Sunday 31 January 2016

Shami, the BBC Playwright

So, did anyone listen to Shami Chakrabarti's miniature radio play Over Here, Over There on tonight's From Fact to Fiction on Radio 4?

(What do you mean you didn't? Shame on you!)

Here's how the Radio 4 website trailed it:
From Fact to Fiction is an award-winning series in which writers create a fictional response to the week's news. 
In a week that saw politicians debate the conditions in migrant camps and the treatment of Asylum Seekers in UK , Shami Chakrabarti takes us to an imagined future. 
It is 2041. A mother and son argue about his plan to leave the country without permission. She is a settled refugee in her adopted state; the place of his birth. He is a radical; angry at his life of injustice and caught up in his plans to flee, yet he knows very little about his mother's own tale of escape.
I'd describe it as a typical piece of fairly clunky Radio 4 agitprop. It could easily have been slotted into Afternoon Drama on Radio 4 - had it been three times as long (God forbid!) 

It featured Hayley from Corrie as the refugee mother, so it was acted with aplomb - except for her emphatic delivery of the closing line, the final twist of the story (with shades of Planet of the Apes).

I have to say I saw that twist coming a mile off though and, because Hayley from Corrie's delivery of the 'shock punchline' was so emphatic, I laughed out loud. (It gave one left-wing Twitterer a shiver down her spine though (poor woman)).

Many a less-than-subtle point was made throughout - including all the expected ones. Painted migrant doors, wristbands, valuables being confiscated at borders, politicians using words like "swarm". You name it, it was in there. 

And our hearts were tugged and our brows were beaten.

And the take-home message was that we need to be much, much nicer to migrants, including those in Calais: Just imagine if it was you!

Invigorated by all this delightful, one-sided, left-wing preaching on the migrant crisis - and prompted by a comment on an earlier thread (thank you!) - I then treated myself to all three of the other episodes from this series of From Fact to Propaganda. 

Were they cut from much the same cloth, or not? Well...

The first one, by Chris Dolan, was quite funny and well-overacted, but its redemptive tale of a man from Allenby adrift and dying in the Solway Firth as a result of the 2015/16 floods in Cumbria (with only an initially sarcastic Scottish banshee for company) contained such passages as: 
Man: "But refugees out on the open seas, nowhere to go..."
Banshee: "Now you're talking!"
Man: ..."THIS is nothing, in comparison".
and built towards this life-changing climax:
Man: I've had it up to here with floods and drones and greed and people not giving a monkeys. I'll get my wages docked for these mince pies but the bosses and the bankers and politicians will get another bloody bonus. And millionaires and entertainers getting gongs while nurses' wages are capped; care workers, midwives. We're up to our necks in dodgy Chinese and Saudi deals while madmen go beheading innocents and the beaches are littered with the bodies of the desperate and all anyone can talk about is freaking immigration ratios!
Banshee: You're alive again!
It also contained a dig at the SNP and Donald Trump..., yes, that one was cut from the same cloth as Shami's 'play for today'...

...and Donald Trump and his attitude towards Muslims was, you probably won't be surprised to hear, the subject of last week's episode. written by BBC regular Hardeep Singh Kohli. 

It was called 'Top Trumps'. Its heroine was a likeable Muslim woman who's engaged to a Scottish man who shares ancestry with The Donald - and has Mexican ancestry to boot. Boom boom! The baddie, acting for Trump, who demands no Muslims at the airport in Scotland where he's about to arrive, eventually gets transformed too. Her son, James, has changed his name to Jamal. (Oh yes!) And the whole experience with the likeable Muslim woman makes the bad Trump lady change from the kind of American who says "You've got to be extreme to tackle extremism" to the sort who wants to have a drink with her new friend, the likeable Muslim woman.....

...I think you've probably got the picture! 

Ah yes, the sophisticated, in-yer-face whiff of Radio 4-style 'humorous' agitprop in the evening!

The remaining episode, 'Changes' had a mum, dad, son and daughter discussing David Bowie. 

The son wanted his dad to tell them a radical moment. The dad's radical moment involved him putting on mascara after listening to Ashes to Ashes. Men threatened to beat him up, but he got a girlfriend out of it.  

Also, Dad said:
Don't you think he did something for tolerance? World leaders of the Anglican faith are arguing about whether gay people should be ordained right now! Didn't he contribute to that being possible? He was important to people.
This episode, by Graham White, did, however, offer through the character of the daughter a different take - that David Bowie was really just a pop star who was after fame and money; in other words, that all this BBC-type stuff about Bowie is mere projection. It was, however, strongly hinted that she had 'gender identity' or 'sexual preference' issues of her but wouldn't talk about them. Then we heard Starman.

So, yes, it was typical Radio 4 drama all the way here.

Knowing that I can now happily never listen to it again!

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Questions?

Good grief, what a dispiriting programme The Big Questions was this morning! 

Live from a school in Bradford, with what Nicky Campbell promised would be a "lively" audience, an exclusively Muslim front-row panel engaged in "lively" discussion about Islam in Britain - and the 'big question' "Do we need a British Islam?" 

Yes, there were no non-Muslims on the front row, and no ex-Muslims either. It was Muslims all the way, thus significantly restricting the debate from the very start. 

It was voices of 'moderation' versus voices of 'extremism' from within one faith community, and even the bitterest opponents (and there was a lot of bitterness on display!) agreed on rather more than they should have done. 

