Ed Miliband’s spin doctor Tom Baldwin has been rather quiet since Labour’s disastrous election night results. Now the former Times journalist has explained his radio silence in an article for the Guardian. He says he has been avoiding the news after the Tories had ‘a win they did not fully expect or really deserve’. However, the appointment of John Whittingdale as culture secretary has caused him to resurface:
‘But one story has finally made me stumble out of bed. The Tory newspapers have welcomed the appointment of John Whittingdale, an old Thatcherite, as culture secretary with gleeful headlines about the government “going to war” with the BBC. This was accompanied by unsourced comments about how the Conservatives were determined to “sort out” the broadcaster, cut or even kill the licence fee in revenge for “infuriating” them during the election campaign.’
Baldwin says that for the Tories to threaten to ‘kill the licence fee’ in return for their election coverage would be based on a falsehood, given that it was actually Labour who the BBC wronged the most. While he does not blame the BBC, he does say responsibility for the party’s defeat must include taking responsibility for ‘failing to win our battles with the BBC’:
‘Far from being in the pocket of Labour, the BBC was too easily swayed by newspapers that support the Tories and are heavily invested in Labour’s defeat. It contaminated everything, from the questions that were asked in interviews, to the lazy assumptions that were made about Ed Miliband. When the rise of digital is causing the direct influence of the Sun, the Telegraph, the Mail and the Times to plummet faster than their readership, it was frustrating the BBC should have so often have provided an echo chamber for them.’
Baldwin goes on to say that this influence stretched to the election debates, which he says were decided at the bequest of the Conservatives; ‘I am genuinely puzzled about what exactly did Cameron find not to like?’ Perhaps the boldest claim in the piece is the suggestion that BBC employees were repeatedly warned not to cross the line:
‘I suspect, however, that something else is going on too. BBC executives and journalists have told me that there were regular, repeated threats from senior Tories during this election campaign about “what would happen afterwards” if they did not do as they were told and fall into line.’
Fighting talk from a man who is now rumoured to be without a job. If the Guardian don’t snap the former scribe up after this article, perhaps the BBC will be so bold as to consider finding a home for Baldwin. After all he does make time to describe the organisation as one ‘that is invested in fairness, seeking balance even when it is impossible to achieve, listening and speaking to everybody’.