Dimbleby: presented under-fire Vote 2003
Conservative Party Central Office has compiled a dossier to accompany its complaint to the BBC over its coverage of the local elections of 1 May.
The party accused journalists on the BBC One programme Vote 2003 of “biased and unprofessional” coverage of the elections and has sent copies of its 12-page dossier to director general Greg Dyke and the board of governors.
“The BBC followed a preconceived agenda – the results were going to leave the Conservative Party in crisis – failed accurately to report or predict Conservative gains, put more emphasis on opinion polls than actual results and spent too little time highlighting the issues on which people were voting,” a Central Office statement said.
The dossier outlined several grievances against the BBC, including a “fixation” on the resignation of Tory frontbencher Crispin Blunt “as the night’s big story”, rather than on the elections; the BBC’s portrayal of the share of the vote as a misleading indicator of how the elections went; the sidelining of Tory frontbenchers on the programme and the allocation of more airtime to Labour.
“In effect, the BBC inflated the results of the Liberal Democrats and Labour while deflating Conservative results. From the outset the BBC appears to have taken the decision that the Conservatives were not going to do well,” the report read. “When David Dimbleby suggested that ‘the Conservatives aren’t making very much progress and may be struggling to advance on what they did four years ago’, there was no recognition that these were always going to be difficult elections for the Conservative Party, as we were defending a high base. In addition there was no explanation of how the low level of candidates fielded by Labour and the Liberal Democrats would affect the results.” Party chairman Theresa May added: “Our main concern is that the programme lacked the professionalism expected of the BBC. Not only was the analysis used internally inconsistent, but it relied on inaccurate methods of compilation.”
The party was particularly incensed by the suggestion by Dimbleby, who presented Vote 2003, that the 331 councillors and 19 councils won by the Tories amounted to merely “treading water”.
The dossier insists that there should have been an indication that “the results were good for Iain Duncan Smith and it was Labour who were actually in trouble as they plunged to their lowest number of councillors since the winter of discontent”.
The BBC has acknowledged receipt of the dossier and is studying it carefully, a spokeswoman said.
By Wale Azeez