Saturday, 29 February 2020

The "Dave" Leap Year Open Thread


Dave,  the new BBC Stormzy, welcomes you to a fresh, daffodil-filled Leap Year Open Thread.


Thank you for your support, help and comments.

Sides



It's turning into quite the day for culture warriors. (What's new?)

My Twitter feed (which I keep as wide-ranging as possible) has divided very sharply.

If you believe one camp, Sir Philip Rutnam represented the rotten heart of the Civil Service, presiding over disaster after disaster at the departments he ran. If you believe the opposing camp, he was the epitome of a decent public servant, a kind man of scrupulous integrity.

One camp says that Sir Philip was bullied, the other that Priti Patel is the one really being bullied.

One camp says his exit's an excellent thing, a win for a government seeking to drain the swamp, while the other says it's a bad thing and that it will actually harm the government, especially Priti Patel.

Basically, one side says 'Priti bad, Sir Philip good' and the other side 'Priti good, Sir Philip bad'.

Everyone said what I expected them to say, on either side, until I came to Spiked's Tom Slater, who - breaking the template of all my expectations -  tweeted:
I worked with Sir Philip Rutnam for 40 years. He was always impeccably neutral, diligent, intelligent, kind and of course loving. He was a giant among functionaries. No one had a bad word to say about him, nor could anyone resist his charms. Patel should be ashamed of herself.
I don't know either of them, so I'll just say that I'm inclining towards reserving judgement, with my natural pro-Priti instincts being balanced by Tom from Spiked's testimonial in favour of Sir Philip.


For those who are interested, here's BBC Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall and his take on things. He's strongly leaning to the side that thinks this is very bad for Priti Patel:

  1. Can’t recall a resignation of a senior official quite like this. Potentially most serious is the oblique reference Rutnam makes towards the treatment of other staff...court case has the potential to be an embarrassing and long running sore for Patel and the govt.
  2. Patel isn’t the first politician (not Home Secretary) to have had difficulties with Rutnam. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we were bound to end up here. Things appear to have stepped up several notches with the incumbent.
  3. Sedwill will also have to oversee a replacement as Permanent Secretary. Patel will have to do her best to try and secure a replacement to her liking. For that person will be very powerful. One thing is for sure, she can’t afford to lose another Perm Sec/more officials.
  4. Am struggling to understand the dual view, held by a some, who maintain a) Ruttnam’s resignation doesn’t matter because the public isn’t paying attention but b) think it’s a strategic triumph because it signals to the public Patel is super tough on Home Office issues.
  5. Am told that Rutnam is not typical Home Office. More of an economist, in some ways not a natural fit there. But also, that there’s no way he would be bringing an action like this if he doesn’t think he’ll win. Depending on the details which emerge, could be devastating for Patel.
  6. Source also tells me that though though some in Home Office were wary of Rutnam, this whole thing (and the way Home Sec has handled it) has potential to unite the dept against her. With little Spad support (denuded by Number 10) next few months promises to be v tricky for her. 

Update: Please see the comments below for proof of where I went embarrassingly wrong here! To quote Wallis Simpson: D'oh!

Hey Big Humphrey



One of the joys of blogging is being introduced to things you are completely unaware of by readers. 

I knew of the once-famous poet Stephen Spender (friend of Auden, whose collected poems I treated myself to a month back. Over 900 pages!) but I knew nothing of one of his brothers, Humphrey Spender (1910-2005) until Arthur T introduced me to him this weekend, telling me that, having studied architecture, Humphrey became a photographer working on the Mass Observation project

I've been reading up on him and looking at his remarkable photos of Bolton, Lancs (aka Worktown) and The Potteries. 

I was going to add some of those photos of Bolton to this post but Bolton Council has their copyright plastered all over them. So here instead are a selection of Humphrey's varied paintings, which I very much like. 





And while on the subject of being introduced to things, Saturday Night is Music Night, so here's Pentangle's theme to 1960s BBC series Take Three Girls (the first drama to be broadcast in colour), which Charlie and MB were discussing yesterday. I'd never heard of it.

Onwards!



So Lord Justice Singh sang from the same hymnbook as Mr Justice Supperstone and Mrs Justice Lang and rejected David Keighley's bid for a judicial review into the BBC's methods of measuring impartiality.

