No matter how hard we try to stick to our ‘BBC bias’ remit, going off-piste is sometimes irresistible. (to me)
I wanted to mention an Intelligence Squared debate - the motion was “Anti-Zionism is Anti- Semitism” - but I thought its relevance to the BBC might be seen as tenuous or off-topic. Then I realised that the chairperson was Carrie Gracie. So it’s legit after all.
You can read a full transcript of Melanie Phillips’s opening speech here.
I watched the whole thing, and it wasn't until Mehdi Hasan stood up to speak that I properly understood why Melanie Phillips had described the audience as ‘hostile’. They whooped and hollered appreciatively before he uttered a single word. In other words, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Some of the random shots of the audience during Mehdi Hasan’s closing speech helped hammer that notion home.
On the bright side, the ‘for’ votes increased by 4% (from 15% -19%.) However, ‘against’ increased by 17 votes (from 59% - 76%)
The extra (21%) came from the per cent that claimed to be undecided (26% before, and 5% after.) Surely Mehdi’s clownish manner couldn’t have been that persuasive? One might wonder if the undecideds had been entirely honest about their ‘undecidedness’ at the outset.
It would be interesting to know what Carrie Gracie really made of it. She did seem engaged (and equally stern with all speakers.)
Maybe she’s making a genuine effort to be even-handed. If so - cool.