I bet you can guess what it was like though: plenty of insults flying around, lots and lots (and lots) of angry people loudly talking across each another; lots of partisan clapping; a rude pair of eyes in a burqa playing the drama queen; that hefty chap from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee who's always on this kind of programme being unpleasant to other people; some Muslim Labour MP saying it's nothing to do with Islam; and Nicky, as ever, elegantly pirouetting around the floor like an enthusiastic conductor, enjoying himself.

That said, I don't think Nicky Campbell did a bad job and it was slightly heartening to see some people on the panel's determination to stand up to the bullying of the aggressive MPAC UK types. 

And, of course, thanks to the immigration policies of successive governments, we're going to be hearing many, many more such absurdly-heated debates for generations to come, whether we want to or not. 

Anyhow, for the record, here's who was invited onto the front row today:

Adam Deen, Quilliam Foundation
Sahar al-Faifi, geneticist and community organiser
Tehmina Kazi, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Imam Fazal Dad, Abu Bakr Mosque, Bradford
Raza Nadim, Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK 
Yasmin Rehman, Centre for Secular Space
Nahid Rasool, Shantona Women's Centre, Leeds
Dr Afshin Shaki, Bradford University
Naz Shah MP, Labour, Bradford West
Muhbeen Hussain, founder, British Muslim Youth

And here's how Nicky Campbell framed the debate:
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United Kingdom. The 2011 census found 2.75 million Muslims in the UK and their numbers are growing ten times as fast as the general British population. But there's as much divides as unites British Muslims. Their forebears came from very different parts of the world. Here in Bradford most Muslims originated from Pakistan. In the east end of London Bangladeshis predominate. But some emigrated here from the Caribbean or Arab countries or Africa or the Far East. And then there's the converts - 100,000 of them. Two-thirds of those are women. Now, what unites them all is where they live now: Britain. And some British Muslims are now asking if the time has come to develop a distinctly British version of Islam. So we have gathered together Muslim theologians, academics, social activists, scholars, campaigners and politicians to debate that idea.

I put it all down to clean living and plenty of roughage

It's been a bit depressing in recent years to see a definite trend emerging - the urge for masses of people on social media to instantly speak ill of the dead. 

Instantly speaking ill of the dead has become very fashionable - almost as fashionable as taking offence at everything.

Hopefully this unpleasant fad will pass very quickly.

Still, at least no one can speak ill of Sir Terry Wogan - or at least you'd hope! 

His death has just been announced this morning, so R.I.P. Sir Terry.

A lot of people liked you for a very long time (including my mum and dad). And you were much funnier than Graham Norton on The Eurovision Song Contest. And, in my salad days, I even liked The Floral Dance. (Yes, I've always been hip).

And here's one of your anecdotes
Many years ago Terry Wogan said he had just returned from a holiday in Ireland. Visiting some friends and making conversation with the taxi driver, he said it was a long drive. 
The taxi driver replied: "Sure, but if it wasn't as long it wouldn't reach the house"!!


Andrew Marr was jolly quick-thinking this morning. Within a minute or so of the announcement, he'd already crafted and broadcast this short poem:
So farewell, Tel. 
That news is fell.
A man of wit, and sparkle, and heft.
TOGs everywhere feel bereft.
Surely this makes him the odds-on favourite to replace Carol Ann Duffy as poet laureate?

Paper reviewers

It's Rogers galore on this morning's BBC Breakfast paper reviews. There's Roger Johnson doing the presenting (alongside Naga Munchetty) and the Very Reverend Rogers Govender doing the reviewing.

So far Rogers has agreed with the PM that ethnic minorities aren't given the opportunities they deserve and that the nation needs to do something about it, and both Rogers and Roger have been worrying about refugee children. ("It's a real worry", said Rogers. "It's shocking, isn't it?", replied Roger. The BBC man continued, "Someone saying at the end of last week, 'Just imagine it's your children' these poor things who are all alone.")

The Very Reverend Rogers Govender rounds off this month's list of weekend BBC Breakfast paper reviewers. Here's that list in full:

Sat 2/1/2016 - Zia Chaudhry MBE, barrister
Sun 3/1/2016 - Helen Pidd, Guardian
Sat 9/1/2016 - Paul Horrocks, PR consultant
Sun 10/1/2016 - Michelle Harrison, TNS (market research)
Sat 16/1/2016 - Peter Bradshaw, Guardian
Sun 17/1/2016 - Rev Sally Hitchiner, chaplain, Brunel University
Sat 23/1/2016 - Dr Victoria Honeyman, politics lecturer
Sun 24/1/2016 - Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi, Movement for Reform Judaism
Sat 30/1/2016 - Simon Fanshawe, writer
Sun 31/1/2016 - Very Rev Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester

As ever with the BBC, this list shows the BBC being very careful to be 'diverse': There are ethnic minority guests; the number of men and women is scrupulously balanced; and all three of the main monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) are represented. 

You will also notice the prominence of Guardian journalists.

All in all, it's a nice, safe, liberal-minded collection of people - perfect for BBC Breakfast viewing.

Salam aleikum

BBC World Service presenter Paul Henley (also known for Crossing Continents on Radio 4) has a piece in the BBC News magazine (apparently also a World Service From Our Own Correspondent talk) which the BBC News website home page headlines 'It pays to care'. It concerns German entrepreneurs helping migrants and refugees. 

Paul doesn't hold back from showing his admiration for such people - or his approval of Germany's acceptance of over a million migrants.

