Saturday 12 September 2020

She's back!

To paraphrase: "Hello, Hello. It's good to be back, it's good to be back" 

Sorry, what with one thing and another, this blog seems to have been lying in the reeds, dying, this year at times. 

What's the next step, waiting in the wings? 

Well, whatever it may be...

Like an animal trapped in a hot car, I watched the controversial Emily Maitlis's return to controversial Newsnight after her controversial brief summer holiday. For old time's sake.

With a flashed smile, Emily said it was "nice to be back". 

And, whatever else you can say about it, she was certainly back, going after the Government for 'breaking international law'. 

I was wanting to see if she'd paid the slightest bit of attention to Tim Davie's call to arms on impartiality.

When I saw that she was going to conduct a joint interview between a pro-EU, ex-Conservative opponent of Boris Johnson (David Gauke) and a former Brexit Party MEP (Ben Habib) I metaphorically rubbed my hands in anticipation. 

What better test could there be? Would she be even-handed, put appropriate devil's advocate questions from different positions, etc?

My old interruptions test probably tells you all you need to know. She interrupted Ben Habib 11 times and David Gauke only 1 time - and that lone interruption of David Gauke was only so that she could get right back to bullying Ben Habib.

She didn't even make the faintest attempt at even-handedness. The two points she put to David Gauke were ones entirely in line with his own point of view. They helped him. (Hope he properly thanked her, maybe with flowers, later). Every one of her points to Ben Habib, in contrast, was a hostile one, contradicting him and challenging him, and doing from a position of disdain and moral superiority.

To put it only slightly fancifully, David Gauke was obviously there to be egged on, and Ben Habib was even more obviously there to be placed in the stocks and have rotten eggs chucked at him.

It was partisan, partial broadcasting, as plain as a pikestaff on the nose of your face. 

She knows exactly what she's doing, and Esme Wren (her editor) allows it.

I wonder if she meant it as a defiant one-finger-salute to Tim Davie?

Here's a thought: maybe the Government's boycott of Newsnight is something that everyone who opposes this or any other kind of egregious bias should adopt when dealing with the programme, however tempting it is to be on TV and however confident you feel in your own abilities. The presenter on a BBC programme has what Theodore Roosevelt called the bully pulpit, and if they are determined to use it to bully just one side of the argument and grind them into the dust (as Emily was here) then, unless their intended victim is seriously prepared to fight fire with well-grounded flamethrowers, then how on earth is it worth it? 

Is there a defence of Emily here?

The usual line that she was only holding power to account doesn't work. Both Mr Gauke and Mr Habib are ex-politicians, no longer sitting in the palaces of power - and Mr Habib was never even an MP or a minister.

So I'm assuming the disingenuous line Newsnight will go with, if challenged, is that Emily only went in so hard against Ben Habib because he was 'defending breaking the law' and David Gauke 'wasn't - though that is entirely the kind of dispute the BBC should keep its distance from rather than wading into on behalf on one side of one argument. 

And Emily has a track record here. It's in her DNA (h/t Helen Boaden). Judge her over time, and she doesn't balance out, due impartiality-wise.

A modest proposal then to end: Sack her and send her off with Lewis Goodall to a reality love island in the South Atlantic. 

Be kind though, and allow them both their beloved Twitter. They'd both wither and die without Twitter. Lewis even tweeted his opinion on the Government 'breaking international law' after "signing off" for a two-week holiday. I just  knew he wouldn't be able to leave Twitter alone for two weeks. He's a Twitterholic.

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