The BBC Radio 4 Today Programme is celebrating its 60th birthday, which means it began life back in the days when the network broadcasting it was called the Home Service. In celebration of this event, a number of what Robin Day rightly and memorably called “here today and gone tomorrow politicians” have been paraded before the listeners to demonstrate why the Beeb goes on, and ultimately, they don’t.
So we're looking at real grown-up politics, then
Among the rogues’ gallery have been former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, and, more relevantly, Michael “Oiky” Gove, who was clearly full of himself as he presented himself before the inquisition of the hosts, who were, as any good journalist should be, quick to tell the widest possible audience the thoughts of their esteemed guest.
Gove did not disappoint: given the choice between being statesmanlike and being a clown, he did not hesitate. “Going into the studio is ‘like going into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom - you hope to emerge with your dignity intact’ Gove on #Todayat60” told Nick Robinson. And Ashley Cowburn noted that this was a cross-party foot-in-mouth initiative: “Neil Kinnock then followed this with another inappropriate joke, saying being interviewed by John Humphrys is ‘worse than being groped’”. Totally and utterly, no doubt.
The condemnation was swift, and not only from women. “Hi @michaelgove - here is a list of everything Weinstein has done, in the words of 57 women, inc rape” was one of the more gentle hints. Mary Shaw merely despaired at the lack of self-awareness on display: “Three powerful men making Harvey Weinstein jokes - people chuckling. I despair. #Todayat60”. John Humphries apparently thought it was funny. Yes, well.
On went the blowback at the BBC: “Wow, another example of how men in power still brush off sexual assault as some sort of joke @michaelgove #Todayat60” was typical. Paul Brand of ITV News had something to tell those at the Beeb: “If it wasn’t funny when James Corden cracked a joke, chances are it isn’t funny when Michael Gove tries to”. Corden got himself into seriously hot water over his Weinstein crack.
Labour MP Stella Creasy, moderate of view but redoubtably feminist, was thinking the same thing: “This look didn’t work for James Corden … Gove joking about sexual assault just as crass too”. Her colleague Jess Phillips, more prepared to shout about, well, anything, latched on to Gove’s crack about dignity: “Michael Gove just left the studio without his dignity”. She shoots, she scores … one nil to the Jess!
TV journalist Lucy Siegle was equally unimpressed: “See the bros are parading their #Weinstein jokes. All such a jolly laugh isn’t it?” And one Tweeter, reflecting on the effect this would have on the Beeb’s credibility, observed “#Todayat60 is turning into a bit of a Ceaușescu on the balcony moment”. Not good. At all.
The only thing missing - but not to worry, that will be rectified in the Daily Mail next week - is a suitably lame article by Sarah Vine telling us all to get a sense of humour. Because, in the world of the media establishment, despite all the concern about bad behaviour, we’re supposed to laugh at their pals making lame wisecracks about sexual assault.
Michael Gove was bang out of order. And his hosts hardly covered themselves in glory. [Gove has now said sorry. And so has his wife (perhaps)]