Here's a flavour:
I've never met Angela Merkel - not for want of trying - but she doesn't strike me as a person prone to acts of selfless charity. I imagine she's heard the predictions that - in the short term - extra demand for goods and services from a million newcomers could give the German economy a bounce of up to 2% a year. And I expect she has heard predictions that, in the long term, lots of youthful foreign workers - once educated, trained and taught German, of course - could be the country's economic saviours.
A man in a Hugo Boss suit said to me in the cosy office of a think tank near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate that there were no fiscal arguments against the migrants, just political ones.
So don't be surprised by the fact Germany's powerful - and business-minded - tabloid press are still on side with the refugee project, or that the police in Cologne were reluctant to admit asylum seekers were among those accused of now infamous assaults in a crowd on New Year's Eve.
But don't underestimate, either, the extraordinary good will and generosity of Germans still volunteering in their millions to show that their country is a humane destination for the desperate. 
And maybe there's a big divide between them and Raphael Hock and the millions he's making selling refugee accommodation to the government. But I'd warmed to him even before I found out he'd personally painted the flower stencils on the grey corridors of his care dome, before he'd mentioned that his girlfriend was a Kosovan Muslim, before he'd promised to change the catering company when two Afghan men complained they were sick of spaghetti. Hock told me Germany not only needed its refugees, it also had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to define itself by the way it treated them.
I don't know whether optimistic, rich Raphael best sums up modern Germany's steely pragmatism or its warm-hearted humanity. But I think there's a healthy dose of both in a country that's opened its doors to a million strangers pretty much overnight.
If that's impartial reporting then I'm Angela Merkel.

It has it all, pretty much: the strongly-directed narrative arc; the loaded language ("the extraordinary good will and generosity", "the desperate", "strangers", "warm-hearted humanity"); the link-free citing of 'predictions' predicting only good economic consequences from mass migration; even the old-fashioned BBC sense of unease about profit-making businesses (as compared to those who do good for the good of their hearts).

The BBC are relentless.

Anita's Got a Lovely Bunch of...Refugees

Yesterday's Any Answers was worth listening to. Yes, Anita Anand clucked at some of her callers (none of whom were playing ball on the 'migrant children in Calais' question), but she wasn't too bad this week and her callers were interesting throughout.

The only point to be made about it here is that Anita Anand persists in talking about 'refugees' rather than 'migrants'. 

She's been quite dogged about doing so over the months (eg. "this refugee tide", "a worsening refugee crisis", "but as columns of refugees attempt to gain entry into Austria and our screens are filled with images of long and beleaguered lines of human being trying to get out of one area and get into another in Europe, I'm asking for your thoughts on this") and she was doing it again this week:
Is David Cameron right to say that by taking refugees from the camps in Europe we encourage many more to risk their lives in the sea? 
I know there are those of you who want to talk about refugees.
She keeps doing so despite the growing official admission of what a lot of people suspected all along - that most of these people are not refugees, they are economic migrants. (Even Sweden and the European Commission are admitting it now.)

Anita did mention the m-word (well, one of the m-words) in her introduction though:
'A bunch of migrants'. Those four words uttered at the despatch box this week at PMQs have caused a storm of controversy. Just what do you make of the words chosen by the Prime Minister in his taunt to Jeremy Corbyn? And what of the sentiment behind those words? 
"A storm of controversy?" Rod Liddle, writing in The Sunday Times, agrees with Sue here about that (and I agree with both of them):
It wasn’t just the ol’ Grauniad; the BBC went into overdrive, too, interrupting its hitherto non-stop news coverage of a mild form of dengue fever — aka the zika virus — which has affected almost nobody in the UK and has killed nobody anywhere. They went into “bunch fury” overdrive. 
So did the opposition politicians, beside themselves with outrage that anyone could use a word like “bunch” when referring to people. And you are left with the distinct impression that either they are all mentally ill or that this is a confected outrage that has no purchase whatsoever beyond the opposition front bench and the BBC PM studio.

Bernie who?

One of the mainstay features of the BBC News website (not that, I suspect, many people read it!) is Anthony Zurcher's blog

Its masthead reads "Welcome to Zurcher's take - where I'll be giving an American view of US politics and culture", but he very rarely writes about US culture. It's pretty much all about US politics with Anthony (though he did also cover Justin Trudeau's election victory in Canada).

The oddest thing of all is that, for months and months now, it's been almost entirely about US Republican Party politics, especially Donald Trump, so much so that I thought Mr Zurcher had been told to focus exclusively on the Republican race and leave the Democratic race to people like Hillary Clinton biographer Kim Ghattas. 

Ignoring his latest blogpost, here's a complete list of Anthony Zurcher's pieces for the BBC website going back in time from yesterday till 8 December 2015. I think you'll see what I mean:
US election 2016: Winners and losers of Republican debate
US election: The 11 cards that sum up the Republican race
Is Donald Trump causing a Republican civil war?
Donald Trump gets Sarah Palin power
The Trump-Cruz feud gets nasty
Republican debate winners and losers
Donald Trump's Southern hospitality
Nikki Haley, the Republican who took on Trump
Republicans talk poverty - for a day
Who might stop Trump from nomination win?
Donald Trump's first TV ad touts Muslim ban
What happened to Rand Paul's 'libertarian moment'?
Republican debate: Winners and losers
Dumping Trump: Four ways Republicans might take on Trump
Is Donald Trump a Democratic secret agent?
Who are Donald Trump's loyal supporters?
Is Donald Trump destroying the Republican Party?
Then on 7 December 2015 came:
What's wrong with Obama's 'no-terrorist' gun ban?
That was a mere blip however and, again going backwards in time, came:
'We are at war': Republicans respond to San Bernardino
Donald Trump's bungled black-vote pitch
Republicans bristle at criticism of Planned Parenthood rhetoric
Trump leads Republican ‘bandwagon’ against Syrian refugees
Ben Carson: Unable to process foreign policy? 
            etc, etc, etc
You have to go back to October 14 last year to find a small clutch of pieces on the Democratic Party race - "Did the debate dash Biden's presidential hopes?", "A polished Clinton parries Sanders in Democratic debate", "A widening gap between Clinton and Obama" - before it's back to the Republicans again.

