Saturday, 22 February 2020

Another Stormy Open Thread

Never mind Storm Dennis, is the BBC facing 'a perfect storm' at the moment? 

Anyhow, batten down the hatches again, and here's a new Open Thread that looks very like the old one. 

Thank you for all your comments.

Absence makes the heart grow hostile

“From Our Own Correspondent is a weekly BBC radio programme in which a number of BBC foreign correspondents deliver a sequence of short talks reflecting on current events and topical themes in the countries outside the UK in which they are based.[1] The programme offers the BBC's correspondents around the world a chance to give a personal account of events from the epoch-making to the inconsequential.” (Wikipedia.) 
"Insight, wit and analysis from BBC correspondents, journalists and writers from around the world. (FOOC website.)

"Agenda-driven propaganda laced with ill-informed, prejudiced and unoriginal platitudes.
(Is the BBC Biased?)
D’you think the BBC can claim that this series is protected by the FOI exclusion clause “for the purpose of journalism, art and stuff like that”? If so, we can never accuse it of bias because they’ll insist it’s just someone’s personal opinion. One man’s feelings are another man’s facts; something like that.
"President Trump’s plan for peace in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories would allow Israel to apply its sovereignty to all the Jewish settlements as well as swathes of strategic land in the West Bank. The Palestinian leadership has rejected the plan outright saying it would create a "Swiss cheese state". Our Middle East Correspondent Tom Bateman spent time on two sides of a fence that separates an Israeli settlement from a Palestinian family with its own checkpoint. (FOOC website)
 Kate Adie’s intro was roughly the same as the above blurb: A Family Fenced in.

Tom Bateman’s insight, wit and analysis were absent from his contribution to today’s FOOC.  We’ve seen it all before and here it is again. The BBC can’t get enough of Bateman’s personal account of Israel’s malevolence and the Palestinians’ 'love-heart-strewn’ daily suffering. It has already been featured on the BBC, and BBC Watch covered it earlier, supplying the historical information that would have put the whole thing into its proper perspective. The BBC’s deliberate failure to include in Bateman's story essential facts surrounding this unusual situation effectively amounts to gross misinformation.

Here’s the Youtube version.  As BBC Watch writes, the comments below this video illustrate the effect this kind of thing has on public opinion. No wonder antisemitism is on the up and up.
The BBC’s motive for repeatedly airing this kind of thing? You tell me.

The will to live

Am I the only one who’s starting to think of death as a blessed relief? No. I’ve heard others saying something similar.

Two of the most depressing things I’ve seen recently. (In the interest of balance and fairness, the Guardian is in our sidebar.)
One. Owen Jones, supposedly railing against ‘hate’ The BBC normalised racism last night, pure and simple
‘Yet Question Time then saw fit to clip the 82 seconds of hate, accompanied by a succinct summary of the audience member’s rant. Lies and hatred, uncorrected and unchallenged, rippled across social media from the account of the BBC’s self-described “flagship political debate programme”
this, followed by a rant against the BBC for ‘allowing it’, a spittle-flecked reference to ”racist thug and convicted fraudster” Tommy Robinson and, in conclusion, something about a prime minister with a history of racism. All in all, an unadulterated outpouring of hate. Pure and simple. (oh for a  soup├žon of self-awareness) 

Two: Marina Hyde, in the same publication, writing about Priti Patel’s ‘perma smirk’. It takes one to know one I suppose, but Marina’s perma-expression is more of a sneer than a smirk.

Those two examples of ‘left’ (for virtue) against ‘right’ (for vice) featured high in yesterday’s Guardian’s ‘most popular’ rankings. Incidentally, Matthew Parris has also had a go at Patel in the Times. I’m no particular fan of Priti Patel, and I know nothing of bullying within the Department for International Development, (how could I?) but I do know that her off-piste dealings with Israel showed a spark of independence and imagination that I admired at the time. Parris described this as ‘a monumental error”.  Typical.

Then there’s that intellectual giant and philosophical lyricist “Dave” whose brilliance and originality Is being so much admired.

The general downgrading of everything was encapsulated in a snippet on the Today programme within a conversation between Mishal Husain and Chris Mason (why?) extolling the virtues of regional accents.  There’s regional accents and there’s lazy, dumbed down, ungrammatical, illiterate patois.

Slightly consoling though, is the knowledge that Douglas Murray has written (in the Speccie) about the Beeb’s dumbed-down arts coverage How low can the BBC goand Richard Morrison (in the Times)  The arts world is tolerant, as long as you’re left wing and anti-Brexit about the arts community’s wokeness and the new totalitarianism of the left. At least there are masses of appreciative responses.

They could almost restore the will to live.

David Dimbleby wades in

David Dimbleby is making the news today.

I'm assuming that his retirement means he's free to speak his mind these days without any inhibitions about BBC impartiality because he certainly has spoken his mind.

Not that most people will ever see him as anything other than the embodiment of the BBC, and I suspect many will see him as also speaking the BBC's mind here.

