Tuesday 23 May 2023

The Most Contentious Story

Honest Reporting has lowered its expectations enough to claim Christiane Amanpour’s ‘apology’ as a victory. 

“I misspoke and said that they were killed in a shootout instead of “a shooting”

Sorry, but apologising for accidentally uttering the word “Shootout” rather than “Shooting” isn’t fooling anyone. It doesn’t ring true at all. Would any standard English speaking person, let alone a seasoned TV presenter, really say “killed in a shooting”? 

They’d say “were shot”, surely. Or “shot and killed.” 


In any case, the girls’ mother died of her injuries so wasn’t literally killed in a ‘shooting’ or a ‘shootout’ because unlike her two daughters Maia and Rina, Lucy survived for three days after which several of her organs were donated to various recipients.

Interestingly, the above tweet was taken from Honest Reporting, but I tried to find it again on Amanpour’s own Twitter feed. I’m no expert on the minutiae  of Twitter, but it seems that Amanpour has clipped the apology in question so that only the ghostly remains of the printed sub-title are on view. The apology itself has gone down the memory hole. 

I do realise that this isn’t a blog about CNN but I did come upon it while looking at the latest adventures of the BBC's Jeremy Bowen. By virtue - if nothing else - of sheer longevity, Jeremy Bowen has become a BBC National Treasure. 

The BBC has been featuring a lunchtime series of Bowenisms as well as a Bowen edition of The Media Show with Ros Atkins. 

The BBC’s claims of impartiality have been seriously holed below the waterline, not least by Bowen, who, on The Peter Principle, maybe,  has risen from intrepid reporter to International Editor of BBC News.  

Jeremy Francis John Bowen is a Welsh journalist and television presenter. He was the BBC's Middle East correspondent based in Jerusalem between 1995 and 2000 and the BBC Middle East editor from 2005 to 2022, before being appointed the International Editor of BBC News in August 2022. 

If Bowen did indeed set out in 1995 with no baggage, such an aspiration was scuppered when his Arab friend and driver Abed Takkoush was killed. 

Bowen fans and the BBC blame immature and trigger-happy Israeli soldiers for this unfortunate occurrence;  this may have been the incident that changed everything. Bowen has recounted the tale umpteen times, always exonerating himself from any responsibility, but plainly wrestling with feelings of guilt, which have been eating away at him from that day till this.

This features in    Episode 2 of his podcast series alongside another tragedy that has acquired myth-like status for Bowen as well as a vociferous number of like-minded anti-Israel activists. This was the shocking killing of Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish's daughters during another flare-up of violence in Gaza 

Understandably, such experiences have affected Jeremy Bowen; the BBC could legitimately have given him an honourable discharge and a fat pension. But of course, they promoted him.

In one of these broadcasts, he does address the issue of impartiality, asserting, quite rightly, that human beings are necessarily partial; yet he feels that he himself was as impartial as a BBC Middle East editor needed to be. Yet he didn’t seem troubled by the gruesome slaughter of the Fogel family, for example, which suggests his empathy is selective. In other words, not impartial at all.

Overall, Jeremy Bowen seems incurious about the root of the conflict. The language he uses shows that he sees it exclusively from a pro-Palestinian perspective, where the apparent ’underdog’ status justifies one or two necessary deviations from impartiality. The emotional bond he has with his Palestinian fixer Rushdi Abualouf verges on the mawkish. 

Look, we know which side Jeremy Bowen is on. He - and the BBC itself - barely even bother to hide it,  which brings us back to Christiane Amanpour, who is cited in the credits to one of his lunchtime podcasts. 


Saturday 1 April 2023

April 2023 Open Thread

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

Mr Browning isn't wrong. Hello to you all and thank you for continuing to comment.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

March 2023 Open Thread

Hello. Time for a new open thread. Thanks for your continuing comments.

Wednesday 1 February 2023

February 2023 Open Thread

Happy February and thank you for commenting. What will the BBC get up to this month?