I thought I'd point this out because it is symptomatic of the BBC's coverage in general...and because Anthony Zurcher has just posted another piece about the Democratic race - his first in three-and-a-half months!:
Hillary's fight to the finish
The two highest-rated comments (so far) beneath this piece aren't impressed:
7. Posted by fedup
The BBC is so slanted in their coverage it really is disgusting. Finally an article about Hillary and not a mention of the investigation swirling around her. No mention of Top Secret e-mails. Nor is there any mention of the influence peddling that's been uncovered. Donar's cash in exchange for favors, the old Clinton game. Seems like some pretty big questions hanging over old Hillary?
13. Posted by Rather_Be_Cycling
Despite the BBC and the liberal media's best efforts, Hillary Clinton's "damn e-mails" (as Bernie Sanders charmingly describes them) are not going away. Now the BBC might prefer to report instead on every time Donald Trump offends someone's sensibilities. but this Junior Varsity of scandals is not going away. The White House and the Democrats are ready to ditch this mendacious old shrew.

I had to smile at Emily Maitlis's introduction to this feature. It made it sound as if the BBC and the rest of the media have been passive victims of Trump-inspired fate in choosing to massively under-report the Democratic race:
The US presidential race for the past few months has been dominated by the politically implausible, larger than life character of Donald Trump, which means that most of what's happening in the Democratic Race has got quietly lost.
The main focus of the segment was an interview with prominent Hillary supporter, Anne-Marie Slaughter (which was nice for Hillary). Earlier in the month, in contrast, interviews about The Donald were with a Muslim anti-Trump protestor and a New York Times journalist.

There's nine more months to go of all this.

Saturday 30 January 2016

Jim-jams, Jess Phillips and ‘bunch’

It’s been a while since I did school gates, but no-one much turned up in PJs back then. A glimpse of the odd granny in slippers might have caused amusement.

Schools in socially diverse areas like ours serve a rich mix. Middle-class kids of, say, school teachers mingle with the smelly ones who walk to school disheveled, wearing no socks.  Their mums and dads might have been up half the night smoking dope or whatever, but if they did manage to get up and get out they’d pull on a shell suit first.

I think the PJ thing that irked headmistress Kate Chisholm is quite recent. These days pyjamas are a fashion statement; nicer than your manky old jogging outfit. I do like a nice pair of baggy PJ bottoms. Tartan or brushed cotton in red with stars on, for example. Slippers are indistinguishable from Ugg boots. 

I would.

Is this the Bugaboo mums with the 4x4s, too posh to get dressed? I don’t think so, guessing at the demographic around the school in question, which is not in your actual Islington but some godforsaken place in the North East. Let’s be snobs and assume the PJ mums in question were more slummy mummy than yummy mummy, and if so there was probably a lot more to the head’s request (that’s all it was) than meets the eye.  

Rachel Johnson came on the Today Programme the other day to dispense her opinion on this matter. She disapproved of PJs  but admitted pulling on the odd pair of jogging bottoms when pushed for time. She observed sorrowfully  “No-one dresses up any more. Not even for the opera or the theatre.”

Just imagine. Not even bothering to put on evening dress for the opera! Kate Chisholm was right to be worried.


The Jess Phillips thing has caused quite a stir. QT still has the power to enrage. The trouble is, what she said was ambiguous. 
Did she actually mean to it was racist to point out the ethnicity of the men in the Cologne fiasco? Or was she making a purely feminist point, that men are going to take liberties given half a chance, wherever and whoever they are? 

It’s dangerous to point out that drunken half dressed women are giving out mixed signals as that’s the slippery slope towards blaming the victim. But having seen the state of some of the people thronging city centres late of an evening, I can’t help pointing it out. 

I wonder if the feminists would like to make leering illegal. I’m telling ‘im indoors that it is.


I do wish people would stop wingeing on about “Bunch”. Let it lie. I don’t suppose Giles Coren read my ‘Bunch’ piece, but he seems to agree with me. 

Remain/Leave and 'Newsnight'

My own very small-scale contribution (at the moment) to monitoring the BBC's coverage of the EU referendum is to look at Newsnightspecifically the fairly-easy-to-answer question, 'Is there a balance of guests between pro-Leave and pro-Remain?'

It's only 'fairly-easy-to-answer' because you need a consistent starting-point for including the guest in the final list. In other words, if, say, Steven Woolfe of UKIP is interviewed by Newsnight (as he was on 20th Jan), but only on the topic of immigration, and he isn't asked about the EU and doesn't mention the EU himself, well, that obviously excludes him from the list.

But what of those who are on to discuss the migrant crisis and who do make strong pro-EU points (though not points about the UK's membership of the EU)? Veteran German MEP Elmer Brok (on 26th Jan) is such a candidate. That's a trickier one. He's famously pro-EU and was bound, when invited, to make pro-EU points - as Newsnight might have been expected to realise. But, no, overall I don't think he should be included because his comments were pretty much 'in passing'.

