Monday, 11 November 2019

Open Thread

Hallowe'en Open Thread

I do like Edward Gorey. My kinda weird.  

Early Monday morning thoughts

This is odd. Overnight both the Sky News and ITV News websites have Keith Vaz stepping down as an MP as their second stories. In contrast, the BBC News website doesn't have the story among their headlines at all. Wonder what the thinking is there?

This isn't odd. The rise of national conservative VOX in Spain sees the BBC going into overdrive with the term "far-right" to describe them, whereas the fall of leftist Bolivian president Evo Morales over electoral fraud allegations sees the BBC curiously avoiding terms like 'socialist', 'left-wing' or 'far-left' to describe him. 

Ah, what's in The Times this morning? Ah, here's Matt Chorley. (I do like Chorley cakes. Are they only a Northern thing?)
In addition to holding debates almost every Friday night, the BBC has gone full W1A (the sitcom that tries to spoof the unspoofable corporation). A press release announcing election plans confirms that Huw Edwards will take over from David Dimbleby, but also promises a podcast called Election and Chill, Radio 1 touring the country in the BBC’s “Travelling Living Room” (a campervan) and BBC Breakfast asking normal people what normal people think “over a morning cup of coffee from a specially converted BBC Breakfast Coffee Cart”. I think someone’s had enough coffee already.
I should probably have less coffee. I might have been asleep now.

They're grrrrreat!

It looks as if BBC people calling other BBC people "great" is spreading.

Following Andrew Marr's repeated praise for "the great Chris Morris", here's the BBC's former Australia correspondent Nick Bryant praising the latest one:
The BBC has a new Australia correspondent and she’s great - Shaimaa Khalil. Tellingly, she arrives to massive bushfires and a coal-brandishing prime minister who “refused to be drawn on whether climate change could have contributed to the fires”. 
Tellingly, Nick also has a point to make there, and Shaimaa - bless her! - is already on it:
Australia warns of a "catastrophic" bushfire threat to the areas around Sydney as blazes rage across NSW and Queensland. Meantime the country's conservative gov. refuses to make the link to climate change.  


Sunday, 10 November 2019

Sunday evening thoughts

The sun has long set, the Liverpool and City fans are spilling out of the pubs, and - on returning home - I've just switched on the TV, and the first thing I heard was David Attenborough saying "humans have caused new problems for the swifts" to stunning images of dams and agitated minor key orchestral music.

I know I should have stayed with it for more than 20 seconds, but you really can have too much of a good thing and David Attenborough endlessly channelling his inner St. John the Divine on a Sunday evening really isn't doing it for me at the moment. (Shame on me!!!). So I turned him off and returned to the blog.

Because I've three more things that I really need to say about this morning's The Andrew Marr Show that I really don't want to be lost to posterity. (Not really).

The first thing that The Future must take from this post is that I found Labour's Andrew Gwynne to have an excessively loud voice. He was quite literally a loudmouth - albeit a whiny, high-pitched loudmouth, like Brian Blessed on helium. I hope Andrew Marr's famous ears weren't ringing painfully afterwards. Even I, watching the programme on my laptop, lost 23.7% of my hearing after listening to Andrew Gwynne being what we up north call a 'gobshite'.

The second thing is that the Green Party's Caroline Lucas got asked the "Do you fly?" question by Andrew Marr and said, yes, she does, to America to see her son. Now, I'm seeing two very different strands of reaction to that. One says that it proves Ms Lucas is a stinking hypocrite, especially after her response to Andrew's question was to say that focusing on individuals distracts from the real villains, the global multinationals. (What would Greta say to that? We can still fly?) The second, however, says that Caroline gave an honest answer and that she appeared the most 'natural' of the three politicians. I think she did come across well, as she usually does. Despite her party's extreme policies, she seems quite pleasant. (I know it's de rigueur at blogs hereabouts to loathe 'the poison pixie' but I can't bring myself to do so). But I think the 'what all of us must do individually' question is one a Green Party MP can't just point towards and shift onto the giant squirrel of giant capitalist companies, given that - as per Greta - we all need to stop flying. Andrew didn't press her at all. In fact, he was actually apologetic about asking her the "Do you fly?" question in the first place. Maybe he likes her too.

The third thing is that Conservative chancellor Sajid Javid didn't put in a good performance. Repeatedly trying to bang on about the cost of Labour's spending pledges without answering any questions about his own party's spending pledges, and trying to shift it back to Labour every time Andrew Marr asked him about the cost of Conservative spending pledges, made him look silly, and just like the kind of politician who really gets up people's noses. It just doesn't look serious. But it is politics.

