Thank you for your comments.
Sunday, 29 November 2020
Third Half (sic) of November Open Thread
The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day.
Sunday was truly outrageous today, suggesting any criticism of transgendered men should be silence in case it 'gives offence.'
It won the programme plaudits from a few Twitter folk though.
Meanwhile, this week's Sunday also contained yet another plug for a book written or co-written by someone from the left-leaning Catholic magazine The Tablet, of which Sunday's main presenter Ed Stourton remains a trustee.
I've counted four such book plugs for senior Tablet folk, past and present, in the past couple of months.
Still, at least the Advent edition of Sunday Worship that followed featured one of my favourite choral pieces - Ubi Caritas by the French composer Maurice Duruflé. Unfortunately, the reader talked all over it. So, to make up for that, here's the full thing - uninterrupted:
Saturday, 28 November 2020
A missing detail
One for Bella Sankey (see post above): November trees - the South Downs...
A tale of the BBC and two presidents
Iran's President Rouhani blames Israel for the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, saying his country won't be deterred from its nuclear ambitions.
Iran's President Rouhani, without providing any evidence, blames Israel for the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, saying his country won't be deterred from its nuclear ambitions.
Moving on up
|President Liz Bonnin|
The appointments will raise questions about BBC presenters’ outside roles after Tim Davie, the director-general, warned he would fire stars who make major breaches of impartiality guidelines on social media.
|Vice-President Gillian Burke|
Fisking 'an Arabic speaker'
So let’s separate the myths from the facts. Fisk did not speak fluent Arabic, not even after living in the Middle East for more than 40 years. Leaving aside the testimony of Arabic speakers who worked alongside him, his lack of basic knowledge of the language is contained multiple times within his own work, such as his inability to tell the difference between the words “mother” and “nation” in a well-known Ba’athist slogan.
One for the BBC's fact checkers?
Performing somersaults with gusto
We know [the BBC] has been paying itself far too much for years because its defence now is that it’s no longer doing so. Yet if you boast about cutting Gary Lineker’s income, for example, by £400,000, who takes responsibility for having overpaid him so much for so long? No one. For years, the official BBC line on pay was: we can’t tell you what we’re paying ourselves because otherwise all our talent will be snatched away (by namelessly wealthy rival employers, they live in the next media village, you wouldn’t know them). Then it was obliged to tell us and the line became: we’re worth it. This was followed by, we’re sorry, our pay structure was racist and sexist — who did that? — but now it’s not: give us more money please.On a related theme, there's an amusing story from Patrick Kidd in The Times today:
For the Tory leadership contest 30 years ago this week, Radio 4 sent three wise men to follow the stars: Steve Richards with Michael Heseltine, Huw Edwards with Douglas Hurd and Robert Orchard with John Major. If only the IT hadn’t been in the hands of asses. The first technology failure came when someone played the wrong pre-recorded bulletin after the first ballot, announcing that Heseltine had won. At the second ballot the studio producer failed to hear Richards bellowing “Come to me now! Now!” in his ear and so missed Hezza’s concession speech, while Edwards was “apoplectic” that his magisterial analysis of Hurd chucking it in was binned because the radio car sent to relay his report couldn’t find anywhere to park. “It was all a serious cock-up,” Richards says. “As usual, those responsible got promoted.”
"Do you ever feel that you are being played?"
"Oh, I could spend my life having this conversation - look - please try to understand before one of us dies"
|John Cleese, thinking about BBC executives|
John Otto Cleese is displeased with the BBC's pandering to 'wokes':
I hear the BBC has apologised for a joke made in 2014. [Actually 2009]. I would like to apologise for the BBC in 2020. The executives are a craven clique of humorless jobsworths, none of whom are worth their salaries.
The irony about the occasion when the BBC withdrew the 'Germans' episode, was that no one was concerned about whether the Germans were offended! Why not? Presumably because people think of Germans as proper grown-ups who can take a joke. And, in fact, they love that episode. [Didn't the BBC actually withdraw it because of certain words used by the Major?]
So when wokes protest about humour involving certain groups, presumably it's because wokes don't regard these groups as grown-ups who can take a joke. Which seems to me to be very condescending. Perhaps the only people who really can't take a joke are the woke folk.
So if the wokes would like to provide us all with a comprehensive list of these frail people who require the wokes to protect them, I hereby undertake never to make jokes about the poor creatures again.