He certainly put a broad range of adjectives to use: The Government's plans to curb the licence fee are "pernicious", Boris's behaviour towards the BBC is "arrogant", "childish", "peevish" and "unpleasant", and Boris and Dom and "ignorant" and "floundering".

(Admission: I'm not innocent of this kind of language. About ten years ago I thought I'd finally captured the tone of his Question Time chairmanship with regards to certain right-wingers with the phrase "smug malice").

His criticism of Boris's personality is particularly striking. It's a very personal attack, accusing the Prime Minister of being a liar in both his public life and his personal life, including towards his family. Not very kind, is it?

Echoing one of the BBC's main themes during the general election, he says, "Nobody trusts Boris Johnson. Who could trust Boris Johnson?". 

Curiously, the BBC veteran also says, "Johnson's never governed anything, Cummings has never governed anything". I seem to recall Boris governing London as Mayor for eight years, or does that not count?

On the subject of the BBC, David Dimbleby takes the Clive Myrie line that the public needs educating:
The BBC is under threat in a way it has never been before. The pernicious route they [the Government] are using is to say the licence fee is wrong or unfair. I don't believe it is wrong or unfair.  
It is a way of damaging and undermining the BBC that is dangerous and should be resisted forcefully if public broadcasting is to survive. Anything that chips away at what we believe to be a good democratic process is dangerous and has to be fought against.  
It has to be explained why not speaking to people is dangerous, why not appearing on television is dangerous.
I rather doubt that dialling up the hostile rhetoric in this way is going to prove particularly helpful to the BBC.

How will the public see David Dimbleby (and, thus, the BBC) here? Will they think that some of the adjectives he flung at the PM and his chief advisor might apply at least as well to him (and the BBC) too?


The Times continues to be in hot pursuit of "moonlighting" BBC figures. 

Today they are pointing the finger of accusation at Mishal Husain for taking part in "at least ten private events" organised by the Norwegian gas and oil industry. 

(I know, 'The Norwegian gas and oil industry' and 'Mishal Husain' aren't phrases I'd have naturally placed together either!)

According to the paper, environmentalists are complaining that by "profiteering from polluters" she's risking "the BBC's reputation for impartiality", with someone from Extinction Rebellion adding, "This is yet another uncomfortable example of the insidious relationship between fossil fuel companies and the media." 

The Times adds, however, "There is no suggestion that Husain breached BBC guidelines." 

Indeed. Lots of BBC presenters and journalists moderate at / speak at all manner of conferences, from Evan Davis to Martin Croxall, from John Simpson to Emily Maitlis, Yolande Knell to Mark Urban, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. (Roger Harrabin, the BBC's environment analyst, for instance, has been doing so for some thirty years now.) They are fully entitled to do so. 

So what's the paper's beef with Mishal Husain?:
...However, her willingness to accept money from an industry under fire for its environmental impact raises questions about the potential conflict of interest. She is frequently required to cover climate change on the Today programme and was sent to Sweden in December to interview Greta Thunberg.
Hmm, but surely the problem won't arise unless her coverage of climate change on the Today programme turns out to be demonstrably pro-fossil fuels. (Has it been?). Her interview with Greta Thunberg, for one, didn't strike me as being even remotely unsympathetic and she didn't slyly argue for fossil fuels once during it. 

In fact, I'm much more worried about "the BBC's reputation for impartiality" when the BBC's Newsnight broadcast an investigative report in partnership with Greenpeace. That struck me as genuinely problematic. 

Pause for Art

My goodness, there's actual sunshine gushing in through my window this morning and, thankfully, no ducks taking refuge from rainwater on my windowsill. And, glancing at Twitter, I've seen a painting by an artist I was unfamiliar with and thought the blog could do with a bright hint of high summer. This is Simon Palmer's punningly-titled Drawing Across the Ocre. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, but it also looks exactly like a lane I just to regularly jog along, its ups and downs also taking my breath away. (Wonder if Simon's been painting somewhere near Morecambe?)

Friday, 21 February 2020

Why 'Downton Abbey' isn't on the BBC

Julian Fellowes, interviewed by The Times today, explains why his period dramas (like Downton Abbey) appear on ITV rather than the BBC:
I don’t want to get into a BBC fight, but they are interventionist, and want their drama and their other programmes to reflect their own position on various issues. That means that if you disagree with the BBC, then you’re not the writer for them, really.
You don't say!

BBC's worst nightmare

Wonder if Andrew Neil had anyone in particular in mind when he tweeted this last night? 
I do wish British journalists — esp Brussels-based — would stop repeating the false mantra that the EU holds all the cards in upcoming negotiations. It holds many, perhaps more than UK. But if UK left on WTO rules it would have total regulatory freedom. EU’s worst nightmare. 


As noted on the Open Thread, the identity politics-obsessed BBC intends to broadcast a two-part TV series - a "social experiment" - called Whiteness

It will be presented by a divisive identity politics-obsessed left-wing commentator, Afua Hirsch

BBC Two is presently promoting an advert / invitation for it:

As Anonymous observed, "It's like one of those adverts for people to take part in experimental research into some condition or disease." 

