Friday 26 December 2014

Boxing Day hangovers, crashed pips, and Sally Bercow's husband

Who knew Mishal was that short?

Today had its first guest editor of the season today - Sally's husband, Mr Speaker Sir, John Bercow.

The programme didn't run entirely smoothly. The 8 o'clock pips were crashed, the sports presenter (Sonala Shah) repeatedly stumbled over her words (one name in particular), eventually putting it down to having a hangover ('champagne fever'), and James Naughtie was heard in the background asking "Who's guest editor tomorrow?" during Mishal Husain's closing interview with Mr Bercow. [Did he really not know? Or was he (Jeremy _unt-like) quietly giving vent to his inner feelings about Mr Bercow's performance?] 

John Bercow got to interview Myanmarese opposition leader Ong Song Sue Chee (as she's known to people who can't be bothered to check how to spell her name, possibly due to 'champagne fever'). He also spoke to Roger Federer, his tennis-playing 'hero'. Frankly, he shouldn't give up his day job though (showing off during PMQs). His interviewing style left a lot to be desired. He even made James Naughtie sound un-pompous in comparison.

His main theme was democracy - more especially the question of whether our parliament is "not the most up-to-date" and, therefore, needs to "move with the times" (as Mishal Husain put it) by embracing 'digital democracy' (like Estonia) and 'e-government' (like South Korea). 

John Bercow's own commission is investigating such matters and though he was, BBC-like, framing it as a question it was very clear, no-less-BBC-like, where his sympathies actually lie on the matter. He's an obvious fan of the idea. 

It was, therefore, funny when another of his chosen interviewees - Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales - was asked by Nick Robinson for his views on electronic voting. Jimmy Wales said he was against it and explained why. Mr Speaker was asked for his reaction to that and expressed his surprise - though it was his disappointment that come across most clearly. You'd have had to have a heart of stone not to have laughed.

Mr Speaker's own chaplain, the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, did Thought for the Day and the editor of a games magazine, Keza MacDonald, reviewed PMQs. (She wasn't impressed). 

The main topical news story of the day for Today was parcel delivery company City Link going into administration. The programme's news bulletins framed it from the angle of the anger of the RMT union at the shabby way the news of the resultant redundancies broke on Christmas Day and an RMT official (Mick Cash) was duly invited on to denounce the company and the venture capitalists behind it. That might be taken as evidence of anti-business bias on the part of Today, or just as the latest development in the story as it broke the previous night and the RMT's reaction was the latest turn in the story. A business professor (Joshua Bamfield of the Centre for Retail Research) appeared later to put the story into some kind of context, and did a good job of it.  

We also heard about Boxing Day shoppers, the weather, the tenth anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami, and about a heart-rending and highly-fraught legal case in Ireland over a brain-dead woman who is being kept on life support in order to protect her unborn child - a consequence of Ireland's country's 'pro-life' laws. The Irish Independent writer interviewed on the latter, Dearbhail McDonald, personally supports the calls for the life support to be switched off and for the law to be reformed to prevent such a situation arising again - views she has expressed on Twitter and through her articles. She didn't express them openly on Today though. Whether her views were known to Today when they invited her on can only be speculated about, but I find hard to imagine a strong pro-life Irish journalist being invited to appear by herself, merely 'as a journalist', and treated in a non-confrontational way, during any Today interview on this kind of subject.

There really wasn't very much bias on this morning's Today but, still, I thought I'd fill you in on what happened just in case you missed it (due to a hangover perhaps) and wouldn't be able to sleep tonight as a result. Now it's off for a mince pie and a festive far-too-early port-and-lemon. (Will Sonala Shah be having one too? Hair-of-the-dog, and all that?)

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