Friday, 20 September 2019

Open Thread

Red sky over west Cornwall last night.

Last open thread  was very interesting (but prorogued as it was getting rather long) Time for a new one

Champion Ash

Nigel Farage has been on Question Time once in 2019. Far-left scribbler Ash Sarkar has been on three times. 

What larks!

He's not always a jolly 'un, is he, our Jolyon? 

The barrister and anti-Brexit campaigner is presently particularly annoyed at the BBC (and Rob Burley):

He went on to reply to his own tweet and say:
Even those who do not need to pretend to hold a neutral position on Brexit - such as The Sun - are happy to acknowledge the contribution I have made. But not Rob Burley's BBC Politics, which rewrites history before your very eyes. 
Yes, the BBC cameraman shifting his camera during a live broadcast to focus on the SNP's Joanna Cherry as she was speaking, leaving only the top-right flank of Jolyon Maugham QC's body in view,  and BBC Politics then only tweeting a clip of one of Joanna Cherry's many contributions and not including the wise words of our Jolyon, surely is "an abuse of power" by the BBC, and Jolyon isn't overreacting in the slightest - despite what any sensible person might think.

The non-caped crusader went on:
This is - which Rob Burl and the BBC Press Office ignore - why their dominance of news matters. It creates fiefdoms of immense power that can be abused for improper ends.
Note to Rob

(a) Always personally stop BBC Politics twitter feeds from issuing short clips by watching them 24 hours a day and not sleeping and only broadcasting the whole eight minutes (or eighty minutes) of such things.

(b) Always instruct BBC camerapersons to keep Jolyon in shot when he's not speaking - or, even better, edit in a halo around Jolyon's head when he does speak.

Failure to follow either of these steps will mean that Jolyon's faithful #FBPE legions will pile on in and accuse you of "censorship" and "blacklisting" and being "very spiteful" and "the weirdest person ever" (and worse).


Incidentally, I checked back on TV Eyes to the very moment on the BBC News Channel that this scene of BBC perfidy originally occurred (rather than the wicked later tweet).

The BBC interrupted its own broadcast to go live to Ms Cherry and Mr Maugham QC and carried the whole thing (some eight minutes of it), broadcasting their every word. 

Mr Maugham spoke first and was fully in view alongside Ms Cherry. Ms Cherry spoke next and the camera shifted to her. Then it was back to Jolyon, in full view alongside Ms Cherry. And then Ms Cherry again, in full view alongside Jolyon (with no special focus). The press, including the BBC's Ben Brown, then asked questions of both of them, mainly showing both of them, though occasionally zooming in on Ms Cherry. And then it showed them leaving, with Mr Maugham's back end blocking our view of Ms Cherry (who led the way). 

Anyhow, there's one thing that can be said with confidence here: Jolyon Maugham QC certainly adds to the gaiety (and the misery) of the nation!

Red face

BBC headline overnight:
Canada's PM Justin Trudeau admits he can't remember how often he wore blackface, as row deepens ahead of election

In my half century of life I've never once put on 'brownface' or 'blackface' - unlike ultra-woke Justin Trudeau, Canada's Liberal PM, who's accidentally done it at least three times now. 

Confession time, I did once -  albeit aged ten, and abetted by my teachers - put on 'goldface' to play the scary Ghost of Christmas Future in my primary school's production of 'Scrooge'.

I had a black cowl and a black cloak. I glided. I held both arms in front of me, like a sleepwalking Frankenstein's monster. I pointed. I was silent. I was ominous. And then I tripped over the end of Scrooge's bed. 

Thus ended my acting career.

I suspect Justin Trudeau ('a virtue-signal made flesh') is feeling even more embarrassed today than I did back in 1979, especially as he was a 29-year-old teacher when he last painted his face brown, just 18 short years ago.

Oh well, you live and learn. I doubt he'll do it again now.

Though you never know. Maybe, like Father Ted in that episode where he inadvertently keeps offending Craggy Island's Chinese community ('I hear you're a racist now, Father!), poor Justin will just have to accept the fact that he's fated to be the kind of man who accidentally ends up having 'blackface' on his face from time to time. Maybe it's a curse?

I did wonder what all the BBC's hyperactive Tweeters - from Jon Sopel to John Sweeney, from John Simpson to Hugh Sykes, from Katty Kay to Anthony Zurcher, etc - had to say about this. What fun they must be having mocking  and tut-tutting at the liberals' pin-up boy! But they haven't posted a single tweet about this. Not one. Fancy!

I bet if images emerge of The Donald in 'brownface' and 'blackface', even as a 10-year-old, they'll be tweeting about it till their fingers bleed - and beyond.


