Sunday 9 August 2015

The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor

Among today's #bbcbias Twitter complaints (bypassing all the cybernats and Corbynites) was this one:

Evidently increasingly suffering from an advanced case of Twittercoholism, I felt the urgent need to find out why this particular Broadcasting House feature was considered "sensational", "pathetic" and "sick" by this particular apoplectic Twitter user and why, in his opinion, #r4bh "shows the depths that the BBC is prepared to go".....and, above all, quite why this complaint got attached to the hashtag #bbcbias in the first place.

So grabbing my pipe, violin and deer-stalker and ringing up Nigel Bruce, I ventured forth into the Morecambe fog (purely imaginary, of course, given that it's always sunny up here)...

The feature itself revolved around extended clips from Sir Edward Heath's late 1980s appearance on Desert Island Discs.

I wouldn't have called it "sensational" though. It featured the former PM talking about (and conducting) Elgar's glorious Cockaigne Overture. (Now, if Sir Edward H had been conducting Sir Edward E's Cocaine Overture that would have been a very different matter).

He also talked about his carpenter father and how his parents almost ran a boarding house in his youth, and how he almost went into the church although his father wanted him to be an accountant.

Yes, I know. Sensational stuff!

He then praised the "civilised" conduct of politics in Bexley and described his pleasure at winning a boat race.

Then came a bit from what Count Arthur Strong calls Piddler on the Roof and Sir E's concerns about the plight of migrants seeking refuge and, to close, a dig at the Thatcher government. (Happy days! Gawd, how I used to loathe him!)

So what was our friend on Twitter complaining about?

Maybe it was Paddy O'Connell's 'angle' on the story - an 'angle' repeated over and over again before the discussion about it even began:
As police investigate Ted Heath, we debate if the UK will ever again see a single, unmarried PM with a passion for Elgar and sailing. 
We'll decide this morning in discussion if the UK could ever again see a single, unmarried prime minister with a love of orchids, yachts and classical music. 
Will we ever again see a single, unmarried PM in the UK and have the claims about Ted Heath re-opened the book on unmarried, single, private confirmed bachelors?  
Now, what was that all about?

Well, using my powers of deduction, I deduced that Paddy was asking if the UK will ever see a single, unmarried prime minister again. I also deduced, from the quiet tone of his commentary, that Paddy gave Sir Ted's interview with Sue Lawley a respectful hearing and expected us to do so too. And I also deduced that Paddy thinks the Desert Island Discs archive is wonderful (#BackingtheBBC).

Watson, the hunt is on!

The tone so far was surprisingly sympathetic towards Edward Heath, and strongly so.

Why was Paddy so sympathetic-sounding? Inspector Lestrade informs me that Paddy is well-known as being/proud of being a "Stonewall ambassador". Assuming (as many do) that "asexual" Sir Ted - unmarried, single, private and a confirmed bachelor - was actually gay, might that not explain Paddy's sympathy for him?

I told Dr Watson that I'd park that thought for a while until I'd heard the following discussion between Sir Edward's authorised biographer Philip Ziegler and engaging lefty former BBC reporter Nick Jones. Were they also sympathetic towards the former PM? 

Well, yes - and very much so. And Paddy was soon asking them:
And do you both see, as we have, in the coverage...the background music is: "This is a sad, single, unmarried confirmed bachelor"? The papers this week have made him guilty of being single.
"That's right," said Nick Jones in response, agreeing with Paddy that such a figure couldn't be elected in the "packaged politics of today".

Paddy persisted, quoting Heath's former private secretary in the Telegraph yesterday... 
"Back then there were persistent rumours he was gay but, as we've surely learned by now, that's very different to being a paedophile. I saw no evidence he was gay but that hardly matters now in any case since the vast majority of voters, quite rightly, don't give a damn about politicians' sexual orientation." 
...before asking:
So, Philip Ziegler, are we more likely to have a gay prime minister with a partner than a single prime minister without one?
...and then adding:
He instructs us he was the last of his kind.
Everyone agreed that the packaged political husband (with wife/partner in the kitchen) was, as Paddy put it, "like the Edwardian era", and that such a situation was most unsuited to Ted Heath. Then Paddy played a clip of the "crowds shouting for Ted Heath" ["We love Ted, We love Ted"...] in 1970 before playing the wrong clip of him speaking French, badly. 

Then, over twenty minutes in, came a statement from Paddy: 
Finally, without much time...apologies to you listening if you thought that today we were going to answer for you definitively if he was guilty of sex crimes. We were never going to be able to do that but we are able to say that, Philip Ziegler, this past week has forever changed the reputation of Ted Heath, even if he's exonerated and, of course, if ever there's a claim upheld?
Mr Ziegler says he's been "unfairly blackened" and, said Paddy (noting that time will tell if it's "unfair" or not), "the damage is there, whatever". Nick Jones agreed it was "a tragedy for Heath" that many people will now think of him as weird, just - said Nick - as Ed Miliband was regarded in that way. 

"Thank you both very much indeed", said Paddy.

Now, I detail all of this at such length simply because I found this all so extraordinarily one-sided - even though I actually sympathise with their position and suspect that they're all correct about Edward Heath, and just as right to be upset about his treatment this week. 

A position was definitely being pushed here by Paddy, and very strongly so.

Whether Inspector Lestrade is right to right to infer that Paddy's extra-curricular role as a Stonewall ambassador might have had some bearing on his line of questioning today remains a matter for debate, Watson. What's not in debate, and one might say "elementary", is that this was all very rum indeed. 

Thanks for listening. Watson: the needle!


  1. I am sure that Paddy would like Corbyn to be the first 3 times married, teetotal, vegetarian PM. Sherlock would turn in his grave !

  2. With you on this one Craig.
    Probably one of the longest and bizarre truffle hunts of pointlessness I think I`ve come across in Paddys playbox.
    What the helll was it about?...the BBC choosing now to only trash dead Tories, now that McAlpine bit them before he died...and the BBC contributed to that I`m sure.
    Those Sue Lawley bites-what the hell were the BBC trying to tell us?
    That Heath said he was neither happy or sad, post politcs-that an admission that he`d become a Muslim living near a care home in Salisbury or suchlike?
    Cos , sure as hell...there`s plenty LIVING fresh lines of enquiry there Paddy, but you`d never look at those would you-might upset Anjem eh?
    Just smear and sneer-especially when Ziegler said that this would be seen to be unfair before long...Paddy disputed that, without the slightest shred of evidence.
    And Paddys wish to see this soufflet and confection of an item as a press trail by tabloid-of course, the BBC have no vested interest in it so they?
    Hoping todays Europhiles realise that even THEIR hereditary stooges get no peace in the grave...the BBC need to remove their hands from the bottom of a small buoy, and scuttle themselves.
    Come on Sir Cliff-send them to hell for us will you?

  3. Chrish, Surreal, but I think I get your point !


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