And on that bombshell...

The greatness whereof I cannot enough commend, comes with him

It's always pleasant to receive compliments from your work colleagues, but too many compliments from a boss towards just one employee can arouse envy. 

I though of that after hearing Andrew Marr call his colleague Chris Mason "the great Chris Mason" after that young man had finished reading the news on this morning's Marr show

Poor Ben Thompson didn't get any such praise last week, nor did poor Roger Harding the week before.

But back on 0ctober 20, Chris Mason was on again and, yes, after that young man had finished reading the news Andrew again called him "the great Chris Mason".

It's becoming a habit. 

If someone was feeling mischievous behind the scenes of the programme they might ask Samira Ahmed to read the news next week. If Andrew Marr fails to call her "the great Samira Ahmed", she might very well be tempted to take the BBC to the cleaners!


Ah, must have a bit of Kamal today...

Can you guess the verdict of Reality Check's analysis

Ah yes, there are "problems" and "issues" with what the Conservatives are saying and Labour has been "upfront" in its spending commitments. So, despite some qualms from the IFS, that's a pretty clear ruling from Reality Check in Labour's favour against the Conservatives. 

It's 'reality', so who can argue with it?

Cometh the hour cometh the man

Mail Online headline. Amazingly, the two words aren't 'John' and 'Simpson'.

Simpson was in Poland on the night the wall fell. I loved the way in the documentary he tried to make it sound like a noble mission to scramble back just in time to elbow Brian Hanrahan out of the way in order to give us his superior wisdom on the evening news. (Yes, that devastating insight which meant he was hundreds of miles away at the time.)  
His desolation as the live satellite feed juddered to a halt in mid-pontification was priceless.

The BBC documentary's title pretty much says it all - The Fall of the Berlin Wall with John Simpson - for this was at least as much about John Simpson as it was about the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

The legendary Liberator of Kabul also single-handedly liberated East Germany it seems, despite being in Poland at the time. 

Here's he tells the story....

It begins as our hero realises that the world needs him and him alone, and he races back from Warsaw to save the day, overcoming obstacles the like of which mere mythological figures like Hercules and Perseus could only dream of:
As Brian Hanrahan was standing on top of the Wall and giving that by now legendary piece to camera, I was still in Poland. Although Brian Hanrahan was doing a brilliant job on the ground, as the BBC's chief foreign correspondent, I simply had to get to Berlin. I knew that Brian would do the kind of 'what happened during the day' and I'd be expected to stand there in front of the camera and do a sort of "What does this all mean? "Where are we in the scale of things?" But getting there wasn't going to be easy. I was absolutely panic stricken at being so kind of out of things, even though in terms of miles I probably was only about, I don't know, 300 or 400 miles away. And after, oh, I think about three different hops, I arrived there, and a young and very sweet and charming young man, a BBC guy, was given the job of driving me. He was not a great driver and we had more than one very, very near miss. I was getting more and more tense because I was going to do just simply a live piece to camera on this, the most important day in modern history.
And then the BBC's live feed died...

Our hero was thrown into the deepest despair, losing all hope and thinking of ruining a young BBC staffer's career, but then - at his lowest point - he rallies, the spinach of his own ego pumping up his arm muscles, and - like a true hero - he sees the light and knows that now will do nothing but great good. He mounts the wall and dances with "a beautiful young German blonde girl":
It's very painful for me to watch. This was, as far as I know, the biggest television audience the BBC has ever had for a news programme and I disappear in a fizzle on the screen. It was absolutely crushing. The difference between that and being sentenced to death in court or something seems very, very slight. I was in absolute horror and anger and depression and gloom... ..and I wandered away. I think as I wandered off, I thought, that's it. I ought to jack this game in. I mean, you know, it's no... It's no fun any more. And then I just saw these hundreds, thousands of people so happy. I just thought... know, what happened to me is nothing. I mean, it's a little speck of total irrelevance. This is one of the great, great days of modern... ..modern human existence. And I thought about the young kid that had driven me there and I had been thinking, "The little so and so, you know, "he should have known better." And, you know, "I'll mark his card for him." And I thought, oh, God, how could anybody want to damage somebody's interests on a day like this? Which always made me feel quite good, because he became my boss afterwards. I mean, I've seen a lot of wonderful things in my life, a lot of happy things as well as a lot of bad things. But I don't think I've ever seen anything quite as happy as that night. People were openly weeping. I find it quite hard to talk about it now without... ..without weeping. And then after that, all the rules were off. So later on, I danced on top of the Wall. I mean, if somebody had said to me, you know, name the most wonderful thing that could ever happen to you. I'd never thought I'll dance on the Berlin Wall with a beautiful young German blonde girl. I never would have thought that. 
And that is how John Simpson liberated Eastern Europe.