Anyhow, here (for your interest) is how Nick Bryant reported the story at 10:19 pm on last night's BBC One News at Ten:

Question: Given that Mr Trudeau is now 47 (six years older than Emmanuel Macron, eight years older than Jacinda Adern and twelve years older than Kim Jong-un), is it still right to call him "the young Prime Minister"?
Nick Bryant: In this age of celebrity politicians, Justin Trudeau is a politician who became a celebrity. Youthful, telegenic - a leader who seemed to embody the values of modern-day progressiveness, a model of political correctness. But this photo presents a very different picture, showing him wearing blackface make-up at a private-school gala in 2001. An Arabian Nights costume party where, as a 29-year-old teacher, he was dressed as a charater from Aladdin. His message today - "Forgive me, I've changed." 
Justin Trudeau: Darkening your face, regardless of the circumstances, is always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface. Should have understood that then, and I never should have done it. 
More blackface photos have emerged, and a video has surfaced from the early '90s showing a young Justin Trudeau sticking his tongue out and making faces. All this in the midst of an election campaign in which Mr Trudeau had already been reeling from a corruption scandal. Blackface is now recognised as a racist caricature, and his opponents are piling in. 
Jagmeet Singh, NDP leader: Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackfacing, it's making a mockery of someone for what they live, and what their lived experiences are. I think he needs to answer for it. 
The young Prime Minister has always sought to portray Canada as one of the world's most successfully multicultural countries. Here, he greeted Syrian refugees at the airport. This damages his political brand. But in the capital, Ottawa, today, most people we spoke to were forgiving. 
Vox Pop 1 (elderly Sikh man): It is nothing, because he was very young at the time. Vox Pop 2 (elderly white lady): And it was Canada, it's not the US, we don't have the same history here that they have in the US. Nick Bryant to Vox Pop 3: Do you find it offensive? Vox Pop 3 (young Native Amercian lady): I do. 
He's positioned himself as a liberal counterpoint to Donald Trump, but his golden boy image has been tarnished. Nick Bryant, BBC News, Ottawa.  
Nick Bryant (continuing): Now, Justin Trudeau couldn't even remember today how many times he had worn blackface make-up, which raises the possibility, of course, that more damaging pictures may emerge. Now, he thinks he can weather this political storm, and we will find out this time next month, when Canada goes to the polls. 

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Forgive and forget

I think I am handicapped by my long and unforgiving memory. So I can hardly complain about the media attaching all those ‘long-lost’ labels to Tommy Robinson. Nevertheless, I do complain.

Take the Lib Dems. I can’t get my head around Luciana Berger joining the Lib-Dems after they (as a Party) tolerated those two arch antisemites, Jenny Tonge and David Ward. Former Brent Central MP, Sarah Teather, obsessed with defending her radical Muslim ‘constituents’ wasn’t much better. Admittedly, the Lib Dems sacked Tonge under Clegg and Tim "Ward is unfit to represent the party"  Farron. Yes, the party eventually got rid, but it took them forever and a day. I suppose the Lib-Dems held seats in many predominantly Muslim constituencies at the time, but what if they regain them in future?

Here’s another example of me as ‘hostage’ to my lengthy, unforgiving memory. It concerns Sarah Champion. I can’t forget her appearance at that Muslim-heavy council meeting where she was filmed obsequiously pandering to some full-on, undiluted, Israel-bashing. (See vid below)

When she is held up for her ‘bravery’ in publicly identifying the grooming-gang phenomenon as being perpetrated by “mainly Pakistani men’  and getting herself demoted by Corbyn into the bargain, she meekly toed the line thereafter. Where’s the bravery in that? She should have kicked up a fuss. I think it’s high time to resurrect one of my abandoned (gone but not forgotten) posts. It’s no longer topical, but what the hell.  Here goes:

"Covering your arse". (Working title)

"I caught part of the select committee debate on LGBT education with Sarah Champion MP speaking passionately in favour of  LGBT education. Brendan O’Neill has written a curate’s egg of a piece about Pakistani grooming gangs. It’s mostly critical but he sneaks in a jarring note to distance himself from nasty ‘right-wingers’, like so:
“it plays into the hands of hard-right elements who politicise the issue of Muslim grooming gangs. It actually empowers these troublesome political groups who will say: ‘Only we are brave enough to talk about this problem.’ And of course they talk about it for very cynical reasons — in order to promote a view of all Muslim men as predatory, and all Muslims as a problem.
However, he receives plenty of flak below the line for that arse-covering paragraph. He praises Sarah Champion for her ‘bravery’ in specifically mentioning ‘Pakistani’ men in a famous article she wrote for the Sun; the one for which she lost her shadow cabinet role. (Sacked by Jeremy Corbyn.)
“Look what happened to the Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, when she wrote about the problem of largely Pakistani gangs abusing white girls. She was demonised by Corbynistas. She was forced out of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. The message was clear: talk about this issue and you will be punished
says O’Neill, admiringly. What did she do then, though? Did she make a fuss about being sacked? No, she did not. She toed the line and she’s still in the antisemitic Labour Party backing Jeremy Corbyn for PM. 

Now she’s taking another risk. She’s risking the ire of the Pakistani councillors (her constituents) by defending LGBT education. Brave again? Mixed messages from opportunist Champion? - she was, after all, MP for Rotherham during the period when the Pakistani men were happily a-groomin’. 

Brendan O’Neil again:
“Strikingly, the judge didn’t only condemn the men – he also criticised the authorities in Rotherham. He said they had at best been ‘totally ineffectual’ and at worst ‘wholly indifferent’ to the abuse of girls by Muslim gangs. He said he was ‘quite satisfied’ that the ‘relevant authorities’ in Rotherham knew girls were being targeted for sexual exploitation. And their failure to do anything about it is a ‘lamentable state of affairs’.”

Surely she must have had a little inkling about what was going on under her nose? She never said a word until the whole thing was out in the open. Her ‘bravery’ entirely consisted of using the words “largely Pakistani men”, rather than obfuscating like everyone else did, by using the misleading term “Asian”; to me her belated outrage looked more like covering her arse for (at best) ‘not noticing’ what was going on, than *bravery*.

