Tuesday, 15 October 2019

October Open Thread

"Oh, Lord Hall, I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?" 

Indeed, though I could do with fewer blustery showers at the moment. 

Thank you for your continued support and comments. 

Rigging their reports?

The Government's plans to tackle voter fraud by introducing a legal requirement for voters to show photographic identification before they are allowed to vote in an election - the 'Voter ID proposal' - are certainly riling some people and exciting others - at least if my social media feeds are anything to go by (which, as ever, they possibly aren't).

For the purposes of this blog, I'll just point out that the BBC News website's two pieces about this (via a 'search') have borne the following headlines respectively: Voting: Could ID checks affect who participates in elections? and Corbyn: Voter ID plans discriminate against ethnic minorities

Now, the BBC could have borne alternative headlines, such as: Voting: Could ID checks eliminate electoral fraud? and Government: Voter ID plans will increase public confidence in the integrity of our democratic system, but they obviously weren't minded to do such a thing.

Both of these BBC reports - one a BBC-stamped Reality Check - make evident the BBC's belief (as it very much appears to be) that (a) electoral fraud is actually at an almost negligably low level in the UK and that (b), as the proposal's critics say, the racially discriminatory potential of introducing ID checks is clear and will be harmful to social cohesion.

(Note: The BBC's 'Corbyn' report has just one reinforcing sub-headline: 'Marginalised'.)

I'm slightly torn on the issue myself but, from this, I don't think the BBC is. They seem decided on the matter.

XR very much alive on the BBC

XR's Zion Lights (whose date with Andrew Neil didn't go too well. Maybe she should have tried Andrew Marr?)

Though complaining the other day that they were being excluded from the BBC's airwaves - despite prominent members appearing on Question Time, Politics Live and The Andrew Neil Show within the space of just one week (last week) - I'm still seeing supporters of the supposedly-silenced Extinction Rebellion on the BBC. 

There were two of them, for example, on this morning's Victoria Derbyshire show, discussing whether the Met police were right to ban them from the streets of London.

Both being supporters, they both agreed the police were wrong.

The other side of the argument was supplied by...er...no one. 

Oddly, using TV Eyes to further check on the BBC's coverage of this story, I see that, though it has been a major headline throughout much of the day, the BBC News Channel hasn't actually interviewed many people about it.

In fact, the only non-VD Show interview today (so far at least) has been with Green MEP Ellie Chowns [Alexander, from the previous post, will approve!]. She supports XR and was arrested last night during the police clear-out while questioning the police's actions. 

Surely even St. George Monbiot wouldn't think that this provides evidence of anti-XR BBC bias, would he?

All in an afternoon's work

The fox that set the #FBPEs flapping and squawking today

The BBC's Editor of Live Political Programmes, one Rob Burley (have I mentioned him before?), has been busy again this afternoon

Rob Burley: (1) On the Brexit Party and why they have more MEPs on Politics Live than other parties: The BP polled first in the European elections in May with over 30% of the vote. They enjoyed considerable electoral support and 29 MEPs and as a new party have yet to fight a Gen election.
(2) Under the electoral system they may well not get any or many MPs when they do stand in Gen Election (see UKIP) but they did win significant support in May and are polling at 13% or so still. Politics Live is a Westminster based show and relies on MPs.
(3) ) So for those parties with a significant number of MPs, they will be our first port of call. But the Brexit Party got 5.2m votes in May, so they will come on from time to time because of their electoral support. but that will inevitably mean we draw on MEPs not MPs.
(4) I understand the argument that some make, that we should hear more from MEPs in general, but this is a separate argument as to whether, given their support and the nature of their politicians, we should draw largely on BP'S 29 MEPs.

Jorvik #RevoleArt50,#RemainerNow: Did other residents of 55 TUFTON STREET also perform well over the last 3 years Rob because they have been on there more times than any Liberal Democrat?
Rob Burley: Let me know the names of the 55 Tufton St "residents" who have been on Politics Live? The closest you will get is the IEA (you can look up address) who have been on a handful times. They've not been on anything like as often as the Lib Dems, let alone more.

