Saturday 29 March 2014

The Crystal Methodist, the BBC and the Daily Mail

Tuesday's Newsnight was the edition which featured Jeremy Paxman's 17 minute-long interview with the disgraced former Co-operative Bank boss, Paul Flowers.

Taken together with Laura Kuenssberg's introductory report and her closing chat with Jeremy Paxman, that night's Newsnight gave over just under half an hour to this story - a considerable amount of time to give over to one man's self-justification.

The former Methodist minister clearly doesn't go a bundle on the old-fashioned idea that you should, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those that curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you", for as the Gospel of St. Luke says, "And if any Sunday newspaper strikes you on one cheek, offer them the other one too". 

Oh, no, Rev. Flowers is certainly not for turning the other cheek at all, and most definitely doesn't believe in loving his enemies, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. He smote back at those newspapers with all the strength - plus reserves of venom ("pseudo-fascist", "far-right"). Plus he was clearly prepared to smiteth his political opponents, the Tories, in the process too. 

Those who believe the BBC is left-biased have seized on this decision to give the Labour-supporting disgraced ex-bank boss a very sympathetic interview from Jeremy Paxman as clear proof of that bias.

The most powerful assault on this interview - and the BBC - came (perhaps unsurprisingly) from Stephen Glover at the Daily Mail:
But the interview of Paul Flowers constituted an abdication of proper journalism. That, and the way the BBC promoted it throughout its news programmes as a hugely important exclusive - whereas, in fact, it was intended as a piece of anti-Tory propaganda - betray some pretty twisted journalistic values. The truth is that the BBC would not have exposed his deviant behaviour and colossal mistakes - as newspaper journalism has done - in a thousand years.  
I think that Laura Kuenssberg's introductory report and her closing discussion with Paxo provided some counter-balance, going into some detail about his failings as a banker, mentioning his Labour links (and suggesting those should be borne in mind when he tried to implicate the Conservatives in the mess at the Co-op), and noting how his version of events in the Newsnight interview was different to his parliamentary evidence but, still, I think it's fair to say that the programme failed to robustly challenge/question his accusations. (For example, the was no attempt to explain how his two accounts differ.)

What was needed - quite obviously I'd have thought - was either a Conservative spokesman or a Daily Mail spokesman to respond (preferably both). 

Neither appeared, either on that night's programme or on the following nights' programmes, which seems rather remiss. 

Going back to Stephen Glover at the Daily Mail though...

He singled out Newsnight editor Ian Katz for particular criticism:
Mr Katz recently strengthened the Left-of-Centre line-up on the programme by appointing Duncan Weldon, a former Labour adviser and senior economist at the Trade Union Congress, who has very little journalistic experience. But he is a good Leftie!
The same Mr Katz gleefully tweeted Mr Flowers's outrageous remarks about the Mail on Sunday when the show had ended. Is this how a grown-up editor should behave? Is it serious journalism? No, and no.
Newsnight has nearly always had a Left-wing bias, but Mr  Katz appears to be in the process of shamelessly consolidating it. The appointment of Mr Weldon (another apparent Leftie, Chris Cook, has also recently jumped aboard as policy editor) amounts to another rude gesture towards those who don't share his prejudices.
Now, there's obviously something in that [as I've written before] and Ian Katz would certainly be best keeping off Twitter but, given Newsnight newbie Chris Cook's previously role as a Conservative Party advisor [specifically to David Willetts], it's very hard not to raise a Roger Moore-style eyebrow at Stephen Glover's casual assertion that he's probably a Leftie. [I would guess, I suspect more accurately, that he's a pro-EU Tory wet.]

That kind of confident but likely-to-be completely wrong assertion is something we BBC bashers have to guard against, he says sententiously [having done it himself on more than one occasion]...

...and so is seeing quality in a BBC journalist only if he or she happens to do something we like, such as giving some grief to one of our ideological opponents. 

Here's an absolute peach of an example of that particular specimen of faulty thought (based on nothing more than a single interview), courtesy of the self-same Mr Glover: 
Of course, the BBC has many fine journalists. Paxo should be one of them. Another may be Laura Kuenssberg — one promising recent recruit to Newsnight — who not long ago brilliantly eviscerated Harriet Harman over her links to the Paedophile Information Exchange during the Seventies.
Do you see what he did there? [Even though I think he's right].

