Saturday 19 April 2014

Newsnight, Nigel Evans, death row, and Morpurgo v Gove

Looking back over this week's editions of Newsnight, Monday's edition spent its first quarter of an hour discussing Ukraine before moving on to discuss the fall-out from Nigel Evans's acquittal.

Rod Liddle wrote an interesting piece about this in the Spectator:
The lowbrow public may not know how to spell Barack Obama, or be entirely au fait with the name of the country of which he is leader. But...they are worried about the hyperbole from our political elite over the Ukraine, and on an entirely different issue they are not prepared to simply swallow bundled charges of historical sexual abuse against famous or slightly famous people without asking questions. In other words, unlike the elite, they do not appear to have been distracted by a politically charged (on both issues) crusading zeal, but are guided instead by common sense and fairness. Perhaps this is because they are too thick to understand the bigger issues; that, I think, is what our liberal elite would tell you.
The former deputy speaker Nigel Evans, a charming, witty and good-natured man, was finally cleared last week of nine counts of sexual abuse of young men, including one charge of rape. Fighting the patently absurd case against him has cost him his job (with its extra salary), his entire life savings in legal fees (which will not be repaid, despite his total innocence) and 11 months of sheer, unmitigated torture. He is understandably bitter, furious that his case was prosecuted by the police with a ‘zeal’, as he put it; a zeal occasioned by a politically driven obsession, I would reckon. On the evening after he was cleared of all charges, the liberal elite’s favourite media conduit, Newsnight, interviewed one of Evans’s supposed victims, repeating all the charges. I hope Evans sues them.
That refers to an earlier edition of Newsnight, but Monday night's edition wasn't much different. 

It featured a gentle, interruption-free interview with the Conservative MP who facilitated the legal action against Mr Evans, Dr Sarah Wollaston, She sounded more aggrieved on her own behalf than concerned about Mr Evans. Then Jeremy Paxman interviewed Nigel Evans's friend, Ann Widdecombe. He began by asking her twice about Nigel Evans's drunken and licentious behaviour. 

Miss Widdecombe was on Newsnight because the man they'd wanted to interview - Nigel Evans himself - had turned them down. I think I can understand why he turned them down. They would probably have re-tried him, live on TV. 

Next came a story about the death penalty in America - the kind of story that tends to crop up quite regularly in the features section of the Guardian, especially if there's a racial angle to the story

Newsnight sought out an interview with Glenn Ford, a black man convicted by an all-white jury who has now been freed from death row after thirty years. 

Preceding that interview, sympathetically conducted by Jeremy Paxman, came a report which stated that 60% of Americans still support the death penalty, with 35% against it. It featured just one talking head. That talking head was from Reprieve and she was opposed to the death penalty -as might have been expected from "the liberal elite's favourite media conduit, Newsnight". 

Monday's final feature was an interview with children's author Michael Morpurgo about whether fiction about World War One helps or hinders out understanding of it. Being Newsnight a political angle was placed on it, with Michael Gove's criticisms of certain kinds of writing about the war being made the main bone of contention. 

Newsnight knew exactly what they were going to get from Michael Morpurgo. His outspoken criticisms of Michael Gove over this very point have been widely reported. Jeremy Paxman duly invited him to say what he thought about Mr Gove's criticisms, and pacifist-inclined Mr Morpurgo duly disagreed with the Education Secretary, and re-stated the standard liberal take on the First World War. 

It would be good to watch a Newsnight interview with a writer who agrees with Mr Gove some time in the near future. I won't be holding my breath on that front though. 

The closing credits featured the short version of a remarkable timelapse video that's 'gone viral' (Ian Katz's Newsnight loves social media things that 'go viral'). It captures the transformation of Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester's daughter Lotte from newborn to teen, in just over four minutes.

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