Friday, 27 November 2020
Can things get any crazier?
Bottom of the League
For so long a world leader, the BBC has grown fat and metropolitan, increasingly scorning the views of the parochial people who are forced to pay for it. When given its head, the BBC can still produce brilliant shows like Strictly Come Dancing but, at an institutional level, it behaves more and more like an embarrassing relative deciding to dance with the kids at a wedding. It’s hard to resist the impression of smug people who think they know better than the rest of us. The consoling glory is that none of us has to tune in any more.
No-one over the age of 55 who tries to watch BBC television or listen to its radio services will be surprised to learn, from Ofcom’s latest report on the Corporation, that people in their demographic are gradually giving up on it. As one in that age group, my own consumption of what the BBC offers is largely restricted to Radio 3, which shines like the proverbial good deed in a naughty world.
Elsewhere, Radio 4 appears to have become Victim Radio, with an endless stream of programmes featuring people, usually from minorities, complaining about some injustice, usually inflicted on them by the state. This schedule of gloom is punctuated by profoundly unfunny Leftist comedians (I use that noun in its broadest, often unintentional sense). My wife likes Gardeners’ World, but that is becoming ostentatiously woke and in any case is now off for the winter. Other than that, little else appeals: the world our age group really wants to see on television is best represented on the Talking Pictures channel, whose success, believe me, is not coincidental to the BBC’s decline.
Thursday, 26 November 2020
Only, just, controversial
Tweeter 1: I've just watched the BBC News item on cutting foreign aid. The opening clip shows food being dropped directly to the people. That's the image they want you to take in - not grants to NGOs and Governments. Manipulation.
Tweeter 2: Said exactly the same thing myself when I saw that last night. They also opened up with the comment ‘widely criticised policy’ as opposed to ‘widely supported’ which it undoubtedly is across the UK. Total bias yet again in the way they portray/report!
BBC Newsreader: One of the more controversial aspects of the spending review is the Chancellor's decision to cut - for the time being - the amount of money the UK gives in aid to poorer countries. Mr Sunak told MPs that to carry on spending abroad when we have a domestic emergency would be difficult to justify to the British people. Here's James Landale.
James Landale: For years, the sight of a plane delivering British food and medicine has brought hope to millions. The humanitarian assistance and development that can, for some, mean the difference between life and death.
Isn't British aid wonderful!
James Landale: But now the Government has decided it's got to cut back.
How awful of the Government!
After that first op-ed came a brief 'balancing' quote:
Neil O'Brien MP, Conservative: This is not something anybody wanted to have to do, but the truth is the NHS and helping people who are unemployed has to be the priority next year.
James Landale then 'contextualised' it. But just look at his language:
James Landale: Last year, the UK spent £15 billion on foreign aid, about 0.7% of national income. Now the Government wants to cut that legally binding target to just 0.5%. That means spending only £10 billion on aid next year. This will leave the UK spending less in Germany on 0.6%, but more than France on 0.4%.
The use of "just" and "only" there is loaded language, language that sends a message that 0.5% is both not much and not enough.
It's not neutral language.
A nod towards balance then followed, swiftly pursued by the first of James's onslaught of critics:
James Landale: The aid budget has long faced questions about priorities, such as why some goes to India, with its own space programme. But those who work to reduce poverty and disease say today's cuts will bite deep, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Romilly Greenhill, One Campaign: Cutting aid will make it harder to get vaccines to people all over the world, harder to get the treatments people need and ultimately it will extend the lifetime of the pandemic.
The onslaught continued:
James Landale: The Archbishop of Canterbury said the aid cut was "shameful and wrong".
The onslaught went on:
James Landale: The Foreign Office Development Minister Lady Sugg resigned, also saying it was fundamentally wrong.
James Landale: And her old boss, the man who enshrined the targets in law, was equally unhappy:David Cameron: Well, I think it's a very sad moment. It's not just that we are breaking a promise to the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world - a promise that we made, a promise that we don't have to break - it's that that 0.7% commitment, it really said something about Britain.
And then came another op-ed, hymning UK overseas aid and raising concerns about the cut:
James Landale: For years, Britain's had a reputation as an aid superpower. And that's got Britain a hearing on the international stage. It's opened door for ministers and officials here at the Foreign Office. The question is what impacts today's decision will actually have on that reputation just as Britain tries to carve a new role for itself after Brexit.