Alexander Louis Sallons: What about Green MEPs, Rob? We went from 3 to 7 and I don't think we've had any of them on PL since May?
Rob Burley: Not the case. We have had Molly Scott Cato but, obvs, also Caroline Lucas as well as others like Sian Berry.
Alexander Louis Sallons: So that's one Green MEP since May. Don't get me wrong I'm not a conspiracy nut. But one Green MEP compared to all the Brexit MEPs that seem to be on. You'll never get a balanced argument about how the EU works/operates if you only ever bring on MEPs who are from the Brexit Party.
Rob Burley: Different argument about whether we should have more MEPs on - from all parties - rather than MPs from those with them and MEPs from those without. That's fair enough but I can't argue all aspects right here. I'm just explaining why BP have MEPs on more.
Alexander Louis Sallons: Because they're the biggest party and they won the Euros, that's fair enough, I can understand that. But there are 39 ProEU MEPs. Most MPs won't be able to provide the same perspective of the EU that an MEP can, most will only be able to provide a UK only view.

Craig - I can see Alexander's point about the paucity of MEPs from across the full range of parties. It might be interesting to expand the range of guests  - though, as Rob pointed out, as far as the Greens go they also get invites for non-UK/non-EU parliamentary figures like Sian Berry. 

Briefcase Michael: For the sake of transparency Jo Coburn should have told viewers that James Harding is the former Head of BBC News, and before that Editor of The Times.
Rob Burley: For the sake of transparency, he was introduced as being from Tortoise, then Jo Coburn told viewers he used to work at the BBC and, in that discussion, he mentioned he'd previously worked for the Times.
Orla #EngineOfHope #GTTO (to Briefcase Michael): Absolutely. It looks like ex-BBC politics dept at Tortoise Media have a weekly seat on Politics Live. We see you Rob Burley.
Rob Burley: "We see you" . . .Tortoise have been on the show a grand total of twice in a show that's been running five shows a week since September 2018. Is that a weekly seat?
Orla #EngineOfHope #GTTO: Twice in the last month. Tortoise staff all seem to be ex-BBC news & politics, so far. Again BBC promoting its own singular Tory bias. Its the only way they can win elections. Look at the rotating door between BBC - #CCHQ - No10. Go well :)

Craig - Orla, you won't be suprised to here, is a self-proclaimed 'Corbyn outrider'.

A devoted sister

Is it important to know that Cordelia Rowlatt, the sister of the BBC's new Chief Environment Correspondent Justin Rowlatt, is an active campaigner with Extinction Rebellion or that she faces trial in January for "a public offence" during climate protests in April? Or does this have no bearing on him or his work for the BBC?

I have a little list

Fans of lists might be interested in reading the following - a list of those appearing on BBC One's State Opening of Parliament special yesterday. This interview list is nothing if not Remain-heavy:

  • Dame Margaret Beckett 
  • Lord Fowler 
  • Bronwyn Maddox, Institute for Government 
  • Robert Hardman, Daily Mail 
  • Dominic Grieve 
  • Andrew Bowie, Conservative; Ed Davey, Lib Dems; Jenny Chapman, Labour; Joanna Cherry, SNP (the four mainstays of the programme in the studio) 
  • Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru 
  • Caroline Lucas, Greens

Why indeed

Why should Boris kowtow to biased BBC presenters who say that he's a 'dictator'?
That, of course, refers specifically to Nick Robinson, who said on Sunday of Boris Facebook 'People's PMQs', "And they say that’s democracy. It ain’t democracy. It is a form of propaganda used by dictators down the ages."