Thursday 26 January 2023

New Year January 2023 Open Thread

Happy 2023! 

Something's not quite right

There’s nothing currently on the Beeb about the latest Ghislaine Maxwell revelations. The last time we heard about it was on the BBC website this time last year when they reported that “Prince Andrew has settled a civil sexual assault case brought against him in the US by Virginia Giuffre.” 

And there’s no trace on the Beeb of one of this blog’s former staples, our ex-Panorama friend, ’roaring’ John Sweeney, either.

I hadn’t been aware that Sweeney has made the Maxwell /Epstein affair into a major project. A number of people have rushed to be seen to condemn the Maxwells - well, they would, wouldn’t they   - but there’s many a slip-twixt cup and Virginia Giuffre.

The Guardian:

Hunting Ghislaine, which reaches its conclusion this Thursday, has been a huge hit, so far notching up 6 million listeners. Its success clearly feels like a redemption. “I’d like to thank Tony Hall,” says Sweeney, “for ruining my life.” He blames the BBC’s former director general for his departure from the corporation after 17 years. “I had a very bad 2019,” Sweeney admits. His investigation of the English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson was shelved by the BBC after it was revealed that Lucy Brown, one of Robinson’s followers, had pulled off a sting on Sweeney. “I fell for it. I was fool. I drank too much with a source who was scheming against me.”

Now for Jeremy Kyle.

After a spell of cancellation and subsequent semi-rehabilitation, Jeremy Kyle is back - complete with characteristic obnoxiousness. He attacked lawyer Alan Dershowitz with such venom and rudeness that even the below-the-line commenters on one of its Youtube iterations appeared flabbergasted at the venomous tone of the attack, given that Kyle’s de-cancellation was allegedly based on a promise ‘to be good.’ 

Pity that Dersh was unwise enough to appear on the programme - maybe he wasn’t familiar with Kyle. Oh well. Too late now.

 But guess who was also featured by Kyle!

Our old friend Sweeney!

I have to say that there’s something not quite right about That Photo. It’s Andrew’s position. I feel that if the hand that appears around the young lady’s waist really belongs to his left arm, then his left shoulder would be turned towards the camera much more than it is. Not exactly forensic, I do concede.

I haven’t got a particular axe to grind here - I do admire Dershowitz (because of his other writings) but I don’t have much sympathy for Ghislaine, apart from the fact her punishment seems harsher than absolutely necessary. Perhaps she’s ‘taking the flack for Jeffery’ and I suppose if someone has to do it, it may as well be her.


Forgot to mention :

Sunday 15 January 2023

Losing battle

I have virtually given up watching the BBC. When I do ‘dip in’ to see if I’m still a right-wing, Islamophobic bigot I’m quickly reminded why I gave it up.  It wasn’t total surrender, but this battle, if that’s what it is, looks like one I am bound to lose. When I heard about a 10-part podcast starring Shamima Begum I knew the end is even nigher than I thought.


This morning I listened to Claire Fox and Michael Portillo chatting about this issue on GB News. The case for the defence appeared to be that the BBC is approaching the topic critically and not simply giving a reinvented, media-savvy individual a platform to court sympathy and to ease her return to the UK. We mustn’t jump to conclusions, must we?

The argument for the prosecution was that the BBC hasn’t given such a platform, (or any platform at all) to the abused girls from the UK’s cities and towns, by predominantly Muslim men popularly known as grooming gangs. I suppose both cases are products of ‘grooming’. One might argue that the BBC itself has been groomed.

I ought to watch the podcasts before opining further, but I have a feeling that I’ll be made to feel that I’m in the wrong.  

Saturday 14 January 2023

Sorry/not sorry

I stumbled upon the Media Show last night. 

A conversation between presenter Katie Razzall and Michelle Donelan turned to issues around the BBC’s impartiality.

Katie Razzall:

“…….Tim Davie the Director General has made it one of his main focuses…

Michelle Donelan

“…….however - I would also say that there is a difference between having a plan and delivering that change, and it is certainly not ‘job done’ by any stretch of the imagination, and we only have to look at a plethora of different examples that have come up to highlight that. But there is still a problem.