It would probably be for the best if no one whatsoever answered it. 

Like a polar bear on a receding piece of ice

Last night's Question Time ended with a question about the BBC.

Michael Portillo was particularly punchy about the BBC's prospects and drove on through all of Fiona Bruce's many defensive, pro-BBC interruptions. 

Here's a transcript:

Fiona Bruce: Let's take a question now from Maggie Stansfield. 
Maggie Stansfield: Should we continue to support the BBC as a universal public service broadcaster? 
Fiona Bruce: I don't know what that means, that sort of sigh, the noise in the room! Howard, I wanted to come to first on this because you were part of the Charter review for the BBC, the review that happens periodically to work out how much money the BBC should be given, if at all. And you were part of the review in 2004-05, and it looked at the licence fee, didn't it?
Howard Davies: Yes indeed. The short answer to your question, I would say, yes, personally. We looked at this 15 years ago and concluded, the licence fee is a funny thing in a way because it has several things against it. One is, of course, it's a poll tax. So the rich pay the same as the not so rich, and that's not normally the good way of taxing, really, because you like to have taxes which are progressive. So it's not good from that point of view. And the only thing it had going for it at the time... Well, two things really. One, was that actually people actually wanted it. There was a majority in favour of funding the BBC with a licence fee. So as economists, we sat there saying, well, why should we sit there and tell people they can't have what it is clear they actually want, even if it is a slightly odd way of doing it. What's changed now is that it's clear that only about a quarter of the population on recent opinion polls do favour the licence fee. So that has been a change over the 15 years since I last looked at it closely. So I think the question now has to be asked. The problem is that while the BBC appears on Freeview, it is not possible to determine who is watching the BBC at any one time, and determine whether you can have a subscription service or not because you are getting it through Freeview. I think in the long run, in ten or 15 years time, probably the BBC will have to move to some kind of a different funding model, a subscription model, when the technology is available to know exactly who is watching what, and then you can charge them appropriately for it. In the meantime, I have to say, I would stick with the licence fee. 
Fiona Bruce: Alison? 
Alison McGovern: I reserve the right to criticise the BBC when it does things that I don't like and puts on programmes I don't like...
Fiona Bruce: (interrupting) Feel free, don't mind me! 
Alison McGovern: ...but I think we all have to be a bit careful here, because I think there's a tonne of things that the BBC does that I can't see really a subscription service doing. I can't see anyone else doing. Most primary schools in the country watch Newsround now, which is absolutely brilliant. I can't see anybody making that for them for free. There's loads of programming that we all know of that's absolutely brilliant that the BBC does, so I think we have to be careful. Nobody should give the BBC a sort of free pass, and we should engage in our national support...national sport, rather, of complaining about the telly, and even shouting at it. 
Fiona Bruce: I'm sure people do that at this programme. I know they do. 
Alison McGovern: I'm sure they do, but I would say, let's all be a bit careful, because the BBC is an incredible national institution, like the National Health Service. Pretty unique to this country, and I can't see a paid-for subscription service doing some of the things that the BBC does. 
Fiona Bruce: Michael, as a former Conservative Cabinet minister, Secretary of State, what do you make of these briefings that seem to be coming out of Number 10, in the papers at the weekend? 
Michael Portillo: Do you mind if I answer the question, the main question, because I...? 
Fiona Bruce: OK. Will you do that one as well?
Michael Portillo: Yes, if you like, although that's not the area of my expertise. But I have to begin by declaring an interest, because I derive most of my income from the licence payer. (LAUGHTER). And therefore, you might be surprised when I say that I do not believe the licence fee can survive. It's partly, actually, my experience of making films. I make films with very young people. And the young people with whom I make films do not pay the licence fee. They do not have televisions. They consume their media on their mobile phones or on their laptops. And since, I think it was about two years ago, when you went on your laptop to download, to go to iPlayer and catch up, it asks you whether you have a licence fee. You now have to answer that question, so they answer no and that blocks them out of the BBC. Therefore these young people now have no connection with the BBC. They don't even watch the programmes that they make with me because they have no access to the BBC. And the BBC is losing its audience. And why? Because these people have any other number of opportunities to watch television, and they consume it as they wish and when they wish. The other extraordinary thing is that when you are abroad, you cannot consume the BBC. Or not BBC television, anyway. So even though I pay the licence fee, when I go abroad I am blocked from watching the BBC....
Fiona Bruce: (interrupting) Don't forget, the licence fee is not just for television. It's all the radio stations and online as well. 
Michael Portillo: Yes, radio is a different question and a much simpler question. But I also think that if we talk about television for the moment, there's not much evidence now on the BBC that it is performing a public service role. I don't think there is much evidence on the BBC now that they are doing things that other people could not possibly do. I mean, for example, in arts, there is almost no arts programming now on BBC television. If you want to see arts you would watch Sky Arts...
Fiona Bruce: (interrupting) Wouldn't you watch BBC Four? 
Michael Portillo: But I want to the more important point, that not only can British people not watch the BBC abroad when they have paid their licence fee, foreigners can't consume the BBC directly either. And there are eight, nine billion people out there who would be very keen to consume the BBC...
Fiona Bruce: (interrupting) You know there's BBC World? I don't want to keep butting in in the interests of accuracy... but there is BBC World. In the interests of accuracy. 
Michael Portillo: BBC World is not a real channel. The BBC is not proud of BBC World, seriously. 
