Addressing Andrew Marr

Trevor Fisher's picture
I have been working on the Andrew Marr interview with Nicky Morgan from 1st February since the text was made available, and it is very disturbing - I would welcome other comments on what was said. Given that this was the former Political correspondent of the BBC, in a key spot for opinion formers, then this is bound to have had influence. And what it showed clearly was that Marr had not read recent documentation in the public domain, and given that the interview was before the Cameron statement on the 2nd and the Clegg-Morgan statement on workload, the latter not mentioned at all, it was a curious timing.

The interview,downloadable here, was both dismissive of the statement by SIr Andrew Dilnot on Morgan's disturbing use of statistics, and completely unaware of the criticism of academies by the Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office and particularly the select committee finding which was that academies did not improve performance.

These are specialist reports, but widely reported. Marr also accepted the claims made for the Tory project on primary schools without showing any sign of the comments made in the OFSTED annual report, that Primary Schools are doing well but the problems are now in secondary - largely academised - and accepted the concept of poor performance on literacy and numeracy which had been heavily criticized by Dilnot. Had Marr any idea what Dilnot had said?

It was striking that the debate on what had happened to performance tables in January totally passed Marr by, and his only comment was that some schools had gone down and this was unfair. Even the BBC news had changed this story on the day to note that the schools which fell were mainly high performing HMC schools doing the IGCSE. None of this came over.

It was an achievement getting the select committee and other bodies to note the academy problem, and there are important debates taking place over issues like league tables. They have all passed Andrew Marr by in my view, and this is reflected in the broadcast media overall.

I would appreciate observations from other LSN users, as the Public Accounts Committee is again in the news today, and we are placing a lot of store on these investigations. IF the BBC ignores them and other broadcast media also erect a stone wall around the facts, then we cannot hope to succeed.

Trevor Fisher
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Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 16/02/2015 - 12:43

I will email Marr and suggest he reads LSN posts, my book, and that of Melissa and Janet.

Mollie Weston's picture
Mon, 16/02/2015 - 13:30

Have you also tried contacting education correspondent for Radio 4 Gillian Hargreaves? ( I have been frustrated for a long time by the lack of rigour in interviews by the BBC on education matters. I have emailed Gillian Hargreaves a few times and cheekily /helpfully suggested she sign up to London Schools Network. Good luck with Andrew Marr.

Depressingly I have just seen that support for the Tories has surged according to a Guardian poll. Maybe some real facts being reported on their track record would have some affect on the polls. Not that Labour are likely to improve matters much of course.

Phil Taylor's picture
Mon, 16/02/2015 - 13:50


I follow the excellent UK Polling Report. This extract puts this poll and any single poll into perspective:

'It’s Monday, so we have the usual rush of polls – the daily YouGov, twice-weekly Populus, weekly Ashcroft and monthly ICM. I’ll update this post as they come in, and do a round up at the end of the day.
Populus have topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 33%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 15%, GRN 5%. Tables are here.
ICM for the Guardian have figures of CON 36%(+6), LAB 32%(-1), LDEM 10%(-1), UKIP 9%(-2), GRN 7%(-2). The six point jump for the Conservatives looks particularly sharp but usual caveats apply. While it tends to be the polls that show unusual results or big changes that get all the attention, they are actually the ones we should be most dubious about. If there has been a genuine surge in Conservative support, then we’ll see it across all the pollsters, and other polls so far this month have shown things pretty stable.
Ashcroft and YouGov are still to come.'

Mollie Weston's picture
Mon, 16/02/2015 - 16:23

Thanks Phil

Henry Stewart's picture
Mon, 16/02/2015 - 20:26

It is an intriguing transcript, appearing to have Nicky Morgan confirm that Andrew Dilmott was right to pull her up:

NICKY MORGAN: .....for example, 1 in 3 of our young people was leaving primary school unable to read, write and add up properly.
ANDREW MARR: Well they could read and write a bit because I know Andrew Dilnot has pulled you up on that actually.
NICKY MORGAN: Absolutely, yes.

Michele -Lowe's picture
Mon, 16/02/2015 - 21:09

I've just googled Andrew Marr and read his biographical details. If accurate, it states he was privately educated. I don't know if he has children and if he does, where they go to school, but he wouldn't be the first journalist with little or no personal contact with the system which educates the vast majority of the population. I often find myself listening to politicians, pundits and journalists talking about state education and knowing instinctively, before they even declare it, that they have never themselves experienced it or use it for the education of their own children. Some actively vilify it, in part because they have to keep convincing themselves that the huge fees they fork out for private provision for their children are worth it. But in the main, the overwhelming impression is of unconcern.

agov's picture
Tue, 17/02/2015 - 13:58

Wouldn't disagree with any of the points you make Trevor, but really, were you expecting informed high quality work from the BBC??? On the PM programme up to a point perhaps but as for the rest of it? - those days are long gone.