Am I just being bitchy, or is all this criticism fundamentally because she was filmed chairing a meeting of the Pakistani councillors that represent her constituency.  She was ingratiating herself with these men by enthusiastically castigating Israel for retaliating after a heightened spate of rocket attacks fired from Gaza.

We spotted her appearance on a BBC documentary about the HoC.  “I don’t understand how you can have negotiations when you only talk to one party,” said Sarah Champion. Of course, she’s not talking about Corbyn.
 I blogged it at the time and have referenced it whenever the opportunity arose because I don’t think of her as ‘consistent and certainly not ‘brave’. Rather, she comes across as an opportunist with no principles.

Perhaps she's changed. Should I forgive and forget?  I might be able to 'forgive', but it's oh so hard to 'forget'.


Douglas Murray illustrated his article about James O’Brien with a maliciously delicious picture. O’Brien is the only person I can think of who’s got cellulite on his forehead.
The fact that someone at the BBC saw fit to hire him as a presenter boggles belief. A mixed metaphor, but it’ll do.

Why did anyone at the Beeb think he was suitable for Newsnight? (Literally un-suitable, as in unable to wear a suit in the normal manner.) He's more at home in manky old T-shirts in keeping with his demeanour; rude, uncouth and obnoxious.

John Humphrys signs off

Plenty of plaudits for Humph this morning during his farewell appearance on the Toady. 
A big article by Giles Fraser on Unherd, too. Who will miss John Humphrys? 

The Today Programme seems to be getting less and less listenable under Sarah Sands’s headmistress- ship. "She introduced the puzzle", someone announced, as if that was a good thing.

He sounds ok, but when you see him Humphrys has the pallor of a man who’s been living underground for years. For his sake, now that he can have a lie-in and a bit of a relax, I advise him to get some fresh air (for the vitamin D) 

Bye John, and good luck. 

Boris Heckled

The BBC is weirdly fascinated by ‘Boris Being Heckled’. 6th Sept, 5th Sept, 13th Sept, 9th Sept, 13th Sept (again) 9th Aug,  10th Aug, 5th Sept. 22nd May 2017 (?) 24th June 2016 (!)

When Boris Johnson was heckled in West Yorkshire, “the Heckle” was the BBC’s headline all day. To be honest, I’m not sure if the other channels followed suit, but someone observed:
“The Prime Minister gave a speech in the north of England during which a man heckled him (surely not an unusual occurrence for any politician) yet what made the headlines and was the focus of the news story? The heckling.

So what I’m saying is, um, the media’s focus seems a bit suspect. Never mind. I won’t go into that today. The hooha around that peculiar hospital corridor confrontation by ‘a concerned father’ had particularly nasty repercussions. Social media, the mainstream press and the online world were fizzing with vitriol.

Remember all those theatrical political interventions on Question Time that were frequently presented as ‘random’, but which “Turned Out” to be more or less orchestrated party political stunts? Hard-left activists seem keen on that sort of attention-seeking, but I suppose it’s kinda legitimate in a direct-action kinda way.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, did you see the vitriolic avalanches that befell poor Laura Kuenssberg when she Tweeted her….. let’s call it ‘reality check’ Tweet.  “Turns out” etc Look on Twitter. It’s horrendous. 

Incidentally, the Indy has the man’s daughter at “7 months” whereas Twitter mostly has her at “7 days” and one paper (I forget which) had her at “7 years”. Seven somethings, probably. Oh well, that’s reporting for you.

I think Laura Kuenssberg has had a rough deal here. I think she had to mention that the good Omar Salem was a Labour activist, otherwise the BBC would have been heavily criticised by the likes of me.

Whether she was wise in using the term “turns out” is another thing, because, if you think about it, there is a hint of cynicism in that two-word opener because the implication could definitely be that the whole thing was primarily (or 'nothing but') a stunt.

The professional Tory-haters contend (Tweet) that a baby nearly died through government underfunding, and many tweeters believe the man done good to confront the heartless, opportunistic PM., whose 'electioneering' hospital visit was also a publicity stunt. They say the Tories have to be held to account for  “wrecking the NHS”, and conclude that Laura K is a Tory and that the BBC is a government mouthpiece.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Well, well

3 hours ago on Twitter:

2 hours ago:

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Classical matters

Lord Lucan in disguise?

I saw a plug for a forthcoming book on Twitter this morning by an American academic called John Kyrin Schafer. 

He's about to publish a book about the Roman poet Catullus. 

That led me, on a whim, to his university website and this description of one of the courses he runs - '"Lucan Bellum Civile" - Readings in Latin Literature'.

That doesn't sound particularly scintillating, but then came the details of the module.

Strap yourself in Boris and let the Hans Zimmer soundtrack begin:
Once dismissed as second-rate bombast, Lucan's epic poem of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey has enjoyed a remarkable comeback: these days, "Lucan" is probably your average Latin hipster's expected answer to the question, "who's the best Roman poet?" From the time-delayed murderousness of his rhetoric and the shocking grossness of his violence to the eternal emptiness and infinite perversity of his world gone mad, Lucan's is an aesthetic of unremitting bleakness, and you'll love it. Extensive readings of his soul-scouring Latin.
Now that's how to sell a course!