An action movie should be made of it.

A world of folly

The #FBPE fools are out in force this morning....

Pauly #FBPERussian Tory donors named. It’s only taken three years but better late than never I guess. Make no mistake, Putin is behind brexit. 
Andrew #FBPE #PeoplesVote: I don’t suppose you will be hearing much about this from Rob Burley and the BBC. 
Christopher Fowler (to Rob Burley): Late Sunday morning and no mention on BBC News website... must all be at church I suppose? 
Rob Burley: As covered on the Marr paper review. 
NHSNot4Sale: Here’s the latest example of BBC deciding to mute a story. No mention of Russian Tory on BBC. Why? 
Rob Burley: The Sunday Times story was on the Marr paper review. On the BBC. And Andrew Marr is asking Javid about it right now on the BBC.

Rob is not wrong. The 'Russian Tory donors' story was indeed covered during the Marr paper review. Andrew Marr then raised it again with General Sir Nicholas Carter. And, yes, he raised it for a third time with Sajid Javid. Make no mistake, Rob Burley's Andrew Marr programme has certainly covered this story. 

So maybe these #FBPE types aren't fools after all, nagging away like that.

For Remembrance Sunday

As the Team's Head Brass

BY EDWARD THOMAS (1878 – 1917)
As the team’s head-brass flashed out on the turn
The lovers disappeared into the wood.
I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm
That strewed an angle of the fallow, and
Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square
Of charlock. Every time the horses turned
Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned
Upon the handles to say or ask a word,
About the weather, next about the war.
Scraping the share he faced towards the wood,
And screwed along the furrow till the brass flashed
Once more.
                       The blizzard felled the elm whose crest
I sat in, by a woodpecker’s round hole,
The ploughman said. “When will they take it away?”
“When the war’s over.” So the talk began—
One minute and an interval of ten,
A minute more and the same interval.
“Have you been out?” “No.” “And don’t want
to, perhaps?”
“If I could only come back again, I should.
I could spare an arm. I shouldn’t want to lose
A leg. If I should lose my head, why, so,
I should want nothing more. . . . Have many gone
From here?” “Yes.” “Many lost?” “Yes, a good few.
Only two teams work on the farm this year.
One of my mates is dead. The second day
In France they killed him. It was back in March,
The very night of the blizzard, too. Now if
He had stayed here we should have moved the tree.”
“And I should not have sat here. Everything
Would have been different. For it would have been
Another world.” “Ay, and a better, though
If we could see all all might seem good.” Then
The lovers came out of the wood again:
The horses started and for the last time
I watched the clods crumble and topple over
After the ploughshare and the stumbling team.

"A quiet argument for staying in the EU"

Nick Cohen, who has taken recently to crticising the BBC for not being anti-Brexit enough, has found a new BBC programme to admire:
Nick Cohen: As well as being a superb documentary, the BBC’s secret history of the war in Northern Ireland is a quiet argument for staying in the EU. If you don’t understand why some of us old farts are furious about Brexit, it explains why.
I bet it does!

Take three more Tablets

Today's Sunday featured another interviewer from the liberal Catholic magazine The Tablet

That's the third within the space of a month. (Christopher Lamb, 13 October; Christopher Lamb, 27 October; and Liz Dodd, 10 November). 

This blog's first substantial post noted the dominance of guests from The Tablet (the Catholic equivalent of the Guardian) at the expense of the more conservative Catholic Herald

There were dozens from The Tablet over an 18-month period but not even one from the Catholic Herald

There was such a fuss as a result of our evidence that The Tablet guests on Sunday dropped to near zero for a while and a smattering of Catholic Herald guests began appearing. 

Now, eight years later, things look to have gone back to where they started: The Catholic Herald guests are gone again, and The Tablet guests are back in force. 

And, yes, The Tablet's trustees still include Lord Chris Patten, Baroness Shirley Williams, Baroness Helena Kennedy....and Sunday's main presenter Edward Stourton. 

It stank then, and it stinks now.

Controversial reporting

My antennae twitched as soon as I heard William Crawley's tone of voice as he said the following on Radio 4's Sunday this morning:
Religious and community organisations are being paid thousands of pounds to assist the Home Office in removing people from the United Kingdom. The controversial scheme involves setting up voluntary return centres where immigrants, usually those who have become homeless, receive financial support from the Home Office to go back to their country of origin.
Now, that doesn't sound too bad when read from the written page, even though you can see the telltale word "controversial" there. What you don't get from just reading is the way William managed to suggest surprise or even incredulity in his tone of voice as he read it, as if he was describing someone he didn't much like. He could have read it straight, but he didn't.