The Telegraph piece by Robin Aitken puts Nick's "jibe" down to "pique": 
Johnson has found a way to communicate with voters without subjecting himself to interrogation by the likes of Robinson and his ilk and they can't stand it. 
He continues:
If Mr Johnson had agreed to all the interview requests the BBC has made in recent weeks what would have been achieved? Would any of us be much clearer about the government's intentions? Would the country be any more united behind what the government is proposing? I think I can confidently answer all those questions in the negative. 
What we would have been treated to would have been a series of hostile interviews in which Robinson – or some other tribune of the people – would have tried to embarrass the Prime Minister and trip him up. He would have been pressed over and over with questions impossible to answer. 
A few weeks ago, for instance, Today presenters repeatedly challenged government ministers by saying that the EU had ruled out any possibility of re-opening negotiations on the terms of our departure, therefore why was the government proposing changes? The EU's position was stated as an unchallengeable matter of fact to which there could be no adequate answer. Ministers facing this question sounded either evasive or stupid, and yet, here we are a few weeks later, having that very renegotiation.
 Fair points, I'd say.


Talking of the BBC's Middle East editor, this is interesting from BBC Watch. 

They cite a Media Masters interview with Jeremy Bowen where Jeremy says:  
“I would say that the conflict, it looms with real weight and damage on the shoulders of many Palestinians, because they are weaker and don’t have the resources and many of them live under occupation. That’s the key thing, if you live under occupation, life becomes way, way more difficult.”  
“…plenty of Palestinians feel very threatened by settlers, armed settlers, by soldiers, by raids in the middle of the night, by helicopters, you name it. And many Israelis have been hurt by and continue to be worried about attacks by Palestinians, though there haven’t been all that many in recent years.”
BBC Watch says:
What Bowen means by “recent years” is not entirely clear but in 2015 there were 2,398 terror attacks in Israel (of which the BBC reported 3.2%). In 2016 there were 1,415 attacks (of which the BBC covered 2.8%), in 2017 there were 1,516 attacks – less then one percent of which were reported by the BBC – and in 2018 the BBC covered at most 30.2% of the 3,006 attacks launched. During the first nine months of 2019 the BBC reported 23.6% of the 1,709 attacks which took place. 

Obviously the BBC’s ongoing failure to adequately report the scale of terror attacks against Israelis serves its Middle East editor just as badly as it does the corporation’s audiences. 

Twitter bantz

Nick Bryant, BBCIf you were wondering what’s on the mind of the President of the United States this morning....
Donald Trump: Vote for good guy Sean Spicer tonight on Dancing With The Stars. He has always been there for us!

A chain of events

Jeremy Bowen's latest column for the BBC News website is a dramatic read. It begins:
It has taken a week to reshape the map of the Syrian war, in the seven days since President Donald Trump used what he called his "great and unmatched wisdom" to order the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria. 
He set off a chain of events that betrayed America's ally, the Syrian Kurds, and opened a cornucopia of opportunities for Turkey, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, its backers, Russia and Iran, and the jihadist extremists of Islamic State (IS).
It's receiving praise on Twitter:
Thank you for letting a little justified anger creep into the analysis - it’s all too easy for the media to write cold, detached, commentaries on a devastating war that has been shamefully prolonged by self-serving external forces. This was a needed corrective. Trump should read.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Nick Robinson speaks

Nick Robinson, speaking at The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literary Festival, has expressed his disapproval of LBC for giving a party leader, Nigel Farage, a two-hour radio show. He calls it a "great danger".

He also disapproves of Boris Johnson using Facebook for his People's PMQs to "broadcast directly" to the public. “And they say that’s democracy. It ain’t democracy. It is a form of propaganda used by dictators down the ages”.

And as for political types who pen official complaints to the BBC he says, “It is lunatic that people that are politically motivated, who are trying to alter the agenda of the BBC, can use our complaints process. And believe me they do. To try and bully the BBC into saying and doing the things they want us to be saying and doing.”

If he reads the comments below the article on the Times website, he'll find plenty more complaints about the BBC and an awful lot of democracy. They could be going better for him.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Connect 4

Ah now, this is what you've all been wating for. Me, banging on about Mark Mardell again. So enjoy!...

With my bias-focused glasses on, and in a pseudo-professorial mood, I listened to today's The World This Weekend and found Mark Mardell's report from St. Albans - a Remain-voting constituency with a pro-Brexit MP, Anne Main - to be pleasingly fair in the wide range of voices it provided. 

But the programme's introduction was not fair. It chose to feature two voices from that report, both of whom were anti-Mrs Main.

