Friday, 21 February 2020

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.

Thursday, 20 February 2020


Another day, another example of identity politics lunacy treated as 'a real thing' by the BBC:

The tweeting public aren't convinced though. The helpful responses to Alex's question include: Potatoheads, Ferengi (from Star Trek), folk from Bolton, Linekers, Bert & Ernie from Sesame Street, blow-up dolls, Essex girls and a race of Prince Charles/Mick Jagger hybrids. I myself think the racism is directed against one of the most vulnerable minority groups in our society, the Oddbods from Carry on Screaming. 

Ash to ash, dust to dust

I see the BBC continues to champion Ash:

Liking the way the BBC captions her "journalist".

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

The Honesty Party

Warning. This may seem slightly off-topic but it's not entirely unrelated to BBC bias and I'm going to say it. Each time we see the last-trio-standing in the Labour leadership cabaret another massive haemorrhage of credibility squirts out; the last vestiges finally oozed out during C 4’s ‘hustings’. 

We have some irreconcilable, antithetical positions. Number one, the so-called support for the “Right of Israel to Exist” as proclaimed earnestly by Lisa Nandy and through gritted teeth by Rebecca Long-Bailey (and not at all by Keir Starmer (?)) against the diametrically opposed and equally enthusiastic support for the Palestinian cause with its inherent desire for the non-existence of Israel.

Number two, the right of people with a penis to self-identify (as women) against the right of biological women to exclude them from the few remaining women-only spaces. 

Cases of rape or sexual assault may be rare in such circumstances, but even on the grounds of modesty alone (which apparently is a big thing in a community that traditionally encourages segregation of the sexes and regards venturing out without your burka as ‘asking for it’) if you sign a pledge to the effect that everyone else is expected to welcome the presence of women-with-penises in the few remaining intimate female situations, you must at least have the intelligence to acknowledge that these positions are irreconcilable and contradictory.

Incidentally, has no-one in the Labour Party noticed that ‘no place in our party for antisemitism’ discriminates against, nay, disqualifies a substantial section of their culturally antisemitic fan-base from having a place in their precious party, while their new-fangled advocacy of aggressive trans-rights discriminates against and alienates feminists. Or just women. 

This craze for legitimising self-identification changes everything. When applied to competitive sport we already have a huge, masculine trans-man-to-woman competing against biological women in ‘women’s’ cycling events, so let’s allow able-bodied sportspersons to identify as disabled and make the Paralympics implode. 

Lisa Nandy has all but spontaneously combusted by snatching potential defeat from the jaws of unexpectedly coming-from-behind. And she looked so promising before we saw that she has signed these ill-conceived, bordering on antisemitic, pledges. 

  1. “To oppose any proposed solution for Palestinians, including Trump’s ‘deal’, not based on international law and UN resolutions recognising their collective rights to self-determination and to return to their homes. 
  2. "To adhere to a consistent ethical UK trade policy, including in relation to Israel, in particular by applying international law on settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians.
  3. "To oppose the government’s proposed restrictive legislation regarding procurement and investment and, if that is passed, to promise that a future Labour government would make it a priority to rescind laws which restrict the globally recognised rights to freedom of expression and association to campaign for ethical trade policies.”
What’s the problem? 
"Prospective leaders of any major party shouldn’t be having their stance on Israel and the Palestinians dictated by the PSC, an organisation that has never committed to a two state solution, never accepted Israel’s right to exist, leads the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) campaign in the UK, and has failed to deal with antisemitism in its own ranks.
The pledges say nothing at all about Israel or two states. 
In fact, the first one undermines the concept of two states with a reference to a complete right of return. We know from its campaigning that PSC don’t mean a symbolic settlement of this issue with small numbers of Palestinians returning to Israel, and compensation for others, it argues for the absolute right to live in Israel of all descendants of Palestinian refugees, about seven million people. This would mean Israel ceasing to exist as a Jewish state. There would be two Palestinian states, not two states for two peoples.

One plausible suggestion for an outside-the-box, vote-winning, strategy for Labour is to ditch the pretence. (I'm not sure that Dawn Butler isn't ahead of the curve already.) At least they wouldn’t have to make contorted arguments that do not compute, and at least they could run on a unique platform of extreme, radical honesty.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020


Michael Rosen is such an engaging  presenter of BBC Radio 4's Word of Mouth that his considerably less pleasant political side still keeps springing nasty surprises.

Here he was on Twitter this very morning trolling the British Jewish Board of Deputies: 

As you'd expect, he's had well over a thousand 'likes' from his Corbynista followers, delighted to have got one over on the Jews. 

There's just one problem though: The Board of Deputies had protested to the Government about Andrew Sabisky's appointment, yesterday, 12 hours before Michael Rosen sent out that tweet.

In true Corbynista fashion, when it was pointed out to him (within the last half an hour) that "they posted condemning his appointment long before you tweeted this", he replied (to yet more 'likes' from his adoring fans), "I can see ‘registering our concerns’. Is that ‘condemning’?"