The following report by Rajeev Gupta also called the scheme "controversial". 

Rajeev's report did feature two people - one Hindu, one Sikh - who backed the scheme but they got less time than its critics, and the report's main speaker came from the group campaigning against this deportation method. She got the lion's share of the report and was given both the first word and the last word, thus framing its argument. Sunday's favourite Anglican bishop, Manchester's David Walker, was also on hand as a featured critic, and he wasn't challenged - unlike the Hindu supporter of the scheme. So, all in all, it wasn't hard to work out where Sunday stood on the issue.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Breaking news

Buzzfeed's Alex Wickham has revealed today what he overheard on "a private bus" carrying MPs and journalists back from Cheltenham races to London back in March 2018. 

He was sitting behind two Labour MPs - Dan Carden and Conor McGinn. 

Mr Carden is now in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet and Mr McGinn is a former Labour whip now said to be considering running for Labour deputy leader. 

Alex reports that Mr Carden, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, began singing along with Hey Jude by the Beatles:
Dan Carden repeatedly sang the chorus of “Hey Jude”, replacing the word “Jude” with “Jews”. When the chorus reached the word “Jude”, Carden chanted at the top of his voice: “Jews, Jews, Jews”.
They certainly have a bit of an obsession with Jews, don't they?

McGinn was sitting next to another male Labour colleague, who was tired from the day’s events and spent much of the coach journey asleep. 
Several times during the journey, McGinn’s colleague slumped onto him across their seats. McGinn responded by loudly telling his friend to get off him, calling him a “poof”. McGinn repeatedly used the word to describe his colleague throughout the journey.
Oh dear, a Labour MP repeatably using a homophobic slur. Tut, tut!

It will be interesting to watch and see how the BBC covers this. They are usually keen on 'offence archaeology', so this should be right up their street.

Update: As of midday today, this was the first item on Sky News:
Good afternoon. A member of Labour's Shadow Cabinet has has been accused of mocking the Jewish community. The Shadow International Development Secretary Dan Carden reportedly sang 'Hey Jews' to the tune of the Beatles song 'Hey Jude' during a raucous late night bus trip. The Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has described the behaviour as disgusting. He says it's not that anti-Semitic. 

Memories of the fall of Berlin Wall and a beautiful young blonde

John Simpson, writing in The New Statesman (naturally!), recalls the fall of the Wall:
Later that night, after I had finished broadcasting for the BBC, I went back to the Wall. Hundreds of people were dancing on top of it, and I was determined to join them. Someone offered their back for me, and willing hands hoisted me up. It wasn’t easy. The Wall was a good 12ft high, and I barked my shin on the coping stone on the way up, tearing the trousers of my best television-appearance suit. No matter; I knelt, then stood, then raised my arms in triumph while everyone around me laughed and sang and kissed each other. A beautiful young blonde danced with me. 

Wink, wink

Samira Ahmed continues to make her case for equal pay with Points of View's Jeremy Vine. Here she was on Twitter this very morning:
It’s back on now. I’m back on Newswatch with two of the 1.5 million licence fee-paying viewers who watch it on @BBCOne. Proud to work for you. We’re discussing what you’d like for a Christmas election coverage from BBC news.
And she followed that up with this:
It’s interesting that the producer of Newswatch chose to edit out my wink to the camera when I said Goodbye at the end of this recording. I wonder why.
I'm guessing she'll be complaining to Points of View about that.

Over the Pennines...

I've never been to Halifax, but it looks as if it's got something that's almost as impressive as Morecambe's Midland Hotel:

Rest and be thankful

There are other places in the UK that are almost as beautiful as Morecambe Bay. This looks like one of them:

Friday, 8 November 2019

Backlash beware

It seems like only yesterday that some Islamic-related terrorist atrocity or other saw the media frantically warning us of the imminent backlash against the Muslim community.

Was there such a backlash? Not in the way the media predicted, but there is an undeniable slow-burn backlash-of-attrition grumbling away. I should know, being one of the ones doing the grumbling.

Now, after the very public, election-propelled antisemitism row, a topsy-turvy backlash is raising its head. This backlash is against “the Jews” for “Running the world, “skewing the foreign policy of the West in favour of Israel” and generally being the new Nazis. It’s the same old stuff but brought to boiling point by the general election and our polarised politics. 