The BBC is about as reliable as Fox News but not as much fun.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 17/02/2015 - 18:31

Perhaps the attribute that Fox News and the BBC have in common is, pretence. That is to say, the pretence that they not only convey news but serious, accurate, well researched, balanced news to their listeners ...! :-D

agov's picture
Wed, 18/02/2015 - 11:16

Quite so Andy.

Although I'm prepared to believe Fox News may do better weather forecasts as Americans don't have the agenda of making the forecasts 'helpful' to the man-made global warming/cooling/whatever it is this week propaganda malarkey.

Tony Parkin's picture
Wed, 18/02/2015 - 14:23

I have often thought that Andrew Marr seems to pull punches on hiw own show, as if the need to attract guests to a soft ride is more inmportant than being the assertive and challenging interviewer that he once appeared? Not sure that it's a charge that stacks up when aimed at the whole BBC, Trevor, but certainly with your judgement when it comes to Marr giving politicians an easy ride. Jeremy Paxman he sure ain't.....

Trevor Fisher's picture
Wed, 18/02/2015 - 19:31

the bias in the BBC Tony is not against political parties or viewpoints, but against understanding. Paxman is the worst, and his arrogant bullying does not promote understanding. In fact while I never got the transcript, his attack dog approach to Tristram Hunt on QTS - all the BBC commentators I know believe that QTS is not needed, and this was explicit in the Andrew Neil interview with Hunt, which I do have a transcript for. But not official. The BBC will not release transcripts for Neil's Daily Show or Newsnight.

The key issue is the paradigm, all the commentators on the BBC have the same state is bad, politicians must hammer these lazy schools mentality. Why is the issue, as it spreads across the broadcast media as a whole.

THe flagship programme is the worst, and I would ask colleagues to do what Henry has done and look at the interview and the level of discussion. Marr has Morgan saying that one in three children leave primary school illiterate and innumerate, Marr realizes that the government statistician corrected her, and points this out. |She says "Absolutely". And that is that. Marr does not then ask "So are you withdrawing this statement"?

Most viewers wouild not know who Andrew Dilnot is, and certainly would not know that the chief statistician has asked her to correct her stats, which are wrong. The big issue is why Marr does not ask her to correct her stats, which remain unchallenged. Does Marr feel he has any duty to establish the facts?

I am currently asking an even bigger question of the BBC< since the interview was broadcast the day BEFORE Cameron's speech, look at the bits where Marr asks about finance, and ask yourself - as I have asked the BBC, twice - why he did not do the interview AFTER Cameron spoke, as then he would have known what the spending figures were.

With the greatest respect, Roger, emailing him asking him to become informed is a waste of time. All the broadcast media work within the Black Paper paradigm of the 70s, and shifting the paradigm is the task ahead. The Neil broadcast on grammar schools and the BBC 4 programme which was taken to task on grammar schools fed on a UKIP like belief that these institutions were positive. Hence this week Cameron goes for grammar school expansion.

We have been forced on the defensive, and Marr is merely reflecting this. The challenge to the BBC has to be on an institutional level with a consistent, Black Paper type attack. When is this going to happen? The efforts of individuals and small groups are admirable, but if a UKIP_Tory alliance comes about, grammar schools will be - though Cameron thinks without the eleven plus.

A deeply rooted belief that comprehensives led to low standards which can only be cured by right win poltics has been in place for the last thirty years. Marr is a symptom, not a cause. We need a game changing strategy.

trevor fisher.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 14:33


"the bias in the BBC Tony is not against political parties or viewpoints, but against understanding."

You are absolutely right Trevor, and this is a very profound observation. The news media have a genuine dilemma; to simplify everything to the 'Daily Mail/Sun' level, while at the same time pandering to prejudices, widespread ignorance and misunderstanding, or to attempt to get 'under the facts' and test arguments and evidence.

You can rightly argue that the BBC has not only a duty to do this as the national broadcaster, but being free from the sort of commercial influences currently being alleged against the Daily Telegraph in relation to its coverage of the HSBC issue, it is uniquely able to.

This argument neglects that the BBC still has to compete with commercial broadcasters for audiences. This rules out turning viewers off with stuff that is hard to understand (as real life often is).

They also have the very powerful anti BBC privatisation lobby to contend with.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 15:41

Roger - and don't forget the threat to reduce or remove TV licence funding.

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