(Mrs Main might want to put in a complaint.)

As the programme's main theme was 'Boris potentially throwing Conservative MPs in Remain seats "under a bus"', I'm presuming this one-sided choice of illustrative voices was meant to reinforce the programme's chosen theme. 

And then, straight after the report, came a discussion on the subject featuring two pro-Remain journalists: Anne McElvoy of The Economist and Stephen Bush of The New Statesman

Why two known pro-Remain journalists?

Well, the clue came in the final feature: a segment on Cardinal John Henry Newman featuring one of his sermons which, as Mark put it, "we though sounded rather apt and up-to-date".

"Something strange is passing over this land...a national commotion almost without parallel...it threatens worse still, or at least gives no sure prospect of alleviation..."

Mark quipped that he wasn't talking "about that" but about the restoration of Catholic bishops in England, but - from his own lips - we now know that Mark and The World This Weekend team were talking "about that" in their take on the canonisation of Cardinal Newman. 

'I can't see why you're laughing'-gate

Is Andrew laughing now?

I see that 'I can't see why you're laughing'-gate has gathered momentum throughout the day as more and more people react against Andrew Marr's unjust telling off of Priti Patel for "laughing"

As I wrote this morning, she wasn't laughing. 

I watched and re-watched it before posting that, and she just wasn't doing what Andrew accused her of.

So what was she doing that so irked Andrew Marr into verbally manslapping a woman of colour? 

Well, as I also wrote this morning, she was just doing that thing she often does with her face while not talking. Is it a smirk, as her opponents claim, or a nervous thing, or just something she's always done and the natural resting place of her face while listening and politely engaging with people? 

(Whatever it is, I like it. I think it makes her look cute...Should I say that? Probably not.)

Still, it roused Andrew Marr to enough anger to say what he said to her in such a sharp, condemnatory tone. 

Others on Twitter are saying that it showed gross bias on Mr Marr's part in that she was the only one he seriously interrupted and was huffy towards. 

Well, yes, Priti Patel most certainly did get the toughest treatment today. Neither Becky Long-Bailey nor Nikki Sturgeon received such forceful treatment.

But, as ever, such things need to be balanced over time. Just because Priti Patel got the toughest treatment today doesn't prove bias.

Anyhow, I see that both Andrew and Rob Burley are (so far) maintaining radio silence on Twitter about it. Are they both thinking that Andrew got it badly wrong?

I hope so (as he did), and that they'll apologise to her.

It's the right thing for them to do.

Blurring the boundaries

The boundaries between reporting and campaigning at the BBC are getting ever more blurred. 

Earlier today I cited the BBC's Quentin Somerville (a brave reporter) reporting the plight of orphaned children of dead IS parents caught up in dangerous camps in Syria and calling our failure to give them sanctuary "a disgrace". 

He's been doing his absolute best today to get three orphaned young children returned to London. 

Now, he himself says that it's been "particularly hard" reporting their "traumatic testimony". And that's perfectly understandable. They are very young, their situation is awful and all the fault was with their dead parents. Rescuing children in peril is a powerful and wonderful instinct, and Quentin can't be blamed for being overwhelmed by the feeling to do so. 

But it raises all manner of questions about BBC impartiality. 

He's going further and further in expressing contentious opinions on the matter. 

His reporting of the Shamima Begum and Jack Letts cases left me in little doubt that he was wanting them returned to the UK too, and a  tweet from him this afternoon further confirms that:
The SDF repeatedly told Britain to take back the likes of Shamima Begum and Jack Letts. Instead the UK stripped them of their citizenship. It was never a sustainable policy in the long term.
Has he overstepped the bounds, impartiality-wise? And, if he has, is he right to do so? 

Discuss (if you wish).

A Trollopian tale

Historic Jersey

It wasn't just Cardinal Newman on Sunday today

There were also features on a new Muslim male voice choir and the return of far-right antisemitism in Germany, with the BBC's Damien McGuinness claiming that AfD have been misusing Muslim antisemitic attacks to mislead the public on where the greater threat comes from. 