The judges ruled that the BBC can use opinion polls as proof of their impartiality, if they so choose, as there's nothing in the BBC Charter to legally prevent them from so doing. Moreover, the judges ruled that such audience surveys are actually a rational means of measuring impartiality.

They also ruled that the BBC isn't obliged by law to adopt any particular methodology. "This is a matter left to their judgement", they say. Like Ofcom, the BBC has "expertise" in the matter.

Kathy at The Conservative Woman writes that this judicial brick wall leaves Ofcom as the only remaining option, though Ofcom is crammed with people with close links to the BBC.

Mrs Justice Lang also landed David with heavy costs of approximately £18,000. "She might as well have said: ‘This is a warning to anyone who has the temerity to challenge the action of the nation’s monopoly broadcaster – you will pay for it.’", observes Kathy.

This is dispiriting but I know David will carry on the fight to stop the BBC having carte blanche when it comes to marking their own work. 

If the BBC and the courts don't want to read News-watch's studies then plenty of people (and newspapers) do. 

Plus, as MB says, we now have a semi-populist government that seems semi-intent on tackling the BBC.

*******

P.S. Talking of opinion polls and BBC impartiality, here's a fascinating one highlighted by Guido Fawkes


As DAD notes in the comments, "BBC News is least trusted by the 'right', but well trusted by the 'left'. Yet the 'left' claim that the BBC is 'right biased'. Strange world in which we live." 

Wonder what that audience survey tells the BBC?

Friday, 28 February 2020

Bad joke

Another slightly tangential piece. It’s indirectly related to the BBC in many ways though. More and more of us are watching online news and views, while fewer and fewer of us are glued to the Beeb.


We've all migrated to Triggernometry, for example, and New Culture Forum and (OMG) The Sun’s long interviews hosted by Steven Edginton, a young interviewer who doesn’t interrupt, and all sorts of other interesting material.
I enjoyed watching Andrew Doyle (aka Titania McGrath) talking to Steven Edginton about matters woke. I do take issue with him on one thing though. He says he doesn’t know of a single left-wing comedian who’s racist. Well, maybe not racist in the Labour Party sense, but if you recall, say, the late Jeremy Hardy, well, if antisemitism is racism, then — know what I mean?

Jokes that rely on believing antisemitic ‘tropes’ aren’t funny. They might get ‘knowing’ applause form a woke audience but they won’t raise an actual laugh.

Jokes that depend on antisemitic myths and memes about Israelis (murdering people a great deal) (stealing other people’s land) (killing babies) can’t ever laugh-out-loud funny. There has to be a grain of truth in a joke rather than a sack full of fictional, racist bile.

Sky dive


I watched Sky’s version of the Labour leadership hustings. 
The set looked familiar and the host(ess) was Soppy Ridge.  (See, I told you I’d leave her name auto-incorrected)

The most annoying bit of the programme was during the part where they did their bit to address the party’s antisemitism problem, which they all (rightly) condemned as ‘racism’; all three insisted that the worst offenders had to be rooted out of the party.  They all spoke as if antisemitism had nothing to do with Islam. Lisa Nandy even managed to assure us that she was so anti-racist that she had no time for the “racist Tommy Robinson”(!) The chairperson confused the matter still further by bringing in an extra questioner, whose somewhat equivocal question on the same subject virtually negated the original unequivocal one. 

Rather awkwardly (though it amused me) one extremely earnest and passionate member of the audience got his knickers in a terribly uncomfortable twist, trying to defend Jeremy Corbyn by insisting that he wasn’t racist at all and refusing to concede that there was any such a thing as antisemitism in the Labour Party.  His enthusiasm for the party as a whole and his misguided attempt to support all three contenders effectively negated everything they’d just said.  In fact, it exposed their duplicitousness.

Compendium For The Day



There was an iconic ‘60s TV drama featuring a young Judi Dench, called ‘Talking to a Stranger. 
An early black and white ‘kitchen sink’ production, its USP was that the same event over one weekend was seen, over four episodes,  from each of the four characters’ very different viewpoints. It’s on YouTube, but weirdly, the fourth (rather crucial) episode is missing.

In addition to the novelty of seeing a youthful Judi Dench, the accents (and the smoking) give it a quaint, retro air, but the revival of 60s nostalgia (the Christine Keeler and Jeremy Thorpe docudramas) might inspire someone to resurrect this one, you never know. It seemed ahead of its time in that the writing was perceptive enough to make the viewer identify with (and empathise with) each character, as the narrative evolved.