Alison McGovern: I think the people who work on BBC World are probably proud of BBC World. 
Michael Portillo: I'm not sure that they are. (LAUGHTER). But the point is that, 20 years ago, Netflix was a corner shop renting video tapes. Today it is spending $10 billion per year on content. 20 years ago, the BBC... 
Fiona Bruce: (interrupting) And it is billions in debt. 
Michael Portillo: 20 years ago the BBC was a global name. Today the BBC is wedded to the licence fee. It is like a polar bear on a receding piece of ice.
Fiona Bruce: Hang on. I need to get the rest of the panel in. Ash?
Ash Sarkar: But look, I've got really strong feelings about this. I think that the BBC needs to adapt or die, but it shouldn't adapt in the direction that Dominic Cummings and his team at Number 10 are angling for it to change, which is to privatise, commercialise and no longer be licence funded model. I think the way it needs to adapt is to first be established on a permanent statutory footing so you don't have this brouhaha every ten years over the Charter renewal, in which the government of the day is able to exert a tremendous amount of political pressure by essentially holding the BBC's continuing existence hostage. I also think we need to look at things like a digital licence fee, and also taxing some of these big digital multinationals like Netflix, like Facebook, like Google, which make tremendous amounts of money in this country. I know there are a lot of people on the left who at the moment are furious with the BBC for elements of its news and current affairs coverage during the general election, and I share a lot of those criticisms. But what I would say to those people on the left who are currently saying they may as well support defunding the BBC on political grounds, is that handing over the British broadcasting environment to Rupert Murdoch, which is what would happen if we no longer had a licence payer funded BBC, is not a credible left-wing position. 
Fiona Bruce: George, what's going on? What is all this, all these briefings going out?
George Eustice: Well, there's going to be a licence fee model until at least 2027, so nothing is being done in a hurry anyway. The BBC is a cherished institution, there is no doubt about that. But I think both Michael and Howard have made good points, which is, just see how media has changed over the last decade with people now getting their content from smartphones, from iPads. Imagine what's going to happen just in the next seven years. So it's appropriate in my view to think about what the funding model should be and how best you should raise money to fund the BBC, because it can't make sense in the long term to still have a licence fee based on sort of conventional televisions that we grew up with in the 60s and 70s. At some point the model will need to change to reflect the changing way people are receiving their content. 
Fiona Bruce: And do you think public service broadcasting is possible under a different model? Does that even matter, do you think? 
George Eustice: I personally think it does, yes. I think there is an important role for public service broadcasting and this is where the difficulty comes. How do you fund that on a subscription only service? These are complex and difficult issues and that's why nothing is being done in a hurry and indeed, nothing much is going to change until 2027, which is when the licence fee model continues to at the very least. 
Ash Sarkar: So what about the sabre-rattling coming from your government, then, talking about the licence fee being under threat? Why do that if it's not in a hurry to change things? Is it just to exert a bit of influence over the appointment of the next director-general? 
George Eustice: I've not seen personally any sabre-rattling...
Ash Sarkar: (interrupting) You've never seen any sabre-rattling?! 
Fiona Bruce: It's all over the papers, the front page of the Sunday Times! 
George Eustice: I've learned not to believe everything you see in the papers...
Fiona Bruce: (interrupting) Come on, George! I mean, no one's going to believe that! You haven't been reading the papers?!
George Eustice: I don't believe everything I read in the papers, that's what I was saying. I never have.
Michael Portillo: Can I just say...Howard has referred to looking at things over ten or 15 years and George has just said everything is going to be the same until 2027. I don't think either one of you has an idea of how quickly this picture is changing and I'm deeply depressed by both those answers. I think the BBC may be in very serious difficulty if we wait until 2027 before we decide on a different model of how the BBC can be carried forward, not just as a means for us to watch television, but as a means of taking the wonders of the BBC to the world, which at the moment are not available in a modern form, that is to say they are not available to the individual who wants to buy a BBC programme at the moment that he or she chooses to watch it. 
Fiona Bruce: We have got very little time left, but you have had your hand up for quite some time. You may end up having the last word. 
Audience member: I just think the BBC is a national institution that we are all proud of. And I don't think anybody should be worrying about paying that licence fee. It's incredibly good value. What I think is the problem is what are we spending that money on, how much do we pay our presenters... And I'm not asking this to you, Fiona! If we are paying six and seven figure salaries to TV presenters, what does that actually say, coming back to the lady's first question of tonight, the people that we value in this country, the people that are doing really hard jobs, day in, day out, for a pittance, and why is that money going to pay people to do something here, when I think anybody in the audience could get up and present a programme brilliantly as well. Nothing controversial! 
Fiona Bruce: It's fighting talk. To me and Michael. 
Audience member: I'll do it for you next week if you like.
Fiona Bruce: OK, watch this space, watch this space. On that bombshell, I won't be sitting here again...What's your name?
Audience member: Michael. 
Fiona Bruce: Michael will be sitting here next week. Our hour is up. Just as well.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Holocaust denial

When I heard that David Baddiel was making this film for the BBCI did wonder if a notoriously pro-Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation and a comedian could really make a credible job of such a delicate subject. After all, does Baddiel look much like an historian? (Does he even look much like a comedian?) And is the BBC an honest broker all of a sudden?

