Friday, 10 November 2017

Colluding with a foreign government


The Priti Patel affair has left a nasty stench. Before they lost interest in it, fickle as usual, the BBC spent a few days frantically rationalising their own hysteria.  The gravity of Priti Patel’s misdemeanour was protested "too much" and amplified, as if this particular breach of ministerial code was unique and unforgivable and that’s all there was to it. 

Christian Fraser, talking to Katty Kay, spent quite a while explaining that this fuss has nothing to do with the fact, you understand, that the country in question was you-knew-where. This seemed a little outside their "Beyond 100 days" Trump-bashing remit. 
Had the country in question been, say, Uganda, Bolivia, Timbuctoo, Honolulu, Namibia or Kathmandu, the response would have been just the same, you’d better believe it. That was the gist - but is anyone at the BBC aware of the torrent of antisemitic bile that has been unleashed?

The Guardian’s live, minute-by-minute updates tracking the progress of Priti Patel’s plane journey home were pure “The Day Today”. They weren’t actually trying to be funny of course.

Melanie Phillips has another “must read” piece on this fiasco. Do click on the link and read it.

This piece by Seth Frantzen "ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL: THOUGHTS ON THE PRITI PATEL RESIGNATION AND ISRAEL" covers the whole event in some detail and contains some pertinent links to Twitter etc.  It made me wonder  who ‘leaked’ to James Landale and what was their intent?
“In a piece at Tablet Eylon Aslan-Levy asserts that “there isn’t an antisemitic undertone to the reporting. But the press spin of secret meetings, with questions about wealthy Jewish lobbyists helping Israel gain underhand influence over British policy, runs the risk of pushing some worrying buttons.” He goes on, “if the news cycle in Britain decides to drag this story on rather than jump to the next manufactured crisis, Britain’s Jewish community will be unnerved by what a bored punditocracy could do with such fecund material for a conspiracy.” Tom Gross has asserted in i24 that the ousting might be due to “undercurrents of anti-semitism.”

I’d really like to know who alerted James Landale to this business in the first place, and why. I’m not blaming the messenger you understand. Just curious. Was it someone in the FCO? Someone who knew it was the sort of thing the BBC would appreciate. “I saw this, and I thought of you”

“colluding with a foreign government”, Lord Falconer called it on the Today Programme aided and abetted by Nick Robinson. Compared with Robinson's recent hostile interview with  Tzipi Hotovely, he seemed quite benign here. He may have asked the right questions, but without much conviction, and he allowed Falconer to perpetuate some unpleasant antisemitic tropes, unchallenged.

From BBC Watch:
One of those items included a discussion (from 02:13:45 here) between presenter Nick Robinson, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt and former Labour politician Lord Falconer who accused Priti Patel of “colluding with a foreign government” and looking “like she’s much more the emissary of the Israeli government than a member of the British government”. 
When Robinson asked “if she’d told the Foreign Office would that have made it OK?”, Falconer painted a garish caricature of the actual story that went completely unchallenged by Robinson. 
Falconer: “I doubt it because the whole feel of the thing is that she – without officials, without telling anybody – which I think is one element only, was talking to them and instead of saying look I come with the British government’s view, I come with my own view. Let’s work out – the Israeli government and Miss Patel – how we can get assets out of the British government to help Israel. That does not look to me like the activity of a British government minister.” [emphasis added] 
Later on in the conversation (02:16:57) Nick Robinson posed the following question:
Robinson: “Isn’t part of a subtext here, Charlie Falconer, that some people dislike the fact that Priti Patel is pro-Israel? Maybe the Foreign Office dislikes that and that this is a particular case rather than a general one? You’ve even accused her of trying to raise money for a leadership bid.” 
Falconer: “Well I don’t know whether she’s doing that or not but I mean it obviously positions her well with those who are very pro-Israel, who would like to see a pro-Israel leader of either the Tory or the Labour party.” 
Clearly understanding Falconer’s insinuation, Robinson then made an observation that – in light of the BBC’s ‘Jewish lobby’ record – is worthy of note. 
Robinson: “I’ve got to put it to you, you know, there’ll be some people in the Jewish community listening to that and saying that’s the sort of paranoia about the Jewish community that is unacceptable.” 
Falconer: “It’s nothing to do with paranoia about any particular country or any particular group. You do not want a prime minister who is in hock to the United States of America. You do not want a prime minister who is in hock to any particular group.” 
“In hock” is defined as meaning “owing money to a person or organisation, or forced to do things for them because they have lent you money or have helped you”.
The conversation then moved on, with Robinson posing no further challenge to Falconer’s barely veiled promotion of the type of age-old tropes concerning scheming “pro-Israel” groups, governments, power and money that, until now, the BBC had over the last couple of years appeared to try to expunge from its content.  

3 comments:

  1. Sorry Sue, can't agree with you. It wasn't a misdemeanour. It was a MAJOR breach of the ministerial code compounded by a lack of openness when the offence came to the attention of the PM. One of the first things she will have been briefed is not going off and holding meetings relevant to her responsibilities without first alerting civil servants. Government would be in complete chaos if these rules weren't followed and the risk of intended or unintended corruption.

    It would have been a major problem whatever the country. But Israel was far worse than say Botswana given the foreign policy sensitivities in that region. I say that as a strong supporter of Israel's right to exist and prosper.

    I just can't understand why Priti Patel blundered into this, given she is quite an experienced politician.

    Lord Falconer - what a piece he is. Sent his four children to public schools. Seems almost de rigeur for pro-comp Labour politicians. To be fair to Corbyn, at least he opted for sacrificing his children to the tender mercies of an inner London comp education and hence divorce from the sensible mother of his children rather than put them into private education.

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    1. First chance to get near the computer today. I don’t think you can have read Seth Frantzman’s or Melanie Phillips’s articles (as linked)

      Your main argument is against a point I did not make. To clarify, I daresay Priti Patel’s breach of ministerial code was very serious; no doubt it was sacking offence, and I agree she was a fool to have blundered into it under the circumstances.

      But just look at the circumstances. Yes, there are foreign policy ‘sensitivities’ for the government. There’s the pro-Palestinian movement to pacify and the antisemites and the Arabists at the FCO to appease. If the media had presented a fair picture of the ‘regional sensitivities’ over the years, Priti Patel could have had her meetings sanctioned in the proper manner - without let or hindrance, and this mess wouldn’t have arisen.

      It’s a pity that the government couldn’t reveal what really happened and who knew what, when.
      It looks very much like someone has been economical with the actualit√©, and it’s particularly sad to see the BBC turning a blind eye to the antisemitic bile that their ‘scoop’ has unleashed.

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  2. I suspect there is more to this business than meets the eye. Meetings are one thing; actual spending would have fallen prey to many more pairs of eyes.

    Falconer always struck me as slimy. A poor choice of interviewee then if the task was to promote a cause (in my view anyway). A turn off.

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