Naturally I tried some Lucan and dived to the last book and Caesar and Cleopatra (and Ptolemy):

Now from the stream Pelusian of the Nile,
     Was come the boyish king, taming the rage
     Of his effeminate people: pledge of peace;
     And Caesar safely trod Pellaean halls;
     When Cleopatra bribed her guard to break
     The harbour chains, and borne in little boat
     Within the Macedonian palace gates,
     Caesar unknowing, entered: Egypt's shame;
     Fury of Latium; to the bane of Rome
70   Unchaste.  For as the Spartan queen of yore
     By fatal beauty Argos urged to strife
     And Ilium's homes, so Cleopatra roused
     Italia's frenzy.  By her drum she called
     Down on the Capitol terror (if to speak
     Such word be lawful); mixed with Roman arms
     Coward Canopus, hoping she might lead
     A Pharian triumph, Caesar in her train;
     And 'twas in doubt upon Leucadian waves
     Whether a woman, not of Roman blood,
80   Should hold the world in awe.  Such lofty thoughts
     Seized on her soul upon that night in which
     The wanton daughter of Pellaean kings
     First shared our leaders' couches.  Who shall blame
     Antonius for the madness of his love,
     When Caesar's haughty breast drew in the flame?

That last bit, in Latin (which I've never learned), is "quis tibi uaesani ueniam non donet amoris, Antoni, durum cum Caesaris hauserit ignis pectus?". I might try to learn that.


Such Latin thoughts were also on the mind of this morning's Broadcasting House on BBC Radio 4...though they came at the end.

More on that story later....



The programme began with a surprisingly gentle interview with Sam Gyimah by my old favourite Paddy O'Connell.

Sam, as you may be aware, is the until-very-recently tax-slashing, ultra-Thatcherite, globalist, Brexit-disliking Tory leadership contender and potential Conservative PM who's now suddenly transformed himself, within the two-month wink of a butterfly's eye, into a Lib Dem MP (and who everyone, it seems, likes and thinks is a nice guy). He's now claiming that liberal Tory Boris (a socially liberal, pro-immigration, pro-public spending Tory) is far too right-wing for him.

I'd have liked Paddy to tease some of those contradictions out with Mr. Gyimah but such teasing-out never came.


The BIG story though for BH was the David-Cameron-book-launch-related news.

This, after a tiny clip of Tim Waterstone spreading ordure over it, resulted in a weird discussion between former Labour spinmeister Ali Campbell (of 45 minutes/dodgy dossier/Dr David Kelly fame) and self-confessed Lib Dem voter Iain Dale, who were in almost total agreement about how great and important David Cameron's new book is - so much so that they kept on pointing out how much they agreed with each other.

Please allow me then to quote an alternative point of view, tweeted last night by Helena Morrissey DBE (any relation to THE Morrissey, who really ought to be knighted, then made PM?):
One of the many issues people have with the media & the BBC is the “news” is so often just about the predictable media/political bubble. BBC is paid for by taxpayers - how many taxpayers think the D Cameron book is the most important news for them? It is the lead story tonight.
I'm betting that D Cameron is going to be top news for the BBC all week. 


Back to Latin matters and, after a later onslaught from Quango Queen Dame Louise Casey (who mounted a massive stallion over Boris's Hulk comments, as if humour shouldn't be permitted while homelessness exists on the streets of Britain), the programme climaxed in a mini-lecture from one of the BBC's highest profile experts, Prof. Mary Beard, on the uses and abuses of historical (especially Classical) references by politicians.

Despite promises that politicians across the spectrum fell under her scrutiny, only one politician was held up to the full glare of Prof. Mary's magnifying glass.

Can you guess who? (Clue: He has blond, tousled hair).

Mary Beard, courtesy of Radio 4, 'debunked' Boris three times over his "half truth" and "extremely conservative version of the ancient world".

The first, I think, she showed he didn't get quite right. The other two I think she didn't prove at all, beyond ringing a bell to signify her disagreement with PM Boris.

She also said she'd "been fighting for most of (her) life" against the impression that Latin and Greek is "something that Tories do". (Very Radio 4!).

Two Beards

The weirdest thing, despite Mary not noticing it, is that - despite Prof. Mary conceding that he was right on some thing - the errors made by "Johnson" 'prove' him to be a liberal Tory.

Yes, Mary conceded, Boris got it broadly right about Sparta being a xenophobic, militarist regime but, aha, he was so wrong about (approvingly) claiming that Athens had a "welcoming" approach to immigrants. Athens wasn't "welcoming" to outsiders, Prof. Mary said. And I believe her.

The second example was Boris contrasting Jesus Christ and the Emperor Augustus. Boris said that Augustus was "all about glory, competition and success" and Jesus Christ "believed in turning the other cheek and kindness and compassion" and, thus, appealed to women, slaves and the non-winners of the Roman Empire. Prof. Mary called this "a classic howler", saying that - despite Christianity appealing to some women and slaves - it was mainly down to rich people and Roman emperors that Christianity became successful because "it plugged into the power structure". Now, I know she's an expert but I've read so much about the origins of Christianity and I think I know that until Constantine (some 300 years after Jesus) turned the Roman Empire into a Christian empire, Christians were (with intermittent savagery) often heavily persecuted. Yet they grew and grew. And they did include women and slaves and poor people. And Prof. Mary's objections rather sound to me like ideological hair-splitting.