And then, finally, came this more factual-sounding bit of reporting:
James Landale: To spend less on aid, the Government will also have to change the law. That means a long Parliamentary battle ahead. James Landale, BBC News.
Does this feel like impartial reporting to you?
It doesn't to me.
Coda to the post above
One of the more controversial aspects of the spending review is the Chancellor's decision to cut - for the time being - the amount of money the UK gives in aid to poorer countries. Mr Sunak told MPs that to carry on spending abroad when we have a domestic emergency would be difficult to justify to the British people. Here's James Landale.
One of the more controversial elements of the spending review, was the Chancellor's decision to cut the amount of money the UK gives in foreign aid. The decision has been widely criticised, and a minister at the Foreign Office has resigned in protest. Mr Sunak told MPs that to carry on spending abroad when there was a domestic emergency was difficult to justify. Our diplomatic correspondent James Landale has more details.
James Landale: For years, the sight of a plane delivering British food and medicine has brought hope to millions. The humanitarian assistance that can, for some, mean the difference between life and death. But now the Government's cutting back, to the fury of the man who championed aid in office.David Cameron: Well, I think it's a very sad moment. It not just that we've... We're breaking a promise to the poorest people and the poorest countries in the world, a promise that we made and a promise that we don't have to break, it's that that 0.7% commitment, it really said something about Britain.Last year, the UK spent £15 billion on foreign aid, about 0.7% of national income. The Government is now cutting that legally binding target to just 0.5%. That means spending only £10 billion next year. This would be less than Germany on 0.6%, but more than France on 0.4%. Those who work to reduce poverty and disease say these cuts will bite deep, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.Romilly Greenhill, One Campaign: This is the last time we should be cutting aid. Cutting aid will make it harder to get vaccines to people all over the world, harder to get the treatments that people need and, ultimately, it will extend the lifetime of the pandemic. This is a little bit like cutting funding to the RAF right in the middle of the Battle of Britain.The Foreign Office Development Minister Lady Sugg was so unhappy she resigned, saying the cut was fundamentally wrong. But the aid budget has long faced questions about priorities, such as why some goes to India, with its own space programme. Questions that are harder to answer when the country's facing such an economic emergency.Neil O'Brien MP, Conservative: This is not something that anybody wanted to have to do, but the truth is that the NHS and helping people who are unemployed has to be the priority next year.
For years, Britain's had a reputation as an aid superpower. And that's got the UK a hearing on the international stage. It's opened door for ministers and officials here at the Foreign Office. The question is what impact today's decision will have on that reputation just as Britain tries to carve a new role for itself after Brexit. To spend less on aid, the Government will also have to change the law - and that means a long Parliamentary battle ahead. James Landale, BBC News.
Twitter folk will twitter.
Ben Hunte, BBC: My family and I have been sent racist and homophobic abuse following the below screenshot of me being posted. I am fine - but I will let the police take over. If you disagree with my job, or with the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, or with wider LGBT-related decisions I am not involved in, please do not contact my family with hate. Please use the BBC’s complaints process. I am doing my job to the best of my abilities. I am proud of being a journalist and so grateful to those who share their experiences with me. Thank you ♥.
Laurence Fox, actor: Hey Ben, saddened to hear you have had abuse. It’s horrible and I know exactly how you feel. My view is that the BBC is increasingly identitarian and divisive and should be defunded. I believe in people, not acronyms. Loz x #DefundTheBBC
John Simpson, BBC: Deeply depressing that my excellent colleague, the BBC’s LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte, should have received racist and homophobic abuse in the wake of an unpleasant tweet by Laurence Fox which talked about 'defunding' the BBC. Fox should know better.
Laurence Fox: Hey John. Nice to meet you. Do you believe the BBC should have a dedicated LGBTQ correspondent? Where do you stand on safe spaces for biological females? Do you have a position on trans children? Really interested to have a discussion.
Adrian Hilton, academic: Deeply distressing that [another] Laurence Fox should be on the end of abuse, reproof and damnation in the wake of this mistaken tweet by John Simpson News, which presumably was meant to target [actor] Laurence Fox. Simpson should be more careful.