That leaves us then with the following list for January 2016:
5/1 - Ken Clarke MP, Conservative - REMAIN
& Liam Fox MP, Conservative - LEAVE
13/1 - Alan Johnson MP, Labour - REMAIN
14/1 - George Osborne MP, Conservative - REMAIN
27/1 - Carl Bildt, former Swedish PM - REMAIN
29/1 - Lucy Thomas, Britain Stronger in Europe- REMAIN
& Dan Hannan MEP, Vote Leave - LEAVE
These were all substantial interviews, exclusively or largely focused on the issue of the UK's membership of the EU.

Now. some might question the labelling of George Osborne as 'REMAIN' as he sometimes calls himself a 'Eurosceptic', even though pretty much every reporter (pro-EU or anti-EU) reckons he's among the most pro-EU members of the present government. Paddy Ashdown's hat would have to be eaten by huge numbers of people if Mr Osborne came out on the LEAVE side - and no-one, as far as I can see, thinks that's even remotely likely. So he remains a 'REMAIN' in my list.

What the list shows so far is that REMAIN has received five spots and LEAVE just two.

Both of those LEAVE interviews were conducted alongside interviews with REMAIN supporters (one consecutively, the other simultaneously). The other three REMAIN interviews had no such counter-balancing interviews with LEAVE supporters.

Even if you put George Osborne in some kind of Schrödinger's cat-style limbo - as neither REMAIN nor LEAVE (or both) - that's still a striking imbalance, isn't it? The interviews with Alan Johnson and Carl Bildt were both substantial, rather hands-off and heavily focused on why the UK should stay in the EU. There was no equivalent interview with a LEAVE supporter.

We'll have to see how Newsnight fares as the months go on (unless the BBC cancels it of course!). It's not got off to a good start though, has it, on this evidence?

Whatever Happened to the Likely People Behind 'The Great European Disaster Movie'?

Having been largely out of action for the past couple of weeks, I know I've missed a lot of BBC-bias-related things - partly because I kept forgetting to remember them.

One thing I have remembered is that one of the people behind the infamous pro-EU BBC mockumentary The Great European Disaster Movie, former Economist editor Bill Emmott, has been made Chairman of the Content Board at Ofcom by Culture Secretary John Whittingdale - a choice that has certainly raised eyebrows. For full details on why that appointment is so surprising (and worrying) and of just how tangled the web of connections are at Ofcom (including with the BBC), please read News-watch's David Keighley's highly informative piece about it. 

All I'd add to it is that the other man appointed to Ofcom alongside Mr Emmott, Dutch businessman Ben Verwaayen (a close advisor to the present Dutch prime minister), is just as strongly pro-EU (and anti-Brexit) as Mr Emmott - as a read through his Twitter feed more than confirms.

With Bill and Ben joining the Ofcom board, it will be interesting to see how impartial Ofcom's rulings are in the run-up to the EU referendum.

The other person behind The Great European Disaster Movie, Annalisa Piras, was one of the guests on today's Dateline London. She's on the 'progressive left' politically, and alongside her today were left-wing Owen Jones of the Guardian, American left-liberal journalist Michael Goldfarb and Rashmee Roshan Lall of the National, the Arab Weekly (and, previously, the Guardian and the BBC World Service). They started by discussing the state of the European Union. 

Obviously Annalisa Piras spoke from a pro-EU standpoint. As did Rashmee Lall. And Michael Goldfarb. Only Owen Jones, in a rather detached way, focused the concerns of the Left about the EU. His semi-detachment probably arises from the fact that, after flirting with an 'Out' vote last year, he's now backing the 'In' side again

So that makes 4 out of 4 of today's Dateline London panellists wanting the UK to remain inside the EU. Wouldn't you have expected the BBC to put up a known pro-Brexit guest (or two) if this topic was going to be discussed (he asks rhetorically)?

This may be a sign of the way things are going. Compelling, detailed criticisms (from pro-Leave supporters) of Jonty Bloom's In Business and Carolyn Quinn's How to Make a Brexit have left both programmes looking deeply biased and demanding answers from the BBC.

As with this edition of Dateline, the BBC doesn't exactly appear to be going out of its way to dispel the fears of many that it will not be strictly neutral in the run-up to the EU referendum, does it?

Getting comfortable on the sofa

Simon Fanshawe, sporting his usual pink shirt, has been surfing the BBC Breakfast sofa this morning. After a shortish lecture on Google's tax affairs (complete with some of his usual, pro-Labour party political point-scoring), he turned to the migrant crisis:
What is the answer? Is it immigration we're frightened of?
Because on the one level this judge story (in the Mail and the Telegraph) I think is a non-story. He says, "They're economic migrants". Well, they're only coming here to work! You know? "What's wrong with that?", everyone says. "Don;t you want to better yourself?" You know?
Naga 'hmm'ed at that point and the camera showed Charlie nodding his head. Simon continued:
We have a very, very unclear idea about what we want to do about it..about migration.
One thing with watching all of the Saturday and Sunday BBC Breakfast paper reviews so far this year is just how much that makes you notice that not one of the chosen paper reviewers ever says anything 'controversial', as the BBC would see, it on the migrant crisis, or immigration, or Muslim terrorism, etc. 

Everyone has nice, 'liberal-lefty' things to say on such subjects - though most are rather wishy-washy (something that can't often be said about Simon Fanshawe, who used the phrase "liberal-lefty" about himself this morning).