And the third example, contrasting Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, saw Prof. Mary grudgingly confessing herself "pleased" with Boris that he'd called Caesar being "an absolute b****" for his mass-murdering of the Gauls, yet still damning Boris for saying that Julius Caesar was, despite that, greater than Alexander the Great, her buzzer ringing with resentment. Her reason? Well, she didn't say, and we were left none the wiser. She thinks "neither of them deserve to be in pedestals". So was Boris wrong, as Prof, Mary buzzed in, to say that Julius Caesar, progenitor of the long-lasting Roman Empire that reshaped so much of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and who inspired the Holy Roman Empire and titles such as Shah, Tsar and Kaiser, was greater than the semi-ephemeral, ultra-violent, magnificent shooting star that was Alexander the Great? I'd say 'no', and that Mary Beard was wrong to ring her buzzer. And that the BBC was wrong to grant her an uncaveated authority to bluff her way through another BBC-licensed denunciation of Boris Johnson.

Now, yes, the BBC may be right to take Mary Beard as an interesting, free-thinking historian, but it doesn't mean that her expertise in the earlier Roman Empire necessarily makes her an expert on the rise of Christianity, or an unbiased arbiter of historical truth, or a commentator capable of completely debunking a Classics-taught PM she deeply disapproves of over Brexit.

But here's where we are. Is there a Latin phrase out there to sum all of this up?

Let’s not whitewash the plain truth

Comments in the open thread drew my (and Craig’s) attention to Sarah Baxter’s refreshingly straightforward piece in the Sunday Times. A good piece that more than fleshes out my own curt observation in a recent post.

“The pious men of Gilead show the same respect for women in their power as rapist grooming gangs. But the “sisterhood” that provides Atwood with her fan base doesn’t like banging on about it — so she doesn’t either. 
"Brave Muslim women understand what they’re up against. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who had to flee to Holland and then to America — just as the fictional Offred had to seek refuge in Canada — wrote in response to The New York Times’s tweet, “19 Muslim men hijacked four airplanes . . . inspired by their prophet and driven by jihadist ardour . . . Let’s not whitewash that plain truth.”

The ever-changing content within the Guardian’s section in our sidebar led me to this piece by Nosheen Iqbal. I find this chilling for several reasons and I mention it here because it is tangentially relevant to the above.

This is the image they chose to illustrate this article

It seems to me - forgive me if I’ve got it all wrong - that Muslim teenagers, or whoever this project is aimed at, are so spooked by the idea that the government is funding a perfectly well-meant programme of assimilation, that they are up in arms. How dare “non-Muslims” interfere with our … what? Faith? Muslimness? Right to spurn “British values”?

“A Muslim online lifestyle platform targeting British teenagers is covertly funded by the Home Office’s counter-extremism programme, the Observer has learned.
The revelation about funding of the project has led to a row between its owners, a former Muslim employee and its Muslim audience.

“But after realising that recent funding for the project was coming from Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT), an arm of the government’s counter-extremism strategy, readers expressed anger and accused its directors of betraying the Muslim community. Two Muslim employees have since resigned.”
However, SuperSisters is left battling the widespread suspicion that it was purposely designed to promote a state-approved notion of the Islamic faith with the potential to track its target audience of British Muslim girls aged 13 to 19. One reader, Aeysh Ahmed, wrote on Instagram: “I am actually shocked ... it’s deeply problematic that non-Muslims feel they have the right to define what our unified identity is.” Another user, @the_hybrid_life, said: “This is truly shocking and disturbing and feels entirely like a violation.”

Counter-extremism is a betrayal? This may not have direct relevance to the BBC but the  Guardianesque default Islamophilic attitude is one of the BBC’s principal influences.

Are we allowed to question the Muslim community’s desire to resist assimilation?


Polly Toynbee, Katy Balls & Martin Daubney

Much-loved financial pundit David Buik sent out a tweet this morning:
WOW! - What a line-up for Marr on Sunday! - Polly Toynbee, Mayor Sadiq Khan and Jo Swinson. It's time to wash my hair again - what little left there is! The Test follows at 11.00am - so exciting!
I could be wrong but I don't think he was making a point about BBC bias there, merely expressing his wish not to watch any of those three people. 

His followers, however, took him as saying that this was the complete line-up and, thus, a biased parade of Remainers and filled up the thread below. 

Enter Jason Keen, a producer The Andrew Marr Show, pursued by a approving retweet from his boss-but-one Rob Burley, lunging at what he must have perceived to be a low-hanging fruit, saying:
Funny how you decided not to mention Priti Patel and Martin Daunbey [sic] are also on #marr David. Did you miss them, or decide that would rather undermine your point?
Ah, but was it his point? Did he have a point, other than to say he'd rather not watch Polly, Sadiq and Jo?

Hope Mr. Buik enjoys the cricket!


