Sunday, 23 September 2018

Are you an antisemite?

Just think. If Labour hoovers up all those frustrated Remain voters, the prospect of a Corbyn PM immediately becomes more real.
Now, it could be a mere matter of arithmetical calculation between dumping all those working-class traditional Labour supporters who voted ‘ Leave’ - (but many of those are alienated already, what with open borders and mass Muslim immigration) - and gaining the 48 per cent. (But would the middle-class Remainers really stomach all that redistribution of wealth and enforced equality of outcome?) 

Anyway, the prospect of a hard left government is bad enough, without the thinly disguised antisemitism in the form of all those imaginary lifetimes spent opposing antisemitismandIslamophobia and all forms of racism apart from anti-Zionism.

Jeremy Corbyn is a preposterous figure. His resemblance to Wilfred Brambell isn’t just a joke, like pretending Nicola Sturgeon is interchangeable with Wee Jimmy Crankie. (Well, she is a bit )
No. Jeremy Corbyn’s reedy little voice is exactly like old man Steptoe’s, and the way he pronounces certain vowels - for example listen to the way he says “those” - there’s a ‘w’ in there somewhere. Andrew Marr should have asked him to say “‘orse and cart” just to show us where we really are and what’s what.

Bedazzled by that kiss from Joanna Lumley perhaps, Andrew Marr failed miserably when interrogating the deceitful old weasel about antisemitism. There they sat, face to face, fish in a barrel. Lights, camera, action, and Marr snatches failure from the jaws of a sitting duck. 

How could anyone elicit anything new by confronting him with the exact same selection of incidents that have been gone over a million times? We’ve heard the same old evasive answers and limp excuses a million times already. Well rehearsed. For goodness sake what does the BBC (we, the licence fee payer) pay you for, Andrew Marr? We need our interlocutors to be incisive and steely; to wrong-foot our weasels, expose their weaknesses and force them to confront their own shortcomings.

Bags packed.

New Open Thread

Time for a new open thread. Many thanks for your comments. You're making the blog livelier than the BBC's Salford HQ:

Perpetually funding Gaza

“Welcome to Sunday!” says Ed Stourton cheerfully. “Charities are trying to plug the gap left by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw funding for Palestinian refugees. We’ll debate the morality of that decision with one of the charities involved - and a Trump supporter.”

That’s a good start. Charities= good; Trump-supporter =bad.

Now I’m going to bore you with a tedious transcription of the whole thing. (It doesn’t do it justice on the page. You need to listen to it to get the full flavour) 

Ed Stourton“It’s half past seven. Still to come in the programme, Anjem Choudary, jailed for supporting Islamic State, will soon be released from prison. Is he still dangerous? A group of charities have declared they’re trying to plug the funding gap left by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw funding for the support agency that looks after Palestinian refugees. Nigel Varnell is head of marketing and fund-raising for the charity ‘Embrace the Middle East” and Sarah Elliot chairs the London based group Republicans Oversees.  Nigel Varnell tells me how his charity is trying to help. 
Nigel Varnell
Well the last couple of weeks what we’ve seen, or started to see, is the impact of those cuts and originally it’s actually the cuts in US aid budgets before the UNRWA cuts. On of the Catholic health development projects there, Carotass (?) had their funding cut, which means that at the end of this month they were going to close, and they’re responsible for the healthcare of about 6 thousand households in some of the poorest areas of Gaza. So what they’ve done is released an emergency appeal to try and raise 120,000 euros to keep that project going for six months, and what’s happened is that at Embrace the Middle East we’ve been able to find £25,000 of that and the  last time I spoke to them the good news is they’ve also managed to find a good deal more of that which means that that project now at least has bought another six months of its life. 
Ed Stourton
Tiny figures compared to the big amounts involved, aren’t they? What do you think the overall impact of the Trump administration’s policy’s going to be?

Nigel Varnell
Well if you look at the overall impact we’re talking about over 200 million dollars, potentially, of US aid cuts. Also cuts into UNRWA the UN agencies, that could be in hundreds of millions of dollars, we’re already hearing of cuts to hospitals in east Jerusalem that deal with Palestinians and also money for coexistence projects. Now if you begin to look at the impact of that purely in somewhere like Gaza, that might mean something like 500, 600 schools closing; could be 22 health centres in Gaza that might be forced to close, that might be cuts to employment for people who work for UNRWA and maybe another 10 - 12 thousand jobs in an area that already suffers from huge unemployment. it’s going to be very significant.

Now, you may not have the patience to read all of the above densely written tripe. Suffice it to say that the chairperson intervened but once - with a sympathetic, nay, a leading question. 
Contrast that with his disparaging attitude to his other interviewee, the hapless “Trump supporter.”

Ed Stourton
Sarah Elliot, given what we’ve heard, how can you possibly justify this policy? 
Sarah Elliot
Well, for one, America’s not the only country in the world that can give to aid. Um, the Palestinians’ neighbours can step up and give as well, and this is an opportunity for them to do so, and i think Germany has also pledged more money to the region. But, money is spongeable(?) and the problem with giving so much money to that region is that they have a tendency, the Palestinians, to give that money to terrorists’ families who, a family member has either died or been imprisoned or has been injured through committing an act of terror for or on behalf of the Palestinian people, and that’s just not in America’s interest, we don’t want to fund these groups…

Ed Stourton
Well hang on, you’re not funding these groups are you? The vast majority - all this money goes to legitimate aid projects doesn’t it? 
Sarah Elliot
Well, I mean UNRWA has been known to have held antisemitic literature…    
Ed Stourton
Sarah Elliot
Yes, they’ve also been known to…..
Ed Stourton 
Really? Can you give me er, er, evidence of that?
          Sarah Elliot
It has been reported on by CNN and (unintelligible) They have stored weapons in their schools, so unfortunately, because it’s a very um politically charged region, money can be moved around in such a way by the heads of these groups or by …. I applaud the gentleman that’s on the phone here for the work that he’s doing.

(Throughout her reply, Ed Stourton was audibly grunting and huffing and making impatient noises in the background)

Ed Stourton
Well let’s hear from Nigel Varnell now, what is your response to the suggestion that this money doesn’t always go to legitimate purposes and is, I suppose, contaminated, seems to be the accusation, by the political nature of the region?

Nigel Varnell
Well the majority of the US aid money actually goes to the development organisations. It goes to organisations, the kind of organisations that embrace the Middle East funds as well, and that money’s not going astray. We’re not talking about money here for the families of terrorists, we’re talking about education for children, health care for sick people. Indeed, the one part of the US aid money that has gone through is money to the Palestinian Authority security services here. But what we are seeing now is cuts to education, healthcare, to job opportunities, and that’s what’s worrying.