And...a rather fascinating bit on the history of the Church in the Channel Islands - so fascinating that I'll quote you the start of it:
I'm standing looking out across the sea to St Aubin's Bay. Ahead of me, alongside Elizabeth Castle, is the Hermitage Rock where the Belgian monk Helier is said to have watched over the islands' early Christians. Murdered for his beliefs by marauding pirates, he gave his name to the capital St Helier and set a precedent for holy oversight of these scattered islands off the coast of France. Before the Reformation the Catholic Church here was part of the diocese of Coutanche then, briefly after the dissolution of the monasteries, they were part of Salisbury diocese. But for the last 500 years the Diocese of Winchester has exercised an arms-length ministry here.  
The story continues:
Safeguarding concerns came up over the handling of an abuse complaint in 2008. This led to members of the Anglican Church in the islands feeling uncertain about their relationship with the Winchester diocese. A strained relationship between the then Dean of Jersey and the Bishop of Winchester meant the Dean was suspended for a time. He was later exonerated and reinstated. So, as a result, in 2014 the Church of England in the Channel Islands was temporarily moved to become part of the Diocese of Canterbury, Now, after and Archbishop's Commission, the Channel Islands have been granted a full move to the Diocese of Salisbury.

The Diocese of Salisbury (not yet including the Channel Islands)

The Diocese of Salisbury already includes parishes "as far north as Marlborough and as far south as Poole and Weymouth", but the present Bishop of Salisbury told the BBC reporter Matthew Price (no, not that one! This one had a cheerful voice) that ferry and air services to Southampton and easy rail links to Salisbury mean that travel links are good. And Bishop Halton had some history for us too, noting a historical connection. The Pope 'made a link' with the Bishop of Salisbury back in 1496 and the Bishop of Salisbury in 1818 became the first bishop to go an confirm in the Channel Islands for years and confirmed thousands of people at one go. (Hmm. Not the most interesting facts in the piece perhaps!).

The move remains only a proposal though. It needs the approval of General Synod, the UK Parliament and the Channel Island governments. If approved, the move may occur by the Autumn of next year. Until then a former Bishop of Dover will continue to look after the Islands, despite having retired five months ago. 

So now you know. I'll be testing you later.

Ed reaches for his shoehorn

Cardinal Newman, Remain 

This morning's Sunday on Radio 4 was dominated by the canonisation of Cardinal Newman. During Edward Stourton's opening chat with his old chum at The Tablet Christopher Lamb, our Ed managed to shoehorn Brexit into the discussion: 
Ed Stourton: And I see that the British Ambassador to the Holy See has been quoted as suggesting he might also offer a model for post-Brexit Britain. 
Christopher Lamb: Well, yes, a case is being made that Newman is a Remainer. Father Ignatius Harrison, who is the Actor of the sainthood calls for Newman said that on Friday. So obviously we can't confirm or deny that, but there is a sense that Newman wouldn't have wanted to cut himself off from Europe at a spiritual and cultural level, though of course, I think Newman, as I say, can be colonised for any argument and then people want to see him in a a broad sense, but he was both a quintessentially English figure but also a man of the Roman church. 
I can't say that I want to cut myself off from Europe at a spiritual and cultural level either. The EU, of course, isn't Europe.

Wonder if Elgar would have been a Leave voter?

ALK on XR and the BBC

A.L. Kennedy, award-winning novelist and regular speaker on Radio 4's A Point of View, has had a pop at the BBC, but her echo chamber has been broken into. Will she listen?

Here's a glimpse on the action:

