The BBC is still the news provider most people trust most to give them the most objective, accurate news. It’s supposed to be impartial. But it isn’t, you know. And last week’s elections demonstrated the point with stark clarity – because they didn’t turn out the way Auntie wanted.
The build-up was all about how badly Labour was going to do at the polls. It was supposed to prove the point the BBC, along with most of the national media, has been making since last September. That Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable.
It was meant to be a disaster for the Left. You can be pretty sure that a number of Blairite Labour MPs were secretly hoping it would be. Bad enough to give them the ammunition to oust Corbyn and restore the party to the Tory-lite line. As if that had been such a roaring success a year ago.
The supposedly impartial BBC was not only predicting a Labour meltdown, it was doing its level best to help one along.
It went to town on the story of Labour’s supposed anti-Semitism. Meanwhile it tried desperately to ignore news that the Electoral Commission and Crown Prosecution Service were investigating allegations of fraud by the Conservatives at last year’s General Election.
It took Channel 4 to dig that one up – so maybe the BBC was just reluctant to follow up a rival channel’s story. But it never seems to mind letting the Daily Mail set its news agenda. And since this investigation could, at least in theory, bring about a change of government, you might think it would rank as an important political story.
It’s all a bit tangled up in hard-to-understand rules and regulations. But just imagine what the media outcry would be if 24 Labour MPs were under similar suspicion.
Maybe that really would have made the party unelectable. By mid-morning Friday, however, as the actual results began coming in, the BBC was downgrading its description of Labour’s poll performance from “disastrous” to “disappointing”. Or, with the finest nuance it could put on it, “not as disastrous as expected”.
It was, one BBC reporter declared, “a dull election”. Not quite the hoped-for bloodbath, then.
So just how disastrous was it for the “unelectable” Corbyn’s party?
Eight years of Boris Johnson’s rule over London ended with a bus driver’s son decisively beating a billionaire businessman’s son to the mayor's office.
Sadiq Khan was up by 44 percentage points to 35 over Zac Goldsmith on the first round. When second preferences were called in, Khan had 57pc of the vote to Goldsmith’s 43pc, giving him the largest personal mandate any British politician has ever had.
Labour also gained the mayoralty of Bristol and comfortably retained those of Liverpool and Salford.
In local council elections around the country, 1,291 Labour councillors were elected, as against 828 Tories. Labour was left in control of 57 councils, against the Tories' 38. Corbyn's party ended with 23 fewer council seats than before - but David Cameron's side lost twice as many. So whose disaster is that?
Labour’s firmer grip on Norwich City Council came at the expense of the Green Party, which could be seen as a Corbyn triumph. Many Green voters were former Labour supporters disenchanted with the party’s rightwards drift – now perhaps they have been drawn back to the fold by the party’s return to its traditional values.
Meanwhile there were two Parliamentary by-elections, both Labour holds. In Sheffield Brightside Labour increased their vote share by six per cent, taking well over 10 times as many votes as the Tory, who struggled in fourth. In Ogmore, south Wales, the Conservatives were pushed into third place by UKIP while Labour won with 52pc of the vote.
Labour retained control of the Welsh Assembly despite losing one seat – to Plaid Cymru, a party arguably slightly to Labour’s left. Not exactly a disaster, though Labour fell just short of an overall majority and will continue to need Plaid support in order to govern.
All of which left the BBC, and others, clinging to the Scottish Assembly election as fulfilment of the prediction of Labour disaster. But that, in a sense, is old news. It was at last year’s General Election that Labour was wiped out north of the border.
And while the Conservatives can celebrate taking over from Labour as the official opposition in Holyrood, the SNP remains in charge, with Green Party support. And that’s a coalition well to the left of Labour.
All of which adds up to a rather different message for Labour than the one their dissident MPs - and the BBC's current affairs department - would like us to believe.