The second paper review had a bit where Simon praised another Labour MP and used a "This is not Islam" story to complain about people who "go on" in a "rather accusing way" about how it's up to Muslims to challenge the jihadis. He mentioned that his partner is a Muslim, and he's as "appalled" as anyone about how IS "represent what he feels is his religion". 

Simon also steered viewers towards the Health and Safety Executive's website to read their 'Mythbusters Panel' before ending... talking about "the level of erotic stimulation for those people who like long-haired chappies with slightly hairy chests". Charlie brought things to a close at that point.

The BBC Breakfast paper reviews are still 'very BBC', aren't they?

"Are you an idiot?!"

Here's a transcription of the closing couple of minutes of his talk, relating to that episode of Songs of Praise from Calais before returning to the subject of religious illiteracy (his main bugbear at the moment). 

I think it reveals a lot about his way of thinking:

Someone talked about Calais just I went to Calais with a team. It was my stupid idea to send the Songs of Praise guys to Calais. And we had to have a senior manager on the ground. It was me or my executive producer for Songs of Praise. I can speak a bit of Arabic, he's a scouser. I thought I had more chance of getting through to people on the ground than he did. So I went along... was described by a Sun journalist who didn't know who I was as "the Asian Ross Kemp security guard". He has no idea what story he had in his hands. He told me to "get lost, get me that woman producer over there. I'm not interested in the thoughts of the Asian Ross Kemp security guard". I thought, "Great! If you knew who you were talking to that would be a bigger story!". 
But while we were there, there was an interesting thing about...when you talk about that: that I wrote a blog explaining why we went, and in that blog we talked about how for a Christian audience this is really important because for our Christian audience they will understand what migration, what asylum means, because in the story of the Holy Family in Christianity it's an important part - the flight to Egypt, etc. 
I was ridiculed and vilified in the Express and in some right-wing press and on all the right-wing blogs and websites, saying "What's the Nativity story, what's the census got to do with migration in Calais?" 
And you think to yourself, "Are you an idiot?! It's not Bethlehem we're talking about. it's when they go to Egypt! So who am I to tell these people their own religious story?"
The fact of the matter is decisions are made about how I operate, what our Christian audience may be interested in, and people are having an opinion on that with a complete lack of literacy. 
So when we make some of these programmes we have to understand that everybody we make programmes for, and whether you're a journalist or an academic or from every form of life, the people we do things for often have no idea, irrespective of what their faith is. So, as I said, I know a little bit about everything but the vast majority of people know diddly-squat about everything as it were. 
And so because of that we live in a world where integration's virtually impossible without a better understanding of religious and cultural literacy. Without religious and cultural literacy integration, in my opinion, is very difficult to pull off without it becoming essentially assimilation or isolation. 
The middle ground of integration will require everybody, whatever their faith is or no faith, to understand that without that little bit of knowledge of faiths you'll never be able to integrate around all of us. 

Friday 29 January 2016

More nutters and Israel-haters

Having flagged up the 71 signatories story below I might continue with the other ‘letter to the press’
The original letter to the Guardian is pure BDS, based on rubbish propaganda and signed by a whole bunch of  anti-Israel campaigners and luvvies  of little importance. 
“we are announcing today that we will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel. We will accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government. “

Great loss, I’m sure.
The other letteralso to the Guardian, simply says cultural boycotts are unacceptable and open dialogue is the way forward. You’d hardly think that was contentious in any way shape or form, other than being naive and delusional in its implied belief that the Palestinians are open to reason. 
In fact the BBC has always been keen to promote the idea that “talking to Hamas” is the way forward. Sarah Montague is famous for it.  

“The BBC has criticised former director of television Danny Cohen for signing a letter opposing a cultural boycott of Israel. 
The corporation said that it regretted the “impression” created by Mr Cohen’s name appearing on the letter but that it “had no bearing on his ability to do his day job”. 
The letter, published in the Guardian in October, was signed by more than 150 writers, artists, musicians and media personalities including J K Rowling and Melvyn Bragg. It was a response to an earlier announcement by media personalities calling for a cultural boycott of Israel and described boycotting Israel as ‘a barrier to peace’. 
Following a complaint to the BBC about Mr Cohen’s involvement, the BBC responded in a December email describing Mr Cohen’s actions as ‘inadvisable’. The email went on to say that senior employees “should avoid making their views known on issues of current political controversy”.  

According to the Guardian, a follow-up email sent this month from BBC chief complaints adviser Dominic Groves said: “The BBC agrees that it was inadvisable for him (Cohen) to add his signature given his then seniority within the BBC as director of television but in practice it had no bearing on his ability to do his day to day job; a role which does not involve direct control over BBC news.”

Sara Apps, interim director of the PSC (I hear Sarah Colborne has had to resign / been forced out / due to some of the more rabid antisemites in the dis-organisation taking exception to what they call her attempts to “kosherize” the groupsaid the letter opposing the boycott expresses the views of the Israeli state, and that BBC staff should be impartial and seen to be impartial, in their work at the BBC,  unlike me and my fellow antisemites who can be as mad as a box of frogs if it takes our fancy. 

It beggars belief that the BBC thinks ‘being seen to be impartial’ involves tiptoeing round the hysterical sensibilities of a bunch of nutters and Islamist supporters but Ms Apps seems confident that they’ll play ball and take action against Cohen. 
Too late. He left the BBC already; so tough. Perhaps they could sack him retrospectively for kosherizing the BBC.

71 Nutters and Israel haters

Have you been following this story? 

Last week:

A group of 71 doctors in the United Kingdom are pressuring the World Medical Association to remove the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) from the global body’s membership, an IMA representative said at the Israeli Knesset this week. 