A.L.KennedyIf you are - like many of us - deeply disappointed by BBC coverage (what coverage?) of XR and examination (what examination?) of climate change issues then you may wish to complain. It's easy, there's a website.
Rob Burley: This tweet makes me feel I must have hallucinated the past seven days. We covered XR on the news and on programmes too. Politics Live did it two days in a row and The Andrew Neil Show gave a big chunk of the show to an interview with XR. Was it all a dream?
David Banks (to ALK): You haven’t been watching the bulletins I have then. They were all over the news. Andrew Neil had them on to his prime time show to discuss the issue.
A.L.Kennedy (to DB): I'd have preferred an even handed journalist. I love the BBC with all my heart but News & Current Affairs have done them so much harm and alarm so many within the corporation. It's another national tragedy.
Will Leader (to ALK): Andrew Neil is probably the most respected and impartial interviewer on TV. He's famous for his research and forensic questioning. XR were exposed for making claims not supported by science.
Duncan Hess (to ALK): The key here, I think, is to maybe watch, or listen to, the output. Break out of
that bubble, the air’s remarkably fresh.
A.L.Kennedy (to DH): Oddly, that's the way I came to my conclusions... And I've lived long enough and traveled far enough to have seen much better.
A.L.Kennedy (to Rob Burley: I wish it had been a dream. But instead it was superficial, mildly to very misleading and less coverage than an average day's celebrity gossip. Media coverage of Brexit is simply gossip pre-spun by No 10. Coverage of a world changing cascade of calamities..? Same old same old.
Rob Burley (to ALK): Your original tweet (“what coverage?”) implied a lack of coverage rather than unhappiness with the nature of it. We can argue that point but it’s a different one.
BlackhandMedia Trust (to ALK and Rob Burley): I finish work at 10am. The BBC News Channel covered XR every hour. I should know I have it on in the background. Tired of ppl posting they do not cover when they bloody did. I am neutral. I dont usually care. But stop lying. They covered it loads.
Brian Toller: You will never cover subjects like this enough for obsessives unless it's the lead on every news, regular one hour specials and a plot line in every drama and soap. Then they'll still ask why it's not on the cake and dancing shows.

I think that last point is spot-on. Despite the BBC bending over backwards to please climate change campaigners over the past decade and more, it's still not enough. Despite XR campaigners being invited onto Question Time, The Andrew Neil Show and Politics Live, it's still not enough. I suspect XR want exactly what Brian says they want and when the BBC gives in they will go on asking for more and more.

No laughing matter

When not talking Priti Patel often wears an expression that some people think looks like a smirk. Those who don't like her often fling the word "smug" at her because of it. She was wearing it again while Andrew Marr was asking her a long question this morning. And he told her off for it mid-question:
Let's hear from those businesses directly then because a whole bunch of them...and I'll read them out: The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the people who make and sell cars, the Chemical Industries Association, the Food and Drink Federation, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, and the Aerospace Trade Industry body, a lot of people who are actually at the forefront of trying to make this country earn its place in the world sent a letter to the Government which I'll now read out part of to you, and they say that this proposal is "a serious risk to manufacturing competeness and will result in huge new costs and disruption to UK firms." I can't see why you're laughing. "It's got the potential to risk consumer and food safety and confidence, access to overseas markets for UK exporters and vital future investment in innovation in this country." That is a really serious challenge to this plan, is it not? 
She wasn't laughing though. 

Anyhow, it's won Andrew plenty of plaudits from the sort of people who usually spend their Sunday mornings slagging him off for being a Tory stooge:

  • On #Marr Marr read out the concerns of No Deal to Pritti Patel & she started laughing. Marr was incensed & said why are you laughing.
  • Andrew Marr reprimanded Priti Patel for smirking - or as he put it "I don't know what your laughing about" - when he started to ask about the predicted negative effects of No Deal Brexit. He's right - her smug gloating is most inappropriate.
  • "I can't see why you're laughing" says #Marr to a smirking, intellectually challenged Priti Patel (whilst he was reading the genuine concerns of businesses). Brilliant.
  • "I don't see why you're laughing". Nice one, Andrew.
  • Well done #marr! Priti Patel with that arrogant smile told "I don't know why you're laughing" when listening to business leaders fears.