It reminded me of the BBC’s presentation of anything connected with Israel. We get it from the Palestinian perspective, which we’re encouraged to empathise and identify with, but seventy years on, we’re still waiting for another perspective. 

********

The BBC’s anti-Israel bias isn’t necessarily at the top of every bias-watchers’ priorities.  In the hierarchy of biases, although many people are aware of the anti-Israel one, they see other biases  as more relevant to them personally.  For example, default left-wingery, disproportionate obsession with diversity, LGBT issues, youth and the mindless pursuit of ‘controversy’ for the sake of it. Gotchas. Islamophillia.

I’m not going to cite ‘First they came for the Jews’ here, but I will say that biased (fake) news is ultimately a threat to everyone. As for the BBC’s bias against Israel, it ‘gets away with it’ because they have a habit of shrouding it in a passive-aggressive smokescreen designed to make you believe it’s your own paranoia that makes you ‘take it that way’. Gaslighting, it’s called.

Seek and you will find. The bias is there, ‘hiding in plain sight’, but as with the Easter-egg hunt, you have to assume something exists before making the effort to unearth it. Why else would you bother to go scrabbling about in the undergrowth?

Anyway, the BBC pays just enough lip service to ‘the other side’ to provide the complaints department with a few wisps of straw to clutch at.

*************
The other day virusgate shared the headlines on Radio 4’s early morning news bulletin with a story about another outbreak; hostilities involving the IDF. The bulletin included a brief Beebsplanation of what had happened. “That led to this, and this led to that and then this occurred”.

According to the BBC, 'it all started when a Palestinian militant was shot dead by the IDF - and, to add insult to injury, the Israelis recovered the corpse by means of a mechanical shovel.  This infuriated the Palestinians who set off a barrage of rockets from Gaza after which the IDF retaliated with attacks against Islamic Jihad and targets in Syria.'

More information appeared in the online report where the affectionate term “Palestinian militant” had been clarified to read: “Islamic Jihad member”.  BBCWatch adds more information.
“The hostilities began on Sunday morning, when Israel said it killed an Islamic Jihad member along its border fence with the Gaza Strip.
The inbuilt cynicism within the “Israel said” formulation is covertly passive-aggressive (or is that what we now call microaggression?)  It sows doubts. They only said it; we don’t have to treat it as gospel. 

The alleged provocation (planting a bomb) wasn’t included at all in the original radio bulletin, but it does appear in the online report, along with another “said”,
“Israel’s military said the the [sic] man was attempting to plant an explosive device.”
where the absence (in the bulletin) of even that mealy-mouthed (incompetent “man” didn’t even manage to plant a bomb) hint at the fact that the shooting was provoked, left the impression that Israel shoots innocent Palestinians for nothing. (In Israel they murder people a great deal as the Guardian's Michael White once said)
“A video shared widely on social media showed an Israeli bulldozer scooping up the body of the man, provoking anger among Palestinians.”
The grisly detail was bound to ignite revulsion, so no wonder it was widely shared on the internet; less popular was the video of the men (more than one) actually trying to plant their bomb. (Why did the Israelis want to recover the body? I understand as part of a quid pro quo ‘corpse exchange’. The bodies of two deceased Israelis are being held by Hamas.)

 **********
That example of ‘bias hidden in plain sight’ was nothing out of the ordinary. Just routine for the  BBC. The third iteration of the house-in-a-cage story that Tom Bateman has made a meal (banquet) out of provides another example. BBC Watch also revisited the story.

This story relies on the viewer’s ignorance of relevant local history; of previous court rulings, of the questionable legality of Jordan’s pre-1967 situation, and utter dependence on the edifice built on sand commonly known as ‘international law”. (BBC Watch provides links to the missing information.)
It’s not only the viewer who’s ignorant of the relevant facts. Tom Bateman and the BBC Middle East contingent seem to be equally ignorant and quite content to remain so. 

Tom Bateman’s report in all its incarnations is an example of serious bias, and ‘because it can’, the BBC calls the shots by supplying or withholding facts to suit their brand of pro-Palestinian partisanship. The BBC is wilfully as blind to the religiously-rooted antisemitism, notoriously imbibed ‘from cradle-to-grave’ / with the ‘mother’s milk’ as it is to its own, left-wing anti-Israel bias.   
  