Melanie Phillips is worried that: “The Conservative Party has weaponised antisemitism.” Well, when there’s a war, it certainly helps if you’re equipped with weapons, and if you’re handed them on a plate by the Labour Party’s perceived institutional antisemitism, surely there’s no alternative but to pick them up and use them.

If people think ‘it’s the Jews” that have prevented their beloved Jeremy from becoming PM, or if their abhorrence of racism “in all its forms” forces people to vote tactically and against their political or tribal instincts, then so be it. But then you have to weather the backlash. It’s the same old backlash that it always has been, and now that it’s a matter of open warfare it’s accelerating, as it’s bound to.

Ian Austin and Tom Watson have made their moves; Luciana Berger and Louise Ellman have been virtually hounded out of the Party, followed by John Woodcock, and people are wondering how ‘moderate’ Labour MPs can truly be at peace with themselves campaigning for a man who may not himself be an antisemite, but has stood by while those who certainly are continue to 'do their thing'. Fighting it from the inside looks like a losing game. 

I haven’t watched enough ‘pure BBC’  to conclude which channel is worse, but I have certainly seen some strange things on TV. Kay Burley was unusually quiet in her Interview with Ian Austin.

The Labour Party’s co-ordinated response to this crisis looks calculated. John McDonnell’s and Rebecca Long-Bailey’s “so sad” approach came over as damage limitation rather than sincerity in the face of their party’s serial inaction. Someone who hasn’t got the memo is the Guardian’s Dawn Foster whose defiant unpleasantness grows and grows. 

On the other side of the coin, some of us are on mass tenterhooks in case someone somewhere commits an awkward Jacob Rees-Mogg style ‘misspeak’ and topples us off the shaky moral high ground we so very temporarily occupy. 

Along comes Tanya Gold who besmirches a moving article by insulting Jacob Rees-Mogg’s face. Of all the unnecessary own-goals, this is one of the most unnecessary and self-inflicted. The antisemites are drawn to this kind of thing and it’s expedient not to provoke it. 

Please desist. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Common sense

I might have to apologise for saying this, and please don't twist my words, but he should have known; Jacob Rees-Mogg should have known better than to opine on anything as sensitive as Grenfell. 

The media already regards Jacob Rees-Mogg as ‘other’, and it’s on permanent, collective stand-by, waiting to pounce when he does or says the wrong thing, which he surely will and duly has.

He just about survived lollgate, but one has to ask - how woke does one need to be in order to survive? Woker than this, for sure. Is Rees-Mogg so disconnected from reality that he hadn’t even noticed that some things are sacred? 

In the light of the fact that a certain topic has been sanctified, alongside Jo Cox and Princess Diana, I wonder - is it, or is it not ‘common sense’ to steer clear of anything related to G-G-G-Grenfell? Did I really say that? Oh, my days. Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry.

I’m not heartless or unsympathetic but the BBC’s fetishisation of the Grenfell tragedy has pushed me in that direction. Now I’ve been cornered into expressing heartless and unsympathetic thoughts. Actually, let’s not go there; suffice it to say that the media has erected a consecrated buffer zone around Grenfell Tower and its former inhabitants.

This is not so much about What Jacob Said as about what the media said he said. Wouldn’t it have been much more expedient for anyone with the nous to consider the possibility that Grenfell has been Dianafied, (JoCoxified if you’re a bit younger) to have stayed woke and kept one’s cake-hole firmly closed? In the present zeitgeist, I mean. 

What I’m saying is, in the days of ‘watch what you say! The media’s looking’ hadn’t you better keep your head well below the parapet? Isn’t the best thing to do just to keep shtum? Watch it!! You’ll be crucified!
Here’s the thing. I just read Brendan O’Neill’s article  Jacob Rees-Mogg is right about Grenfell. We know Brendan is a bit of a controversialist, (and why not?) and there’s a generous helping of common sense in there for sure, but was Jacob Rees-Mogg really 'sensible' to express, in public,  his thoughts on what kind of behaviour represents ‘common sense’ at all? Even more so when these particular thoughts concerned a situation in which he was unlikely ever to find himself. Namely, living, with all one’s worldly goods and chattels, in a twenty-story tower block, engulfed in flames and hotter than Hades? I mean, we’ve all heard tales of smoke-filled single, solitary stairwells and what can happen when panicking men women and children are all trying to flee at the same time. 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I wouldn’t have thought ignoring the advice of the fire service would necessarily represent one’s immediate and obvious common-sensible reaction. Of course, instinct says get out while you can, but on the other hand, sometimes best practice in certain situations does (apparently) turn out to be the most counter-intuitive. So I’m told.