John Simpson: Apologies to the Laurence Fox I tagged — turns out he wasn’t the character whose anti-BBC tweet stirred up various homophobic & racist types to abuse my colleague Ben Hunte. The mistake is mine, but the offence lies elsewhere.
John Simpson: [to the correct Laurence Fox this time] I think you’d do better to express your regret that a tweet of yours should have led people who support you to abuse my colleague.
Maybe Tim Davie should just tell them to get off Twitter, and enforce that call?
A BBC ruling
Only 54 per cent of adults believe that the BBC provides impartial news and around 20 per cent rate the corporation badly for impartiality.
Wednesday, 25 November 2020
Second Half of November Open Thread
Time for another Open Thread, for when the last one reaches its natural end. Thanks again for your comments and for keeping us going. You are continuing to build up our archive of BBC bias.
The reports online and in The Sun about Question Time audience numbers are untrue and the figures are wrong. Question Time achieved a healthy 1.3m viewers on 1 Oct and 1.4m on 19 Nov, a great performance by the team given the pressures of the pandemic.
Going for Bronze
BBC News Press Team: The BBC has come in joint 3rd place in The 2020 EU Media Poll! 🥉The poll by BCW Brussels & SavantaComRes surveyed EU decision makers on the most influential media for providing the news and information needed to make informed decisions.
No greater love
Tuesday, 24 November 2020
Jon Sopel takes umbrage after somebody is "sarcastic" at his expense
After listening to Jon Sopel on this morning's Today, Tim Montgomerie put finger to mobile phone and tweeted:
Tim Montgomerie: Could the BBC's Jon Sopel have been more gushing about Biden’s team?
That didn't go down well with Jon Sopel:
Jon Sopel: Just woken up to this Tim. What utter crap. Have just listened back. I say they are small c conservative, technocratic, unflashy and more diverse. I use no adjective - approving or disapproving. I’m asked what stands out. I answer. Without any gush.
Tim Montgomerie: You’ve endlessly critiqued Trump (often fairly) but critical faculties have been suspended over Biden. You would have found many negative things to say if you’d been asked what stood out about Trump nominees. It’s always Democrats good-Republicans bad on the BBC.
Jon Sopel: Just not good enough Tim. I was neither complimenting nor disparaging. You asked sarcastically if I could have been more gushing. Just give me one example where I ‘gushed’. If you can’t maybe you’d reconsider the tweet.
Tim Montgomerie: Any half-decent report would have referred too how this was a throwback to the Obama years when Russia, China, Syria and Iran were all emboldened. Instead you gushed about how diverse it was. No apology from me.
I think we can adjudicate as to who's right here: I've transcribed the section in question and I think it shows that Tim Montgomerie is absolutely spot-on in his criticisms of Jon Sopel.
For starters, let's take Jon's claim "I use no adjective - approving or disapproving". Really? What about "very reassuring" and "incredibly smart"?
And, yes, Jon did "gush about how diverse it was", while using contrasting adjectives about the first Trump cabinet: "white, old and wealthy".
It's a sign of where we are that Jon Sopel could say what he said today and think it's outrageous that anyone would find it biased. What he said is biased!
Mishal Husain: What about the future Biden team, Jon? More names emerging. Who are the most striking to you, and what do they suggest about the new administration?
Jon Sopel: I suppose you'd say Tony Blinken becoming the Secretary of State. I think a lot of Europeans will find him a very reassuring figure. He's an internationalist. He's outward-looking. He supports the rights of refugees. It is a return to a normalcy of US foreign policy that has been a consistent line, if you like, since the Second World War that was broken with the Trump administration. So I think Tony Blinken is one. Jake Sullivan? I think incredibly smart, young National Security Adviser, who was a very close advisor to Hillary Clinton. And Janet Yellen, who was Chairman of the Federal Reserve, becomes the first woman to be Treasury Secretary. And I think what you're seeing in these appointments is a sort of small c conservatism. They are technocrats mainly. They are not flashy big name egos who will cause Biden trouble. It is all part of his bid that "I am here to unify the country, to get on with the job, and I want people who are capable to deliver it". In that sense you would say 'small c conservative'. But in another way you would say 'quite radical', because there is much, much more diversity. There will be the first woman who's going to be Director of National Intelligence. As I said, first woman who is going to be in charge of the Treasury department. There is going to be someone who is from a Cuban exile background to be Head of Homeland Security. And so you see a very different picture than the one that was gathered round Donald Trump's first cabinet table. which was white, old and wealthy. And I think Joe Biden is bringing in a much more diverse group.