Katy Razzall

“What examples?

Michelle Donelan

“Well if we look at the incident of the bus with the alleged antisemitism, if we look at…….

Well, we didn’t ‘look at the alleged antisemitism’ because there were more pressing matters to discuss such as Prince Harry,  Jeremy Clarkson, and Gary Lineker. 

At the end of the interview, when Ms. Donelan had left the room, and who knows, the premises, Ms. Razzall read out a rebuttal writted on a piece of paper (© Spike Milligan)

“Well that was Michelle Donelan, Secretary of state for digital media culture and sport and she made reference to how the BBC had reported an antisemitic attack on a group of Jewish students in 2021. Let me just add to that what the BBC have said about reporting that incident which was in part based on a video of the incident filmed from inside the bus. The BBC has said that while Ofcom has found that our reporting was not in breach of the broadcasting code 

the BBC executive complaints unit ruled in January 2022 that more could have been done sooner to acknowledge the differing views about what could be heard on the recording of the attack. The BBC apologised at the time for not acting sooner to highlight the contents of the recording were contested.”

  • Recollections may vary. 
  • The scale of the problem was exaggerated

This wasn’t on the BBC but it’s another example of Sorry/not sorry.

The Media Show should have invited Shami Chakrabarti to investigate. 

Thursday 12 January 2023

Look out!


The NUS is belatedly looking at antisemitism.  (Is this an attempt to rehabilitate the Labour Party?)

Come on guys. Let’s not wang on about the Oxford Street bus incident and other low-hanging fruits that skirt over or miss the underlying problem. 

It’s a much more fundamental issue, which the NUS is unlikely to fully confront anytime soon. 

The BBC is dutifully fulfilling its holocaust-day-related obligations but the media’s annual mawkish celebration of that tragic historical event is not enough. Constant ahistorical pro-Palestinianism is hobbling rational debate. Antisemitism (and its proxy anti-Israelism) is back with a vengeance in Britain America, and Europe. Look out!

The Royalty Delusion


My attention span seems to have a slow puncture. The more it shrivels the narrower my interests become, so my observations on Prince Harry’s psychological melt-down are no doubt superficial and ‘knee-jerk’.

The upshot is that the author of “Spare” whose name I can’t quite recall has had to squeeze a few drops of juice out of a somewhat barren lemon. The conclusion has to be that Prince Harry is just an ordinary man; a bit dim, but so are most of us. The problem is that he has very likely burst the Royalty Delusion; the myth in which we must all collude in order to preserve the monarchy. Many of us believe the monarchy needs to be preserved, so to find the country in a King’s New Clothes situation is a bummer. The Royal Family is in the altogether, but let’s just keep the little boy who noticed quiet for the time being. Apologies to Danny Kaye and Co. 

Sunday 8 January 2023

Daindruss Times

Jeremy Bowen has been promoted from Middle East to **International** editor and has been mostly covering the war in Ukraine but he still can't resist pontificating on Israel/Palestine. On 4th Jan 2023, Today programme  (19 mins to 9) Nick Robinson called upon him to report upon a dastardly provocation that Melanie Phillips describes as:

“a Jew walking for 15 minutes on the site that is most sacred to Judaism … without fanfare or media attention, early in the morning when the compound was almost empty and didn’t pray there or say anything to stir up trouble.”

 The Arab press calls this “storming” the al-Aqsa Mosque!

Here’s a near-as-dammit transcription of the item I heard on the Today Programme last Wednesday at 19 minutes to nine. 