Palestinians who subconsciously realise that they’d really and truly benefit from peace with Israel are obliged to continue their eternal Jihad. Encouraged and egged on by activists in the west, including the BBC who kindle the flames with false hope and unachievable aspirations.

**********
A novel is being serialised on Radio 4. Apeirogon by Colum McCann. Actually, it’s not a novel, but a novelised true story based on the friendship between two bereaved fathers, an Israeli and a Palestinian, both of whose young daughters were  killed by ‘the other side.’ 

I only stumbled upon this broadcast belatedly, at episode 3. In order to get a perspective on it, I scoured the internet to see what various critics had made of the book. The Guardian thought it was terrific, but my doubts about the reviewer’s objectivity were sealed when I spotted the words: “Trigger-happy soldier”. The Times reviewer was less keen on the novel, but the negativity was based on the writing style itself, rather than the thrust of the message.

A synopsis indicated that neither man could claim to be truly representative of their ‘tribe’, although the Palestinian’s uniqueness (he found the Holocaust rather moving) seemed more of a one-off than his friend’s (an Israeli who is ‘against the occupation’ ) i.e., not very unique at all. 

I must emphasise that I have not read the book and have only listened to a small part of the serialisation; I’m not tempted to listen to any more. In this case I’m simply reminded that compassion for victims of the Holocaust isn’t an effective smokescreen.  It can’t hide prejudice and it doesn't prove anything.

Just as I was about to post this compendium-for-the-day, I realised that BBC Watch has tackled this book with more authority than I am able to muster. The reference to the political activist Raja Shehadeh I can help with, though.

I know this is another ‘long read’. Please don’t dismiss it as tl;dr until you’ve given it a chance. I allowed myself to lump together what could have been several separate posts, (hence the *******s) but I chose not to. 

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Sunday round-up (?)

George Eustice is my MP. He has been made plenty of use of since his promotion last week when he was anointed secretary of state for flooding. The current severe flooding is a baptism of fire; he’s in much demand to defend the PM’s apparent dereliction of duty in not showing up in his wellies to commiserate with the unfortunate people of Yorkshire.

Good old George seems unflappable. I’d quite like to see him being vocal and unflappable on certain other matters too, given time. His predecessor Theresa Villiers was a reliable supporter of Israel and participant in relevant HoC debates, but I think the likelihood of George following in her footsteps, in that area at least, is next to nil.  
“British officials have pledged to urgently review the tens of millions of dollars in aid the UK provides to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, after an investigative report found that a majority of the funds have been going to schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip which use textbooks that incite violence against Israelis. 
According to a Friday report in the UK-based Daily Mail, the Department for International Development and its secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, vowed to raise the issue with the Palestinian Authority, adding that London was working to carry out an independent review of the Palestinian textbooks.”
It’s bad enough allowing our own textbooks to spout inaccurate and antisemitic material, but it beggars belief that any of my hard-earned wages go towards gifting UNWRA with $427 million worth of incitement to murder my kith and kin.

As I was saying, George Eustice was on good form on Sophy Ridge and on Andy Marr immediately afterwards, having evidently been teleported to the BBC studio.

Sophy Ridge gets more ‘senior’ people on her show these days than the BBC seems able to attract, despite being a bit of a shallow interlocutor, even in comparison with Andrew Marr whose Boris-related comeuppance seems to have taught him a lesson. (Thinks: Are the Conservatives actually implementing ‘semi BDS’ on the Beeb?) 
(I don’t know how many times my autocorrect - autoincorrect - has changed SopHy to Soppy. I’ll just leave it in future.

You have to watch these things on a Sunday, and I stuck it out all the way through to The Big Questions. I was surprised to see Andrew Doyle sitting in the front row. (Identifying familiar faces in the front row is the first thing you have to do when you switch on TBQs.) (It’s downhill from then on.) 

Up first, the question of race. Of course, we’re all racists, although one might contend, as I do, that it’s not necessarily based on skin-colour, (except, perhaps in India where they use the Pantone shade-card as a guide) 

I’ve heard of Adam Rutherford but I didn’t know much about him. Lefty, isn’t it? 

Anyway, I think I’ve learned a new thing. The Labour Party is a race with its own language. (Just think. It nearly had its own state.) This was beautifully demonstrated for us on this programme by  a lady called Maya Goodfellow (Maybe later, do something about that gender-specific surname?) 