More of the same
Heckling the BBC's Dominic Casciani
The BBC's Dominic Casciani has been putting the case for Shamima Begum to be brought back to the UK.
It's a point of view many hereabouts agree with, but I don't think a senior BBC reporter should be arguing it.
Of course, he'd probably say he's 'only reporting' it. But I'm going to post a transcription of his report. The transcript is in bold and my comments are in italics and parentheses. I don't think he's 'only reporting' it at all.
What do you think? Isn't this advocacy?
This is the story of how a 15-year-old girl ran away from home [beginning with a everyday family tragedy that everyone can relate to, a child running away from home], became an international terrorist [the balance!], and how her fight to return raises a fundamental question about justice. [Does it really? Or does it mainly raise it for those who want her brought back? And what precisely is that fundamental question?]
On a cold February morning in 2015 [A version of 'the pathetic fallacy'? Reinforcing the sadness of 'the child running away from home' story that we know so well], Shamima Begum left her home, here in Bethnal Green in London for the final time. She secretly flew to Turkey with two friends, and within days they'd been smuggled into Syria. They'd fallen for the propaganda [Shamima as victim, passively 'falling for' something. What about the vast majority of Muslim girls who didn't 'fall for' it? Isn't this disrespectful to them?] of the self-styled Islamic State group.
The militants told a well-crafted lie [reinforcing the 'They'd fallen for the propaganda' line]. 'Be part of our utopia' they said. Till you're shot or decapitated for disagreeing. And every Brit who joined them encouraged others to follow. [She's a Brit, reminder! And they all did it!] 'Leave your decadent western lifestyle behind' they said. 'Marry a foreign fighter, have babies!' And within a few weeks, Shamima Begum went from GCSEs to jihadi bride.
This Dutch fighter, seven years older, took her as his own. [Again the passive tense, her as victim]. It wasn't going to be happy ever after. [A phrase encouraging sympathy for her. What about her victims?]
The regime began to collapse as an international coalition bombed it to bits. Both Shamima's friends [note 'Shamima' not 'Begum' - Dom using her first name] are now believed to be dead. Her own babies, a boy and a girl, died within weeks of each other. [Shamima's children's tragically brief lives, Shamima as victim too]. And as 2018 ended, her thoughts finally turned to home and the country that she'd rejected [the other bit of balance].
[Clip of Shamima Begum saying, "I just want forgiveness really, from the UK. Like, everything I've been through, right, I didn't expect I would go through that and, you know, losing my children the way I lost them". [She famously say some unrepentant stuff too. This reinforced the woes outlined in the previous paragraph]].
Shamima Begum survived the fall of the self-styled Islamic State. Her third baby, born in the squalid camp that was now her home, didn't. [Shamima's children's tragically brief lives. Shamima as victim too]. And back here at Parliament, her interviews caused uproar.
[Clip of Sajid Javid saying, "They hate our country and the values that we stand for."
Shamima [first name again] said she wanted to come back home, but ministers said she was still a threat. And so they used an exceptional power to deprive her of her British citizenship. And that meant she could never get back in. That's been used more than 150 times against other terrorism suspects. Men like these:
[Clips of Jack Letts, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexandra Kotey]
But this is where it gets legally complicated. The government took away Shamima's [first name again] British citizenship because of her heritage. They said she could ask Bangladesh for a passport, but Bangladesh doesn't want her. She could even be hanged if she turned up. It was all going to end up in the courts.
Shamima Begum is fighting to remain British. [Makes her sound patriotic!] Her lawyers say she's prepared to face justice, but she can't defend herself from a dangerous refugee camp in Northern Syria. [The case for the defence continues. Moody black-and-white images of the refugee camp projected to enhance the message].
And in July of this year the Court of Appeal ruled that "...The only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom..." [The defence wins a battle].
In short, fairness and justice must outweigh national security concerns, and that's why the case is now here, at the Supreme Court. [The case for the defence continues. Where's the opposing point of view: that the security of the British public should be prioritised?].
Under the law we're all entitled to a fair hearing before a judge, whether we're good or bad. [Who's 'all' as far as British law applies, and where does that apply? To declared non-British citizens in Syria? Is he paraphrasing here, or advocating?]