I have to say that I watched all three of them, plus Priti and Martin - and Katy Balls of The Spectator. Two things in particular stood out: Firstly, because of its striking simile, this question to Jo Swinson:
So if I'm one of the seventeen-and-a-half million people who voted to leave the EU in good faith, told by the British political establishment that they would respect my vote, you simply cancel it out, you treat the entire Brexit episode like some elderly bullock that you're going to take into a field and shoot? 
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

And secondly, this strange exchange with Sadiq Khan:
Andrew Marr: Now, the Labour Party is still struggling with the intracacies of its Brexit proposal. In that debate, Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, is an important player. But with terrible violence on the streets of London, he has a lot more on his plate than mere high politics. He's with me now. I called you Sar-dick Khan. I have been calling you Sad-eek Khan for years, but I'm wrong. 
Sadiq Khan: Well, it's not the most important thing, but yeah, my name is Sar-dick. It comes from the Arabic alphabet. I really do not mind if it's Sad-eek or Sar-dick. Yeah, but it is Sar-dick,
Andrew Marr: We'll stick with the right one.
Sadiq Khan: That will be nice. My mum would be grateful. 
Who knew that pretty much everyone has been mispronouncing his name for years? Maybe he should have said. I'm sure a lot of people will be all too happy to think of him as 'Sar-dick' rather than 'Sad-eek'!

Tales from the Sunday Papers


Former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie's book 'Equal: A Story of Women, Men and Money' is out now. According to Katie Glass in The Sunday Times it "pulls no punches" over her clash with the corporation over pay. 

She won, of course, and I've nothing but admiration for her work in China (the best of the BBC) or for bringing a proper, non-Gavin-Esler-like lack of partisanship to Dateline London

But the two things I've never really got about her campaign remain 'ungot' in my mind: 

Firstly, why should the BBC's China editor be paid exactly the same as the much higher profile and, presumably, far more demanding BBC North America editor (her initial spur to action)? 

And, secondly, when she gave away her back pay of £373,000 on the admirable grounds that it was about the principle not the money, let's not forget that the campaigning Fawcett Society's charitable gain was at the expense of BBC licence fee payers' money, not the BBC's money. I don't particularly want my wages be given without my consent to the Fawcett Society, to be honest. 


By most accounts Isa Guha is an excellent commentator on cricket - a former cricketer herself who knows her stuff. But when you see The Sunday Times headlining the news that the BBC has snapped her up with this kind of thing, "Isa Guha, the new face of BBC cricket, smashes a boundary or two. Asian and female, the former England player is being lined up to replace ‘pale, male, stale’ commentators on TV coverage of The Hundred", it's difficult not to think that the BBC is at it again, box-ticking. 

Of course, it's The Sunday Times who wrote it like that. Maybe, just maybe, the BBC chose her purely on merit and never gave a thought to her being "Asian and female" - though it's not very likely, is it?


So it's goodbye to the BBC iPlayer from tomorrow. Big Chief Purnell, the BBC's director of radio, is ploughing ahead with his controversial, expensive BBC Sounds app, despite many people not liking it. I preferred the iPlayer, but I can't say the new thing is that bad. So I don't mind it - except from everything beginning with a woman's voice saying "BBC Sounds. Music, radio, podcasts", which is quite irritating. 


A couple of weeks ago I complimented David Cameron to friends for not being a 'back seat driver' kind of ex-PM. I should have known better. It turns out that the only reason he'd been keeping his gob shut for so long was in order to keep his powder dry for his book launch. Typical. 

And guess what? Yes, he's of one mind with the leading lights of the Remain media establishment (including John Simpson) on the subject of the BBC not being anti-Brexit enough:
Almost the biggest problem I had was with the BBC. I felt it had lost its way in understanding the difference between balance and impartiality. The result was the voices of thousands of businesses arguing for remain given equal treatment to just a few prominent businesses coming out for leave. There were thousands of remain economists and a tiny number of Brexiteers, yet the BBC gave the latter the same weight as Nobel laureates.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Last Night Blues (and Yellows)

I started to watch the second half - the climax - of The Last Night of the Proms on BBC One tonight. 

As soon as the cameras turned to the audience, I saw a sea of EU flags from the Prommers, and - this year - the BBC's cameras weren't shy about zooming in on them.

Waitrose must have been quiet in London tonight.


Gone, it seems, are the days when the BBC-One-broadcast second half included heavyweight classical pieces or - pace Sir John Drummond's infamous introduction of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's panic-inducing Panic - anything daring. 

No, it was 'approachable' fare all the way, featuring operetta (starring the can-can) and songs from the musicals before the usual horn-tooting, hand-clapping jollity of Henry Woods's routine sea-shanty fantasia arrived...

...and then, being the modern BBC, it was straight onto an inclusive tour of the UK nations, featuring - I kid you not - choirs in Scotland, with maximum lack of originality, singing The Skye Coach Song ('Speed bonnie coach like a haggis on the wing'and choirs in Northern Ireland, even less imaginatively, singing The London Derriere ('O Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes urgently need an engineer. Call Gerry and Martin's now. Or else'). 

I probably should have stayed to see Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and the National Anthem, but that was enough BBC broadcasting and EU flag waving for me tonight. 

In between came yapping with diverse guests. 

(Sorry Katie. I know you're great but, oh, for the days of Richard Baker! Why can't the BBC just introduce the music and shut up?

I probably should have watched the first half on BBC Two. I spy Manuel de Falla and his Three-Cornered Hat on its menu. I do like Manuel de Falla. Hope the BBC didn't ruin it for him by letting in Steve Bray - the Stop Brexit guy permanently protesting outside Westminster - and allowing him to wear a three-cornered blue-top hat with a yellow band while chanting 'Stop Brexit!' in Spanish!