Alarm bells went off when I heard Baddiel was off to see a Professor from the SOAS. Whose idea was that? The SOAS’s reputation (as a wing of Islamophillic academia) didn’t auger well for the programme's prospects.

Achcar’s contribution interested me the most, and unsurprisingly, it interested the MSM the least.
“…..But, about half-way through, he started talking about places where Holocaust denial was strongest, and came up with Gaza and the West Bank - ie Palestine - with a figure of 82%. So he headed off to SOAS to meet a supposed authority on the subject, Professor Gilbert Achcar.
So what did Achcar have to say for himself here, to Baddiel? Basically, he argued that because the Palestinians live in such a state of miserable oppression under the Israelis, their Holocaust denial should be seen as a “provocative” means of hurting their enemy - a kind of "fuck you" to their oppressors. “I don’t think you can generally, without some degree of pathology, be a Holocaust denier in Europe. But you can be perfectly sane and be a Holocaust denier in the Middle East because of ignorance of the topic,” he said. In other words there's "bad Holocaust denial" - the Western kind - and "good Holocaust denial" - the Arab kind. 
Arab Holocaust denial, in other words, gets a pass. As does Arab always. No mention of Holocaust denial in the Middle East outside Palestine, so comprehensively documented, for instance, at MEMRI. No mention of Iran, or Syria, where denial is government sponsored.  
The subject wasn't pursued. Achcar's vile excuse for Palestinian Holocaust denial - understandable because of what the Jews are doing to them - was left unchallenged. Baddiel, to his credit, wasn't happy with that "good Holocaust denial" vs "bad Holocaust denial" distinction. But the episode still left a bad taste in what was otherwise an excellent programme.
You will have to read the whole thing and follow the links if you want to make sense of the following observations from me. (Forgive the proliferation of parentheses.)
Suffice it to say that just because an ideologically antisemitic individual like the good professor has been gracious enough to concede that the overwhelming documentary evidence of (the enormity of) the holocaust may have some validity, it doesn’t mean that this person is committed to impartiality where Jews are concerned. It doesn't guarantee consummate objectivity where personal prejudices might colour his judgement. 
Therefore his attitude to the Israeli / Palestinian situation is likely to be as objective as a fox in a henhouse.

Me and David Baddiel, (an unlikely couple)  can’t be the only non-observant, secular Jews who have only come to appreciate the significance of our heritage comparatively late in life. The question of confronting our ‘identity’ hasn’t been urgently thrust upon us by the (current) rising tide of antisemitism or the (thankfully) transitory threat of a Corbyn regime. Not quite yet; and unfortunately, forbidding political atmospheres are just as likely to propagate a seasonal crop of  ‘AsaJews’ who align themselves with antisemites as a glut of secular Zionists like me. 

My ‘Talmudic-like’ thoroughness (that’s a semi-insult I’ve had thrown at me) has compelled me to look at as many reviews of this programme as I can digest, and I have to say that Anthony Julius’s advice (“don’t go there”) was well worthy of consideration. Julius knew, of course, that it the MSM would automatically bestow the oxygen of publicity upon Holocaust-denying self-publicists like songsmith Dermot “Mulqueer”. Mul very queer indeed. 

Predictably, that was the only part of the programme that ‘OMG The Daily Mail’ was interested in. Mind you, the musical interlude can’t have done the poor chap’s musical career much good, and it was heartening to see that the comments in the Mail were overwhelmingly negative about the Irishman and supportive of Baddiel.  

The verdict? A curate’s egg. While Baddiel was thoughtful and sympathetic, it was unforgivable that he wasn’t able to challenge Professor Achcar on the most pertinent aspect of Holocaust denial, and the one with the most relevance to the rise in antisemitism. The selective blindness which pointedly (and necessarily) avoids acknowledging the driver behind it - Islamic antisemitism.

The highest Holocaust denial statistic (82%) was gathered from the Palestinian territories. Mahmoud Abbas’s so-called academic credentials are based on it. The BBC’s inability and unwillingness to address Islamic antisemitism is another manifestation of the same old missing link.  The unwillingness to confront something so basic makes its absence all the more glaringly conspicuous and its very absence propels it.


Another day, another example of identity politics lunacy treated as 'a real thing' by the BBC:

The tweeting public aren't convinced though. The helpful responses to Alex's question include: Potatoheads, Ferengi (from Star Trek), folk from Bolton, Linekers, Bert & Ernie from Sesame Street, blow-up dolls, Essex girls and a race of Prince Charles/Mick Jagger hybrids. I myself think the racism is directed against one of the most vulnerable minority groups in our society, the Oddbods from Carry on Screaming. 

