Paul Mason, Fleet Street’s Rebel With A Cause, On BBC Anti-Corbyn Bias, Brexit And The Media

Mason acknowledges MPs have been “badly harassed” and says he is sympathetic. He reminds me he pursued misogynistic internet trolls for Newsnight and “played a part in the jailing of at least one of them”. He adds: “The press is out to make an amalgam between what exists and the idea [that it is] something endemic to Corbyn, Corbynism and Corbyn’s movement and I really don’t think it is.”

BBC political editor Laura Kuennsberg attracted the anger of Corbyn supporters after she convinced a shadow junior minister who was resigning to quit live on air. A petition calling for her to be sacked was launched, only to be taken down after it “became a focal point for sexist and hateful abuse”, the website 38 Degrees said. Mason did not sign the petition but defends people’s right to have it, saying: “It’s easier for the BBC to listen to a 35,000 signature petition than it is to deal with 35,000 phone calls and emails.” Again, he says he is unaware of any Corbyn supporters being involved in the “unacceptable abuse” Kueensberg has faced.

Mason will not be drawn on whether her journalism is biased. “I don’t want to get into any individual journalist at all,” he says. But for Mason, his former employer is the most biased broadcaster when covering Corbyn. “I don’t think the other broadcasters have been too bad,” he says, adding that both Sky News and ITN, makers of Channel 4 News, have “done alright”. He defends political programming like The Daily Politics but says Corbyn supporters’ criticism of BBC News is fair.

The corporation’s problem is “group think” that comes from so many of its journalists being from similar backgrounds such as private and Oxbridge education, he says. Journalists felt Corbyn was unelectable and had “nothing to lose” in their coverage of him, making them more hostile. Mason says journalists who listened to Corbyn’s shadow cabinet deliberations through a door last year were going against “the spirit” of the passes that give them special access to Parliament.

“[The BBC] clearly no made no attempt to understand and explain what he was trying to do, it simply joined in the hounding and pursuit of him.” Mason says when he worked at the BBC, doorstepping a senior politician was only ever done when they had refused an interview on a matter of public interest. But that “seemed to go out the window” when Corbyn was elected and journalists regularly began questioning him outside his Islington home.

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