“The professional British journals have adopted the idea of letters to the editor that libel Israeli doctors,” Dr. Ze’ev Feldman, IMA’s chairman, said Jan. 20 during a Knesset Science and Technology Committee meeting, Israel National News reported. “They claim our doctors perform medical torture on Palestinian patients.” 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote to the head of the WMA with concern that such an initiative filled with lies could occur.  

Although the response from the head of the WMA was written diplomatically, the tone seems to indicate that he considers the BDSers to be irritating jerks. ”

No-one seemed to know, but since they claimed Israeli doctors “perform medical torture” on the Palestinian patients (at least they acknowledged that Israel treats sick Palestinians) it would be fair to assume there would be a good number of, let’s call them ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s friends’ amongst the signatories.

Now all is revealed. Elder has updated his post, revealing the 71 names

There appears to be a number of psychiatrists in there, as well as Jenny Tonge and my favorite anti-Israel fanatic from a university ‘near you’ (me)  Ghada Karmi.  There are also a number of Middle Eastern-sounding names. 

Psychiatrists are quite often seriously bonkers (believe me) so you might want to be gentle with them, and of course the Arab ladies and gents will have had their brains reconfigured in childhood, or, what’s the other expression - they’ll have imbibed antisemitism with their mother’s milk - so you have to make allowances for them too. Ghada Karmi and Jenny Tonge - well, they are simply Ghada Karmi and Jenny Tonge.

However, one name stood out. Mr David Halpin. He used to fire off anti-Israel diatribes to the Western Morning News on a fairly regular basis. It’s a regional daily, with a reputation for quality. Not sure why. We used to buy it at one time just to aggravate ourselves, you know, like watching Question Time. 

In fact Halpin aggravated me so much in 2009  that I was especially gratified to see him featured on Harry’s Place (circa July 13th 2009) at a time when the aggravation had reached peak. Peak aggravation, it was.
Apparently Israel-hating Halpin had a theory that Dr David Kelly was assassinated, and the BBC  gave him (and his cronies whom they described as ‘campaigning doctors’) the oxygen of publicity for his hypothesis - that previous examinations into Dr Kelly’s death were ‘flawed’.

"Due process has been subverted," Mr Halpin said. "The group that I am part of is not prepared to let that go. There is evidence of a cover-up."

Halpin was backed by Lib. Dem. Norman Baker, author of “The Strange Death of David Kelly”, a book beloved by conspiracy theorists (but less popular with Dr. Kelly’s family)

Here’s the full text of Lucy Lips’s piece, as I know (if you’re anything like me) most of you can’t be arsed to click on every single link.

Embarrassing Misprint on BBC NewsLucy Lips July 13th 2009. 

The BBC has a headline on its news ticker that reads: 
Doctors call for fresh inquest into death of government scientist Dr David KellyClicking on the link takes you to this story. It turns out that the “Doctors” in question are, principally, a man called David Halpin. The names of the other doctors who agree with Halpin are not given, but I believe he has a couple. There are, needless to say, a larger number of doctors who do not believe that there is any mystery in David Kelly’s death: but who have not made this issue one of their hobbyhorses. 
David Halpin is most certainly a doctor. However, he is far better known as a crank of the first order, who passes his time writing loopy letters to the BBC and national newspapers. Here is an example of one such letter of complaint, to the Today Programme:
I have met Ishmail Haniyeh, the PM, in March 2007 with fellow doctors, and other Hamas ministers since. I would judge them to be trustworthy men who are doing what is right for their tormented people, unlike the collaborator Abbas and his friends. Insight into Hamas, and the literal crucifixion of these people…
I think we can all see where Halpin is coming from. Have a look through his website, and you will too. 
Halpin has his own loopy theories about David Kelly’s death. They are dealt with well by David Aaronovitch in his book, Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. 
The BBC ought to be savvier than this. Halpin has been banging this drum for years. The fact that he has issued a new press release on his kooky theory is no more a news event, than the publication of yet another article “proving” that the Earl of Oxford or Sir Francis Bacon really wrote Shakespeare’s plays. 
A much better headline for this article would have been: 
Nutter calls for fresh inquest into death of government scientist Dr David Kelly 
That epithet is not only factually accurate: it also has the advantage of conveying to the BBC’s readership, just how seriously this latest piece of agitation by a very disturbed old man ought to be taken.

At least the World medical Association seems aware of the troublemaking nature of this 71 strong..... bunch. 
It brings to mind that ubiquitous ‘complaints from both sides’ mantra, and illustrates how 71 nutters and Islamist supporters do not a valid complaint make.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Holocaust show

Talking of unPC, I’m going to be that now. 

There have been several programmes on the BBC commemorating the Holocaust. We’ve always said here, or at least I have, that in spite of the BBC’s institutional bias against Israel and its aptitude for antisemitic slips of the tongue, they have / it has / always been duly respectful towards the Holocaust.

It’s partly to do with the “misery memoir” phenomenon, a combination of morbid curiosity / placing oneself in imaginary situations of extreme deprivation would I cope? etc... and awe at the enormity of man’s inhumanity.

I’m uneasy that the BBC has turned it into a ‘show’ in the Piers Morgan sense, as in Morgan disrespectfully ascribing the populist term “show” to Question Time, which David Dimbleby considers a ‘programme.’  

The somewhat faltering narration (were they sight-reading?) by a couple of well known actors looked under-rehearsed, but that is a minor criticism. In general it was a respectful and moving ceremony.