Well, he clearly didn't look very far. The Board of Deputies tweet in full was:
It is right that Andrew Sabisky is no longer working for the Government. We had registered our concerns with Downing St earlier. There can be no place for such views in our politics. 
If that's not 'condemning', then what is?

As a consummate wordsmith, he knows that, of course. He just doesn't want to lose face in front of his fanatical fans and is trying to bluff and blag his way out of having to apologise to the hated Corbyn critics at the Board of Deputies. 

Tut, tut! What would linguist Dr Laura Wright say, Michael?


Don't open the champagne yet!

Andrew Neil sums up today's lead story in The Times as, "Hilarious! PM moves to protect BBC from his own government". 

It's all about those "sources" again. There are two of them in this latest article. One says, “The PM is not as gung ho on the licence fee as Dom. With Dom it’s ideological — he believes the licence fee should be scrapped. With the PM it’s more reform than revolution,” while the other one says that Boris is personally “cool” on the idea of scrapping the licence fee. 

Much less confusing is John Whittingdale telling The Critic: There are large parts of the country that haven’t got broadband or indeed choose not to pay for it. You are turning round to all those households that don’t have fast broadband and saying, ‘You can’t get the BBC any more.’ Politically that would be utterly impossible. It is just not possible to make the BBC a voluntary subscription service for as long as it is broadcast on Freeview. We are some way off being able to switch off Freeview and put it all online.

Meanwhile, the BBC and its allies, including The Guardian and plenty of celebrities, are on manoeuvres. From Labour to the Conservatives, the various posses of the corporation's political friends are also riding to its rescue, all guns blazing. As you've been noting in the comments, even its supposed political critics - Lord Adonis, Alastair Campbell & Co. - have given up their cynical pretence of being anti-BBC and are manning the barricades for 'the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation'. The war is far from over.

More questions

Mark Wallace of ConservativeHome had a question - and a pair of paradoxes:
How can it be appropriate, impartial or within BBC rules for senior journalists at the Corporation to use BBC-branded Twitter accounts to promote political campaign material claiming "The government have declared war on our BBC" and comparing the PM to Donald Trump?

The BBC: We are deeply loved by the public. Also the BBC: Funding us by voluntary subscription would destroy the BBC.

The BBC: We are impartial and take no part in political campaigning. Also the BBC: Sign this petition attacking the govt for suggesting voluntary subscription!

Questions of story selection

A hot topic on my social media feeds over the past couple of days had been the extraordinary folly engulfing Labour over the trans issue, especially (a) the statement by Lisa Nandy ("the sensible one") that trans prisoners - including rapists - should be held in jails that match their self-declared gender and (b) the ideologically-driven flat-earthery of Labour shadow minister Dawn Butler telling ITV's Good Morning Britain that “a child is born without a sex”.

Except for Andrew Marr tacking Rebecca Long-Bailey on a related matter on Sunday, the BBC has shown very little interest in this - for some reason. Well might Patrick O'Flynn tweet:
Who in  BBC News is deciding that Labour's trans madness is not a major story? Much of the BBC's increasingly extreme bias is imposed via its story selection, not just its story treatment. 
Well BBC Politics website running nothing on Lab leader contenders' trans lunacy as of now. Can it be that none of the dozens of Beeb political correspondents has noticed the story? I suggest not. There is clearly a de facto ban on covering furores that challenge the extreme woke orthodoxy.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Clive mired

Such sentiments, so charmingly expressed, can hardly fail to win people over, can they?

And talking of charmers, here's that nice James O'Brien riding to the BBC's defence:

"Get it yet?"

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Andrew Marr and RL-B (and Angela too)

Not RL-B

The best laid plans of mice and Labour leadership contenders...

I don't want to be rude, but Becky is useless at interviews. She's like an ineptly-programmed robot. Even Andrew Marr managed to tie her in knots and run rings round her, especially over the trans issue and antisemitism. 