The wrong messages.

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian cloak-and-bonnet tale and the BBC’s Rise of the Nazis. A pair of allegories-with-a-message. 

Reviewers were quick to recognise that these programmes bore comparisons between present-day reality and dramatised fiction. Craig has already cited James Delingpole who points out that within the programme (Nazis) former Cambridge historian Professor Sir Richard Evans laid it on with a trowel; Trump =  Hitler. 

There are indeed parallels and messages, Jim, but not as we know it. Not as you know it. Y’all took away ’the wrong message’.

I started to pen a review of  “the Nazis” but it got filed under ‘pending’. (‘Pendings' are beginning to stack up). Objections to Ash Sarkar’s inclusion in this programme have already been well documented, so I won’t waste time on that. 

The parallels I saw were the opposite of the good Professor’s. The real parallel is between the rise of antisemitism and the Corbyn-led Labour Party. 

But no, the intelligentsia has pronounced that the parallels were between Boris Johnson, President Trump and populism and, somehow, fascism.

Allison Pearson has written about a similarly topsy turvy ‘take-away’ from The Handmaid’s Tail.  Sorry, tale.

The Republic of Gilead is not Trump’s America. The parallel is with a certain religion. Praise be!

Sad case

Following the Sam Smith controversy,  in July 2017 i mentioned gender fluidity within British Gas:
“…… British Gas now uses gender non-specific pronouns”
“Our engineer will call”. “They’ll be coming on…”  
Perhaps there was to be a team of engineers?
But no. It was just one guy by the name of David. (I assumed he was a he, which he was /  they were.)

A day or so ago I saw a story in the Times. In. The. Times!! concerning the sad case of a 13-year-old ‘child’ whose mother fed him/her/ thousands of calories till he/she suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. 

The child was given a gender-fluid pronoun “Them“ / “Their” - to such an extent that the gender of the child was effectively concealed. Throughout the report, the reader was not given a clue as to whether the child was male, female or in fact plural, (although that seems unlikely as surely it would have had ‘children’ instead of ‘child’, but you can’t be sure of anything since conventional grammar went down the pan. It’s a conspiracy to confuse.

I presume the original report came from some godforsaken news agency and was copied lock and stock. Guess which news organ was the sole purveyor of ‘the truth’?  The BBC? Non. (Pardon my French.) 
The Metro? Wrong again.
How about the Manchester Evening News?  Not really.

Ok, I’ll tell you. It was The Sun wot done it. (Boy. RIP) Oh, and the New Zealand Herald. (A bit behind the times down there, but don’t worry, they’ll catch up soon)

Down Memory Lane (With Mark Mardell)

Returning to the theme of Sue's post about James Harding’s Impartial Journalism in a Polarised World on Radio 4 (which, like Sue, I also enjoyed), all I'd add is that I was particularly taken by Mark Mardell playing the BBC Roundhead to Robert Peston's Cavalier.

Robert Peston - ITV's dandy highwayman - declared himself proud (as a journalist) to pronounce TheTruth. His example? Telling us - as he has been doing for three years now - that Brexit will make us poorer. Other journalists should do the same, he suggested.  

Mark Mardell recoiled from that and declared that the BBC impartiality he evidently believes himself to embody means that journalists shouldn't make themselves the arbiters of Truth but simply present a range of voices and let the listeners judge.

Ironies abound. Robert Peston could be speaking for the BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson here, and Mark Mardell is a man whose opinions have haemorrhaged through his reporting for decades.

On which theme, Mark also made a bold claim:
Shoot me if you like. But I was the guy that insisted when I was Europe Editor that UKIP and Farage should have a voice, because they fell between the cracks. They weren’t at Westminster and they weren’t getting their hearing. So I think it’s important to hear the people who are behind them.

One of the first things I remember as a blogger was noting Mark Mardell's Today report about UKIP during the 2009 European election - the infamous "BNP in blazers" report.

Let's just recall that in all its 'glory':
A small sea, more like a pond perhaps, of Union flags drop in front of a diminished group of men in the European Parliament.   
They thought their election heralded a revolution, but what have they achieved?  
Not, obviously, their main ambition of getting the UK out of the EU.  
Most members of the European Parliament regard UKIP as profoundly unserious pranksters with a weird obsession.  
‘Criminal betrayal’ – so said UKIP’s rising star Robert Kilroy-Silk MEP, the former Labour MP and daytime TV host. He’s the man with the orange complexion, you’ll remember, before he quit the party.  
‘An incompetent joke’ – that’s the verdict of another leadership contender.  
The pronouncements of sore losers, perhaps, but there’s something of a theme here which real opponents have been quick to pick up on. 
‘Fruitcakes, loonies, closet racists’ was what David Cameron said about them, and it’s the last bit that annoys the current leadership. 
Nigel Farage has dismissed the idea that they’re the BNP in blazers, but their main plank in this election is perhaps their opposition to unlimited immigration, and Mr Farage admits he’s spent a lot of time and energy fighting off a take-over by the far right.  
That must say something about the sympathies of some members. 
And what about the MEPs? Of the dozen elected, Robert Kilroy-Silk has disappeared from the political scene and two others have been expelled, one jailed for fraud, the other awaiting trial on similar charges.  
UKIP condemns the EU gravy train, but a good proportion seem to have prominent gravy stains all down their blazers. 
The European Parliament, for all its bad reputation, is a place where the politicians have a serious job modifying, tweaking, even kicking out proposed new laws. UKIP don’t boast of any achievements on this front, and their opponents say they’ve voted against Britain’s interests in a host of areas from fishing to trade talks. A UKIP news release ruefully admits that occasionally UKIP do miss pieces of legislation. 
If not the BNP in blazers, then there is something of the golf club militant about UKIP – so old-school they’re in constant danger of being expelled, the boys who didn’t make prefects because they were too ready to cock a snook and put two fingers up at the establishment.   
But there’s no doubt there is a market for this at the moment, but in a parliament that’s about quiet conciliation not gestures, they make a lot of noise, no one is unaware of their cause.  
For them the risk is that they become part of an institution they despise, the licensed court jester, who can poke fun at the EU’s po-faced pretentions, as long as they make withdrawal look like a lost cause for mavericks.
I'm betting, even now, that Mark Mardell would re-read that and think himself a splendid fellow and a beacon of impartiality, despite it being a massively biased piece of reporting - as demonstrated in pretty much every one of its sentences. 