 Even though Ed Stourton appeared not to know about the blatantly antisemitic language in UNRWA school textbooks, not to mention their summer camps and so on, you’d think that Ed Stourton would have at least been aware of how Hamas makes use of aid money, (tunnels don’t build themselves, you know) not to mention the salaries with which the Palestinian Authority’ incentivises unemployable Palestinians to murder random Jewish Israelis.
Ed Stourton
Sarah Elliot? 
Sarah Elliot
I just don’t think there’s a lot of transparency when it comes to the money in the UN, which is why the United States has cut quite a bit of funding for the entire UN, and also i don’t think its priorities always line up with America’s priorities, and with this president  who is putting America first, and you know if people are complaining that there’s not enough money, look to another country to supply it. 
Ed Stourton 
Do you think it’s moral to take money back from various projects that have been - people have got used to providing them with health, education and so forth? 
Sarah Elliot
Yes, I think if you don’t feel the money is being used wisely, which I don’t think this administration thinks it is then yes I think it’s fine to pull back from it. And we provide aid - the Unites States is the most generous country in the entire world. Its citizens are, and its government is, so no, I just don’t think pulling money back from an organisation that has not always had America’s first priorities….is a bad thing. 
Ed Stourton 
Can I just point out to you one area where people are suspicious about is which is about the fact that a lot of the money that’s being withdrawn is going to the refugee agency, and there is a view that this is political, that this about trying to remove the issue of Palestinian refugees and their right to return - from the political process.
Is Ed Storton openly advocating for Palestinians’ RoR?
Sarah Elliot
It’s a step in saying that actually Palestine, if you want peace in the Middle East you have to recognise the State of Israel and that the Palestinian Authority is in a united government with Hamas that calls for the genocide of Jews, so I think it is saying um ‘we don’t like the way that you have spent your money, we don’t like the priorities of your organisation, and nor the people in the area.” 
Ed Stourton 
Let me ask Nigel Varnell to respond to that. 
Nigel Varnell
At Embrace the Middle East I would certainly argue that it’s deeply immoral to try and use the poorest and the most vulnerable people in Gaza as pawns in a political game. We’re talking about people in Gaza 80% of whom are reliant upon aid. There’s 40% unemployment…

Sarah Elliot
…and i think it’s criminal…. 
Ed Stourton 
Just a minute Sara Elliot, let him have his say, we’ll come back to you…
Nigel Varnell 
This is an area, one of the few areas in the world where under five child mortality is not going down, in spite of the millennium development goals and everyone’s commitment to those and what we’re talking about is punishing those people. And I was in Gaza in May. I was talking to children, women who had no access to healthcare other than that provided by aid agencies, and to try and say to them that they need to be political pawns in this is completely immoral and I would say wrong. 
Ed Stourton 
And that is what you’re doing, Sarah Elliot, isn’t it? 
Sarah Elliot
No, it’s what their political leaders are doing. there’s no reason why that region should have 80% of their people on aid and i tonic their political leaders are keeping them down in order touch their own political agenda

Ed Stourton
The impact at the moment of what is happening is…

Sarah Elliot
Ok,……..You may not like it
Ed Stourton 
No no, I’m just trying to put this to you please. The people who Nigel Vernall has been talking to are the ones who are going to suffer as a result of this policy, aren’t they?

Sarah Elliot
You know, I hope they don’t, but there are other people that can step in and help take care of them as well, and I think they should look to their neighbours in the region. 
Ed Stourton 
Do you think that’s true Nigel Varnell? I know the British government is very worried about this as well and has increased the amount it has given to UNRWA a bit 
Nigel Varnell
Indeed and Embrace the Middle East would certainly thank DFED and the foreign office for increasing their funding. It’s really important at this stage to show moral leadership and for people to step into that gap, but the argument that other people can fund them therefore we don’t need to, then that surely is an argument that it must be moral to keep funding this kind of aid development projects. We need to keep doing that or people like those I met in Gaza in May will lose their lives, their healthcare, their education and their hope, and arguably that will drive them into the hands of the extremists and make this worse and more unstable for Israel, for Palestinians, for everyone.

Ed Stourton 
Nigel Varnell and Sarah Elliot.

All along, Ed Stourton reinforces Nigel Varnell’s points - rewording them and challenging Sarah Elliot on Varnell’s behalf. 
In his role as ‘anchor’ he appears to be ignorant of vital details - (or is this an act?) and is virtually denying the people of Gaza any ‘agency’ whatsoever - yet not so long ago people like Stourton were insisting that Hamas was ‘democratically elected’ (by the same helpless people).

If the West insists on funding Gaza in perpetuity, they are simply encouraging permanent dependency. If Nigel Varnell is so fond of the people of Gaza he should realise that losing the kind of ‘education’ they are fed by UNRWA would be a step in the right direction. Perpetuating their ‘hope’ (that Israel will evaporate) is another obstacle to a peaceful solution, and as for driving them into the hands of extremists, well, whose hands does he think they’re in now?

Why does the BBC let this kind of biased interview through? Because seen through the BBC’s institutionally anti-Israel prism it seems perfectly ok. 

Note the reply Tweet from 'Helen121' at the top of the page. ‘Educated’ by the BBC, d’you think?

Catch up

Not blogging for a week leaves you stranded like a beached whale. You end up having too much to catch up on, also like a beached whale but one that's rescued and put back to sea and which then has to swim frantically after its pod. And then Time, like Captain Ahab, keeps on chasing you on its wooden leg. [Ed - And how, pray, does Time have a wooden leg?]. And you end up writing long, unfathomable posts like Moby Dick. And then the Norwegians come after you with their Norwegian model of EU non-membership and the Eskimos come furiously demanding you call them, I think I'm taking this extended simile too far.

Anyhow, here are some things I missed or just grabbed today...

1. Springtime for Labour and Jeremy

Mr Marr was in Liverpool this morning for the Labour Party conference and devoted his interview with Jeremy Corbyn to (1) Brexit, (2) Labour antisemitism and (3) the party's new policies.

(Questions on the later felt like a waved-through afterthought though).

A fellow blogger who I like and follow on Twitter - and who most definitely isn't a fan of Andrew Marr - was complimentary today, saying that Andrew was "doing a not half bad job" in "exposing that Corbyn wants to do just as much cherry-picking in any negotiations with the EU as he accuses the Govt of". He also gave "Kudos to Marr for being persistent in his questioning" over Labour antisemitism.