On the latter, just like her ideological progenitor Papa Corbyn, she somehow 'couldn't recall' that she'd been at a widely-reported meeting where JC (to a storm of controversy afterwards) said something she herself has stated is antisemitic:
AM: Alright, let’s talk about another big issue. You have stood up to antisemitism in the party, you said, yes?
RLB: Yes.
AM: Do you recognise this sentence? ‘It should not be regarded as antisemitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances surrounding its foundation as racist.’
RLB: I think under the International Holocaust Movement’s definition it would be antisemitic to regard Israel as a racist endeavour.
AM: So you regard that sentence as antisemitic? You’ve said that?
RLB: I don’t think it’s racist to stand up for the right – or antisemitic, should I say, or racist, either/or to stand up for the right of Israel to exist. And that’s something that I very much support. But I also support a two-state solution and don’t condone the actions of the Israeli government in terms of illegal settlements etc, etc. And that’s why it’s so important... 
AM: That sentence – you in the past have said was antisemitic. There was a National Executive Committee meeting in October 2018 where Jeremy Corbyn arrived and read out that statement as a proposed addition to the Labour Party policy. You must have been horrified when that happened.
RLB: I think under the IHRA definitions it’s very important to make it clear that supporting the right of Israel to exist and not kind of examining in any great detail the history is not – it’s incompatible with the definition of antisemitism, quite frankly. And we need to be very careful on that. But that doesn’t discriminate against... 
AM: Sorry to interrupt, but when you heard that statement made by Jeremy Corbyn, which you have described as antisemitic, did you speak out against it at the time?
RLB: I don’t remember the incident itself. It was mentioned to me at a meeting the other night and I don’t recall it.
AM: You were at that meeting. 
RLB: Well, I don’t recall that statement being made. But I’m very clear on us not questioning the right of Israel to exist, and certainly not saying that in any way it’s a racist endeavour. I’m clear on that, Andrew.
AM: This happens at the moment when the antisemitism row is at its height in the Labour Party. You’re at an NEC meeting, your leader arrives and reads out a statement which you regard as antisemitic, and you can’t remember that?
RLB: And why I’m being clear on what my view on this is, Andrew, I do not think that it’s right to call Israel or the creation of Israel a racist endeavour. I think that that’s antisemitic. And we’ve got to recognise where we are on antisemitism within the party. We have not taken enough action. It’s not been robust enough. And as Labour leader I would adopt any recommendations made by the EHRC, I would atop the ten pledges made by the Board of Deputies, and I would restore trust with the Jewish community.
AM: Rebecca Long-Bailey, thanks very much indeed for talking to us today.
Andrew seemed much more taken with Angela Rayner. He's previously called her "charismatic" and was 'bigging' her up again today. She'd have his vote any day, I suspect. 

Grant Shapps was perky, and skated through his interview. 

The programme ended with Benjamin Grosvenor playing the piano - a brilliant bonbon by Moritz Moszkowski, performed beautifully. 

Here is a somewhat younger Benjamin performing something more substantial: 

Just one more thing...

"We can advise you that the information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion…"

One of the cleverest things Oliver Dowden  and John Whittingdale could do is relax the FOI derogation the BBC is afforded and abuses. This would shine a spotlight on the BBC no amount of DCMS select committees or ministerial enquires could.

Get Cummings

The Mail on Sunday has another dramatic headline today: Man who claims Dominic Cummings assaulted him is set to be interviewed by Emily Maitlis in BBC documentary

The paper reports that BBC producers are set to interview a man who alleges that Mr Cummings "grabbed him by the lapels and pinned him to a wall" two decades ago after "an explosive radio debate". (What a scoop!) 

It will be part of an Emily-led documentary profile (hatchet job?) on Dominic Cummings. 

I'm sure this news will be read with interest, if little surprise, in Downing Street. They'd surely have expected that the BBC would be coming for Dom sooner or later. 

A baker's dozen

This won't come as a surprise to us, but The Mail on Sunday has carried out an "analysis" of the BBC's coverage of the Democratic Party primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire and found that 13 BBC correspondents covered them.

The paper's headline is: What cuts? The BBC has THIRTEEN reporters covering the US election trail... while back home, it's axing up to 450 jobs in £80m savings drive

The MoS points out that Emily Maitlis "jetted across the Atlantic at considerable expense" for a couple of Newsnights, despite the programme already having a US correspondent (David Grossman) involved in the coverage.

They also point out that Christian Fraser "flew out from London to join his Washington-based co-host Katty Kay in Iowa" for Beyond 100 Days.

The BBC, of course, says there's nothing wrong with this ridiculous wastefulness, adopting the 'it's not as bad as usual' defence:
The BBC has a huge amount of output across our news channels, bulletins, radio, online programming and podcasts. This election is being primarily covered by our US-based team… meaning we have sent far fewer London staff than we have ever done previously.

Emily M liked


James Delingpole, for one, isn't impressed:
"I stitched someone up. Got caught out. So now I believe passionately that all the people who criticised me should be censored."

RLB and the BBC

Far-left Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey will be 'platformed' and 'normalised' by The Andrew Marr Show today. 

Becky herself was tweeting  last night:
I’ll be talking to Andrew Marr in the morning about my proposals for a People’s BBC owned by staff & the public.  
In response to Tory attacks, the BBC must be freed from government control & guaranteed as a cornerstone of public knowledge in our democracy.
Really? Is that what she's going on the BBC to talk about? 

I do hope it is, because it will be fascinating to see how Andrew Marr questions her about what, precisely, she means by all of that: 

How exactly, under Becky L-B's rule, will BBC staff "own" the BBC?

And what if most of them are soggy-left/Blairites - like Andrew Marr, minus the Iraq War, which he opposed - rather than far-left types like her? 

And how exactly will the public "own" the BBC when she becomes PM?

