So here's a polling observation of a very different sort from the ones I normally make on this blog. If a pollster asks people how many sexual partners they've had in their lives, heterosexual men will on average give a much higher number than heterosexual women, which on the face of it doesn't make any sense. There are potential statistical explanations that would square the circle, but it's generally accepted that the real explanation - or the main one - is fibbing. Men tend to exaggerate their number of sexual partners and women tend to understate their number. Men are either boasting or are too embarrassed to admit to a low number, while women tend to give an 'edited' version of their past, and justify that by thinking to themselves "that one doesn't really count because it wasn't a relationship".
And that's a rather useful analogy for the BBC at the moment, because they have a self-image of being impeccably impartial, the envy of the world in that respect, and regard anyone who questions their objectivity in even the remotest way as a tinfoil hat nutter. And yet they've spent the last ten days churning out propaganda on behalf of the state in quantities that would make the North Korean state broadcaster blush. How on earth are they going to reconcile what they've just done with their self-image of impartiality? Simple: they're going to say "it doesn't count". As far as they're concerned, anything to do with the monarchy is somehow totally different. It's sealed off from the rest of their political output and no-one should judge them by it or even take it into account.
I'm not sure that's going to wash anymore. Anecdotally, a lot of people who have given the BBC the benefit of the doubt until now have finally seen them for what they are. But, as we discovered in Scotland eight years ago, an erosion of public trust doesn't mean the BBC will suddenly reflect or change.
Perhaps the only thing that would force them into a different approach is a referendum on the monarchy. Until now, I've always thought a referendum would be a pointless exercise because there's at least a 3-1 majority in Britain for retaining the monarchy, and that's been very stable over time, so the outcome would be virtually a foregone conclusion. But sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, and it may well be that a referendum campaign would in itself have a transformative effect on Britain. For the first time ever, the BBC would be forced to treat the monarchy as an issue of political controversy just like any other, and to give parity of esteem to the arguments in favour and against. Once that precedent has been set, it would be very difficult to go back to the sort of absurd adulatory output we've seen in recent days.
For clarity, I'm talking specifically about a Britain-wide referendum here. If Scotland became independent, it would be a very different situation because I think a Scottish referendum on the monarchy would actually be inevitable sooner or later. As Commonwealth Realms like Jamaica and Australia queue up to give their citizens the choice of a homegrown Head of State, it's unthinkable we wouldn't follow suit eventually. And what's more, such a vote would be perfectly winnable for the republican side.
I think if I worked for BBC News in any capacity I would absolutely mortified after the last fortnight. "Public service", "BBC balance" and purported pluralism revealed for what it truly is - an inflexible arm of the state and the elites that control it. Truly an embarrassment— Dan Hancox (@danhancox) September 19, 2022