The Labour Party Language is a form of English, built around rigorous abstention from the percussive sound that native English-speakers usually use to articulate the written letter ’t’.

This does hamper fluency and makes pronunciation and comprehension difficult, but once you ‘get your ear in’ it’s almost possible to get the gist of most of it. The knack of delivering the language with true conviction seems to be in forming a kind of impenetrable word-barricade while beating time with talon-like nail extensions, a signal that these non-proletariat hands are unsuitable for chores, playing stringed instruments or any demeaning form of DIY.

Then I watched a bit of 'Homes Under The Hammer,' which used to be one of my favourites until Lucy Alexander who knew stuff was replaced by token diversity who apparently doesn’t.
  

That's BBC Sports Personality of the Year sewn up then



All my plans to make this a typical hyperactive Sunday at Is the BBC biased? have gone right out of the window, but I really can't let today pass without noting that the knockout seaside resort of Morecambe has made it to the top of the world, ma.

Local-lad-made-good Tyson Fury has become the latest legend to spring from our world-beating sands, surpassing Dame Thora Hird's previous world boxing achievement by some margin. 

He did us proud today. 

My claim to fame is that I've seen Tyson running along the prom a fair few times. I'd like to think that my looking at him approvingly as he passed helped inspire him to today's great victory. 

On blog-related matters, he's previously accused the BBC of 'fixing' BBC Sports Personality of the Year to stop him winning. 

(He's not very BBC, to put it mildly). 

Will he be 'allowed' to win this year? 

How can he possibly not win? He's the best boxer in the world. 

Viva Morecambe!

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Absence makes the heart grow hostile

“From Our Own Correspondent is a weekly BBC radio programme in which a number of BBC foreign correspondents deliver a sequence of short talks reflecting on current events and topical themes in the countries outside the UK in which they are based.[1] The programme offers the BBC's correspondents around the world a chance to give a personal account of events from the epoch-making to the inconsequential.” (Wikipedia.) 
"Insight, wit and analysis from BBC correspondents, journalists and writers from around the world. (FOOC website.)

"Agenda-driven propaganda laced with ill-informed, prejudiced and unoriginal platitudes.
(Is the BBC Biased?)
D’you think the BBC can claim that this series is protected by the FOI exclusion clause “for the purpose of journalism, art and stuff like that”? If so, we can never accuse it of bias because they’ll insist it’s just someone’s personal opinion. One man’s feelings are another man’s facts; something like that.
"President Trump’s plan for peace in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories would allow Israel to apply its sovereignty to all the Jewish settlements as well as swathes of strategic land in the West Bank. The Palestinian leadership has rejected the plan outright saying it would create a "Swiss cheese state". Our Middle East Correspondent Tom Bateman spent time on two sides of a fence that separates an Israeli settlement from a Palestinian family with its own checkpoint. (FOOC website)
 Kate Adie’s intro was roughly the same as the above blurb: A Family Fenced in.

Tom Bateman’s insight, wit and analysis were absent from his contribution to today’s FOOC.  We’ve seen it all before and here it is again. The BBC can’t get enough of Bateman’s personal account of Israel’s malevolence and the Palestinians’ 'love-heart-strewn’ daily suffering. It has already been featured on the BBC, and BBC Watch covered it earlier, supplying the historical information that would have put the whole thing into its proper perspective. The BBC’s deliberate failure to include in Bateman's story essential facts surrounding this unusual situation effectively amounts to gross misinformation.


Here’s the Youtube version.  As BBC Watch writes, the comments below this video illustrate the effect this kind of thing has on public opinion. No wonder antisemitism is on the up and up.
The BBC’s motive for repeatedly airing this kind of thing? You tell me.

In which Craig remounts his hobby-horse



If you've been reading this blog since the start you'll doubtless recall that I used to incessantly count the number of appearances of each guest on the BBC News Channel's Dateline London to show that the programme's panels were massively stacked against people with right-leaning views. 

I did that for years - so much so that one contributor would email me to ask me for the latest stats to see if he was getting more or less invites than other guests. 

And then, finally, I gave up counting.

Apologies to my Dateline friend - though, fear not, our Alex is still doing splendidly, and making the Sky papers scintillate alongside the delightful Polly MacKenzie, and brightening up Twitter, and much, much else besides - but years of proving a programme to have a very heavy inbuilt political bias left me thinking that I'd flogged that particular equine to death. Especially as I had proved it.