Direct democracy? The public choosing the next BBC DG?

What if it's another Leaver win? Or a Corbyn-loathing, red-wall-breaking vote against the likes of her?

Or will unrepresentative, thuggish Momentum 'Owen Jones' types simply be gerrymandered into place as representatives/tribunes of the people, and Paul Mason made BBC director-general? 

And how exactly will far-left Becky, as an anti-privatisation leftist, "free" the BBC from government control? And what on earth (and beyond) does she actually mean by that from her seemingly ill-thought-out, ideology-driven position?

And how will she guarantee the BBC as "a cornerstone of public knowledge in our democracy" if many, probably the majority of voters, don't agree with her view of "public knowledge"?

I do hope that Andy Marr won't duck this and that Rebecca Long-Bailey gets to debate the whole BBC thing with him this morning without him changing the subject at the first mention of BBC matters. 

"Mission: attack"

It looks as if Dominic Cummings is "not bluffing". 

Tim Shipman of The Sunday Times has been told by "senior aides" to the Prime Minister that Downing Street is determined that the licence fee will be scrapped and the BBC turned into a subscription service. The BBC will be "pruned" and forced to sell off most of its 61 radio stations, with Radio 3 and Radio 4 preserved and protected. The BBC website will be scaled back, the BBC's TV channels reduced in number from the present ten, more money invested in the World Service, and BBC stars banned from "cashing in with lucrative second jobs". 

John Whittingdale will return to the Government to lead the charge, which "one source" described as "Mission: attack". 

"The PM is firmly of the view that there needs to be serious reform. He is really strident on this", a "source" says. 

Batten down the hatches, BBC!

"Two more paid speeches for BBC boss Kamal Ahmed in pay row"

John Sweeney will doubtless be tucking into his Sunday sausages with extra relish this morning: The Sunday Times is in hot pursuit of the BBC's "Mr Bung". 

The paper is reporting that Kamal Ahmed, the corporation's editorial director, has "carried out two other paid engagements, at a property developer and a government-run bank" despite having a monthly salary of around £10,000 after tax. 

He's already apologised and offered to waive his fee from another such engagement after an "outcry". 

The paper says that, so far, Kamal has "declined to reveal how much he had been paid for the events or whether he would pay it back".

It never rains but it pours.

"The BBC has overreached for too long. Now that must end"

I bet Rupert Murdoch's ears will be burning today. His name is going to get bandied about a lot on Twitter. 

The Sunday Times has an editorial today headlined The BBC has overreached for too long. Now that must end.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Who to ask, Lewis?

Lewis on the Road to Nowhere?

Yesterday's Newsnight featured a report from policy editor Lewis Goodall.

One of his three 'talking heads' was Raphael Hogarth of the Institute for Government. 

Thursday night's Newsnight also featured a Lewis Goodall report.

One of this 'talking heads' was Jill Rutter of the Institute for Government. The other 'talking head' was Giles Wilkes of the Institute for Government.

There were only two 'talking heads' on Thursday night's report, so that was a clean sweep for the Institute for Government. 

Is there a pattern emerging here?

Well, it's probably too early to tell. I've used TV Eyes to locate all of Lewis Goodall's Newsnight reports over the last month - all 10 of them. Two dealt with the Irish election, one with climate change, three with the Labour leadership race and - the ones I was interested in - four with general UK politics/Government, including the two editions referred to above. 

What of the other two? Well, Lewis's 16 January report featured Catherine Haddon from, yes, the Institute for Government.

The 27 January one, however, replaced someone from the Institute for Government with someone from the left-leaning IPPR.

So that's 3 out of 4 of Lewis's Newsnight reports on the UK government/UK general politics over the last month that have featured 'talking heads' from the Institute for Government - and one had two of them. 

This is one to watch, perhaps. Maybe they're just absolutely fantastic and fabulously independent-minded, but the Institute for Government is one of those 'respected', 'independent' think tanks that came across as anti-Brexit over the past few years.

It was founded by strongly pro-EU Labour peer Lord Sainsbury, and its board is striking in its centre-left-leaning, Europhile composition with four parliamentarians past and present belonging to Blairite Labour, one to the Lib Dems, and one to the Conservative Party (David Lidington, who resigned in anticipation of Boris Johnson becoming PM).

It sounds a very BBC outfit, doesn't it? 

I'm intrigued to see if Lewis Goodall keeps up this heavy involvement with the Institute for Government over time. What will it mean if he does?

"It’s quite an experience to be on a floor full of Julians"

Julian the Apostate

The Guardian also has an interview with former BBC reporter Julian Knight MP, containing this quote:
When I used to work at BBC News, in meetings we’d have a copy of the Guardian and the Financial Times and that would be it. It’s quite a remain outlook on life, and I say that as a former remainer. I’d never met anyone else called Julian until I worked at the BBC and there were five others on my floor. It’s quite an experience to be on a floor full of Julians.