Nick R

Now, why did a brief visit by the new Israeli security minister to the Alaska (sic) mosque compound in Jerusalem lead to such international condemnation and also to warnings of violent retribution from Hamas? China and the UAE have now called for a UN security council meeting to condemn the visit. Jeremy Bowen knows the area well, he’s our international editor and joins us on the line. “Morning, Happy New year to you Jeremy!” (Bowen mumbles) “Deliberately naive question if I may Jeremy - a daft laddie question - he didn’t pray, he didn’t enter the mosque at all, so why the fuss? “


Well, it’s very symbolic. Ah, the piece of ground in question, which Jews call the Temple Mount in English, and Muslims call - Palestinians call The Noble sanctuary in Arabic, ah it’s probably the - it’s certainly the most disputed ground - piece of ground - in the Middle East and quite possibly the world - it’s holy to both religions - the holiest place for Jews, the third holiest place for Muslims and it’s also a massive national symbol, particularly for Palestinians; and now this particular individual, Itamar Ben-Gvir is the most prominent group …. prominent of a group of militant right-wingers on whom the new government of mister Netanyahu relies for support, and they’re driving the ideology of the government and of course his supporters say that they’re elected fair and square, that’s democracy; but Ben-Gvir, he’s a police minister but he’s got a long criminal record of which includes incitement to racism and supporting a terrorist organisation.”

Nick R

Huge symbolism then, as it is it’s him going there, but I guess what everybody’s watching is to see the underlying question of what policy actually changes under this new wide coalition.


Yes, well, Netanyahu’s come back to power, relying on the votes in the Israeli parliament of these hard-line right-wingers, which, y’know, Israelis in the election liked the look of their coalition and voted for it. It’s not just a question of supporting harder action against Palestinians in the occupied territories, although that’s a big part of it. The— in Israel when they form a new coalition government they have a … they put out a political agreement, a statement. Now, this is often, not at all um, ah, brought into the letter’, but it’s clear that Ben-Gvir and his colleagues, they want big changes inside Israel to make it more religious, more their version of how a Jewish state should be and this horrifies many secular Israelis, and what would that mean? It means putting orthodox Jewish beliefs ahead of the rights of women - of LGBTQ people, of Arab citizens - 20% of the population of Israel is in fact Palestinian Arab. Ben-Gvir says those people need to know who is the landlord of the country, by which he means “the Jews.“ And they’re also, there are talks about removing much of the independence of the Israeli judiciary which for Netanyahu may have the result of  rescuing him from his own trial, which is continuing, on very serious corruption charges and all this at a time when the West Bank is very tense and anything that stirs the pot there is… daindruss!

Nick R

When you say tense Jeremy I’ve heard people predicting that it could ‘blow’ this year, that we could see very serious trouble indeed. On the West Bank that might be the excuse the Hamas wants to move out of its stronghold in Gaza and move in, do you think that’s a likely scenario?


Tensions are very high on the West Bank, and also in Palestinian parts of Jerusalem without question and it’s a really daindruss situation, it’s a really daindruss cocktail of a new generation growing up of Palestinians, a lack of hope, a feeling that um their aspirations towards - towards independence, towards freedom because there are millions of people who’ve been under a harsh military occupation now for generations, if you feel that that’s never going to go away - one thing that Netanyahu’s government has given another hard right-winger Mr Smotrich a lot of authority over settlements to expand them and so it’s a very difficult and daindruss situation; it’s a really nasty cocktail. Last year in 2022 something like 150 Palestinians were killed in the area by Israeli security forces, and more than 30 Israelis. Now Netanyahu. in his politics, has tried to play a double or a treble game, where he says one thing and does something else, reality and rhetoric being separated, but hard-liners like Ben-Gvir are very serious about imposing their views - and now can Netanyahu control them? Does he want to? and at the same time there’s this rising tide of anger among Palestinians and it’s just one serious incident, I’d say, at any given time, away from a very serious situation.

Nick R

Jeremy, thank you.

It did occur to me that the disdainful description of the new Israeli government: “militant  ‘hard-right-wingers’ that's “putting orthodox Jewish beliefs ahead of the rights of women, of LGBTQ people, of Arab citizens” looks oddly hypocritical when it comes from someone who happily overlooks the illiberal “orthodox religious beliefs” of his favoured ethnicity. On this occasion, only Nick Robinson specifically mentioned the word “Hamas” but that particular absence from Bowen’s narrative was conspicuous.