[Where's the other side, the case for the prosecution? Why is only one side of the argument being reported?]
But does that mean that the government should help Shamima Begum leave her camp to take part in this legal battle in London? Well, only the Supreme Court can now decide that. And its answer to that fundamental question of law is far bigger than the fate of Shamima Begum alone. [What is that far bigger question? We're still no nearer in learning precisely what it is. Daren't Dom state it straight out lest the public take exception to it?].
[No mention of claims she was a strict member of IS's brutal morality police. Or that she's said to have sewn suicide vests for terrorists. Seriously, why not?]
[Doesn't the appeal to the emotions, helped by the deliberate use of moody photography, reveal Dominic Casciani's hand.]
Saturday, 21 November 2020
Skewing the story. Setting the agenda
Talking of last night's Newsnight, it certainly went in hard against Priti Patel and the PM.
This was its introduction:
Kirsty Wark: Our Home Secretary is an unintentional bully. So if she really the best person for the job? Should Boris Boris Johnson have shown her the door? I'll be asking a former Permanent Secretary, a professor of law, and a Tory MP....
Good evening. Today, Boris Johnson chose to ignore, in fact reject, the verdict of his independent advisor on ministerial standards on a bullying inquiry into Priti Patel. The result? No matter that the Home Secretary was deemed to have sworn and shouted at junior civil servants, and was concluded by the report to have broken the Ministerial Code, she is still in her job, while that advisor, Sir Alex Allan, has resigned. She survived because the report says the bullying could have been "unintentional" and Priti Patel wasn't ever given feedback about her behaviour at the time. Tonight that has been flatly contradicted by Sir Philip Rutnam, her former Permanent Secretary who resigned in February claiming he was forced out because he exposed her bullying behaviour. So should the Home Secretary still be in her job? Here's our Policy Editor Lewis Goodall.
Lewis continued in the same vein:
Lewis Goodall: The gloomy corridors of power in Westminster are groaning with irony even more than usual. It's Anti-Bullying Week, which just so happens to coincide with a controversy over one of the most senior members of the Government allegedly engaging in bullying behaviour of her own. There had long been whispers that Priti Patel could be unpleasant to her civil servants across several departments. This culminated in the resignation of her Permanent Secretary, the Home Office's top official, Sir Philip Rutnam in February, accusing her of the same. The Prime Minister's Independent Adviser on Ministerial Standards, Sir Alex Allan, was asked to look into the allegations. His conclusions have only just emerged. Allan says that Patel, in the way that she treated her civil servants, did break the Ministerial Code, the rule book for ministerial conduct - albeit, perhaps, unintentionally. "My advice is that the Home Secretary has not consistently met the high standards required by the Ministerial Code of treating her civil servants with consideration and respect. Her approach, on occasions, has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals." Any breach of the Ministerial Code would typically lead to a ministerial resignation or dismissal. But Patel has been spared.Priti Patel: I'm sorry that my behaviour has upset people. And I've never intentionally set out to upset anyone. I work with thousands of brilliant civil servants every single day, and we work together, day in, day out, to deliver on the agenda of this government.
This is because Boris Johnson said today that he does not agree with Sir Alex Allan's findings, that she has not engaged in bullying behaviour and, ergo, considers the matter closed. This morning, Sir Alex Allan promptly resigned in response. It is very unusual. In fact, I think this is unprecedented. Certainly it is unprecedented for the Prime Minister's Adviser on Ministerial Standards to resign.Catherine Haddon, Institute for Government: It is very unusual. In fact, I think this is unprecedented. It's certainly unprecedented for the Prime Minister's advisor on ministerial standards to resign. It's unprecedented for the Prime minister to say that he thinks his minister has not breached the code, when his adviser has said that, actually, he thinks there has been a breach going on here.
It is especially embarrassing for the Prime Minister that the foreword to the Ministerial Code is written by, well, the Prime Minister himself. It says, there must be no bullying and no harassment. It is then followed a couple of pages later by point 1.2, which says that bullying will not be tolerated. But, for Patel's future, what matters is the politics and political support in the Tory Party. And there, unlike the rest of Westminster right now, she's home and dry.Andrew Bridgen MP: There's huge support on the Conservative backbenches for the work she's doing. She's a tough and forceful Secretary of State in a very difficult department. And she's delivering on our manifesto pledges. I think, as far as most of the backbenchers are concerned, and most of my constituents, we'd like to see more ministers like Priti Patel, not less.