129,446 people were prosecuted for not having a licence in 2018, and over 18,000 people under the age of 20 have been prosecuted in the past five years.

A Knight in shining armour for the BBC?

Hopes of anti-BBC licence fee campaigners that the incoming chairman of the Commons' Culture, Media and Sport committee, Julian Knight MP, would aim his lance squarely at the BBC and skewer the corporation look increasingly forlorn. Though he doesn't want licence fee dodgers to go to jail, he tells the Daily Telegraph that fines for avoidance should double from £1,000 to £2,000. Though he says the BBC should axe middle managers on six figure salaries to save money, that's instead of cutting the number of BBC journalists. And he wants his fellow Conservatives to grow thicker skins and stop moaning about left-wing BBC comedy shows. 

30 Conservative MPs spurn Radio 4's 'PM'

It's a while since I've listened to an episode of (The Evan Davis Show) PM all the way through. 

Does it always have two items on climate change these days?

I learned along the way that Our Evan is quite the Banksy fan. He declared the graffiti artist to be "a national treasure", and wished aloud that Banks would do something on the wall of his house some day. (And so say all of us).

Meanwhile Polly Toynbee revealed that the programme had called up to 30 Conservative MPs to come on and discuss the Government with her, but none of them accepted. A chap from Unherd (Freddie Sayers) appeared instead. 

Hard work

A typical Radio 4 listener

The Daily Mail today tells us about a briefing document to BBC producers from BBC bosses saying that Radio 4 "does not all have to be hard work" and that the station needs to do more to "bring joy and optimism" to its audience.

Ha! Even the BBC seems to have noticed that Radio 4 has turned into a sludge of well-meaning, serious, worthy, politically-correct, socially-liberal, soggy-left, preachy programmes, many of which could have come straight out of the Guardian's features pages, leavened by identikit left-wing comedy shows. 

Kamal Ahmed v John Sweeney

The BBC aren't so much having an embarrassment of riches at the moment, rather a richness of embarrassments.

Having been largely out of action for the past week, I half-missed the headlong fall into the Slough of Embarrassment suffered by Kamal Ahmed, the BBC's £205,000-a-year editorial director, but it's well worth catching up with. There was an outcry after it was revealed that he took a £12,000 speaking fee for addressing an Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) event. He then apologised and waived his fee.

Fascinatingly, the man leading the charge against him was none other than 'Roaring' John Sweeney who christened his former colleague 'Mr Bung'.

Here's a very small sample of 'Roaring' John's output on the matter:
  • While BBC colleagues are losing their jobs, Kamal Ahmed trousers £12,000 from hedge fund. He is the Editorial Director of the BBC and is paid £200,000 a year. This is wrong, a kind of soft-core corruption and he should repay the money, then resign.
  • Thread: #Kamalbunggate. TV's Mr Bung reverse-trousering of £12,000 from hedge fund is not the end of the story. There is a conflict between BBC's and Mr Bung's version. On Sunday BBC told Mail that @bbckamal "had not broken any rules..." /1
  • "... because he agreed to appear when in his previous role of BBC Economics Editor, where he could receive payment for outside work." Mr Bung emailed BBC bosses today: "Some months ago I accepted a paid-for event to speak at a conference entitled “Investing for the Future”... 2/
  • ..hosted by Aberdeen Standard Investments. As the former Economics Editor..." The discrepancy is that The BBC said the bung was offered b4 he became Ed Director in 2018. But now Mr Bung admits the offer was made after he was BBC Ed Dir. Liar, liar, pants on fire, Mr Bung. 3/

"It just seems weird that you would want to go out there and bait and insult other people"

Paddington Bear-loving Evan Davis certainly went to town on Harry Miller on PM yesterday. Evan later defended himself on Twitter, maintaining that he was being impartial. Others, however, disagree. 

A transcript is needed.

Here's how Evan began the programme:
Evan Davis: Hello there. The High Court has ruled in this man's favour, saying the police went too far in defining his anti-trans tweets as hate rather than legitimate mockery:
Harry Miller: You police stand behind a chocolate fireguard called the College of Policing Guidelines. It will not shield you. You will get burned.
Well, that anti anti-trans tweeter will join us shortly. 
And this is the news bulletin:
Newsreader: The High Court has ruled that Humberside Police acted unlawfully after they visited a man at his workplace over a series of allegedly transphobic tweets. Trans activists have described the judgment as worrying because it failed to establish the threshold for acceptable speech. The Humberside force said it had acted in good faith and would learn from what happened. Here's our legal correspondent Clive Coleman.
Clive Coleman: In 2019 a transgender woman complained about Harry Miller's tweets. Humberside Police went to his place of work. He was questioned, told he could be prosecuted if he continued and a non-crime hate incident was recorded. Mr Miller argued the police guidance breached free speech and required no evidence of hate nor of a specific victim. Mr. Justice Knowles ruled the guidance was lawful but the way it was applied by police disproportionately interfered with Mr. Miller's right to free speech. "In this country we've never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi", he said. "We've never lived in an Orwellian society".
And now comes the interview. 