Ash to ash, dust to dust

I see the BBC continues to champion Ash:

Liking the way the BBC captions her "journalist".

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

The Honesty Party

Warning. This may seem slightly off-topic but it's not entirely unrelated to BBC bias and I'm going to say it. Each time we see the last-trio-standing in the Labour leadership cabaret another massive haemorrhage of credibility squirts out; the last vestiges finally oozed out during C 4’s ‘hustings’. 

We have some irreconcilable, antithetical positions. Number one, the so-called support for the “Right of Israel to Exist” as proclaimed earnestly by Lisa Nandy and through gritted teeth by Rebecca Long-Bailey (and not at all by Keir Starmer (?)) against the diametrically opposed and equally enthusiastic support for the Palestinian cause with its inherent desire for the non-existence of Israel.

Number two, the right of people with a penis to self-identify (as women) against the right of biological women to exclude them from the few remaining women-only spaces. 

Cases of rape or sexual assault may be rare in such circumstances, but even on the grounds of modesty alone (which apparently is a big thing in a community that traditionally encourages segregation of the sexes and regards venturing out without your burka as ‘asking for it’) if you sign a pledge to the effect that everyone else is expected to welcome the presence of women-with-penises in the few remaining intimate female situations, you must at least have the intelligence to acknowledge that these positions are irreconcilable and contradictory.

Incidentally, has no-one in the Labour Party noticed that ‘no place in our party for antisemitism’ discriminates against, nay, disqualifies a substantial section of their culturally antisemitic fan-base from having a place in their precious party, while their new-fangled advocacy of aggressive trans-rights discriminates against and alienates feminists. Or just women. 

This craze for legitimising self-identification changes everything. When applied to competitive sport we already have a huge, masculine trans-man-to-woman competing against biological women in ‘women’s’ cycling events, so let’s allow able-bodied sportspersons to identify as disabled and make the Paralympics implode. 

Lisa Nandy has all but spontaneously combusted by snatching potential defeat from the jaws of unexpectedly coming-from-behind. And she looked so promising before we saw that she has signed these ill-conceived, bordering on antisemitic, pledges. 

  1. “To oppose any proposed solution for Palestinians, including Trump’s ‘deal’, not based on international law and UN resolutions recognising their collective rights to self-determination and to return to their homes. 
  2. "To adhere to a consistent ethical UK trade policy, including in relation to Israel, in particular by applying international law on settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians.
  3. "To oppose the government’s proposed restrictive legislation regarding procurement and investment and, if that is passed, to promise that a future Labour government would make it a priority to rescind laws which restrict the globally recognised rights to freedom of expression and association to campaign for ethical trade policies.”
What’s the problem? 
"Prospective leaders of any major party shouldn’t be having their stance on Israel and the Palestinians dictated by the PSC, an organisation that has never committed to a two state solution, never accepted Israel’s right to exist, leads the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) campaign in the UK, and has failed to deal with antisemitism in its own ranks.
The pledges say nothing at all about Israel or two states. 
In fact, the first one undermines the concept of two states with a reference to a complete right of return. We know from its campaigning that PSC don’t mean a symbolic settlement of this issue with small numbers of Palestinians returning to Israel, and compensation for others, it argues for the absolute right to live in Israel of all descendants of Palestinian refugees, about seven million people. This would mean Israel ceasing to exist as a Jewish state. There would be two Palestinian states, not two states for two peoples.

One plausible suggestion for an outside-the-box, vote-winning, strategy for Labour is to ditch the pretence. (I'm not sure that Dawn Butler isn't ahead of the curve already.) At least they wouldn’t have to make contorted arguments that do not compute, and at least they could run on a unique platform of extreme, radical honesty.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020


Michael Rosen is such an engaging  presenter of BBC Radio 4's Word of Mouth that his considerably less pleasant political side still keeps springing nasty surprises.

Here he was on Twitter this very morning trolling the British Jewish Board of Deputies: 

As you'd expect, he's had well over a thousand 'likes' from his Corbynista followers, delighted to have got one over on the Jews. 

There's just one problem though: The Board of Deputies had protested to the Government about Andrew Sabisky's appointment, yesterday, 12 hours before Michael Rosen sent out that tweet.

In true Corbynista fashion, when it was pointed out to him (within the last half an hour) that "they posted condemning his appointment long before you tweeted this", he replied (to yet more 'likes' from his adoring fans), "I can see ‘registering our concerns’. Is that ‘condemning’?"

Well, he clearly didn't look very far. The Board of Deputies tweet in full was:
It is right that Andrew Sabisky is no longer working for the Government. We had registered our concerns with Downing St earlier. There can be no place for such views in our politics. 
If that's not 'condemning', then what is?

As a consummate wordsmith, he knows that, of course. He just doesn't want to lose face in front of his fanatical fans and is trying to bluff and blag his way out of having to apologise to the hated Corbyn critics at the Board of Deputies. 

