But this would arguably also be a case of the BBC being truer to its mission and its Charter, which in this context involves reporting on events accurately and impartially, and informing people as fully and clearly as possible. Listeners, viewers and readers of news have a right to know if politicians’ decisions and statements affect them (and only them) or not. If they don’t have this information, how can they make informed decisions themselves about who to support in elections?
The BBC and the established media in general have a duty to say England. All it takes is two little words, ‘in England’, that need adding to the first sentence of news reports. Not too hard or embarrassing to use the E word, is it?