IN the year 2525, a student of political history will sit down in a library at a well-resourced Scottish university and try to make sense of an ancient electoral riddle – the mystery of the scone with clotted cream and the crunchy bacon roll.

It will take her on a journey through the breakup of Britain and on to the very heart of media impartiality, throwing ever more light on the inconsistencies of a failing state, as it crumbles beneath the weight of its own contradictions.

One of the conclusions of the mystery will be that the media played a supine role in allowing a decaying status quo to hang on to its iniquitous power for far too long. A principal failure was not interrogating the status quo with the same rigour as change is challenged.

We are living through a General Election dangerously close to accepting that unfairness is simply part of life and that the Conservative Party are born to rule. The logic of recent polls seems to imply that the Tory party’s dominance in England is both inevitable and immutable.

This week, Boris Johnson tried to duck out of scrutiny and wriggle out of set-piece interviews on both the economy and climate change. He refused to appear at a climate change debate on Channel 4 where he was not only empty-chaired but replaced by an ice sculpture.

Days before that, he was filmed by the BBC in a soft-focus news feature discussing the best way to eat a scone with clotted cream. The dilemma is apparently whether to apply jam first as an adhesive or spread the cream as a puffy platform, on which the confiture can then coalesce.

The way the BBC News and Current Affairs department has enabled Johnson is an abandonment of public service broadcasting. Their acquiescence to the intellectually bereft election slogan – Get Brexit Done – has allowed Johnson to stride forth with vacuity and avoid the kind of torrid scrutiny that the other leaders have been exposed to.

How to make the perfect cream scone is the kind of baffling nonsense that some people consider important but the media’s complicity in this warm and comforting feature was in stark contrast to the savaging that the mild-mannered Ed Miliband was subjected to when he led the Labour Party and was photographed chewing a bacon roll in an ungainly manner. Miliband was savaged by the media and the brief encounter led to the quite ludicrous national question – how can a man who struggles to eat a crispy bacon roll without contorting his face possibly run a successful economy?

The savaging of Miliband was, of course, nothing to do with decorum or the etiquette of breakfast rolls, it was about the preservation of the status quo. There is something within the English body politic, a paralysis of fear, that kicks in when confronted with the prospect of change, either from the political left or from the self-determination movements in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

A varicose vein of conservative ideology runs through British life. Both Labour and the SNP face aggressive questioning about public-service spending, whilst upper-rate tax bands, offshore accounts and the concealment of wealth are granted more protection than being disabled or poor. I can understand why billionaire newspaper moguls might have a vested interest in supporting tax concealment, but why journalists, broadcasters and ordinary voters assist them in valorising the status quo bewilders me.

The manner in which Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg have become cult characters in modern politics without their concealed private wealth and questionable donors being the subject of intense scrutiny is one of the many failures of modern-day broadcasting.

Throughout last week’s interviews, viewers were split down the middle about Andrew Neil’s interview technique. Some saw the inquisitor unwilling to accept the pat answers of politicians on the campaign trail, whilst others saw a vainglorious battering ram pumped up on his own self-importance. I was in the latter camp.

There is a venerable journalistic ambition in studio current affairs to find more light than heat. In that respect, Neil was found seriously wanting and for all the intensity of his approach, he rarely delivered a killer blow. It was a performance of self-gratification over substance.

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We may never know whether it was Neil’s abrasive style or the BBC’s failed negotiations that did not deliver Johnson to the inquisitor’s chair. But it did nothing to assist the BBC in the face of growing distrust. Johnson can live with the controversy, his shambling evasiveness is seen by some voters as a charming electoral asset, but it is not good news for the BBC who look either duped or, worse still, complicit in electoral neglect.

Failure to deliver Johnson to the inquisitor’s chair has come at a fragile moment in BBC history when there is already widespread disenchantment. I cannot recall a time when so many people have announced their refusal to pay the licence fee. These events unfolded in what is known as the purdah period where traditionally arcane practices are put in place to ensure parties and candidates are given fair access to the screen time.

Ironically, given the upsurge of disbelief about Johnson talking benignly about clotted cream and jam, it was Channel 4 that ended the week in the eye of a political storm. Johnson’s failure to show up at a leaders’ debate on climate change hosted in London has ignited a fierce stand-off between Channel 4 and the Conservative Party.

In a busked response to being empty-chaired, Johnson threatened to attack Channel 4’s licence, exposing two things: his unpleasant tendency to behave as if he has the sweeping powers of a dictator in a banana republic and an abject failure to understand Channel 4’s unique status or history.

Channel 4’s licence carries many of the requirements of all public service broadcasters, to be fair and impartial during an election period. Central to their licence is a requirement to innovate in the form and content of programme-making. It would take an Ofcom investigatory panel less than 10 minutes to determine that the first televised debate on climate change in British electoral history was a pioneering concept and that Johnson’s failure to show up harbours another conceit, that debates about our fragile Earth are best left to snowflakes, tree-huggers and those that knit their own yoghurt.

He is in many key respects a man of thundering clichés and despicable selfishness. His no-show speaks volumes about his attitude to scrutiny and any broadcaster that gives an inch to his patent weakness in public debate does itself a huge disservice.

It is not often I say this, but I secretly wish that his father Stanley Johnson had been allowed to take the lectern. He has published a readable book of short stories about endangered species. But to allow Johnson’s dad to join the debate would require a careful calibration of what impartiality really means, a corresponding invite to Nicola Sturgeon’s father Robin. That too would be a broadcasting first – an Ayr United fan on network television debating the relative merits of half-time meat products and the art of recycling left-backs at Somerset Park on a low budget.

Impartiality is never as simple as it seems.