We should say that Sir Alex Allan's findings were not entirely uncritical of the civil service either. He said they were slow to respond to the Home Secretary and to do what she wanted. But for a minister to have been independently adjudged to have broken the civil service code, and for no consequences to follow from it, does mean that there are two much bigger questions now in play than that of Priti Patel's future. Firstly, what is to disincentivise a minister in the future from breaking the code? And, secondly, with Sir Alex Allan's resignation, what is left of the system to enforce it?Sir David Normington: We have always relied on the Ministerial Code being upheld by the Prime Minister of the day. I mean, the system does make the Prime Minister judge and jury. But in the past, prime ministers have always acted when there has been a breach of the Ministerial Code. And that's why, in a sense, this is a much more serious moment than previous ones, because the Prime Minister seems to have gone against what would have happened in the past.
In this year, so many iron laws on politics have been broken in Westminster. One where the metal has softened most of all is the question of when ministers or political figures should resign. With the Ministerial Code's power now seemingly weakened, we are no further forward with the answer.
In the subsequent two-against-one interview (two against Ms Patel, one for Ms Patel, with the one for Ms Patel getting interrupted a lot - the same old story!), Conservative MP Keiran Mullan observed that Lewis Goodall's report had "brushed aside" as a minor side issue something he considered "equally damning": Sir Alex Allan's criticisms of the Civil Service for its "lack of leadership" and its "lack of willingness to support Ms Patel.
He certainly wasn't wrong about Lewis brushing it aside. I've highlighted in yellow the bit where Lewis did just that.
If you recall, Sir Alex had some remarkable things to say about the Civil Service:
The home secretary says that she puts great store by professional, open relationships. She is action orientated and can be direct. The home secretary has also become - justifiably in many instances - frustrated by the Home Office leadership's lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in the Department for International Development (Dfid) three years ago.
The Civil Service itself needs to reflect on its role during this period. The Home Office was not as flexible as it could have been in responding to the home secretary's requests and direction. She has - legitimately - not always felt supported by the department. In addition, no feedback was given to the home secretary of the impact of her behaviour, which meant she was unaware of issues that she could otherwise have addressed.
This conclusion needs to be seen in context. There is no evidence that she was aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the time. The high pressure and demands of the role, in the Home Office, coupled with the need for more supportive leadership from top of the department has clearly been a contributory factor. In particular, I note the finding of different and more positive behaviour since these issues were raised with her.
This highlights how the BBC can set and shape the agenda.
If Newsnight only wants to focus on questioning and criticising the behaviour of Priti Patel and Boris Johnson and chooses to put to one side Sir Alex's damning criticisms of the Civil Service for poor leadership, a lack of responsiveness and and unwillingness to support a senior cabinet minister - something that surely matters massively in a democracy and is a huge story in its own right - then the focus on Priti Patel and Boris Johnson's failing will be all Newsnight viewers are going to hear about and think about.
It fatally skews the story though, doesn't it?
Nine long months ago, before the days of lockdown, we looked at Lewis Goodall's intriguing propensity for using the Institute for Government in his Newsnight reports on UK politics/government.
Over four such Newsnight reports in a row Lewis had included four 'talking heads' from the Institute for Government, and that seemed a lot.
This is one to watch, perhaps. Maybe they're just absolutely fantastic and fabulously independent-minded, but the Institute for Government is one of those 'respected', 'independent' think tanks that came across as anti-Brexit over the past few years.
It was founded by strongly pro-EU Labour peer Lord Sainsbury, and its board is striking in its centre-left-leaning, Europhile composition with four parliamentarians past and present belonging to Blairite Labour, one to the Lib Dems, and one to the Conservative Party (David Lidington, who resigned in anticipation of Boris Johnson becoming PM).
It sounds a very BBC outfit, doesn't it?
I'm intrigued to see if Lewis Goodall keeps up this heavy involvement with the Institute for Government over time. What will it mean if he does?
As our eye then went ,massively off the ball, I didn't follow through on our intention of seeing if this was significant or not, and - for a long while - tried to completely ignore Lewis Goodall.
Re-entering the fray, I saw my first Lewis Goodall report in a while last week. It was on UK politics/government and featured Georgina Wright from the Institute for Government. I rolled my eyes.