Thursday 1 December 2022

December Open Thread

It's beginning to look a lot like time for a new Open Thread.

Hope all's well with you and thank you for commenting. 

Thursday 10 November 2022

November Open Thread

As November winds blow into Morecambe and I fear for my roof, here's a new open thread.

Hello to all of you and thank you for commenting. 


You may have read at Guido Fawkes or in the Daily Mail that the BBC had to temporarily withdraw their latest Radio 4 Profile of Conservative cabinet minister Kemi Badenoch.

The programme has now been edited and made available again, but the BBC is being tight-lipped about what they've changed, according to the Mail:
The BBC would not reveal what had been changed in the episode, but it is understood that a claim in the original broadcast, that Mrs Badenoch, 42, had stuck 'male' and 'female' signs on the doors of gender-neutral toilets at her leadership launch venue, was corrected.
This story has a few interesting implications, especially concerning journalism. 

Firstly, I'm intrigued that the Daily Mail couldn't find out what the BBC changed. I've been able to find out though, thanks to TVEyes.

The Mail correctly 'understood' the first change - concerning these signs:
The original broadcast said:
This summer, after Boris Johnson quit as PM, Badenoch threw her hat into the ring to become leader, sticking 'men' and 'ladies' signs on the doors of gender-neutral toilets at her launch venue.
This caused a stir on Twitter with many people quoting a Twitter thread on 12 July - the date of Mrs Badenoch's leadership launch - by leading 'gender-critical' voice Maya Forstater. This called journalists out at the time about it:
This story is not what you think: These are the toilets at Policy Exchange. I first noticed these signs on 17th of May at meeting about sex based rights with various gender critical groups. At first i thought the paper signs had been put up specifically for our benefit. What I think is happening here is that Policy Exchange (or their landlords) put in nice new gender neutral toilets and the staff don't like them. They probably feel uncomfortable. Men leave the seat up etc.. so they've put the signs up for everyone's comfort.
Yet here was BBC Radio 4 repeating this discredited claim four months on.

The edited version goes like this:
It was reported that 'men' and 'ladies' signs were cellotaped on the doors of gender-neutral toilets at her launch venue but evidence later emerged that this had been done before the event.
Even this edit risks being misleading. "Evidence later emerged that this had been done before the event" might suggest that rather than Kemi herself 'sticking' up the signs, it was done "before the event" i.e. done for the launch. What Maya Forstater, and others, showed is that those signs were up a couple of months before the launch, so not connected to Kemi Badenoch in any way.

Indeed, it's so potentially misleading that Guido Fawkes apparently misread the revised version as a simple repetition of the debunked claims from the original version:
Despite the editing, the profile still reeks of W1A’s woke inclinations. It repeats debunked claims about Kemi removing gender-neutral toilets at her campaign launch, albeit with a caveat.
Maybe the programme needs withdrawing and re-editing again to remove this ambiguous wording?

What both Guido and the Mail missed though was the second edit. The original broadcast said:
It's not just race. LGBTQ activists have accused Kemi Badenoch of being anti-trans Ben Hunte, a senior reporter with Vice World News. "I've had for a number of organisations and individuals who are really concerned about Kemi Badenoch's behaviour in government. I've exposed a leaked recording of Kemi Badenoch saying that trans women are men", the government insisting her comments had been taken out of context. "I have released a report about the equalities minister saying she doesn't care about colonialism." She's been criticised for abstaining on a vote to extend same sex marriage rights to Northern Ireland. And this week, ITV News reported that Bedenoch has now paused work on a promised ban on the use of conversion therapy. "There have been a number of situations over the past year that really do kind of raise your eyebrows about what it means to be an equalities minister when you don't necessarily believe in all forms of equality within your portfolio".
The revised version edited out this line:
And this week, ITV News reported that Bedenoch has now paused work on a promised ban on the use of conversion therapy.
That concerns a 'scoop' by ITV's Paul Brand that the Government took to Twitter to dismiss. BBC Radio 4 clearly got cold feet about Paul Brand's journalistic 'scoop' too.

