If, unlike me, you had a late night last night you might have heard this Twitter row resounding round the country like a long, low rumble of thunder. Even if you didn't, crack open the popcorn now. The spat involves a Newsnight reporter and a famous Mail on Sunday columnist:
Deborah Cohen: Just as you’re hoping for a quiet Friday night and having a glass of wine, the editor lobs the face mask debate hand grenade into your in tray for tonight’s programme...Matthew Kirtley: Might be one for Peter Hitchens to speak on? He's the most anti-mask public figure I know of.Peter Hitchens: I have turned it down. After three months of being ignored by the totally one-sided BBC, on Covid, this is not the issue on which I wish to return to the airwaves.Deborah Cohen: I’d like to see the evidence for the allegation I’ve been one sided. That’s quite an accusation.Peter Hitchens: I have made no allegation against you Deborah Cohen, and cannot see why you think I did. The charge is clearly against the BBC as a whole. I have too little knowledge of your work to have made any such accusation against you.Deborah Cohen: Well you can’t really make the allegation the BBC is totally one sided if you’re not on top of BBC output then can you?Peter Hitchens: Your contention Deborah Cohen is that I am ‘not on top of BBC output’ if I am not familiar with your work on a small-audience late show? Isn’t that a tiny bit self-regarding?Deborah Cohen: Coming from the man who spat his dummy out for not being heard enough by the BBC.Peter Hitchens: That is just abuse Deborah Cohen, which has nothing to do with the point under discussion. You’re supposed to be a professional specialist, but you badly misread my tweet, then, when your error was pointed out, chose not to admit it but switched to personal rudeness. Not very good.
Yesterday, indeed, appears to mark another step in Mr Hitchens's change of heart towards the corporation:
Peter Hitchens: Three months of almost total silence from the BBC, which has betrayed its charter and agreement by failing even to acknowledge the existence of opposition to the state-sponsored panic. And now an invitation for a cameo in a six-minute item on muzzles on Newsnight. Was surprised by how very much I did not want to appear. Told them to put it where the sun doesn't shine. I used to defend the BBC to other conservatives. Now I am very close to ripping up my TV licence.