I agree, but I don't think he drew blood on the antisemitism question It was almost as if he was ticking off a checklist written with his production team. Mr Corbyn slithered away.

Meanwhile, it goes without saying that the far-Left were absolutely furious at Andrew Marr for focusing on antisemitism at all. The man is an out-and-out Tory lickspittle who has it in for Jeremy apparently, and they want nothing but questions about Windrush and Tory racism with Theresa May next week. Given all this pressure, it will be interesting to see if Andrew Marr raises those very subjects next week.

Incidentally, the paper review contained 'the new normal' for BBC programmes. No, not the fact that it was an all women guest list, but the fact that a far-left guest was platformed. Sitting next to Camilla Tominey on the sofa was Laura Parker from Momentum. To paraphrase Samira Ahmed, isn't the BBC guilty of 'normalising' far-left extremism?

(I don't actually mind one bit. I'm just highlighting the paradoxical position of the likes of Samira Ahmed here. And Laura was useless.)

2. Mark Mardell This Weekend

Today's The World This Weekend was Labour Conference-focused.

Its main subject was the (apparent) demand for a People's Vote among Labour Party activists (i.e. a second people's vote after the first one went the wrong way).

Mark Mardell went canvassing views, almost all in favour of a People's Vote, and then gave a less-than-impressive Labour shadow minister a grilling for (apparently) going back on her previous calls for a People's Vote.

If Nick Robinson is to be believed, this report and those questions were just the BBC doing its job and not adding to the push for a People's Vote.

Well, maybe it is just a harmless fact of BBC reporting that a programme we've spent huge amounts of time proving to have an anti-Brexit bias today led on the People's Vote push, featured mostly pro-People's Vote voices and then made a backsliding Labour MP squirm over her backsliding over the People's Vote question. Or maybe it isn't.

Ah but, there was another strand to this Labour Conference segment today. It questioned Labour's deselection process. Lord Hattersley was on hand to decry the deselection of nice, 'moderate' Labour MPs (i.e those from the pro-EU 'right' of the party).

So here was The World This Weekend leading on calls for a People's Vote within Labour and calls for the Labour leadership to be nice to the (pro-EU) 'right' of the party.

Entirely innocent, as per Nick Robinson? Hmm.

3. What Ed and Bob Said

“It’s half past seven. Still to come in the programme, Anjem Choudary, jailed for supporting Islamic State, will soon be released from prison. Is he still dangerous?"

So asked Ed Stourton on Sunday today, before taking sides over the Trump administration's decision to cut funding for "Palestinian projects".

Sue has given this a thorough fisking (above).

Though there was an interesting report on the growth of pilgrimages in France by John Laurenson (one of the BBC's most interesting reporters), there was also a classic BBC hit job on Billy Graham's son Franklin.

He appears to be rather pro-Trump, which might not help.

Franklin Graham is visiting Blackpool this week and Sunday has been kicking up a storm over (or, as Nick Robinson would say, 'reporting') the 'controversy' about his visit over the past couple of weeks.

A report last week and a report this week 'gave both sides' whilst being, very obviously, on the anti-Franklin side.

And then came the interview with Mr Graham himself by Sunday's Bob Walker.

This interview is almost in the same league as the one Sue transcribed, albeit there was just one interviewee here. And though you may feel as unsympathetic towards Franklin Graham as I do, I think you'll see (if you listen to it) that Bob was on a mission to make Mr Graham look as bad as possible.

And I suspect that's because Bob is even more unsympathetic towards him than I am. (AKA biased).

It was a deeply passive-aggressive interview: How dare this man say that Islam is a nasty religion? How dare he, as a Christian, believe that homosexual acts are a sin? "Many" say what he says is offensive. It's offensive, isn't it? Go on, Franklin Graham, say something offensive for me here on Sunday! Go on, go on, go on!

I think that sums it up pretty fairly.

4. From Our Own Biased Correspondent

I'm still waiting for a FOOC piece from Israel that dwells on the positives of Israel. This week's piece wasn't what I was after: "In Israel, Tom Bateman is on the hunt for the finest falafel as he hears what Arab and Jewish Israelis think of the controversial new Nation State law", the blurb on the website read. It featured a Jewish Israeli man "asserting" something (in favour of the law) and an Arab Israeli woman "saying" something (against the law), and it wasn't hard to guess which one Tom felt most sympathetic towards. Please think of the falafel.

5. King Arthur v Lord Adonis

I haven't watched it myself but I was fascinated by the social media reaction to Alice Roberts's BBC documentary King Arthur's Britain. Pro-EU types on Twitter were positively gloating that it would infuriate UKIP types ('gammons') and anti-EU types were absolutely appalled at its twisting of history to hammer home a pro-EU, pro-globalisation, pro-mass immigration message. Can I bring myself to watch it and judge for myself?

So far, no.

6. Salzburg

And to end, a Mozart symphony to reflect the big UK/EU event of the week - a Salzburg symphony no less by the 15-year-old Wolfie (no relation to Paul Mason, despite the Austrian famously being a Freemason):


Obviously, the topic of the moment is Theresa ‘not-for-turning’ May. But I’m not going to write about that. I haven’t been dwelling on it. To be honest (always am) I’m a bit bored with Brexit now. I feel helpless and fatalistic about it and as far as I can tell (maybe not far) the BBC hasn’t performed much more one-sidedly over unfolding Brexit news than other news organs have. Let’s see how the Sunday programmes handle it. 


Instead, I’m going to write about something trivial and largely unconnected with the Beeb.  I can’t remember where I came across it - perhaps below-the-line on Biased-BBC - but it concerned one of the Deborahs. I always get my Deborahs confused. There’s Deborah Orr, a Guardian columnist with whom I fundamentally disagree about everything, particularly her choice of husband, albeit a relationship that seems to be unravelling, and the other one who writes in The Times. Orr and Ross; the similarities in those letter sequences add to the confusion. Deborah Ross is just one of a cavalry of amusing lady columnists whose multifarious and light-hearted pieces entertain even if they don’t especially inform or educate. 


What has she gone and done now? Well, she’s written a vituperative piece about Katie Hopkins, and caused a small below-the-line uproar.

What’s disappointing is that someone like Deborah Ross should choose such an easy target. Katie Hopkins sets out to stir shit, so why bother berating her for that? That’s her MO. However, the excessive schadenfreude in Ross's uncharacteristic rant is unbecoming and also a bit stinky.