Tut, tut! What would linguist Dr Laura Wright say, Michael?


Don't open the champagne yet!

Andrew Neil sums up today's lead story in The Times as, "Hilarious! PM moves to protect BBC from his own government". 

It's all about those "sources" again. There are two of them in this latest article. One says, “The PM is not as gung ho on the licence fee as Dom. With Dom it’s ideological — he believes the licence fee should be scrapped. With the PM it’s more reform than revolution,” while the other one says that Boris is personally “cool” on the idea of scrapping the licence fee. 

Much less confusing is John Whittingdale telling The Critic: There are large parts of the country that haven’t got broadband or indeed choose not to pay for it. You are turning round to all those households that don’t have fast broadband and saying, ‘You can’t get the BBC any more.’ Politically that would be utterly impossible. It is just not possible to make the BBC a voluntary subscription service for as long as it is broadcast on Freeview. We are some way off being able to switch off Freeview and put it all online.

Meanwhile, the BBC and its allies, including The Guardian and plenty of celebrities, are on manoeuvres. From Labour to the Conservatives, the various posses of the corporation's political friends are also riding to its rescue, all guns blazing. As you've been noting in the comments, even its supposed political critics - Lord Adonis, Alastair Campbell & Co. - have given up their cynical pretence of being anti-BBC and are manning the barricades for 'the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation'. The war is far from over.

More questions

Mark Wallace of ConservativeHome had a question - and a pair of paradoxes:
How can it be appropriate, impartial or within BBC rules for senior journalists at the Corporation to use BBC-branded Twitter accounts to promote political campaign material claiming "The government have declared war on our BBC" and comparing the PM to Donald Trump?

The BBC: We are deeply loved by the public. Also the BBC: Funding us by voluntary subscription would destroy the BBC.

The BBC: We are impartial and take no part in political campaigning. Also the BBC: Sign this petition attacking the govt for suggesting voluntary subscription!

Questions of story selection

A hot topic on my social media feeds over the past couple of days had been the extraordinary folly engulfing Labour over the trans issue, especially (a) the statement by Lisa Nandy ("the sensible one") that trans prisoners - including rapists - should be held in jails that match their self-declared gender and (b) the ideologically-driven flat-earthery of Labour shadow minister Dawn Butler telling ITV's Good Morning Britain that “a child is born without a sex”.

Except for Andrew Marr tacking Rebecca Long-Bailey on a related matter on Sunday, the BBC has shown very little interest in this - for some reason. Well might Patrick O'Flynn tweet:
Who in  BBC News is deciding that Labour's trans madness is not a major story? Much of the BBC's increasingly extreme bias is imposed via its story selection, not just its story treatment. 
Well BBC Politics website running nothing on Lab leader contenders' trans lunacy as of now. Can it be that none of the dozens of Beeb political correspondents has noticed the story? I suggest not. There is clearly a de facto ban on covering furores that challenge the extreme woke orthodoxy.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Clive mired

Such sentiments, so charmingly expressed, can hardly fail to win people over, can they?

And talking of charmers, here's that nice James O'Brien riding to the BBC's defence:

"Get it yet?"

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Andrew Marr and RL-B (and Angela too)

Not RL-B

The best laid plans of mice and Labour leadership contenders...

I don't want to be rude, but Becky is useless at interviews. She's like an ineptly-programmed robot. Even Andrew Marr managed to tie her in knots and run rings round her, especially over the trans issue and antisemitism. 

On the latter, just like her ideological progenitor Papa Corbyn, she somehow 'couldn't recall' that she'd been at a widely-reported meeting where JC (to a storm of controversy afterwards) said something she herself has stated is antisemitic:
AM: Alright, let’s talk about another big issue. You have stood up to antisemitism in the party, you said, yes?
RLB: Yes.
AM: Do you recognise this sentence? ‘It should not be regarded as antisemitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances surrounding its foundation as racist.’
RLB: I think under the International Holocaust Movement’s definition it would be antisemitic to regard Israel as a racist endeavour.
AM: So you regard that sentence as antisemitic? You’ve said that?
RLB: I don’t think it’s racist to stand up for the right – or antisemitic, should I say, or racist, either/or to stand up for the right of Israel to exist. And that’s something that I very much support. But I also support a two-state solution and don’t condone the actions of the Israeli government in terms of illegal settlements etc, etc. And that’s why it’s so important... 
AM: That sentence – you in the past have said was antisemitic. There was a National Executive Committee meeting in October 2018 where Jeremy Corbyn arrived and read out that statement as a proposed addition to the Labour Party policy. You must have been horrified when that happened.
RLB: I think under the IHRA definitions it’s very important to make it clear that supporting the right of Israel to exist and not kind of examining in any great detail the history is not – it’s incompatible with the definition of antisemitism, quite frankly. And we need to be very careful on that. But that doesn’t discriminate against... 
AM: Sorry to interrupt, but when you heard that statement made by Jeremy Corbyn, which you have described as antisemitic, did you speak out against it at the time?
RLB: I don’t remember the incident itself. It was mentioned to me at a meeting the other night and I don’t recall it.
AM: You were at that meeting. 
RLB: Well, I don’t recall that statement being made. But I’m very clear on us not questioning the right of Israel to exist, and certainly not saying that in any way it’s a racist endeavour. I’m clear on that, Andrew.
AM: This happens at the moment when the antisemitism row is at its height in the Labour Party. You’re at an NEC meeting, your leader arrives and reads out a statement which you regard as antisemitic, and you can’t remember that?
RLB: And why I’m being clear on what my view on this is, Andrew, I do not think that it’s right to call Israel or the creation of Israel a racist endeavour. I think that that’s antisemitic. And we’ve got to recognise where we are on antisemitism within the party. We have not taken enough action. It’s not been robust enough. And as Labour leader I would adopt any recommendations made by the EHRC, I would atop the ten pledges made by the Board of Deputies, and I would restore trust with the Jewish community.
AM: Rebecca Long-Bailey, thanks very much indeed for talking to us today.
Andrew seemed much more taken with Angela Rayner. He's previously called her "charismatic" and was 'bigging' her up again today. She'd have his vote any day, I suspect. 

