Liam Fox, the current international trade secretary, has had a go at the BBC. This is not news – the Beeb is the go to bad guy for anyone on the hard-right and hard-left these days. In fact, your opinion of the BBC tells the world a lot about your politics at the moment: if you think it’s definitely biased in one way or another, you have veered out of the centre-right/centre-left axis and joined team Farage-Corbyn. Weirdly, the desirability of hard Brexit tends to correspond exactly to this new political alignment, but I’ll leave that to one side for now.
No, what is interesting about what Fox had to say was its unconscious attitude towards Brexit itself.
“It does appear that some elements of our media would rather see Britain fail than see Brexit succeed. I cannot recall a single time in recent times when I have seen good economic news that the BBC didn’t describe as ‘despite Brexit’.”
This comment reveals something that Fox I’m sure did not want it to. It is baked into the basic logic of his statement in fact: it admits the possibility that Brexit is not guaranteed to be a success. In other words, there are situations in which Brexit could fail, making Britain fail as a result. How is this possible in Liam’s worldview? It’s like Nicola Stugeon, having won an independence referendum, getting upset at the Beeb for trying to make independence go awry: if it is an iron-clad good idea, what can a broadcaster do exactly all on its own to turn it into something capable of failure? Fox admitting that Brexit exists on a success-failure spectrum automatically concedes failure as a possibility.
How Brexit will be judged by the public will come down to whether they feel the country is better or worse off as a result of it. If the BBC are nothing but doomsayers who are completely wrong about the possible success of Brexit, won’t they just look like fools when it’s all a storming wonder to behold? Why are people like Andrea Leadsom worried by this if they are so sure of Brexit’s unstoppable ability to make the UK greater? Surely if the BBC really is behaving like a big, fat Remoaner, this is actually a good thing from a Brexiteer perspective: it is lowering the public’s expectations of what Brexit can deliver so that when the big payoff does come, people will praise Brexit even more than they would have done.
The only possible reason they are so worked up about the Beeb’s coverage of Brexit is that they are actually worried the BBC has a point and would rather they shut up about it all; that Brexit really might be somewhat less of a great idea than they had imagined it would be in the abstract. But that’s not possible, is it?