I’d say to Deborah, so I would (if I were Irish) “now that Hopkins has suffered the financial consequences of her outspokenness and stubbornness, your satisfaction and your all-out gloating negates any righteousness you might feel from Katie Hopkins ‘getting her just deserts’. “

The thing is, that Katie Hopkins is (marginally) my kinda gal. She says stuff that some of us ‘think’, at fleeting moments, in the privacy of our own heads. Rude thoughts; who doesn’t have them?
Also, Jack Monroe is insufferable, although she seems to have mellowed with the hairstyle, and as for Laurie Penny with her squeaky opinions, give me Katie Hopkins any day of the week.

Hopkins’s combative style and radical fundamentals are what makes her stand out. That’s it. She’s not a very good interviewer, especially with someone she agrees with. She needs an argument to raise her above the mediocre. I watched her ‘soft’ interview with Anne Marie Waters and it struck me she would never have got very far, career-wise, without being outrageous and obnoxious.
Deborah Ross even manages a passing swipe at Tommy Robinson. Good grief, say something original. That’s your job.


If I hadn’t already binge-watched it, I’d have been tuning in to BBC One to see “Killing Eve” last night. I thought the adaptation was terrific and Jodie Comer’s performance as an engaging, nay, loveable murderous psychopath was mesmerising. I loved Sandra Oh, (great name) with those eyebrows that constantly shot up in consternation like the apex of a steeply pitched roof.  For once I agree with Hugo Rifkind.

Adverts on the BBC

I had to grin, while listening to this morning's Broadcasting House paper review, when  Anneka Rice took the BBC to task for product placement on Strictly Come Dancing:
I noticed on Strictly Come Dancing last night that they mentioned The Bodyguard three times, which is extraordinary, and it just makes me wonder where it will all end. Will we have Craig Revel Horwood saying "I'm the best a man can get" while he uses a Gillette razor? 
It's long been a (minor) bugbear of mine that the BBC boasts, at it's rivals' expense', about being free of irritating adverts yet you usually get 2-4 irritating adverts between every BBC TV show. The fact that they're all adverts for the BBC itself can't hide the fact that they're still adverts. 

It was even funnier as Broadcasting House itself had done a Bodyguard-related feature just a few minutes earlier, thus doing its own bit of BBC self-advertising.

And guess what happened on today's The World This Weekend? Yes, the starting point for its final feature was also Bodyguard. 

I'm only surprised that Radio 4 didn't ask the The Rev. Dr. Peter Stevenson to slip in a mention of Bodyguard during his sermon on this morning's Sunday Worship:
But that doesn’t exhaust the meaning of this exciting and hopeful  message. For when the apostle Paul uses that particular phrase he’s trying to convey the mind-boggling truth that Bodyguard on BBC One is the one to watch tonight. And with an awareness of a world in anticipation of its final episode we pray as Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Our father, who art in Heaven, etc...".

"No, I can't see that at all"

Samira Ahmed: It was also interesting this week seeing you and other BBC journalists on TV directly answering viewer questions about Brexit. What was the thinking behind that? 
Nick Robinson: I think the thinking was that wherever you go around, if you do my sort of job, if you do the job of senior editors at the BBC, people will stop you on the street and say "We don't really understand this". And actually this particular set of items came from a conversation I had in a shop. I was buying a cheap plug in Maplin, when it was about to close down, and a guy came up to me and said, "Nick, why haven't we left? I don't really understand it". And I found myself explaining to him and enjoying the process of saying to him, "Look, you're not hearing this on air? Are we not explaining this to you on air?" And he said to me, "You know what? You've been clearer in this conversation than anything I think I've seen". So I then went to the 10 O'Clock News and said, "How's about I make this conversation as a piece?" And it seems to me every so often we need to correct ourselves and say, we are in too deep, we know too much detail, pull back and try to explain it in a way that people will follow more easily. 
Samira Ahmed: With all these questions, some viewers feel that the BBC has focused too much on the potential problems and pitfalls, and that can seem anti-Brexit. 
Nick Robinson: Well, there are certainly people who say that, why do you follow this forecast, or that warning, or that projection, aren't you being sort of anti-Brexit as a result? The answer to that is, that is our job. It is our job to report on the warnings made by authorities, whether it is the IMF or the Bank of England, the warning that comes from the biggest companies in the land, for example Jaguar-Land Rover, again, something I put to the Prime Minister and other people this week. It is our job to warn about it. Clearly, in the process, we have to also say to people there is a difference between a worry, a concern, a forecast, and a fact. Forecasts are not facts. That's not what they are. But I think to say that we ought to be positive about Brexit, to say we should be cheerleaders for Brexit, to say we should be patriotic, which sometimes people do, is to misunderstand the role of a journalist. It is not the role of a journalist to be on one team or another. We don't wear the scarf. We don't sing the songs. It is our job to report on the match, to do it fairly and, if you hear things you don't like, I am afraid that is the nature of BBC journalism. You are going to hear people you don't like saying things you don't agree with. 
Samira Ahmed: The political pressure for another referendum is getting more and more airtime. Can you see why some viewers feel it is effectively supporting it? 
Nick Robinson: No, I can't see that at all. I think that is again to misunderstand how reporting on something is advocating something. If we report there are calls for a second referendum it is not the BBC taking a position on whether there should or should not be another vote of the public. It is reporting. That's what reporting is. The truth is there is now a highly organised campaign for what they call a people's vote. There is evidence in the opinion polls of it picking up some support. There are some prominent politicians, Justine Greening for example, the former education secretary, coming out in support of it. It is our job to report it. It is not our job to say that because it might offend people who don't want a second referendum, or who voted Leave, or who see this as undermining democracy, we mustn't report it. What we ought to do is while reporting calls for a second referendum, also report on the objections to it. 
Samira Ahmed: Nick Robinson, thank you. 

