Sal Brinton on Question Time tonight – will she confront Farage over UKIP’s awful broadcast?

So much for my early night tonight. I have to get up before the Cool Kids have gone to bed to get a flight to Cardiff to go to Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference. I can’t miss Sal Brinton on Question Time (BBC1, 10:45pm), though. Especially as there may be a bit of an awkward moment for Nigel Farage. He’s on the programme yet again on the day that Tim Farron and Meral Ece have complained to the BBC and Ofcom about UKIPs Party Political Broadcast last night. They say that it incited religious and racial hatred.

I don’t normally go out of my way to watch UKIP broadcasts. Life is just too short. However, I steeled myself to look at this one and, sure enough, my skin was soon crawling. It was basically a brash and ugly attempt to create division and distrust and gives a very false impression of Turkey and its people. It made me feel very uncomfortable. The premise was that Turkey was just about to join the European Union and this was a bad thing. It’s not as if that’s likely to happen any time soon, but they made it sound like it was going to take place next week.

UKIP are using exactly the same tactics as they did in 2013 over Romanians and Bulgarians. It’s truly horrible. I remember people in Eastleigh telling me on the phone that 40 million Romanians and Bulgarians were going to come to Britain – a massive proportion of the populations of those two countries – because UKIP leaflets were full of it. In fact, this time last year, there were 172,000. Those figures estimated that there were 1.9 people here from other European countries. There are 2 million British people elsewhere in the EU. Freedom of movement works both ways.

Tim explained why they had reported the ad to OFCOM:

This Donald Trump style scaremongering has no place in British politics.

Wherever you stand on the European campaign, inciting hatred, by getting down in the gutter in a desperate grab for votes debases politics. The politics of division is something millions of liberally minded people despise and I will keep doing all I can to make a case for inclusion and tolerance.

This broadcast was not just incredulous, it’s dangerous.

Meral, who is of Turkish descent herself, added:

This is stomach turning, dog-whistle politics demonising an entire country and all its people. The large Turkish community in the UK has made an enormous economic and social contribution over many decades. They play a vital and vibrant role in our society and shouldn’t be subject to Nigel Farage’s nasty politics.

If you agree, you can sign a petition backing their complaint.

The full text of the letter is below, so you can see how UKIP distorted the truth in order to try to make people feel suspicious of Turkey and its people. One thing I’d say, though, is that it’s all very well writing a letter, but what can we actually do to actively bring people together? We need to do something to kick the barriers Farage is building down before the foundations set. Maybe this is something for the Festival of Ideas Tim was talking about during the leadership election.

We are writing to make a formal complaint about the content of the Party Political Broadcast of the UK Independence Party broadcast on 3rd February 2016.

The presentation and tone of the piece is focused on provoking on negative, hostile reaction towards Turkey and the people living there, as well as Turkish people in the UK and elsewhere. It has been deliberately constructed to be offensive and breaches the code in that it “incites racial or religious hatred”, whilst using an array of questionable and in some cases entirely misleading assertions to advance this ‘case’.

The piece is offensive and set on pitching community against community. It is attempting to masquerade as an anti-EU film, but its main subjects of attack and clearly Turkey and Islam.

Further to this, in relation to the guidelines for the production of party broadcasts[1] the broadcast is not clearly labelled to avoid confusion between it and a documentary, or news piece.

The guidelines state:

“Broadcasts that closely mimic or parody the format of established programmes on any channel, particularly news programmes, should be clearly labelled to avoid any confusion or run the risk of misleading the audience.”

The broadcast adopts a documentary style from the outset, with the use of newspaper clippings, a presenter addressing the camera in a style closely associated with news reports, or documentary programmes and presentational deploys devices like graphs (albeit unsourced) which are in keeping with the format of many new programmes and documentary styles.