It was one of those interviews where the interviewer says at least as much, if not more. than the interviewee. During it Evan described Mr Miller as "obsessed" and "weird". 

I've underlined some of Evan's most striking interventions. Was he baiting and insulting Mr Miller?
Evan Davis: When does mockery become hate speech? The issue is alive today after that High Court judge ruled that Humberside Police had gone too far in deeming tweets mocking the whole idea of trans people changing their agenda. The police had not said the tweets were a crime but they did visit the man responsible for them and log his words as a non-crime hate incident. Many think the police are hopeless at judging these issues, going way too far sometimes in a wokely direction. In this case it was all the more interesting that the man doing the tweeting was in fact himself a former policeman. And we can talk to him now: Harry Miller, who founded the campaign group Fair Cop. Thank you for joining us on PM Mr Miller. Can I just first ask, do you accept there are limits on free speech and it can at some point turn into hate speech and could be reasonably stopped by the law?
Harry Miller: We've never, ever suggested that there shouldn't be limits to free speech.
ED: Right.
HM: When it comes to harassing people, when it comes to malicious communications, when it comes to targeting people, we're not for that at all. 
ED: Right.
HM: What we are for is for free and frank and satirical discussion around a range of subjects, including the whole issue of gender identity. And I do take issue with your introduction that I was 'an anti-trans tweeter'. I'm not anti-anything. I am pro-women, and I'm pro-democracy, and I'm pro-discussion, and I'm pro-free speech. 
ED: OK. I think anyone reading your tweets would say you're anti-trans. Let's just call a spade a spade. I mean...
HM: No, no, what exactly...
ED: ...I might have misunderstood...
HM: No, what exactly is there in there that's anti-trans? 
ED: Well, you're mocking the idea at [sic] people changing gender.
HM: I'm mocking the idea that it is possible for an immutable characteristic like sex to change just because somebody says so. That's an idea that's worth mocking.
ED: Well, certainly the trans community feel you have mocked them and I think, you know, I've just read the tweets. I'm looking at some of them now. I think the listener would benefit from knowing it's reasonable to call them 'anti-trans'. But look, you accept the limits. You say you accept you're not against the idea that there can be something called 'hate speech'. Do you think you would have launched this kind of, if you like, sequence of tweets on an issue you might feel more sensitive about? Race, for example? 
HM: No, of course I wouldn't, because that's not an issue. Race is a thing. The notion of race is not up for discussion. The government hasn't called upon its citizens to discuss the notions of race. It did call upon its citizens to discuss the notion of gender in relation to reforms to the Gender Recognition Act reform. That's what I engage with, so it's just not a fair question.
ED: OK, can I...I don't want to put you in the psychiatrist's chair here, Mr Miller...
HM: No, go ahead, I'm quite happy. I'm relaxed.
ED: What is it? You come across as a bit obsessed about something which you could quite happily ignore. You could have your view. You're not really debating here. It's sometimes a little bit sweary, isn't it? It's quite insulting. Some of it, you could say, is satirical, you know, 'I'm a fish and I want, I regard my right, don't misspecies me'. You could call that satirical. Other bits are just very insulting.
HM: No, they're not. There's nothing in there that's insulting at all. Tell me where I've been insulting.
ED: OK, well, Adrian Harrop. You called him "a gloating bastard. Harrop doing what he does best". It that not...?  "Is Trans Day of Remembrance a thing then like an actual one?"...
HM: No, no, no, no, no...
ED: (high pitched) I'm just reading you the tweets! I mean, they're insulting, aren't they? There's no point in saying they're not insulting.
HM: No. No. I had no idea. I had never heard of Trans Day of Remembrance. I saw it on a TUC tweet and I said, "Is it a thing?" I'd absolutely no idea...
ED: (interrupting) "What's the Witchfinder General gloating about now?". That's insulting to the people who are...
HM: That was aimed at Dr...
ED: (interrupting) "Shon Faye, clothing fascist, utter...", I'm not even going to say the word. You can't pretend you're not being insulting or that you're not being anti-trans. Of course you are. You might as well be honest about it.
HM: No, I was being Dr Adrian Harrop because he was celebrating the no-platforming of the feminist Megan Murphy, and Shon Faye, I can't remember why I tweeted that. I think he compared...I think he was having a go at somebody's dress sense. So I wasn't having a go because he was trans, I was having a go at him because he made some ridiculous comment online.
ED: I don't know, do you feel like this is like engaging with the Government's debate about the subtleties of the Gender Recognition Act or is this just a kind of weird tirade from someone who's got no particular connection?...I don't know if the trans community has ever hurt you in particular. It just seems weird that you would want to go out there and bait and insult other people, even though you may have the right to do so.
HM: Right. The High Court has said that I didn't bait or insult anybody. The High Court said that I wasn't even in the foothills of baiting anybody. What I did in the public market square of Twitter was engage in a lively debate. That's what I did. I don't apologise for it, and I would encourage people to join in and do it. And I was speaking on behalf of women...
ED: (interrupting) I don't know, most of the time you don't seem to be speaking up on behalf of women. You seem to be actually putting trans people down. That's a very different thing, isn't it?
HM: No, because that was 30 tweets over a period of two months. I tweeted hundreds of things during that period. They were the tweets that somebody separated out, so you're taking individual tweets way out of context...
ED: (interrupting) I'm taking the tweets that have been the subject of the case today. But anyway, you stand by the fact...and this is. I think this is the important point of agreement, that there can be such a thing as hate speech and it is about drawing a line and the argument is about where you draw the line.
HM: Yeah, but the real story here is that Humberside Police were compared to the Gestapo and the Stasi. I think that's the real story.
ED:  Harry Miller, thank you very much for joining us. 
Here, to end, is a flavour of the online discussion about the interview:
  • Sar: Evan Davis is being extremely inflammatory calling Harry anti-trans over and over. 
  • Suzanne Evans: Agreed. I just listened to this and was appalled at Evan’s approach. In complaining about his interviewer being ‘insulting’ (for expressing widely-held views), he then actually insulted him again and again. Textbook example of how wrong-headed some BBC news people have become.
  • Mr Misunderstood: Completely agree. Evan Davis didn't conduct so much an interview as a hostile interrogation. He kept insisting his opinion was fact by repeatedly calling tweets "insulting" and allowing no disagreement with that opinion. Typical BBC now, though.
  • Karl Dunkerley: He treated an innocent man as guilty and treated a guilty police force as if it was innocent. He put the innocent man through the trial all over again. Another example of why my long-held faith in BBC News reporting has collapsed.
  • Mr Misunderstood: My thoughts exactly. During the "interrogation" I kept saying to myself "cripes, Evan... are you trying this man all over again cos you didn't like the verdict? And then puffballed "Tiffany" from Cambridgeshire police! 
Ah yes, and that is the punchline of all this: As Mr Misunderstood says, Harry Miller's hostile interrogation was immediately followed by a much softer interview with Tiffany from the police.