"Frankly, it's an absurd criticism"

Samira Ahmed: I'm joined now by Nick Robinson, who's in our Westminster studio. Thank you for coming on Newswatch. You spent quite a bit of time with the Prime Minister last week. We saw you travelling in her car. You eavesdropped on meetings. You even sat with her and her husband watching a quiz show. What sort of deal did you do to get that access?
Nick Robinson: Well, when you say a deal it's no different from any other interview that you do with any other senior politician. We say, "We want an interview." They say, "We are prepared to be in an interview on this date, in these sorts of circumstances". But, obviously in this case we said, "Could we have some access as well, some behind-the-scenes access?" And we got more access than you would normally get. But we were explicit in the script. I was explicit in writing when I wrote about this and have talked about it, that obviously access is really what they want to give you. And indeed we showed in the Panorama at one stage how we were filming the beginning of a Cabinet meeting on no-deal preparation and then we were thrown out and the door was closed. So my feeling always is that access is fine to do on television provided you are explicit with the audience about what you are seeing and what you are not.
Samira Ahmed: Presumably, though, the Prime Minister's director of communications Robbie Gibb would have played a part in arranging this. He used to run BBC Westminster. Some viewers are really uncomfortable about this. They feel that you are effectively doing the Prime Minister's PR for her. 
Nick Robinson: Well, I think, frankly, it's an absurd criticism. Any politician who comes to give an interview is doing it because they have a purpose. They want to communicate a message. They are doing it at a time of their choosing because, of course, if they didn't want to do it, they wouldn't agree to do it in the first place. They are doing it because they want to get a message across that they want to get across, because they choose what they say when their mouth opens. So any arrangement to do any programme is of course partly - partly - on the terms of the politician and their spin doctors, press officers, director of communications, call them what you will. What we as journalists have to decide is, is there an interest for our viewers, our listeners, is there an interest for people who want to see the Prime Minister questioned in doing that particular interview. And I think to see the Prime Minister questioned on the criticisms of the Chequers deal that she had - criticisms coming from Remainers as well as coming from Leavers, criticisms coming from within her own party that might deny her the majority - those are questions worth putting, and I did put them and, therefore, I felt it was a programme worth doing. 

Friday, 21 September 2018

Who cares?

Aren’t you looking forward to the Labour Party Conference 2018? The BBC is preparing to give it full coverage. 
Here’s a taster:
“Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS Union, who publicly insinuated anti-semitism is “a story that does not exist” in the Labour Party, will be speaking at:
Labour and Palestine’s ‘Speaking Up for Palestine’ alongside Len McCluskey and Richard Burgon. 
CLASS’s ‘Review Of The Year’ alongside Owen Jones and Clive Lewis.
Public and Commercial Services Union’s ‘Social Security Under a Labour Government – What Would Need To Change’, alongside John McDonnell.”

I can’t wait.


The BBC’s coverage of other Jewish-related matters is not nearly as assiduous. Melanie Phillips:
“Through its educational materials and other media, the P.A. routinely incites hatred of Jews and the murder of Israelis, teaching its children that “all Israelis deserve to be killed and that dying while committing a terror attack is ‘the path to excellence and greatness … the great victory.’ ” 
The Arab writer Bassam Tawil has specifically blamed the murder of Ari Fuld by 17-year-old Khalil Jabarin on incitement by Abbas. According to Palestinian terrorist groups, Jabarin decided to murder a Jew in response to Israeli “crimes” against the Al-Aqsa mosque and other Islamic holy sites. 
Two days earlier, in a speech to the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah widely reported in Arab media, Abbas had repeated the lie that Israel was planning to establish special Jewish prayer zones inside the Al-Aqsa mosque. 
No mention of any of this in Western media. Nor the fact that the P.A. immediately said it would pay the Jabarin family 1,400 shekels per month (nearly $400) for the next three years as a reward for Ari Fuld’s murder. According to the P.A.’s finance ministry, its total “pay-for-slay” budget amounts to 1.2 billion shekels ($335 million) this year and last.”
Last but not least, Jeremy Bowen is at it again.  Part of BBC Watch’s post concerns the BBC World Service so you may not have seen it, but the filmed report was featured on BBC One and the News Channel. The long list of inaccuracies and omissions in this report can be accessed here, but in the post-truth world, who cares? 

Bowen’s one-sidedness is getting more and more audacious and the BBC is evidently okay with that. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Rock Star Scholar

A series of videos on the BBC website, under the BBC’s ample #MeToo umbrella, includes a short film about Tariq Ramadan who is currently in custody in France, facing charges of rape. 

We’ve alluded to professor Ramadan previously - here on this site and, back in the day, on Biased-BBC, but the most exhaustive critique of Ramadan, Islamic philosopher and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, is in Paul Berman’s ‘The Flight of the Intellectuals’  

“In short, Berman finds the widespread admiration of Ramadan to be misplaced. Berman regards Ramadan as a sinister figure with a sinister agenda, and at the same time deplores the intimidation and violence directed at that “subset of the European intelligentsia — its Muslim free-thinking and liberal wing especially” — who “survive only because of bodyguards.” 

In making this film, which someone has bizarrely titled 'The rock star scholar and rape claims” the BBC has commissioned - or collaborated with - another object of its own misplaced admiration, none other than a lady you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever watched The Big Questions; the sanctimonious Muslim intellectual Myriam Francois,  formerly known as Myriam François-Cerrah.

Having apparently ditched the “Cerrah” as well as the hijab, I wonder if Myriam Francois is another beneficiary of the BBC’s vigorous pursuit of diversity for the sake of it, in presenters, guests and talking heads.  (Although the proliferation of brash, 'Identity-Muslim' female recruits such as Mehreen Baig and  Nelufar Hedayat etc seems hardly diverse if you see what I mean)

Obviously, I have no idea who dreamt up the idea for this film and I’m not even accusing it of being especially one-sided, for although it contains a considerable amount of content favourable to Ramadan - (more so, for example,  than anything I’ve seen in the BBC’s coverage of Harvey Weinstein) it clearly includes criticism of Ramadan, his serial sexual infidelity and patent hypocrisy as a devout Muslim and “Oxford professor.”

Nevertheless, the BBC’s coverage of this sordid business strikes a jarring note. This is an ongoing case and, I daresay, none of Myriam Francois’s business. The report seems prurient, exploitative and inappropriate. Could it have any effect on the trial? I don’t know.  It just seems all wrong, somehow.

Sunday, 16 September 2018


First from BBC Breaking News came:

Then came:

Heaping on the Bias

Not Ellie

What with one thing and another I've become much less of a regular Countryfile viewer than I used to be. And I've also become much less of a regular reader of Christopher Booker's Sunday Telegraph column.

We all came together today, however, when Mr Booker wrote about last Sunday's Countryfile and, via a tweet, I was reunited with both of them. (I was all ready to run into Ellie's arms, to the strains of cod Rachmaninov, but she wasn't on, alas).

Mr Booker's piece is headlined BBC groupthink is undermining its claim to impartial reporting and its particular focus was last week's report from Tom Heap about fracking:
Apart from a brief, dismissive interview with Cuadrilla’s chief executive, the item was no more than a relentlessly one-sided commercial for the vociferous anti-fracking lobby. 
The report, he says, "makes nonsense of any pretence that this is the 'impartial' reporting to which the BBC is legally committed by its charter". 