I mean, apart from that quibble, Brendan is right. However, my point is that if we all have to take the hyper-woke diktat of the scandal-hungry media into account before we open our mouth we’re in big trouble. 
Should the media, especially the BBC, be allowed to try, convict and crucify anyone it feels like? The cavalier way it twists and massages these things to fit its agenda is truly chilling.
Apologies in advance and now I’ll shut up.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

And there's even more...

David's latest piece also notes that Ofcom has carried out an expensive, year-long review of the BBC's news and current affairs output, and guess what the recommendations of the Ofcom report were?
News and current affairs is largely tickety-boo – with one major caveat, the ‘D’ word. Wait for it: not enough diversity!
And the contents analysis done for the Ofcom review comes from...drum roll...the same people the BBC used for their own output reviews - our old friends at the School of Media, Journalism and Culture at Cardiff University, a department headed by Richard Sambrook, ex-BBC Director of Global News. 

So not only is the Ofcom content board stuffed with ex-BBC people and the Ofcom main and advisory boards stuffed with ex-BBC people, Ofcom uses the same Cardiff University as the BBC uses to carry out their output reviews. 

Circles within circles.

David writes: 
So how did the wise people of Ofcom decide that output was impartial? A main plank was that they had considered 300 complaints about BBC bias in 2018-19 and upheld none of them. Well, that’s okay then. Or maybe – more likely – it confirms the need for an urgent external investigation of Ofcom itself into confirmation bias – the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that affirms one’s prior beliefs or hypotheses. 
That's as bad as the BBC making a favourable opinion poll its main proof of impartiality.

As for bias and Brexit, well, this sounds very odd:
The second main plank of their approach was the PwC report mentioned above. A key element of this was based on 13 interviews and workshops around the country, each attended by a dozen consumers of BBC output. How precisely these were framed is not disclosed – it is assumed by Ofcom that PwC knew what they were doing. But a striking feature of the exercise, at a time when the news agenda was dominated by Brexit, was that those with strong views about the topic were deliberately excluded.
I find none of this remotely reassuring.

And there's more...

David Keighley, in his  latest The Conservative Woman article, notes that the ex-BBC-dominated Ofcom content board - which rules on BBC bias - has behaved as a cynic might expect such an ex-BBC-dominated board to behave: 
Despite the relentless tide of anti-Brexit bias, the Ofcom content board – eight of the 13 members are ex-BBC – has dismissed the vast majority of BBC complaints appeals referred to it with the same cavalier liberal-Left disdain as the BBC itself. 
Most strikingly, a meticulously researched complaint about the anti-Brexit bias of BBC1’s Question Time was dismissed on the basis that a single contribution from Theresa May crony Damian Green proved that the ‘hard’ Brexit perspective had been adequately represented in 25 editions. 

Whatever happened to Aaqil Ahmed?

He left the BBC in 2016. Guess where he is now?

Well, News-watch's David Keighley report today that he's among the latest batch of ex-BBC members appointed to Ofcom's various boards.

All three of the latest intake are ex-BBC.

Also, 8 of the Ofcom content board's 13 members are ex-BBC - and they're the ones who rule on BBC bias. 

It's an endless revolving door, isn't it?

Aaqil, if you're wondering, has been busy since leaving the BBC: I see from Linkedin that he's been a Professor of Media at Bolton University (no, me neither), a media consultant to various companies and a non-executive director at the Advertising Standards Agency. 


A guest post by Arthur T....

Edwina Sandys’s Sculpture - Christa c.1972 

The recent open thread discussion about the BBC coverage of the sale of 'Le tableau de Cimabue sur le thème du "Christ moqué”’ - see 28th October 2019 - prompted me to bring to the attention of ITBBCB? readers a series of ‘silences’ from the BBC where sculptures depicting Christ have been ring-fenced in a way which discourages public debate over these religious subjects. 

Previously, I have described the sculpture Ecce Homo, a Fourth Plinth piece by Turner Prize winning artist Mark Wallinger, which, under the auspices of non- religious Amnesty International, was positioned on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. This significant event received no coverage from the BBC. Ordinarily, the reintroduction of such a piece of work would receive renewed plaudits from Will Gompertz. After all, this is an important piece of Millennial work. 

The criticism of Wallinger’s Ecce Homo (Behold the Man - exactly the same subject as Cimabue’s) is that the Christian message of Christ’s suffering is absent. Indeed, the figure has been compared to an expression confident comfort and became something of a gay icon. You would think that this would receive positive comment from the BBC as a statement of inclusivity - not an ominous silence. 