(I'm squeamish about The Grand National, so I'm all for not flogging equines to death).

Plus, I'd like to think that when the programme began to balance its panels better that my shaming stats had helped make that so.

*******

Back in the day, Dateline's main presenter was Gavin Esler, a man whose biases I also tracked

As could have been predicted from his biased behaviour and comments as presenter - a bias somewhat disguised by his mild-mannered 'nice guy' TV persona - he went off and tried to get elected in the European elections last year, standing for the pro-EU Change UK in London. I'm sure he thought he'd win, but he lost. The tone of his public pronouncements, especially on Twitter, was a million kilometres away from his 'nice guy' TV persona. He turned into a sort of less pleasant version of Alastair Campbell. He even made his former Newsnight colleague Paul Mason sound gentle, kind and reasonable in comparison. He's now Chancellor of the University of Kent.

His replacement, Carrie Gracie, is much better - a consummate professional. (I do hope she's paid more than he was.) I like her.

*******

But, as noted on an earlier thread, it looks as if I might need to start counting again. (It would be no hardship.) 

Today's panel used to be typical. But, maybe since I've stopped chronicling it (a pathetic fallacy on my part?), it's slipped back again because today's panel was a violent throwback to Classic Era Dateline.

Every single member of today's panel - Michael Goldfarb, Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Abdel Bari Atwan and Eunice Goes - comes from the left side of the usual political spectrum. There wasn't a right-leaning guest in sight. A clean sweep.

How can the BBC justify that?

*******


P.S. Wonder if Bari is still the 'most regular' guest (not necessarily involving prunes)? 

For those not overly familiar with the programme, Palestinian 'journalist' Abdel Bari Atwan was the most regular guest every year, for years, despite being an extreme Saddamite loather of Israel with a record of highly incendiary remarks hoping for the end of Israel and lots of deaths in Israel - a very controversial man.

Gavin Esler was his friend and used to help promote his books. 

Despite Gavin going, the indefatigable Bari is still clearly in with the BBC. Him and that other flame-thrower Yasmin can shout away at each other to their hearts content forever for a licence-fee-funded fee no doubt - unless something is done about it. 

*******

Recommendations to BBC? 

First, one they'll like: Send in David Dimbleby to play all three monkeys, maybe?

Second, one they ought to like: Think! If you have a panel of four left-wingers people might think you're biased and want to punish you by taking away your public funding or abolishing you. So balance your panels!

Another Stormy Open Thread



Never mind Storm Dennis, is the BBC facing 'a perfect storm' at the moment? 

Anyhow, batten down the hatches again, and here's a new Open Thread that looks very like the old one. 

Thank you for all your comments.

The will to live

Am I the only one who’s starting to think of death as a blessed relief? No. I’ve heard others saying something similar.

Two of the most depressing things I’ve seen recently. (In the interest of balance and fairness, the Guardian is in our sidebar.)
One. Owen Jones, supposedly railing against ‘hate’ The BBC normalised racism last night, pure and simple
‘Yet Question Time then saw fit to clip the 82 seconds of hate, accompanied by a succinct summary of the audience member’s rant. Lies and hatred, uncorrected and unchallenged, rippled across social media from the account of the BBC’s self-described “flagship political debate programme”
this, followed by a rant against the BBC for ‘allowing it’, a spittle-flecked reference to ”racist thug and convicted fraudster” Tommy Robinson and, in conclusion, something about a prime minister with a history of racism. All in all, an unadulterated outpouring of hate. Pure and simple. (oh for a  soup├žon of self-awareness) 
and

Two: Marina Hyde, in the same publication, writing about Priti Patel’s ‘perma smirk’. It takes one to know one I suppose, but Marina’s perma-expression is more of a sneer than a smirk.

Those two examples of ‘left’ (for virtue) against ‘right’ (for vice) featured high in yesterday’s Guardian’s ‘most popular’ rankings. Incidentally, Matthew Parris has also had a go at Patel in the Times. I’m no particular fan of Priti Patel, and I know nothing of bullying within the Department for International Development, (how could I?) but I do know that her off-piste dealings with Israel showed a spark of independence and imagination that I admired at the time. Parris described this as ‘a monumental error”.  Typical.

Then there’s that intellectual giant and philosophical lyricist “Dave” whose brilliance and originality Is being so much admired.