In one scene the presenter states:

“Last year 9 journalists were sent to prison in Turkey. On a list of press freedoms Turkey ranks 149th out of 180 countries, it might explain why I felt more comfortable filming this back here in the UK”

This is a clear attempt to portray the presenter as a journalist, who a viewer would reasonably believe to be impartial on a genuine news programme on the BBC or ITV.

The style adopted and lack of onscreen reference is in clear breach of this guideline.

This in itself is grounds for complaint, but we are especially concerned by the misleading claims made in the broadcast. This is in breach of section 2.2 of the Ofcom broadcasting code[2] which states

2.2 Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience.

In some instances it could be argued that a party political broadcast does not necessarily constitute a ‘factual programme’ however the nature of this broadcast, in its style and its presenting of claims as factually based constitutes a portrayal of a factual matter and misleads the audience in a number of places, specifically:

Turkey could have the maximum amount of seats – 96. UK only gets 73

Since 2014, in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty[3], there is a maximum of 750 seats in the European Parliament, so Turkey joining would not receive 96- it would be less than that (and others would lose some too). Turkey’s population share as it currently stands would represent 17% and the UK, France and German’s population share would still represent 42%. Our population is set to rise, and that would be reflected in our number of seats.

Potentially 15m migrants could leave for the EU in the first 10 years of EU membership

This is presented as a projection and is not credible, a 2011 Home Affairs Select Committee reported that:

“The MPs’ report says that the available forecasts for the likely flow of Turkish nationals to other European countries should it join the EU range from 500,000 to 4.4 million up until 2030. One estimate by Oxford University suggests that the figure could be as low as 60,000 to 70,000 a year to Europe as a whole.”[4]

More than ¼ of Turkish women married before 18

This statement is unfounded. The Girls Not Brides organisation estimates that 14% of girls married before the age of 18 in Turkey, this percentage clearly does not represent one quarter.

The Girls Not Brides organisation does caveat this with the fact that “statistical data available may not be representative of the scale of the issue since most child marriages are unregistered and take place as unofficial religious marriages.”[5]

Turkish women are ten times more likely to suffer physical abuse or violence than in Europe (UN Report 2011)

A UN Women report Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice[6] published in 2011 said that 39% of women in Turkey have suffered from physical violence, at some time.

This report looked at violence against women, specifically into the prevalence of intimate partner violence. The report shows the prevalence of violence against women in the UK was 19%, 35% in the Czech Republic and an average across Europe as being between 5-35%. The suggestion therefore that Turkey’s prevalence of violence against women is 10 times that of the UK is therefore misleading and incorrect.

Turkey average salary £429 per month, UK is £2,200

Although this figure is accurate, it is misleading as there are 8 other EU member states which currently have lower average salaries than Turkey. Furthermore, Turkey has the 17th largest economy in the world, its GDP has grown year on year, and it is a member of the G20.[7]

In order to become a full member of the European Union, all countries must meet a number conditions, known as negotiation chapters. To date Turkey has only passed 13 of the 35 negotiation chapters which include a wide range of areas including human rights and socio-economic data.[8] The adoption of further chapters would have an impact on a number of areas referenced in the broadcast ahead of any possible future ascension, and it is not likely that Turkey is about to join the EU.

The European Union is a crucial vehicle in improving civil liberties, human rights and the role of women in societies and countries that wish to apply to join have to uphold these values.

Ahead of a European Referendum where passions on both sides of the debate will be intense, it is our hope that this offensive and negative broadcast is not a taste of things to come.

The campaign should be characterised by an exchange of ideas and cases that are grounded in fact, and stated clearly so the British people can make up their minds. It should not become an excuse for the introduction of US-Style ‘attack ads’ or seek to inflame divisions and hatred against communities.