Both Guido and the Daily Mail note the inclusion of the activist-like Ben Hunte. The Mail uses the c-word about him - "controversial":
That made me smile because of how Radio 4's website introduces this programme. They also use the c-word about Kemi Badenoch, asking "Is the controversial trade secretary and equalities minister a future PM?":
Another thing that struck me about controversial Ben Hunte's controversial inclusion is that Radio 4 - unlike the Mail - didn't mention that Ben used to work for the BBC [and got the Corportation into quite a few scrapes]. Profile simply introduced him as "a senior reporter with Vice World News". None of his contributions were re-edited.

A final thing is that the version you can now here on BBC Sounds - which begins by saying that the programme has been edited, but not why ["This programme has been edited since broadcast"] - ends with quite of list of BBC staff behind this edition of Profile: the researcher, producers, production co-ordinators, and editor. 

Not sure I'd have wanted my name on this piece of BBC broadcasting. Maybe they'll be tempted to edit those out next?

Saturday 1 October 2022

October Open Thread

Welcome to the October Open Thread! Thank you for all your comments and for helping keep us going.

Friday 2 September 2022

September Open Thread

The ancient animal, which was thought to be humans' earliest-known ancestor, may have lost the anus during evolution.

New Open Thread (and if you don't like it, well, we have others.) 

I was wrong

 If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know I hardly ever watch the BBC these days. I keep mentioning that to account for my prolonged silences interspersed with off-topic observations.. 

However I have to comment on the reappearance of Abdel Bari Atwan, whose services I thought had been quietly  dispensed with by the BBC.  I was wrong. He was on Dateline again on 19th August, following the attack on Salman Rushdie.

Melanie Phillips has written about this topic as has the Jewish Chronicle both citing the most outrageous of his remarks. 

The BBC, of course, has no intention of reprimanding or silencing Atwan as they think he represents legitimate views, and letting him air them is an expression of the BBC’s even-handedness. 

The problem is, however, that along with the rest of the left the BBC genuinely thinks it is indeed upholding balance, fairness and objectivity. It believes that it represents the political centre ground. That’s why it views its critics axiomatically as extremists who can safely be disregarded.

To be fair to Bari, as we like to call him on ITBB, he did imply that carrying out the actual fatwa  in it’s original form (death to Rushdie the blasphemer) was a tad beyond its sell-by date, but he defended the principle that such blasphemy as Rushdie’s was “very, very cruel when he talked about the Prophet Mohammed and his wives” which was also “very, very dangerous”. He added: “About 90 per cent of the people of the Muslim world believe that freedom of expression [is] practised only to insult Muslims”.

I’m not sure if Dateline itself isn’t about to be axed. I read it somewhere. Maybe they’ve realised that it’s a tiny bit politically biased.

Melanie Phillips doesn’t stop there. In her criticisms of the BBC, as well as Atwan’s other offensive remarks, she mentions the infamous Balen report about the BBC’s bias against Israel.  It has never seen the light of day, and its ongoing secrecy has been defended to the tune of  around £300,000 (of licence fee-payers dosh) in legal fees.   She refers to her own appearances as the token right-winger who is

“almost never given the opportunity to address the lies told about Israel.”

Monday 29 August 2022

August Open Thread

Seven months down, five to go. Thanks for your support and comments, and here's to a splendid August!

Some truths

Emily Maitlis’s truth.

Following in the footsteps of Dorothy Byrne (formerly of Channel Four,)  Emily Maitlis (formerly of the BBC) delivered the MacTaggart memorial lecture at the Edinburgh International TV festival. 

Emily Maitlis wants a Remainer BBC by Tom Slater 

"What’s striking about Maitlis’s critique, which has been curdling among elite Remainer media for a while, is that it essentially posits attempts at impartiality as bias.