Grant Shapps was perky, and skated through his interview. 

The programme ended with Benjamin Grosvenor playing the piano - a brilliant bonbon by Moritz Moszkowski, performed beautifully. 

Here is a somewhat younger Benjamin performing something more substantial: 

Just one more thing...

"We can advise you that the information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion…"

One of the cleverest things Oliver Dowden  and John Whittingdale could do is relax the FOI derogation the BBC is afforded and abuses. This would shine a spotlight on the BBC no amount of DCMS select committees or ministerial enquires could.

Get Cummings

The Mail on Sunday has another dramatic headline today: Man who claims Dominic Cummings assaulted him is set to be interviewed by Emily Maitlis in BBC documentary

The paper reports that BBC producers are set to interview a man who alleges that Mr Cummings "grabbed him by the lapels and pinned him to a wall" two decades ago after "an explosive radio debate". (What a scoop!) 

It will be part of an Emily-led documentary profile (hatchet job?) on Dominic Cummings. 

I'm sure this news will be read with interest, if little surprise, in Downing Street. They'd surely have expected that the BBC would be coming for Dom sooner or later. 

A baker's dozen

This won't come as a surprise to us, but The Mail on Sunday has carried out an "analysis" of the BBC's coverage of the Democratic Party primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire and found that 13 BBC correspondents covered them.

The paper's headline is: What cuts? The BBC has THIRTEEN reporters covering the US election trail... while back home, it's axing up to 450 jobs in £80m savings drive

The MoS points out that Emily Maitlis "jetted across the Atlantic at considerable expense" for a couple of Newsnights, despite the programme already having a US correspondent (David Grossman) involved in the coverage.

They also point out that Christian Fraser "flew out from London to join his Washington-based co-host Katty Kay in Iowa" for Beyond 100 Days.

The BBC, of course, says there's nothing wrong with this ridiculous wastefulness, adopting the 'it's not as bad as usual' defence:
The BBC has a huge amount of output across our news channels, bulletins, radio, online programming and podcasts. This election is being primarily covered by our US-based team… meaning we have sent far fewer London staff than we have ever done previously.

Emily M liked


James Delingpole, for one, isn't impressed:
"I stitched someone up. Got caught out. So now I believe passionately that all the people who criticised me should be censored."

RLB and the BBC

Far-left Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey will be 'platformed' and 'normalised' by The Andrew Marr Show today. 

Becky herself was tweeting  last night:
I’ll be talking to Andrew Marr in the morning about my proposals for a People’s BBC owned by staff & the public.  
In response to Tory attacks, the BBC must be freed from government control & guaranteed as a cornerstone of public knowledge in our democracy.
Really? Is that what she's going on the BBC to talk about? 

I do hope it is, because it will be fascinating to see how Andrew Marr questions her about what, precisely, she means by all of that: 

How exactly, under Becky L-B's rule, will BBC staff "own" the BBC?

And what if most of them are soggy-left/Blairites - like Andrew Marr, minus the Iraq War, which he opposed - rather than far-left types like her? 

And how exactly will the public "own" the BBC when she becomes PM?

Direct democracy? The public choosing the next BBC DG?

What if it's another Leaver win? Or a Corbyn-loathing, red-wall-breaking vote against the likes of her?

Or will unrepresentative, thuggish Momentum 'Owen Jones' types simply be gerrymandered into place as representatives/tribunes of the people, and Paul Mason made BBC director-general? 

And how exactly will far-left Becky, as an anti-privatisation leftist, "free" the BBC from government control? And what on earth (and beyond) does she actually mean by that from her seemingly ill-thought-out, ideology-driven position?

And how will she guarantee the BBC as "a cornerstone of public knowledge in our democracy" if many, probably the majority of voters, don't agree with her view of "public knowledge"?

I do hope that Andy Marr won't duck this and that Rebecca Long-Bailey gets to debate the whole BBC thing with him this morning without him changing the subject at the first mention of BBC matters.