Similarly, the piece of work by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmaltz Homeless Jesus received little other than throwaway remarks from the BBC about the piece not being able to find a home in London. From Wikipedia:
Manchester has recently approved an installation outside St Ann’s church. The statue was originally going to be installed in Westminster outside of the Methodist Church's Westminster Central Hall but was eventually rejected [Planning Permission refused]. The city believed that the statue would not properly reflect the nature. The Bishop of Manchester reflected on the importance of having Homeless Jesus. He remembered Jesus saying that turning away from helping someone in need is like turning from Jesus.
This decision was taken after the piece’s position outside St Martins in the Fields church in London had been rejected on the grounds that it might encourage the homeless to gather there - this from a church renowned for helping the homeless. Homelessness is an issue that the BBC hold dear, and quite rightly so. So why, when an opportunity arises to treat the subject from a Christian viewpoint, do the BBC distance themselves so obviously? 

The image at the head of this shows a detail of Edwina Sandys’s bronze sculpture Christa. Hers is a fascinating story. As debutante and Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sandys (b.1938), whilst living in London, first modelled this piece c1972 in clay. Later it was made into a bronze. The work represented a female Christ. In the 1980s when she moved to New York she took it with her, hanging it on her apartment wall, and in 1986 it was shown in the Cathedral of St John the Divine in Manhattan. There was such a public outcry about the subject that Sandys was instructed to remove her work after just eleven days. 

Fast forward to 2016. Public perceptions in the US have changed completely. The work is now accepted and has its position within the same cathedral on the altar in the chapel of St Saviours. Attitudes towards LGBT issues have been transformed. The concept of Female Christ has traction, and is the subject of academic work: Divine transgressions: The Female Christ - form in art, by Julie Clague.

On the ITBBCB? site, there is always a temptation to concentrate upon the here and now - feature what happened in BBC output for last night or last week. Alongside, are evolving forms of bias that only become evident wit the passage of time - Bias by Silence, a new addition to the fifty. 

Homelessness as tagged to Homeless Jesus, and LGBT issues as tagged to Christa and Ecce Homo matters that would be high on the list of the BBC PC ideologies, but by reason of their arrival at their feet via a strongly Christian message, they are ignored. Is the discussion to be denied by the BBC because of their Christian source? Or, is it the aniconism represented in these depictions, which is an affront to the RoP? 

I believe so. Christa, as a depiction of a naked female Christ attracts a double condemnation by the RoP of a) as the image of the prophet Jesus Christ, and b) the female form. 

Yet, this form is of late acceptable in the conservative Christian world in the USA. Our friends stateside have become more tolerant as the BBC with their PC hat on would applaud, whilst we in the UK have become less tolerant for fear of upsetting a minority. An Avowed Silence?
I was about to post this yesterday, which was when this news appeared online, but  I didn’t get round to it. I couldn’t find anything about it at all on the BBC, so all I asked was: Is there any sign of this news on the BBC yet?  

Ali Akbar Salehi

This morning we did hear about it. From Sir Richard Dalton on the Today programme.
“It’s our own fault” seemed to be the gist of his message. Are these views still representative of “our” FCO?

Monday, 4 November 2019

Let's talk about Islamophobia

I watched the bulk of Politics Live. Danny the Fink, Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle (aristocratic name, Labour ‘look’) Belinda de Lucy, (glamorous Brexit Party MEP)  and Pippa Crerar (seemed too sensible to be ‘ex-Guardian’ and Political Editor of the Daily Mirror) were with Jo Coburn today. 
In Fashion News: JoCo's hair always looks its best on Monday mornings. That must be the day she has it done.

I missed the very beginning, but the interesting part of the conversation about the 'generalection', and the bit where things got heated, occurred between Finkelstein and Belinda de Lucy - where the former said the likelihood that the Brexit Party would gain any seats at all was next to nil, therefore he wondered why Nigel would risk splitting the vote? The latter countered with “Boris only has to pick up the phone.” Then the argument segued into something that amounted to “well, they may as well stand against every Conservative seat because, in fact, their policies are entirely different”.  The customary party political points were bickered over, and the concept of selling off our NHS to Donald Trump was examined but the verdict was inconclusive.

You’ll not be surprised to hear that the subject ”antisemitism in the Labour Party” was the one that engaged my attention most fully. It came up two-thirds of the way through a 45-minute programme. 
Lloyd R-M, bless him, started off in full mode McDonnell. So sad, he was. (He sounded genuine before he veered off in the direction of denial)  Predictably, the issue of antisemitism was duly played down on Twitter. 
Fink gave a sympathetic account of the Jewish community’s fears and feelings, but it didn’t take long before Islamophobia came up. I think the culprit was Jo Coburn, but Danny Finkelstein picked up the ball and ran with it.