Maitlis certainly struck a chord. “The BBC is biased!” screeched everybody under the sun. Fact!

However, trawling through the wide spectrum of tittle-tattle online, it seems that half the commenters agreed with Emily that the BBC is biased to the right, and the other half agreed with  - well- us - that the BBC is biased to the left. (‘Half-and-half’ may not be strictly mathematical)

I’ll just throw in the following quote for the hell of it because it tickled me.

"Channel 4 boss Ian Katz has said he thought Maitlis’ speech was ‘brilliant’, and that it served as a powerful reminder that ‘due impartiality is the bedrock of journalism.’


Nevertheless, the anti-BBC vibe is growing, whichever way you look at it. Despite, not because of, the woefully ineffectual pushback from the likes of the BBC's chief content officer, Charlotte Moore, one might even sympathise with the BBC. (You know, as the underdog.) 

BBC insiders back Emily Maitlis over claims of Tory meddling

"BBC insiders have said Emily Maitlis was right to call out Sir Robbie Gibb as an “active agent” of the Tory party who interfered with editorial matters.

Enough already. Sir Robbie Gibb’s position on the BBC Board appears (to Emily Maitlis and others) to constitute conclusive proof that the BBC is biased to the right.


Eddie Izzard’s truth (Strange but true)

Izzard intends to “Stand for Labour in Sheffield central”

This BBC article is notable for slavishly adhering to gender make-believe from the  “if I sez I’m a lady, then I’m a lady” school of abandon-all-reason.

All the way through this piece Eddie, wearing a skirt, is “assigned” “she” by the BBC. 

"Comedian Eddie Izzard says she hopes to stand as a Labour candidate in Sheffield at the next general election.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many female pronouns gratuitously (and dare I say almost maliciously?) shoehorned into a teeny bit of reporting. Is someone  (other than me) ’avin’ a laugh? I’m seriously wondering if the BBC has gawn mad. Here’s Guido. Amongst the comments, 259 at the time of writing, (which was roughly the day before yesterday) I spotted a delicate question that most other contributors failed to ask. Where on God’s earth did those b00bs come from?


Jeremy Bowen’s (personal) truth

Jeremy Bowen has written another book you’ll be glad to hear. It’s called The Making of the Modern Middle East: A Personal Story

The reviewer Justin Marozzi is a fan - I saw that on the twitter. 

Well, I won’t be reading any more of  Jezzer’s personal stories and I wish I could unread the ones I’ve already read.


“Marriage”  untruth

The other day I mentioned the BBC’s 4-part drama Marriage starring Sean Bean and Nicola Walker plus James Bolam and some other actors.

Once again, public opinion fell into two (weirdly passionate) camps, which we’ll call - ‘For’ and ‘Agin’.

Newspaper reviewers raved about it. Carol Midgley in the Times thought it was the bees’ knees while  James Innes-Smith in the Spectator was less keen.

Torrents of negativity poured in after just one episode. The prolonged silences interspersed with inane dialogue in episode one instantly brought about an irresistible compulsion to switch-off-the-TV. 

This ‘more naturalistic than actual naturalism’ genre is not new. It was captured more effectively several decades ago.  In 1971 Mike Leigh produced “Bleak Moments.” Leigh’s early output was characterised by similarly ‘realistic’ conversations that elevated the mundane to poignant-verging-on-poetic. The semi-improvised dialogue revelled in outrageously inane banter that was doleful, yet humorous, compelling, and entertaining yet somehow believable.

In my humble opinion, “Marriage” was charmless; the casting was wrong - the production failed to give the illusion that Sean Bean, as an unreconstructed northerner, and Nicola Walker were a couple.


The adopted daughter-of-colour bore no hint of resemblance to either of her adopted parents, either in accent, turn of phrase or familial idiosyncrasy. The sub-plot-by-numbers was equally unlikely and unconvincing.

Note: If I ever hear protracted whingeing about a baked potatah at an airport I’ll eat all the above words.