The lack of sources referenced in the broadcast makes comprehensively fact checking the piece difficult, but there are clearly a number of areas in which it is misleading.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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27 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 5th Feb '16 - 12:08am

    No Farage, a northern UKIP MEP. Sal Brinton excellent, well informed to the point. Northern Powerhouse a political mirage for the general election, of course, what does it mean anyway? Set a recorder for the repeat early on Sunday morning or use the I-Player.
    UKIP’s broadcast discussed, most people had not seen it.
    Should Turkey join the EU? Tony Blair and Jack Straw opened negotiations during a British presidency of the EU, but there are conditions of entry. Turkey also belongs to the Council of Europe, but has had numerous adverse court decisions on human rights. Of course the decision is not entirely up to the UK. Every EU member state would need to say Yes or No and so would the European Parliament. Foprmer French President Jacques Chirac promised a referendum in France on the issue. What does Austria think nowadays? They used to have a cultural memory of the former Ottoman Empire reaching the gates of Vienna. Cyprus could also wield a veto, if it wanted to, unless there is a solution for Northern Cyprus. There is peace, a lot of barbed wire, some UN soldiers, a hole in the wall used by building workers with daily visas, but no big-picture agreement.

  • Reporting UKIP to ofcom because of its broadcast. That’s surely illiberal? When a party has less votes and therefore less legitimatance than another tries to silence the bigger party by reporting its broadcasts it makes me think that the lib dems in a majority government would be more controlling, illiberal and authoritarian than new labour was.

    It’s ironic that farage is the one standing for free speech, real democracy, and freedom.

  • John
    “that’s what many people think in the privacy of their own home”
    Careful! Their thoughts maybe neo-Kemalist.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Feb '16 - 9:57am

    The BBC has scheduled BBC1 Question Time opposite an important debate on BBC2 Newsnight about Trident. Lord West repeated his threat to resign from Labour if they come out against Trident. The BBC research appears deficient as Shadow defence spokesperson Emily Thornbery MP insisted that there will be no “Main Gate” decision on spending on Trident, completely destroying the line of questioning of the BBC presenter. An American said that with only one submarine continuously at sea with only 16 missiles the British contribution was essentially irrelevant, but the UK is a crucial member of NATO in many other ways. If Trident is cancelled the Treasury will not allow the money saved to be spent on other defence needs. There is no date yet for a Commons debate on Trident and no apparent great need for one. The purpose of such a debate would have been for the Tories to expose Labour divisions on Trident, But the Shadow Defence Secretary is insisting that the review will be evidence based and will take as long as it takes.
    A Polish former minister said that he had declassified Warsaw Pact plans for an attack on western Europe including nuclear weapons to be used against Germany, Denmark and Holland, but not France or the UK and invited us to draw our own conclusions.

  • Caron & Ian Sanderson

    The LibDems need to be very careful about using things like OfCom to attack UKIP. I haven’t seen the PPB so I’m not in a position to comment on it but even without reading a comment would have low expectations.

    The (public) use of OfCom is rather like the increasing use of thought terminating responses the LibDems are seen to be using. You see it a lot on LDV you see it in public comment by the parties public figures and all it does is to make people unwilling to engage.

    The use of this behaviour makes people wary of engaging in debate on a wide number of topics. Calling on authorities to punish is not going to make the LibDems look open to discuss matters.

    Much better to engage in solid, careful (sometimes boring), discussion of the issues. Challenge each error in tern and deconstruct the message, then acknowledge the issues that are real and propose your own analysis and solutions. The LibDems have an image that no one would want to even engage in discussion with them for fear that they will simply retreat to name calling and thought terminating behaviour. At 6% in the polls that is not going to win anyone over.

    The LibDems don’t have to change their position (well perhaps modify) to get a fair hearing but they need to tear up the way they have behaved in discussion with those they disagree with. People are very open to having their minds changed but not often by people who insult them or call on authority to punish those who disagree with them.

    I tried to make this point in Paul Walter thread on xenophobia but my comment got stuck so I gave up.

  • @ian rm3

    The size of the vote means that many more people support UKIP than the lib dems.