Tales from the Factory Floor

David Sedgwick's The Fake News Factory is a book that needed writing. 

For us, it might feel like a strange trip down Memory Lane at times, as David revisits many of the stop-off points of BBC bias that we've also recorded over the years, but - along with plenty of other examples - he gathers everything together in a juggernaut of hard evidence that is absolutely crushing.

The thing about a blog like this is that is provides endless instances - snapshots - of BBC bias in action but it's the threading of a thousand blogposts into a single tapestry that allows you to properly stand back and gasp at just how bad the BBC has become. 

Take one example: 

Chapter Two brings us to David's list of 'tells' - ways to spot the BBC getting up to mischief. The first 'tell' concerns how the BBC treats wrongdoers and whistle-blowers. 

Here David recounts the remarkable tale of how two BBC whistle-blowers - Meirion Jones and the late Liz MacKean - were slyly hounded out by the BBC in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
A senior press officer who vowed to 'drip poison' about Jones was later promoted. 'I will throw shit at him [Jones]' promised another senior BBC staff member. It was made clear to BBC staff attempting to establish the truth that should they continue to dig it would spell the end of their careers. 'When the Savile scandal broke,' recalled MacKean, 'the BBC tried to smear my reputation.'
I remember Liz MacKean. She once replied directly to a complaint of mine, and did so to my satisfaction. 

This was a shameful episode in the BBC's history and merits close attention. 

And what of the BBC 'wrongdoers' who got away with it, despite those pesky rulings against them? 

What about anti-Trump BBC dirt-disher Paul Wood, who helped lose the BBC a libel case brought by a former Ukrainian president but who's carrying on regardless at the BBC? 

And what about Dan Johnson, who was criticised by a judge over his involvement in the Sir Cliff Richard and is still a high-profile BBC correspondent? Or the BBC higher-ups judged untrusty and evasive in their testimony by the same judge? 

Or Jasmine Lawrence, the BBC News Channel editor pulled from local election duties in 2014 after ranting against UKIP on Twitter, subsequently promoted to be a Deputy News Editor on the Channel?

Or Emily Maitlis, rebuked by the BBC over her unfair treatment of Rod Liddle and now their award-winning golden (bronzed) girl? 

Or Jeremy Bowen, a man with a deeply personal grudge against Israel, continuing as the BBC's Middle East Editor despite the BBC itself ruling against him for violating guidelines on impartiality and accuracy in 2009? 

Stormy Open Thread

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

Anyhow, batten down the hatches, and here's a new Open Thread.

Thanks for your comments. 