Update - Guido Fawkes isn't impressed:

Reporting with feeling

The BBC has discovered three young children in a Syrian camp for detained IS members. They are said to have originally lived in London. The BBC reporter involved, Quentin Sommerville, is live-tweeting the news and crossing the line between straight reporting and active advocacy:  

  • These three kids, Amira, Hamza and Hiba, are orphans of the Islamic State. Their nationality has been a mystery since they were found after the fall of Baghouz. Their in a Kurdish-run camp in NE Syria not far from the Turkish-led incursion.
  • They speak Arabic. Amira, who is ten, was brought to Syria five years ago. Like many of the children left by radicalised parents, they are wary of revealing details about themselves.
  • But when the kids are alone together, it was noticed that they spoke English.
  • Amira hasn’t written in English for a long time. But slowly and carefully she wrote down what she could remember, spelling phonetically. She writes she’s from LaNDN uKeH - london, UK?
  • After a while, she spoke to us in English. Have a listen, she’s trying to remember her life back in the UK.
  • Amira told us about their escape from Baghouz. The BBC Syria team has dealt with a lot of traumatic testimony over the years, but this was particularly hard.
  • “We were sitting there. They were hitting so much,” she said. “There was a little house and that big dusty mountain and behind it everybody was dead. In front of us was everyone who was not killed, the other people.”
  • She continued, “We were going to pack our stuff and get out, the airplane came and bombed. So then my mum died, my littlest brother, my little brother and my sister. Then after that, all was getting on fire. We had to walk out.”
  • “After that, I saw my (older) brother. He was walking up. He knows my mum was dead there. I think he was down there hiding from snipers and guns. So then after that, he ran there. When he was running that little house broke and went on fire so he died.”
  • She goes on to describe - this girl of just ten years old - babies dying in her arms. Leaving aside nationality for a moment - this is a disgrace. There are kids in the camp who’ve been through the worst trauma imaginable and we aren’t giving them sanctuary?
  • Their scars are real. This is eight year old Hiba. They have no trauma counsellors, no relatives who love them, no place to call home. We fought ISIS and said, “to hell with the rest, let them rot”.
  • It’s thought there are around 30 british children in the camps. But all have parents - Amira, Hamza and Hiba may be the first British orphans. They want to come home.
  • We have given all the details we have to the British authorities who are investigating. The kids aren’t far from the Turkish assault. This is a matter of urgency. They’ve already endured so much.
  • The kids may not qualify as British nationals. But are we content with leaving them there in a camp full of radicalised women, and with another conflict about to overwhelm them? There are thousands of “IS” children stranded in Syria. Who will help them?
  • And what does a little London girl, sitting in the Syrian desert dream of?
  • You can listen to Amira here. We’ll be putting her story out across the BBC today, radio, TV and online in the hope that someone recognises her, Hiba and Hamza.
  • *Feel free to retweet. There’s a granny in London somewhere who doesn’t know her grandkids are still alive. ENDS

The BBC and XR

Gail Bradbrook

Here's something I've not heard before, courtesy of Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times:
In July, the BBC actually invited one of the founder of Extinction Rebellion, Gail Bradbrook, to "advise" its editorial team on how to report on climate change. This is the woman who attributes her insight into the imminent end of life on the planet to the "rewiring" of her brain after consumption of prodigious amounts of psychedelic drugs. 
Wonder how it went?

Replaced at short notice

Waxwork Paul

The Tory MP Mark Francois was delighted — if a little surprised — to be approached by BBC1’s Have I Got News For You. “He would be a great guest,” a researcher gushed. Not that great, obviously. He was replaced at short notice last week by the Liberal Democrat Layla Moran. 
“I presume the BBC invited me because of my relatively high profile as a Brexiteer,” says Francois. “It dropped me without explanation for one of the most pro-EU MPs in parliament.” It could have been worse. At least he wasn’t replaced by the infamous tub of lard.
Actually, the real way that it could have been worse is if he had appeared. I suspect he had a very lucky escape. Ian (the Miles Malleson of satire) and the waxwork of Paul wouldn't have made it much fun for him.

Sir Trevor McDonald on the Naga Munchetty affair

John Humphrys isn't the only former broadcaster with a book out at the moment. So is the mighty Sir Trevor McDonald, ten years on from his last '...and finally' for ITN. 