    And with this in mind it’s unbelievable that the lib dems seem to think it’s ok to attempt to silence a party that represents far more people than they do. And that’s illiberal. Can’t explain myself any more than that, you’ll either get it or you won’t.

  • Simon Shaw

    I would have been appalled, but I haven’t seen a BBC documentary that has not had that effect on me in recent years as they have become such poor quality, so I would have found it even more believable.

    “Unlike Rsf7 I think that ALL political parties, however large or small, should be required to keep to the rules.”

    There is no problem with people privately reporting to OfCom where programmes breach the rules but the LibDem party should not make that the default public way they respond to something that they disagree with, they need to take it on, on the arguments not by appealing to rule breaches.

  • Simon no party follows the rules and is 100% truthful and accurate all of the time. I have seen certain lib dem leaflets. It’s seems to me that the lib dems mainly don’t like UKIP because they find their message offensive rather than because they’re dishonest, because they don’t seem to report dishonest things when they agree with them.

    It’s similar to branding anyone that disagrees with the party ic, phobe or ist. I think it’s an attempt to slience free speech that they don’t agree with.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Feb '16 - 12:07pm

    Rsf7: It’s you that don’t get it. You are confusing liberty with licence. Rules are there for a reason, and popularity should not be a reason to exempt anyone from them. You seem to be arguing that no political party should be allowed to report any other party with more popular support for breaches of the rules. So presumably, you think that the Tories (the party with the largest popular support at the last election) should be totally immune from any challenges to their political campaigning under electoral law. After4 all, they represent far more people than anyone else, so no-one should be allowed to “silence” them.

    Your idea of “freedom” is that of the playground bully who justifies attacks and taunts at his victims on the basis that “it’s a free world”. And by your logic, the victims should not be allowed to report the bully, because he is more powerful and popular than they are.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Feb '16 - 12:23pm

    Psi: It is not our “default” approach, but it is appropriate for THIS SPECIFIC broadcast. I tend to think that responding to dishonest campaigning by “taking on the arguments” validates the dishonest campaigning methods. If we let this one slide, that is one step closer to US-style attack ads being the norm for party political broadcasts. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to happen.

  • Psi , you must not give up , whether I agree with you or not , you make a genuine contribution to debate and your voice should be heard . And regarding this , UKIP always go to far , is going too far in the opposite direction the answer ? We should challenge them on every inaccurate bit of propaganda they throw , but , as with Trump , we should not swing so far we make things worse by not being heard because we sound complacent .
    Turkey , in my view , and that of many , should not be able to be in the EU . Quite apart from its appalling record on human rights , its economy , and gdp etc., whether it changes on those or not , there is a better reason it is not correct it would be able to join . It is not in Europe ! Its whole history is different . It had its own empire and tradition, good and bad , like ours , but the British empire was a much later and modern one , in tandem with involvement at European helm .I would not favour Israel or Russia becoming members either , for similar and also different reasons . The EU made sense as a small tight or loose federation of near neighbours . If we want to really see it survive ,it cannot keep expanding . There is nothing Liberal about huge organisations bound by an out of touch elite .

  • @Alex

    Well if you want that to be taken seriously you have to start with your own party. if the lib dem party was honest and seen as honest perhaps I’d take the complaint a little more seriously.

  • Alex Macfie

    “not our “default” approach”

    It certainly looks like the default response of the LibDems is to use thought terminating responses, be that calling on authority (such as in this case) or attempting to brand their opponents rather than engage in the argument. I tried to post some links illustrating this the other day but the site wouldn’t accept the comment so I won’t try again.

    “I tend to think that responding to dishonest campaigning by “taking on the arguments” validates the dishonest campaigning methods”

    Well most political campaigns have a fair amount of dishonesty so if that were to be the party approach they wouldn’t engage in any elections. A better approach is to take people on and win, if you look to rely on others to “rule” that someone else is wrong then you look weak and the other argument gets the air time (especially if the ‘loss’ the other side faces is a technical one about format).