Naturally, I had to watch it myself to see if it was anywhere near as bad as Christopher Booker says. I thought he might be exaggerating.

To my surprise, not only wasn't he exaggerating but the piece was actually much worse that he'd led me to believe.

If we do a Top 10 Most Biased BBC Pieces of the Year 2018 award at New Year this year, I'm tipping this to be at No.1 (even with a third of a year still to go). I can't see anything beating it.


A full transcription follows but you really to see the whole thing - the images, the background music, the inflections in Tom's voice, Tom's body language, everything.


How to sum up why it's so biased a piece of BBC reporting? (And whether you favour or oppose fracking is not the issue here).

Well, just look at the was it's framed from the very start, as something "controversial" that flies in the face of hopes and expectations and history. 

And look at the loaded language used throughout, which is heavily biased from the word go. Note especially Tom's uses of  "for some" and "Some say" and "fears" and "some people speculate", etc. It all tends, and trends, just one way (against fracking).

And look out for the Bias by Placard Placement. (The link, if you click on it, explains all).

And the Government's go-ahead is repeated painted as being against the advice of its own experts, with the experts ("impartial", as Tom described them) and their findings being given uncritical treatment by Tom. 

And the Government is, again and again, made to look wrong-headed and shifty by all sort of hints and nudges from Tom. ('They delayed this, to help fracking, didn't they, nudge, nudge, wink, wink?')

And look at the way Francis Egan from Caudrilla is treated - put on the defensive from the start, his contributions brief and obviously heavilly edited, never fully given the chance to advance the case for fracking, very much placed in the naughty corner throughout via Tom's questions and framing narrative. (Why on earth did he agree to participate? Tom Heap ran rings round him and made him - and his company - look stupid and dishonest. It's as if a trap was set by the BBC here and Mr Egan walked right into it, smiling broadly).

And look at how Tom spins the to-me-somewhat-surprising polling evidence to suggest an overwhelming public opposition to fracking that the Government is brushing aside. (I expected the gap to be much wider, and for the opponents of fracking to be well above 32%).

And look how the fears of anti-fracking Jane, with her dreams and her animals, are immediately given credence by Tom. ("Well, it seems Jane may have some reason to be concerned").


I was already ready to write this post, having gone most of the way though the report and gasping at the sheer scale of the bias, when the coup de grâce fell.

We were introduced to an expert who turned out to be heavily anti-fracking. And that expert, introduced as being from a "think tank", without any mention of his recent BBC past, was none other than that most biased of all the BBC's recent environment reporters, Richard Black - a man whose BBC reporting was rarely free from charges of bias and even of pro-environmentalist activism. Richard duly trashed fracking.

Dick and Tom

(Didn't the team behind Countryfile have any qualms about that?)

As is Tom's way, his closing paragraph made efforts to appear balanced. But it was the soppiest of all possible sops to impartiality. 'The mother of all sops', you might say.


Seriously, please watch the thing and read the transcript below. And if you want to vote for it in our (possible) Top 10 Most Biased BBC Pieces of the Year 2018 award, I'm behind you all the way.

Anyhow, here's the transcript:

Anita Rani: Now, we're often told that clean, renewable energy is the future, so why then has the deep drilling for gas under our countryside been given the go-ahead? Tom's been finding out. 
Tom Heap: From the air around us... to the water in our seas and rivers, and the sun's rays... ..the search for a greener, cleaner energy supply the UK can rely on continues. So, for some, the news that the UK is about to launch a whole new fossil fuel industry came as a bit of a surprise. And this is it - fracking, the controversial practice of onshore deep drilling for shale gas. It's an issue we've been covering on Countryfile for years, but now there's been a big leap forward. In July, the Government gave gas company Cuadrilla the final go-ahead to start pumping shale gas from here at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire. But is the Government pushing through fracking despite warnings from its own environmental experts? Some say it's putting short-term economic gain ahead of long-term sustainable energy needs. That's something that protesters here would agree with. Today, they're out in force as the site goes into lockdown while preparations begin. 
First female protestor: The residents and the locals have spent over the last seven years, must be clocking up to nearly a million in just fighting this.
Second female protestor: Everywhere that drill rig goes, a protest group will arise out of that community. We will not stop, obviously, because this has never been a choice for us. 
The work causing so much opposition here is hydraulic fracturing, where water and chemicals are pumped at high pressure deep underground to fracture rock and release natural gas. It will be the first such project in Britain since 2011, when exploratory drilling at a nearby site set off minor earthquakes. Since then, Cuadrilla has lobbied hard to convince us fracking is safe. I was supposed to meet their CEO, Francis Egan, on site, but three days before filming, we were told we'd have to have a chat outside the fence. 
Tom Heap: We were originally hoping to get on there today. You suggested we'd be able to, but it's not happening. Why's that?
Francis Egan: Well, there's a lot of activity on the site. The noise you can hear in the background is reversing alarms and I have a site manager who tells me that his job is more important than the BBC, which I know you'll find hard to believe, but that's the case.
Tom Heap: So it's a safety thing, is it? There's not something you're trying to hide from us over there?
Francis Egan: Well, I think you can see everything there is to see there at the moment.
Tom Heap: It shows you're getting pretty close to the moment of actually starting to frack.
Francis Egan: We are indeed, yes.
Tom Heap: And for a lot of people, not least the protesters, that's a worrying moment. They're going to be thinking about earth tremors and air quality issues and things like that. How can you assure them that it's going to be safe?
Francis Egan: Well, this site behind us here is probably the most monitored oil and gas site that there ever has been in the history of oil and gas. We're monitoring air quality, water quality, seismicity, traffic movements, and we've been doing that continuously for a period of 12 months. And if there are any issues, then the operations would cease. 
Despite these assurances, the British public are yet to be convinced. For the past four years, the Government has surveyed people on their support for fracking four times a year. At the last count in April, 18% were in favour, with 32% against. But it seems the Government's no longer that keen to know what we think because in the most recent survey, that question has now disappeared. They will now only be asking once a year. And fears the Government isn't listening to concerns about fracking don't end there. When it comes to big infrastructure projects like energy supply, the Government has a team of its own impartial expert advisers in the National Infrastructure Commission. And this wide-ranging report is its assessment of what the UK needs to run effectively and efficiently. And it clearly states that if we are going to meet our climate change and emissions targets, relying on gas is not the way forward. And yet just a few days after this was published, the Government gave fracking the go-ahead. At the moment, gas makes up more than 30% of the UK's total energy demand, used for heating, cooking and to produce electricity. The Government argues that it would be far better if that gas were home-grown. But some estimates say that could mean 4,000 wells being drilled across the UK, which could swallow up swathes of our countryside, including areas like here in Roseacre, just a few miles from Preston New Road. Cuadrilla are hoping they'll get the go-ahead to frack here next. Jane Barnes and her husband built their home here more than 25 years ago. Then, it was a dream location for her family and her animals. 
Jane Barnes: Hi, Lucy. Hi, Gaby. Good girl. 
Cuadrilla submitted plans to drill here in 2014, and Jane fears the impact fracking could have. 
Tom Heap: So what is it that so worries you about this potential site?
Jane Barnes: There's the light pollution and the noise pollution and of course the 17,000 HGVs coming through our country lanes. You have to realise that this is really heavy industry with all the pollution it brings, and we live and work here. So we will get no respite.
Tom Heap: Is this, in the end, the very definition of "not in my backyard"?
Jane Barnes: No. A local gentleman told me yesterday he calls himself a SIMBY, which is "safe in my backyard", and we do not consider fracking as it is being proposed at the moment to be safe in anybody's backyard. 

