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The people speak

Posted by Richard Friday, November 05, 2004

"A decisive defeat". That was the verdict of the BBC at just gone one in the morning, with 78 percent of the votes cast recording a "no" to elected regional assemblies against a pitiful 22 percent "yes", with 893,829 votes cast, a "turnout" of 47.71 percent.

Not a single one of the 22 electoral areas votes for the proposition, with Newcastle (the area thought to be most in favour) recording 75 percent against, Sunderland, 80 percent, Tony Blair’s Sedgefield 72 percent and Alwick 81 percent.

Earlier that evening the BBC showed how out of touch it was, from its coverage of the NE referendum. Just after eleven, BBC News 24 interviewed political analyst Tony Travers from the LSE who spoke of the result being "very close", with the possibility even of a very narrow "yes" margin. All that was on the basis of a prediction from John Prescott, that totally objective observer of events.

By then, I had already received unofficial reports from the count indicating massive support for the "no" campaign, with some areas voting 5:1 against Prescott’s folly.

Minutes later on BBC News 24, we had reporter Richard Moss confirming an unofficial "no" victory, without giving any indication of the scale, against a higher than predicted "turnout" approaching 50 percent.

But to show quite how out of touch he was, he then lined up representatives from the "three main parties" for a discussion: Joyce Quinn for Labour, Martin Callanan for the Tories and Ed Davey speaking for the Lib-Dems.

There is the BBC framework: it cannot see outside the "bubble" of the established political orthodoxy yet, if there was anything that characterised the campaign, it was the leading role of the "peoples" no campaign, carried outside the cloying grip of the parties.

After the result, Prof John Tomany, leader of the "yes" campaign, at least showed some understanding of the situation. Speaking on the result, he said that the verdict reflected peoples’ growing rejection of political institutions. Concluded Tony Travers, Prescott’s ambitions for regionalisation in England were "as dead as a doornail".

Needless to say, the BBC did not interview Neil Herron. But, whatever the claims from the johnny-come-latelys, we know who really did the work. And now for the big one.