    None of this stops an individual registering a complaint about a breach of rules, and that being a legitimate avenue for those technical issues. But a party should be arguing for its principles at every opportunity and never look like it is hiding behind some quango to fight it’s battles for it.

  • Simon Shaw

    “that’s two individuals jointly registering a complaint. Is that OK?”

    Why do so publicly? Why the party leader? OfCom should take a complaint on its merits regardless of who it comes from. A complaint via a normal letter/email not from the leader would do the required. The Leader should then be taking UKP on about the substance. Complaining about the format of a programme and possibly falling foul of speech restriction laws look a bit winey.

    A party leader has the biggest platform to argue about the fact that UKIP appear to not understand the issue (or are dishonest). And Actually make the case for what the LibDems believe should be done.

  • David Allen 5th Feb '16 - 4:46pm

    Irrespective of the Turkey issue – Just to say that Sal Brinton did very well – Robust and incisive, which is what we need against the Brexit mob!

  • Richard Underhill 5th Feb '16 - 5:56pm

    Green MP Caroline Lucas referred to underwater drones, but was rubbished by Lord West, without any detail.

  • Farage is sensible for saying that turkey could possibly join the EU one day and that absorbing a nation that is so poor and so large with a culture so different to our own would make the problems from the Eastern European EU accention look like nothing.

    That’s one of his aces in the hole so to speak. If the lib dems and the stay in campaign had such a great card to play don’t pretend they would not play it.

    You might think it’s a cheap shot playing that card, but the lib dems can hardly complain about political opportunism.

    I don’t believe that British people would ever accept being part of a political and economic union that included free movement of people with any large majority Muslim nation. And that does not mean the majority of people are racist.

  • David Allen 5th Feb '16 - 6:52pm

    Making a PPB which masquerades a documentary is wrong. Raising the question of Turkey is not intrinsically wrong. We could engage with UKIP on that subject. That’s just what we should do, if we are not to look weak.

    A complaint about the nature of the PPB would have been reasonable. But it should have come from someone entitled “Head of Media Relations” or some such. It should not have come from the party leader. What the leader should do is lead on the political debate.

  • David Cooper 6th Feb '16 - 11:54am

    Sal Brinton finds it offensive that UKIP should tell some home truths about Turkey. No doubt she will be pressing for us to implement that wonderful Turkish law in the UK , where any criticism of Turkey’s government is a criminal offense. Then UKIP would be much more measured in what they say about Turkey, and nobody need ever be offended.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Feb '16 - 11:02pm

    Please also see The Independent, page one, 11/2/2016 (not the i) about the composition of UKiP.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Feb '16 - 11:09pm

    On underwater drones Lord West has said more on the Today Programme and will presumably do so again if asked. He said there has been research into undersea visibility for decades and denied in absolute terms that Trident is vulnerable.
    On the threat we should keep up to date on what North Korea is doing on long range missiles, but it seems unlikely that they would primarily want to target us and if anyone uses nuclear weapons against them, what is the effect on South Korea?

  • Richard Underhill 7th Mar '16 - 12:55pm

    ON BBC1 Daily Politics on 7/3/2016 Fadi Hukura, a member of Chatham House, said that he does not expect Turkey to be joining the EU in his lifetime.
    UKIP MP Douglas Carswell agreed that “Certainly it is the case that Turkey is unlikely to join the European Union any time soon, ”
    https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/fadi-hakura#
    Expertise Turkey
    EU-Turkey Accession, including its political, economic, procedural and legal aspects (e.g. implementation of acquis communautaire)
    Economic liberalisation and deregulation projects in emerging markets
    Euro-Mediterranean Partnership/Barcelona Process
    European Union’s Neighbourhood Policy – See more at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/fadi-hakura#sthash.8nsnKB8r.dpuf

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