The general downgrading of everything was encapsulated in a snippet on the Today programme within a conversation between Mishal Husain and Chris Mason (why?) extolling the virtues of regional accents.  There’s regional accents and there’s lazy, dumbed down, ungrammatical, illiterate patois.

Slightly consoling though, is the knowledge that Douglas Murray has written (in the Speccie) about the Beeb’s dumbed-down arts coverage How low can the BBC goand Richard Morrison (in the Times)  The arts world is tolerant, as long as you’re left wing and anti-Brexit about the arts community’s wokeness and the new totalitarianism of the left. At least there are masses of appreciative responses.

They could almost restore the will to live.

David Dimbleby wades in



David Dimbleby is making the news today.

I'm assuming that his retirement means he's free to speak his mind these days without any inhibitions about BBC impartiality because he certainly has spoken his mind.

Not that most people will ever see him as anything other than the embodiment of the BBC, and I suspect many will see him as also speaking the BBC's mind here.

He certainly put a broad range of adjectives to use: The Government's plans to curb the licence fee are "pernicious", Boris's behaviour towards the BBC is "arrogant", "childish", "peevish" and "unpleasant", and Boris and Dom and "ignorant" and "floundering".

(Admission: I'm not innocent of this kind of language. About ten years ago I thought I'd finally captured the tone of his Question Time chairmanship with regards to certain right-wingers with the phrase "smug malice").

His criticism of Boris's personality is particularly striking. It's a very personal attack, accusing the Prime Minister of being a liar in both his public life and his personal life, including towards his family. Not very kind, is it?

Echoing one of the BBC's main themes during the general election, he says, "Nobody trusts Boris Johnson. Who could trust Boris Johnson?". 

Curiously, the BBC veteran also says, "Johnson's never governed anything, Cummings has never governed anything". I seem to recall Boris governing London as Mayor for eight years, or does that not count?

On the subject of the BBC, David Dimbleby takes the Clive Myrie line that the public needs educating:
The BBC is under threat in a way it has never been before. The pernicious route they [the Government] are using is to say the licence fee is wrong or unfair. I don't believe it is wrong or unfair.  
It is a way of damaging and undermining the BBC that is dangerous and should be resisted forcefully if public broadcasting is to survive. Anything that chips away at what we believe to be a good democratic process is dangerous and has to be fought against.  
It has to be explained why not speaking to people is dangerous, why not appearing on television is dangerous.
I rather doubt that dialling up the hostile rhetoric in this way is going to prove particularly helpful to the BBC.

How will the public see David Dimbleby (and, thus, the BBC) here? Will they think that some of the adjectives he flung at the PM and his chief advisor might apply at least as well to him (and the BBC) too?

Moonlighting



The Times continues to be in hot pursuit of "moonlighting" BBC figures. 

Today they are pointing the finger of accusation at Mishal Husain for taking part in "at least ten private events" organised by the Norwegian gas and oil industry. 

(I know, 'The Norwegian gas and oil industry' and 'Mishal Husain' aren't phrases I'd have naturally placed together either!)

According to the paper, environmentalists are complaining that by "profiteering from polluters" she's risking "the BBC's reputation for impartiality", with someone from Extinction Rebellion adding, "This is yet another uncomfortable example of the insidious relationship between fossil fuel companies and the media." 

The Times adds, however, "There is no suggestion that Husain breached BBC guidelines." 

Indeed. Lots of BBC presenters and journalists moderate at / speak at all manner of conferences, from Evan Davis to Martin Croxall, from John Simpson to Emily Maitlis, Yolande Knell to Mark Urban, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. (Roger Harrabin, the BBC's environment analyst, for instance, has been doing so for some thirty years now.) They are fully entitled to do so. 

So what's the paper's beef with Mishal Husain?:
...However, her willingness to accept money from an industry under fire for its environmental impact raises questions about the potential conflict of interest. She is frequently required to cover climate change on the Today programme and was sent to Sweden in December to interview Greta Thunberg.
Hmm, but surely the problem won't arise unless her coverage of climate change on the Today programme turns out to be demonstrably pro-fossil fuels. (Has it been?). Her interview with Greta Thunberg, for one, didn't strike me as being even remotely unsympathetic and she didn't slyly argue for fossil fuels once during it. 

In fact, I'm much more worried about "the BBC's reputation for impartiality" when the BBC's Newsnight broadcast an investigative report in partnership with Greenpeace. That struck me as genuinely problematic.