Tom Heap himself

Well, it seems Jane may have some reason to be concerned. This is yet another new report by another team of Government advisers, the Air Quality Expert Group. And this one says the local impact of fracking could be significant. Anyone living near a fracking site could see their air quality suffer. But despite being written three years ago, this report only got round to being published three days after the Government gave the go-ahead for Cuadrilla to frack in Lancashire, leading some people to speculate that the Government was trying to bury this deeper than our own shale reserves. Since it was written, air quality monitoring has been introduced, but why did the Government wait so long to publish that report? They said it: "It needed thorough consideration" and was "published as soon as our sign-off procedures had been completed": It added: "Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, delivering substantial economic benefits, nationally and locally, as well as through the creation of well-paid, high-quality jobs". But even with those jobs the British shale gas industry would bring, does fracking really make economic sense? Richard Black, from think-tank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, isn't so sure. 
Richard Black: It's really hard to see what the rationale is, frankly. If you look at what the Government and its advisers have put down for how we need to reduce the use of gas over the next decade, really, you see a declining role for gas.
Tom Heap: But we still need gas for central heating and cooking in our homes. Is it not better that that comes from Britain than Russia or the Middle East?
Richard Black: Something that's often missed is that the gas industry is almost entirely in private hands. So the gas won't belong to Britain, it will belong to Cuadrilla or whoever gets it out of the ground. We will still be in a European gas network, whatever happens with Brexit. So the company that owns it can basically trade it wherever it wants. 
Cuadrilla says its first site will supply the local grid, but how much bigger could this industry become? 
Richard Black: Well, my personal view is that we might see commercially viable shale gas, but it'll be a cottage industry if it's anything. The need for gas is going to decline, so you would be putting your money into an industry that has a finite shelf life. 
With so many experts saying fracking might not be worth it, for the environment or the economy, why is Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan so fired up about shale gas? 
Tom Heap:  The National Infrastructure Report says we shouldn't be relying on a gas industry into the future. Doesn't that give this place a very short shelf-life?
Francis Egan: Well, I agree entirely we shouldn't be relying on it, in the sense that it shouldn't be the only form of fuel we need, but I don't think there's any credible commentator who doesn't believe we won't be using natural gas for decades to come.
Tom Heap: But gas is something we should be weaning ourselves off. How does this help?
Francis Egan: Well, because weaning yourself off does not mean coming to an emergency stop and halt, or else people will freeze in their houses. So gas is a fuel that in any scenario for decarbonisation will be required for decades to come.
Tom Heap: But you could drill down and find that gas flows really badly out of here, and then the whole thing's been a waste of time.
Francis Egan: That's what exploration is all about.
Tom Heap: So there's real jeopardy there?
Francis Egan: Well, you call it jeopardy, we call it uncertainty. 
That's an uncertainty fracking companies are willing to take a gamble on, but it's clear that divisions on what payoff shale gas will actually deliver to the UK run as deep as ever. With fracking due to start here in just a matter of weeks and gas flowing thereafter, we should soon have a much better idea if shale gas is just going to be a brief sideshow or a key component of our energy system, with all the resulting economic impact and environmental challenges. 

"Because why would anybody be opposed to it?"

If there's one area of BBC bias that's surely beyond question it's that the BBC has a pronounced bias in favour of social liberalism and against social conservatism. 

It has (institutionally-speaking) a progressive outlook on such matters - except, very occasionally, when they clash with the sensibilities of one particular faith group.

Tim Stanley of the Telegraph, a Catholic, noted that the BBC News website's report, Reform of 'archaic' divorce laws revealed, concerning the introduction of 'no fault' divorce, "includes no quotes from anyone opposed to it", adding that it "includes quotes from the Government, who proposed it, Labour, who wants it go quicker, and a lawyer who thinks it's a smashing idea".

Some people are agreeing with Tim, others disagreeing. Those disagreeing are all basically making the same point: "Because why should anybody be opposed to it?"... which Tim is replying, "Not the point. BBC is state owned and has impartiality rules."

Another Tim, Tim Montgomerie (also a Christian), drew a broader point from this - not dissimilar to the one I was making at the start of this post, but with an added twist:
The scrupulous balancing by BBC News* of their reports according to a right/left axis completely misses eg the conservative/liberal debate. See Tim below. 
* BBC drama? Not so much.
I'm neither religious nor much of a social conservative, but the BBC undoubtedly has a major blind spot here. 

Yes, on programmes like Sunday Morning Live and The Big Questions, when they are conscious of the need to be balanced, they usually are balanced on such questions. But when reporting news stories like this I suspect it simply doesn't enter most BBC reporters minds that there might be people out there who don't approve of the socially liberal measure being proposed or introduced. 

And, so, I bet whoever wrote that piece about divorce law reform never gave a moment's thought to people who might oppose the reforms. "Because why would anybody be opposed to it?"

"The most prominent and eloquent moderate Tory in the country"

Talking of Andrew Marr, he paid a particularly striking tribute to Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson at the start of his paper review this morning:
Very, very interesting interview, as we heard in the news then, with Ruth Davidson, front page of the Sunday Times. Politicians very rarely say "never". She is saying "I never want to be Prime Minister. It's too great a risk to my mental health". Very sensible thing to say, but it rules out of contention one of the most fact, the most prominent and eloquent moderate Tory in the country. 

Reality-checking the new editor of 'The Andrew Marr Show'

My Twitter feed this morning contained a lot of people speculating on whether Andrew Marr would question Sadiq Khan on his record as Mayor of London, especially over knife crime, or whether he'd let Mr Khan 'remoan' throughout the entire interview.