And how complaisant it seems now. Nigel Farage's golf club militant went on, within seven years of this, to compel a Conservative PM to hold a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU - and the people voted OUT. 

Andrew Neil asks another question (of David Lammy MP)

Nigel Farage (geoff) boycotts the BBC. The BBC begs him to reappear

At least Andrew Marr didn't ask him about Paddington Bear

Thus spake Nigel...

(h/t MB):
I appeared with Andrew Marr in the European Elections, when we were heading the polls in the European Elections, and I was treated like a war criminal. 
It was just extraordinary. You’d have thought I was at Nuremberg for something awful I’d done. 
They’re now begging me every week on email to reappear. So far I keep telling them I’m washing my hair. 
 I don’t think we need the BBC as much as we used to. I think their behaviour has been disgusting at every level. They are utterly biased. 
But mercifully fewer people watch them or listen to them. 
May that trend continue.

John Simpson stands up to be counted

Simpy McSimpface

Besides his BBC journalism, John Simpson (the BBC's World Affairs Editor) also has his Twitter feed. 

And now he was a podcast (which he's promoting this weekend on Twitter). 

Here are transcripts of some of his answers to question from the latest, climate-change-based episode:

[On Donald Trump's opposition towards action to tackle climate change]
I think it's insane, actually. And I think it's really, really stupid. And it flies in the face of everything.  
And, you know, when he's talked about it, when people like him talk about it, they say, oh, it's only a few years since all the scientists were saying we were going to enter a new ice age and now, you know, last year was the hottest in human history, you just think, Come on! Don't be so pathetic! Realise the problem and do something about it!
The short-termism - and it's particularly a problem for democracies - is killing us, and we've got to force our governments to do something about it. 
I'm not very, very enthusiastic usually about all the direct action stuff, and going to the houses of government ministers and screaming at them and so on, because I think, you know, it gets out of hand quite fast that kind of thing. But I really do sympathise with the people that say this is too late for ordinary methods, we've got to do something and we've got to do it now, and the only way we can reasonably do that is by demonstrating in the streets. 

[On whether he'd get involved with political demonstrations]
I haven't in the past because my contract with the BBC says I'm not allowed to get involved in these things. 
But, again, I think that with something this important, you know, I don't think my contract ought to stand in the way of that. 
I didn't go to the anti-Iraq demonstrations, huge one...well I did go to it, but as reporter. I didn't take part in it in 2003. I felt the same as the demonstrators, and I think we've all been proven very, very much right about that. 
But I just think you've got to put pressure on the people who are, at the moment, saying, oh well, my political position, our political position, is the most important thing and we'll sort out the future of the planet afterwards. 
There ain't gonna be an 'afterwards' if we're not careful.

[On not being a Trump fan]
I'll tell you. This is something which really gets to the heart of a lot of things.  
I don't like ignorance. I don't like deliberate lying. I don't like falsehoods of that kind. 
Of course, to say that one President of the US, that one Prime Minister of Britain, is better than another and maybe I should just shut up about it...but I do feel that we're living in different times and I often think about journalists who were in Germany in the early 1930s.  
Now, I do not want to present my argument as being that Trump=Nazism, because that isn't the case at all and it's stupid and it's ignorant, but there are similarities between various types of populism and the populism in Germany in 1930, 1931, through to the victory of the National Socialist Party in the January 1933 election in Germany. 
That period often stays with me, and I've written...of course, I wasn't even alive then, but I've written quite a lot about it and I've studied it quite a lot, and there were journalists, foreign journalists, who were quite outspoken about it. There were British diplomats who were very outspoken in private to their bosses back in London. 
But it didn't somehow effect the way that the general public saw these things. 
And I don't want to be one of those kinds of journalist that just says, oh well, forget the big picture, let's look at the day-to-day stuff. 
I think you have to think about the big picture. 
And I don't want people to come along and find my work in 20-30 years time (assuming they would and that it hasn't just disappeared) and think, oh that Simpson, he was just another one of these useless characters that didn't make...they'll probably think that anyway and they'd be right but...who didn't stand up for anything. 
And I feel that when things are as clear as they are with Donald Trump, with other people, that you have to stand up and be counted.