Here’s the unPC bit. 

I don’t feel comfortable with this obligatory inclusivity that has established itself at the BBC. 
Why must “Islamophobia” and antisemitism be stuck together all the time. They aren’t two sides of any coin, no matter how much you pretend they are. But to be honest, I would also ask why must Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia have to be included in the Holocaust memorial commemorations? Get your own commemorations, I’m tempted to say. It’s taken  nearly 70 years to get ours. 
All genocides should be commemorated, no question; but why now? (I'm surprised they haven't included 'the Gaza genocide'.)

Not so long ago the MCB and other Islamic organisations would boycott Holocaust Memorial commemorations. Now that the commemorations are no longer exclusively Jewish they’ve come round. We’re even gifted with Mishal Husain as presenter. Whoopdedoo. I’d sooner do without. Sorry.

Endangered language

Which fictional language shrank as it developed? That question came up on the horribly addictive ITV quiz show “The Chase”. 
Truth is stranger than fiction of course, and Newspeak isn’t the only language that’s shrunk. 
We’re haemorrhaging words right left and centre here in the wonderful world of PC. 

The latest term outlawed by the PC police is, obviously, b***h. 
Yvette Cooper has asked the PM to apologise for using it as the collective noun for immigrant migrant. It’s pejorative, she thinks.

I was thinking. What would be a more acceptable term? Something angelic perhaps. What’s the collective noun for angels? Look it up on “” 

I'm loving angels instead.

Oh dear. One suggestion is “pinhead”. A pinhead of immigrants migrants? That really wouldn’t do. But host is a good one. Host as in golden daffodils.  

There. Sorted. A host of immigrants migrants. That would be double good as it has unintended connotations; “welcome”, “hospitality”, and other warm and fuzzy vibes.

Of course one couldn’t really use ‘host’ as a substitute for “b***h” in every case. A “bouquet” of flowers, perhaps. The daffs are already for sale round here, but I can’t see the farmers changing the signing to “Daffs: £1 a bouquet”. 

What about bananas? “Hand” maybe?  Grapes? What about “Sprig”?

He promised to buy me a ...tussie-mussie... of blue ribbons to tie up my bonnie brown hair, (styled, of course, in two “clumps” / adjacent pony-tails, or neighbouring pinheads)

Oh, I’ve got a lovely clump of coconuts...

The BBC should apologise profusely to itself for any offence caused by that annoying radio 4 promo.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

"Well Huw, it's certainly a provocative step"

On last night's BBC News at Ten on BBC One, Huw Edwards wore a serious look on his face around the 24 minute mark as he began introducing the next story. His eyebrows began arching and a surprised tone soon entered his voice (at the words "or even classed as inadequate"): 
Now, schools in England have been warned that they could be marked down by inspectors or even classed as inadequate if it's judged that face veils worn by teachers or pupils hinder the learning process. The Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says he's concerned that some headteachers are coming under pressure to relax the rules on wearing the nijab. Let's talk to our Education Editor, Branwen Jeffreys, who's with me. Branwen, why has Sir Michael decided to toughen his approach in this way?
If you felt that Huw was expressing, on the BBC's behalf, a measure of disapproval for Sir Michael's warnings there, with those arched eyebrows and incredulous vocal inflections, then BBC Education Editor Branwen Jeffreys pretty much removed all doubt by her immediate reply to his question about Sir Michael's 'toughened' approach:
Well Huw, it's certainly a provocative step. 
Yes, Sir Michael appears to have gone beyond 'controversial' for the BBC here to something even worse: "provocative".

Well, that's her opinion! (not that she's supposed to have one, what with being a BBC reporter 'n' all).

She continued:
Ofsted said it's taking it because schools have come under pressure to change their uniform policies. Every school in England can decide what its pupils should wear and many that have a majority or many Muslim pupils allow girls to cover their hair with a hijab but don't allow a niqab - the face covering Sir Michael is objecting too. He says he wants to take a stand against' the inappropriate use of the veil', as he describes it. He says it can in some circumstances get in the way of teaching and learning. But Muslim organisations have already said that he's resorting to...'the politics of fear' was one expression used, And, more strikingly, all the teaching unions are united in their opposition to this. They've described it as an 'extreme and unhelpful move' and said that it could alienate some pupils and parents, and they're asking, 'Where is the evidence that Ofsted has that this can really get in the way of learning?'
And that was that.

She also went onto Twitter to post three tweets on the subject - two from the 'anti-Sir Michael' side, none from the 'pro-Sir Michael'-side:

Branwen's blog pursues many of the same paths. 

She writes that Sir Michael "is massively raising the stakes", though she re-casts her own provocative assertion that his move is "provocative" by writing that other people will see it as provocative ("It...will also be seen as provocative") - thus distancing herself somewhat from her earlier bold assertion.

Her closing section plays down the scale of the problem in its first two paragraphs, before raising a metaphorical eyebrow at the same thing that seemed to 'surprise' Huw Edwards. Only in the final sentence does she 'balance' things with a nod towards the other side of the argument:
Only a handful of state funded schools are thought to allow the wearing of the niqab, mainly in their sixth form.
There is no current evidence of it impeding the pupils in achieving excellence.
For a school to be rated as failing purely on the grounds of the niqab being allowed seems for the moment improbable.
But any head teacher wanting to maintain a very inclusive uniform policy will now be able to point to Ofsted and the Department for Education in backing up their policy.
I'm not sure that any of this - whether on TV, on Twitter or on the BBC website - can truly be said to be 'impartial BBC broadcasting'.