So I got out my trusty stopwatch and found that eight and a half minutes were given over to the second Brexit referendum question and under a minute to Mr Khan's record as Mayor. 

And these were Andrew's not-so-sharp questions on Sadiq's record:

  • Is this a distraction from your own record as mayor? Because you have been under a huge amount of attack on knife crime, housing and transport, and much else as well. 
  • You're under huge attack, under attack including from London's main paper, The Evening Standard, which ran the Khan Files. You can see the front page. They've been doing this day after day. Are you concerned that this is starting to cut home with London voters?

Yes, that was it.

Is that true? Well, there have been three previous interviews with Sadiq Khan during his time as Mayor of London:

If you look at the linked transcripts, you'll see that the last one - in July this year - devoted less than one-fifth of the interview to Sadiq's record on violent crime (including knife crime), splitting the rest of time between Trump and Brexit, while the one in November last year gave over about three-quarters of the interview to his record on transport and housing. (The one in May 2016 was just after he was elected, so can't really be considered in this respect). 

So, as you can see, John Neal was correct to say that the Mayor's record has been discussed before but he's considerably overstating his case when he claims "we have done previous interviews with the Mayor that concentrated on crime and youth violence", as that hasn't really happened. The only interview that featured questioning on the issue spent over four-fifths of the interview talking about other subjects. 

Andrew Marr, Michael Gove and Viktor Orban

"OK, you're trying to get off Viktor Orban, and I can exactly see why. Let's remind ourselves who he is. He is a very, very authoritarian right-wing leader of Hungary. He's called migrants "poison" and Muslims "invaders". He's widely regarded as anti-Semitic, for good reasons. He's made it a criminal offence for lawyers to help asylum seekers, and he's targeted the media, the judiciary and NGOs in a very,very aggressive way. This is the man that your party in the European Parliament has decided to support. Why?"  

Re The Andrew Marr Show, there were plenty of left-wing people on Twitter complaining that there was "no mention" of Tory MEPs voting against the European Parliaments censure motion against Viktor Orban's Hungary. ("Usual Tory bias on this programme", "BBC bias in a nutshell", etc).

And then, after they'd all sent out their tweets, what came along? Yes, a very big "mention" of that very thing.

Oddly, none of them graciously withdrew their earlier tweets.

Here's a transcript. 

As well as being interesting for Michael Gove's attempts to deal with the question, it's also interesting for Andrew Marr's description of the Hungarian leader (quoted separately, in italics, above). He certainly didn't sit on the fence:

Andrew Marr: There is one bit of really good political news for the government from Europe this morning, one leader who said, "We would like a fairer Brexit because we love the British and have always cooperated well. You deserve a good deal". Are you pleased to have the support of Viktor Orban of Hungary?  
Michael Gove: I think the truth is that there are actually a swathe of EU leaders who want the best possible relationship... 
Andrew Marr: (interrupting) Let's stick with that one.  
Michael Gove: Well, I think one of the things is that I'm not a...what's the word?...It's not for me to rank a league table of EU leaders and to say 'that one is my favourite' or 'that one I have less time for' because I believe in cooperative diplomacy, I believe in generosity of spirit towards our EU partners and I would say that there have been a range of EU leaders, all of whom have said they want to ensure that they have the most positive relationship afterwards. Indeed, Michel Barnier himself said that he wants to have a relationship with the UK which is the best relationship between the EU and any third country.  
Andrew Marr: (interrupting) OK, you're trying to get off Viktor Orban, and I can exactly see why. Let's remind ourselves who he is. He is a very, very authoritarian right-wing leader of Hungary. He's called migrants "poison" and Muslims "invaders". He's widely regarded as anti-Semitic, for good reasons. He's made it a criminal offence for lawyers to help asylum seekers, and he's targeted the media, the judiciary and NGOs in a very,very aggressive way. This is the man that your party in the European Parliament has decided to support. Why?  
Michael Gove: No. That's not true and...
Andrew Marr: (interrupting) But it is true.   
Michael Gove: No, it's not true Andrew and it's critically important that we realise this. There was a vote in the European Parliament but it's a long-standing principle of a number of MEPs from different countries and from different parties not to believe that the European Parliament should interfere in or censure the internal democracy of a particular country. Now you or I... 
Andrew Marr: (interrupting) Even one engaging in this kind of thing?... 
Michael Gove: Just one second...You or I might have particular views about other countries but the European Parliament and those within it, British MEPs and others, believe that that's the wrong way of expressing criticism. But there's another thing as well... My view is the British are traditionally accused of playing divide and rule and picking off individual countries... 
Andrew Marr: (interrupting) This is a man who is so illib... 
Michael Gove: (interrupting) Sorry, I'm not going to play that game and I'm not going to go down the route of...You know, I have views... 
Andrew Marr: (interrupting) OK. What are they? What are they?  
Michael Gove...and you do as well. I not going to be drawn on my views about individual European leaders.  
Andrew Marr: Because you need his support?  
Michael Gove: No, because I think it would be wrong for me as a time when we need solidarity against a number of different threats - you mentioned anti-Semitism - we need to make sure that our voice is clear, our position on these issues is absolutely clear and resonant, and I don't believe that individual criticisms of the kind that you are understandably tempting me to make necessarily help us in ensuring we get both solidarity on the issues that count and the best deal for Britain as we leave the European Union. 
Andrew Marr: I suppose the point I'm making, in a circuitous way, is that we have had a lot of conversations in this country about anti-Semitism in British politics and Jeremy Corbyn has been under a lot of criticism for that. Here you are as a party voting alongside the most prominent anti-Semitic politician, xenophobic politician, somebody who, as I say, has described migrants as "poison", and that's been the Conservative Party's... 
Michael Gove: (interrupting) No... 
Andrew Marr: (interrupting) You voted with him.  
Michael Gove: No, it's not the case we voted that we voted to support him. It's the case that the MEPs declined on this occasion, as they have on a number of occasions in the past, and there were people from a variety of different parties and a variety of different countries that declined to do so. This is very, very far from endorsing or supporting the position he takes.  
Andrew Marr: So why does your good friend, long time friend, Danny Finkelstein, Lord Finkelstein, a Conservative peer, describe this vote as "very distressing" and "a shameful thing to have happened"?  
Michael Gove: Well, I have enormous respect for Danny and I wouldn't criticise Danny. 

I don't think Andrew Marr and Viktor Orban will be exchanging Christmas cards this year.