Last night's Newsnight also featured a report on UK politics/government and featured Catherine Haddon from, yes, the Institute for Government. I rolled my eyes again.
If Lewis goes on like this, my eyes could roll so much that they'd fall out of their sockets.
The issue remains: Is this significant? Does it matter if Lewis relies on the Institute for Government so much?
ITBB has learned...
Just watching my News at 10 appearance on public sector pay freeze. Introduced with 'The BBC has learned that...' this could happen. By reading the front pages of the Times, Mail and Guardian this morning?
The BBC has learned that millions of public sector workers in England, including teachers and police, could face a pay freeze next year. There are 5.5 million public sector workers, but it's thought that NHS staff may be exempt from the measures.
Here's a transcript of the coverage of Wednesday's BBC News at One regarding the Government's 10-point plan for a "green revolution", including plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-driven cars from 2030.
The section centred on a report by the BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin - a Birtian "inhouse pundit" if ever there was one, and a reporter who rarely hides his likes and dislikes.
Here, for example, you can see that he likes electric cars, renewable energy (especially windfarms), insulated houses and government spending and dislikes petrol-driven cars, HS2 and nuclear energy.
The whole section is classic BBC, firmly on board with resetting the agenda to tackle climate change but also criticising the Government for going nowhere near far enough:
Newsreader: New cars and vans powered wholly by petrol and diesel will be banned in the UK from 2030. That's just one of the announcements made by the Prime Minister as part of his 10-point plan to create jobs and address climate change. Among other measures in his so-called "green revolution" - Greater investment in electric cars, including expanding charging infrastructure and extending grants to make vehicles cheaper. Plans to quadruple the amount of offshore wind power - enough to provide energy to every home in the UK. Greater investment in nuclear energy, with a focus on smaller-scale nuclear plants, and measures to make homes and public buildings warmer and more energy efficient. While the plan has been welcomed by environmental groups, critics say the £4 billion allocated is far too small for the scale of the challenge and some of the plans, they say, have already been announced. Our environment analyst Roger Harrabin reports.
Roger Harrabin: The end of an era for the petrol engine and its planet eating emissions. You will still be able to drive an existing petrol or diesel car after 2030 but you won't be able to buy a new one. The future is electric. Some people fear the cost of electric vehicles but perhaps there's no need to worry.
Stephen Norman, Vauxhall Motors: For a period of three to four years because of the massive saving on fuel cost of electric over petrol or diesel, the monthly cost is no greater. Certainly, it's not cheaper but it's not greater.
Roger Harrabin: Charging your electric car is a major issue. Finding one of these in some places it's like finding a unicorn. The Government is spending £1.3 billion to expand the charging network but that is just over 1% of what it is spending on high-speed rail, HS2. Nuclear energy is getting public money, £500 million of it. The Prime Minister wants jobs at the giant Sizewell C plant in Suffolk. Small kit-style nuclear reactors being developed by Rolls-Royce will get subsidy too, even though there's no solution yet for nuclear waste. Offshore wind will play a key role, producing enough electricity to power every home by 2030. Ministers hope it will support up to 60,000 jobs. Cities in the north-east should benefit. The Government wants them to become new technology hubs for making wind turbines and creating the clean fuel, hydrogen.
Rain Newton-Smith, CBI: We absolutely back the ambition. We do need to see more detail on how we help businesses and households make this transition but having this strategy is exactly what we need to see, to help us on the road to a greener economy.
Roger Harrabin: New house-building will have to play its part. From 2023, all homes will need to be built with so much insulation that they don't require a gas boiler. Heat pumps will enter people's lives. In Wales, a zero carbon device extracts heat from sea water to warm a stately home. Tiny versions will heat millions of people's home using warmth from the water or air or soil. The Government will need to help with the cost. Together, the drive for zero carbon will transform society.
Katie White, World Wildlife Fund: I think in terms of making progress and resetting this agenda, it's an exciting day, in terms of getting us back on the front foot. Is it enough? No, of course it's not enough and we will be looking next week to the Chancellor, in terms of what is coming out of the spending review.
Roger Harrabin: As the new policies cut emissions, so the Prime Minister's road building plans will increase emissions. Critics say he should stop policies driving on the wrong direction and invest far more in putting the nation on track for a zero emissions future. Roger Harrabin, BBC News.