The opening of The Sunday Times's interview with him today breathes the air of a better broadcasting past:
Breakfast-sofa chit-chat was never his style, says the former newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald. Even if it had been, he doubts he would ever have found himself on live television accusing the American president of making racist comments. 
“I never regarded it as [my job] as a presenter to express a view,” he says in that voice, when I ask him about the case of Naga Munchetty. The BBC presenter was controversially censured — and then controversially uncensured — for her comments about Donald Trump. “I was always terribly, terribly keen about being absolutely straight. I thought you owed it to viewers to present what you thought was the absolute truth and let them make up their minds. You know, people are very clever about working things out.”

Anti-Plantagenet bias from Huw Edwards

the old church at Llanfrothen

Fresh from making his views clear on the name of the Welsh assembly (he favours the Welsh-only rather than the bilingual option), the BBC's Huw Edwards is now leading a campaign -  Exploring Sacred Wales - to link 500 Welsh churches and chapels with a single 440-mile route. 

He's doing so in his role as vice-president of the National Churches Trust (NCT). 

It sounds like a fine project and I wish it success. 

Here's Huw's reasoning:
In Wales today, those tokens of Plantagenet savagery, the medieval castles, are cared for with a vigilance approaching the fetishistic. We willingly revere these symbols of our oppression.  
In this same Wales, those heroic symbols of our nonconformist freedom, the chapels, are neglected, disdained and spurned. They lie rotting and decomposed in town centres, casually vandalised. They are invisible and irrelevant. They seldom pierce the people’s awareness, but when they do, they provoke repugnance and scorn. 
It really is no exaggeration to say that the spirit of the chapels shaped modern Wales. But modern Wales doesn’t want to know.
Time for an R.S. Thomas poem then:

The Chapel

A little aside from the main road,
becalmed in a last-century greyness,
there is the chapel, ugly, without the appeal
to the tourist to stop his car
and visit it. The traffic goes by,
and the river goes by, and quick shadows
of clouds, too, and the chapel settles
a little deeper into the grass.

But here once on an evening like this,
in the darkness that was about
his hearers, a preacher caught fire
and burned steadily before them
with a strange light, so that they saw
the splendour of the barren mountains
about them and sang their amens
fiercely, narrow but saved
in a way that men are not now.

Of Bollywood and Peru

A Radio 3 programme whose starting point was an exhibition called 'Inspired by the east: how the Islamic world influenced Western art' might not sound like an enticing listen, and I'll admit I only tuned in because the historian Tom Holland was on and I'm reading a book of his at the moment, but it turned out to be genuinely interesting and enjoyable, with Edward Said's concept of 'orientalism' coming in for some well-deserved flak. 

The best bit of all was the one that sounded least enticing:  "Plus cultural critic Fatima Bhutto argues that the days of US inspired culture dominating the world are over and art forms from the global south such as Bollywood films, K-Pop and Turkish telenovelas are taking over." 

(Yes, Fatima is one of those Bhuttos. She's the neice of the murdered Benazir.) 

I was particularly struck by the news that Peruvians, high in the Andes, love Bollywood, not Hollywood because Bollywood's values are closer to theirs. 

Indeed, swathes of the developing world (if people still call it that) have fallen out of love with Hollywood and its liberal social mores, preferring the more socially conservative worldview of Bollywood:
It is fascinating because Peru and India really have no connection. You can understand why Bollywood is popular in a country like Egypt, say, because it goes back to Gemal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru who had a close connection through the Bandung conference and the Non-Aligned Movement. You can understand why Bollywood is popular in Uganda because you've got huge numbers of Indian families that had migrated there, and lived there and traded there. But Peru has nothing, and what draws them to Indian cinematic products is essentially the message, is that these are films of a traditional morality. They are stories set in the family. They are more palatable than Hollywood in the sense that they appeal to more conservative viewers. And also, for the first time if you're an indigenous Peruvian, if you come from the Highlands, then you don't see yourself in Hollywood. You don't see people who look like you, even in Peruvian cinema itself, which really captures a sort of white Peruvian elite. But when you watch a Bollywood film there's a family and it resembles yours, except they are somehow connected to the modern world. They wear their traditional clothes, speak their language and yet are captains of industry, and that's an exciting idea for many, many people who feel left out of western culture.