Still, he's correct that Newsnight came far too close to absolving Rev. Flowers of his sins, with Jeremy Paxman (of all people) being his puppy-like confessor. Plus Newsnight - and the BBC as a whole - were too willing to plug his anti-Tory, anti-Mail message, and Newsnight failed to adequately challenge his claims, or plug the anti-Labour counter argument.

As a human being, I don't feel entirely unsympathetic to him [having faced what he faced in so short a space of time], but self-pity and self-promotion [much on evidence here] aren't entirely winning qualities either, and serving revenge as a cold dish isn't exactly endearing either - especially when the server has been a Christian preacher. 


  1. I posted this originally on Biased BBC, but it's definitely worth repeating here:

    I totally despise Flowers because, quite apart from all that sodomy and drug abuse, he was (is?) heavily involved with movements to boycott Israel and Israeli products, and dragged the oh-so-ethically-pure Co-Op Bank into it with him. If it was just the boycotting on its own, that’d be bad enough, but combined with the other stuff… I’d really like the chance to accost him about it – You’re so morally pure, I’d say, so fantastically-fucking-upright, so mega-fucking-virtuous… what gave you the right to sit in judgement on a country and a people who’ve contributed more to humanity in an afternoon than you ever will in your whole miserable fucking life?

    Alex Brummer, the Daily Mail’s superb City editor, summed it up very neatly by saying that Flowers should’ve spent less time worrying about the West Bank, and more about the Ethical Bank.

  2. I found this interview really depressing, and just typical of when the BBC meets its worst nightmare-a Co-Op fakir who`s reduced "his bank"-and the savings of all those little Labour people-to ruins.
    Paxman should firstly have laid out how exactly Flower`s career trajectory happened-its beyond belief that such a flawed individual would have become a Methodist minister, let alone a Labour bigwig and Chairman of a Bank FFS!
    As for the "beyond belief" comment-Paxman said that Flowers fall from grace was like Lucifers...but Flowers joked that Paxman would not know where that reference was in the Bible! Depressingly, Flowers didn`t seem to know either.
    Which just about sums up the useless, unscriptural, venal creeps and badly-damaged goods that infect the Third Sector,the highest levels of finance and Labour politics...and the Methodist Church.
    When they intersect-we meet a bouffanted, self serving quisling who`s too busy sticking stuff up his nose and in other orifices...then blames the Mail for telling us about it.
    Flowers exemplifies the 60s hippy product of positive Christianity blended with do-gooding and charity wristbands...and as much public money as he can get before being rumbled as a thick fake...and then getting "therapy" so he can escape any court action in advance.
    As Pilate said-Behold the Man...and I say...the man we have created as a Godless 60s bunch of gutless thickos who need Islam to replace some of that straw that passes for the Western brain, as seen by Paxo and Flowers.
    Let a thousand flowers bloom eh?....there`s a lot more than that by now, and they`re creeping through our culture like old Japanese fighters in the jungle...and letting Islam know where the good people are to be found.
    As St Robbie of Stoke sang..."I am your Son"....we need Jesus-we get Flowers...and deserve no better in truth any more.

  3. Thanks Craig, I have given up on Newsnight and so missed the Flower Interview. Now either we have to assume that Katz directed Paxman to give a soft interview, or that was how Paxman decided to play it. Neither is a good advert for an unbiased BBC.

  4. I caught my first whiff of the whole nauseating story on Edie Mairs reliably anti-tory PM. He interviewed Paxman. Naturally the whole focus was on the evil Tories (there was not even any mention of the male sex workers, as of course even to mention such a thing would be distastefully homophobic - unless its an evil-tory junior minister; drugs of course are a health issue so they were glossed over); and Paxman described Flowers as "..likeable..". I'm sure he meant it and says it all doesn't it.

    I see myself as a pretty middle of the road Brit and I find the BBC almost completely unwatchable and un-listenable. Its like a student newspaper at a 1970's left-wing polytechnic.

    Its not going to end well.


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