From inside the Bubble

Hugh Sykes: Heartening, and heartfelt, tribute to the BBC by Nesrine Malik in today's Guardian: "To be a BBC listener or viewer doesn’t feel like being a consumer, exchanging money for a product, it feels like being a partner, an owner of the material."
Giving how often Nesrine's on the BBC I'm not surprised she feels like being 'a partner' and 'an owner of its material'.

"BBC-bashing comes from a place of privilege", she writes without irony.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Emily for leader

Here we have Newsnight’s presentation of the individuals trying to get themselves elected as leader of the Labour Party. First I have to address Emily Thornberry’s defence against the charge of antisemitism.

Newsnight’s presenter Katie Razzall set the tone in a schoolmarmish manner but failed to challenge Thornberry’s preposterous demonstration of abject ignorance. (I suspect Razzall is equally ignorant ) 

Thornberry’s ugly little diatribe did the opposite of what was intended if indeed exonerating herself from the charge of antisemitism was her intention.

I admit it’s tricky, trying to suck up to four million potential voters who very likely conform to their religion’s default hostility to Jews, while at the same time trying not to fall foul of the Labour party’s so-called anti-racist raison d’etre. But she got it so very wrong.
 “I think it was really important as I often said, that it is our duty to speak out against the far-right government of Netanyahu, and what it is that that government is doing to the two-state solution.
And what is it that the Palestinian Authority is doing, prey, never mind the “far-right Netanyahu government”, to the two-state solution?  Oh yes, rioting and calling for endless days of rage.

“Which is different from being antisemitic” interrupts Razzall, eager to remind us that “criticising Israel” is not antisemitic.

“Hang on”  interjects Thornberry  “exactly!”
“And then to explain to people, you do that, and that is not antisemitic, but you do not blame the Jews for that.” 
No, not all of them. Not the Jews who belong to certain left-wing, anti-Zionist groups; save the blame for the right-wing, Netanyahu-supporting Jews who live in or support Israel. 
“And to explain to people, there is a clear disconnect. It is not the fault of some guy who lives in a flat in north London - he is not responsible for the death of Palestinian children. And people really need to understand the difference.”
The difference between the innocent ‘guy’ in London who happens to be a Jew through no fault of his own and the right-wing Israeli Jew who callously murders Palestinian children for sport.
“And time and time again, in my role as shadow foreign secretary, I made that absolutely clear. And i think that it would be right to say, that the record shows, that I have regularly called out antisemitism in my party in a very public way.
Yep. Thornberry stops short of chanting ‘Jews to the gas’ so how could she be antisemitic? She hasn’t got a racist bone in her body. (Nor any bones at all as far as one can tell.)

Because of her ‘pseudo-Sloaney with a hint of mid-Atlantic’ accent and her tic (i.e., keeps saying ‘frankly’) it’s impossible to take her seriously. She is like Corbyn and others in the Party in that they make stuff up as they go along as if trapped within some sort of ‘just-a-minute’ format and will be penalised for hesitation. And suffering from “likes the sound of their own voice' syndrome. And starting sentences with “And’ so they can continue talking nonsense on topics about which they know next to nothing without being interrupted or letting anyone else get a word in. And waving their hands (or trotters) around expressively to show off their red nail-varnish. I hope any of that doesn't put anyone off voting for her.


If anyone here is interested, here’s a video of the Labour Leader hustings that took place yesterday in front of the Jewish Labour Movement. If you’ve got the will and the stamina to watch it, you’ll see that Lisa Nandy is head and shoulders above the other candidates. (Candidates? Have I turned into Alan Lord Sugar?) (no)

Emily Thornberry seems to believe that her day - or was it days  - of glory as a stand-in for Corbs at PMQs were enough of a triumph to leapfrog her to the front of the process. No, Emily, you are vacuous, cliche-ridden, insincere and hypocritical. And spiteful. You’re fired!

The question remains. Is Nandy’s chairpersonship of Labour Friends of Palestine compatible with her support of Israel and/or the Jewish peoples’ right to self-determination? In fact, one could almost defend this by saying at least she couldn’t be accused of pro-Zionist partisanship. Which is a plus.

However, one niggle still won’t go away. I still worry that Nandy has been seduced by the Palestinian propaganda machine.
“I met a three-year-old child whose house was surrounded by the Separation Wall and was growing up without daylight. I saw a 15-year-old shackled by the ankles, who had been held in administrative detention for months without any contact with his family, access to school or a lawyer. I saw families humiliated at checkpoints on a daily basis and the denial of basic medical care as a result.
This is a movement which continually entices British MPs to visit ‘Palestine’ to view the obligatory theatrical production, a series of orchestrated anti-Israel set-ups wrought from self-pity, pathos and victimhood, specifically designed to hoodwink foreign governments into joining their quest to obliterate Israel.

If Nandy showed a glimmer of cynicism, awareness of - or insight into that specific aspect of her own pro-Palestinian advocacy, I could be won over. She’s the only credible leader.
If you watch the linked video I think you’ll agree with me. Hope so.