In my opinion, Esther Duflo, the economist who has just won the Nobel prize for the accessible-sounding book on economics she co-authored, “Good Economics for Hard Times” came in far too late in the show. She had already been on the radio this morning, and we were treated to a longer and larger slice of her wisdom then. As a bit of an ignoramus on theoretical economics, I could have done with a bit more of that and less of the other. It somehow seemed fresher and more interesting.

Imagine that. A book on economics more interesting than Brexit.

Short and Sweet

Justice for shorties. I’m framing this as an “Asa” post. 

Asa member of the vertically challenged community  - actually there’s nothing communal about it, I resorted to ‘grouping’ terminology through laziness - anyway, “Asa Kylie-sized / all the best things come in small packages” and representative of short-arses everywhere, I would like to make the case for making size-ism a hate-crime. 

They say Randy Newman was making a subtle point (about prejudice) but many people took those mean lyrics at face value. 

If you’re short you are disadvantaged. Fact. Through no fault of your own. You can’t change it - well you can have an operation to get your legs lengthened (you don’t hear so much about that op these days. I wonder how it panned out? ) whereas physically down-sizing ourselves is neither an option nor an aspiration.  You could wear elevating shoes, which only makes people laugh at you even more than (absolutely) necessary.

Some people don’t reveal their lack of stature until they stand up. And the opposite. Who’d have thought Huw Edwards was a giant before they saw him towering over Mary Berry. Sitting at the newsdesk he looks distinctly average.

Being short makes people disrespect you. To assume one’s childlike height means one *is* a child shouldn’t. be. allowed.

Standing next to a tall person is humiliating for a little'un as well. For both of you, true, but more so for the shorty. Think of Hammond and Clarkson.  The differential between Hammond and giant Clarkson is literally the elephant in the studio.

Oddly, when I was at school I never acquired a shortist nickname, though I was the same size as the class  ‘titch’. The only nicknames I acquired were derivatives of my surname.  I like to think that was because my personality was tall. 

If you apply bog-standard logic to the definition of racism, eg., by reducing it to the simple matter of hard-wired (“hardware”) meaning inherent characteristic that you’re lumbered with (racial and  genetic) as opposed to ‘software’ -  add-ons - religious, cultural or ideological,  then shortism certainly qualifies as racism.

This is not fair. Take John Bercow. A large part of the vitriol aimed at Bercow includes derogatory and demeaning references to his diminutive stature. But he isn’t freakishly small. Below average, perhaps. So, was this about the impertinence of a jumped-up, not-tall-enough individual assuming he had the authority of 'we giants' ? Or merely because the haters thought that such a huge amount of pomposity had no business coming from someone under six foot? Let’s face it, some of our political bigwigs are huge. With massive feet too, I shouldn’t wonder. Boats for shoes.

Shortist remarks abound. Remember Sarkozy? I suppose the fact that Mrs Sarcozy and Mrs Bercow tower above their 'old men' adds to the humiliation, though some short man/tall wife combos seem to think it’s something to show off about.

making a virtue out of necessity

If you’re genuinely handicapped size-wise, certain types of jokes are off-limits. Only ‘laughing with you, not at you” jokes are allowed. I wonder what would happen if Warwick Davis reinvented himself as a politician? Cue jokes about standing for office. Warwick Davis for Speaker! No quips about high-chairs then, I’ll wager.

Anyway, I demand protected status. 

Sunday, 3 November 2019

New Look


I watched a discussion about “hate crime” on that sanctimonious Sunday morning programme called Sunday Live. The the botox-enhanced (re)appearance of the BBC’s one-time favourite ‘revert’  Myriam Francoise Cerrah was an unexpected pleasure. (long-time-no-see!) And the 'Cerrah" has gone.

Still modest

She hasn’t been on our screens for quite a while. She has evidently revoked modesty for a new, lip-enhanced Kardashian-look. (I stole the grab below from btl over on Harry's Place. )

However, her regurgitation of those tiresome context-free Boris quotations almost made I larf. You guessed it; she employed the humbug/letterbox manoeuvre. This was supposed to be a discussion about stopping hate-speech, not indulging in it!

When the host politely probed her about the new look, she said she’d been forced to abandon her headscarf because of racist incidents on the bus. Somehow that seemed hard to believe. The new image somehow dented the credibility of that particular excuse. (And the headscarf had shrunk to a turban a while back.)

"At the root of it all is white supremacy", she concluded.  At least she didn't start that announcement with "I'm not being hateful, but..."