Complaint to the BBC on Newsnight’s “Hard Left” Slur

Not the first time Newsnight have misrepresented Jeremy Corbyn

We write to complain about non-impartial use of language during the Newsnight programme broadcast on the 21st of September 2021.

On three occasions the presenter of the show, Emily Maitlis, used the term “hard left” to refer to a sector of the Labour Party, inferring then making explicit that Jeremy Corbyn belongs to said “hard left”.

During the opening of the show (00:56 on iPlayer) Maitlis asked whether Keir Starmer’s proposed changes to the voting process for Labour leadership elections were “designed to lock out any future candidates from the hard left”. As she spoke, split-videos showed Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn reacting to their election as Labour leader.

Maitlis reused the term at 25:53 – “a tacit intention, perhaps, to lock out the hard left”

Finally, at 31:47 she explicitly drew a link between Jeremy Corbyn and the “hard left”: “Is this, fundamentally, about locking out the hard left so you can’t get a repeat of another Jeremy Corbyn?”

“Hard left” is not a suitable term for balanced broadcast journalism. The term has long been understood, in academic surveys of journalism, to carry negative connotations. We refer you to Wilson, John (1996). Understanding Journalism: A Guide to Issues. Psychology Press. p. 203:

“Condemnation by label is a favourite tactic of political antagonism … Descriptions like ‘hard left’, ‘far left’, ‘extreme left’ and ‘extreme right’ all have extra connotations, political under-meanings to damage the people they describe”.

John Wilson

This can be affirmed by the briefest survey of the output of non-neutral commentators like Darren Grimes, Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan. All three regularly use the phrase “hard left” as a scare term or slur (Farage, for example, recently branded the SNP as “an extreme hard left party”)

The term’s utility to commentators like this is clear – describing someone’s politics as “hard” makes them appear frightening, unreasonable, set in their ways.

We do not believe, therefore, that the BBC should be employing this term. We ask that Newsnight editorial team reflect on their use of the term (clearly a conscious decision given its repeated and consistent use on this programme) and set out an alternative framework by which they will describe the left-wing of Labour in future.

Perhaps “left-wing of Labour” would suffice?

If you’d like to support our complaint please use the share buttons below to spread the word on social media. Every bit of pressure on the BBC counts!

You can also leave a comment or subscribe to our mailing list and receive a monthly Free Press update direct to your mailbox!

Success! You're on the list. You can unsubcribe by clicking the link in any Free Press e-mail

16 thoughts on “Complaint to the BBC on Newsnight’s “Hard Left” Slur

  1. The bbc is the mouthpiece of the establishment, they have no need to privatise it and flog it off to some self serving billionaire, it already backs their right wing tax avoiding views.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. At last confrontation of a misuse and abuse of power position and authority. As a Transactional Analyst I am shocked to see how often this way of speaking is used to manipulate the public. Well done the-free-press.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. BBC, The Bias Broadcasting Company need to stop this slurring, they should report accurately and without bias. We need a new media outlet, giving an honest account of our daily news… I am sick of this biased way of reporting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hard disagree. This simply describes where they lie on the political spectrum and is accurate.

    Describing someone as far left etc can only be considered biased against the hard left, if you personally have a prejudice against the far left – why otherwise would be being described as such be an insult. Being called ‘gay’ is only an insult if you think its a bad thing to be gay.

    Arguing that Darren Grimes etc use the phrase is a weak argument. I dare say they use lots of words the BBC also uses. Lots of people, including on the left use the term ‘far right.

    ‘Left wing’ of the Labour party doesn’t make much sense as its a left of centre party, left by its nature. Although its fairly transparent what the tactic is here 😉


  5. Far left, left, centre, right are all value judgments, not absolutes (as you choose to use them)

    The BBC may argue that their journalists have the right to use value judgments. However, if extreme value judgments (“hard left”) are reserved solely for progressive politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, while the likes of Keir Starmer are never described as “hard right of Labour” (which, as a proven Blairite, he must be) or Tories like Priti Patel and Dominic Raab, currently taking authoritarian measures like trying to ban peaceful protest and rewrite the Human Rights Act, are never described as “far right” by BBC journalists, the BBC is failing the obligation in its charter to provide impartial coverage.

    If you can find ONE EXAMPLE of the BBC referring to a current Tory politician as “hard right” or “far right” please come back to us and we’ll discuss whether our complaint isn’t merited.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s