Hardly had news emerged that Arron Banks, the alleged “man who bankrolled Brexit”, had been, along with his pals, referred to the National Crime Agency over the source of all those loans and donations made to the Leave EU campaign, than the scramble was on to give him a platform on which to broadcast his views to the nation.
And it was disappointing, though not surprising, that the platform is to be provided by the BBC, in the shape of The Andy Marr Show™ this weekend. This has prompted a deluge of severely adverse comment, and so the Beeb has put out a statement explaining itself. The problem is that the statement exposes that same old mindset.
But will Banksy get the caning he deserves?
Here is that statement, as posted by Rob Burley, editor of BBC Live Political Programmes: “There is strong public interest in an interview with Arron Banks about allegations of funding irregularities in relation to Leave EU, and the 2016 EU referendum. The Electoral Commission has laid out concerns about this in public and it is legitimate and editorially justified for Andrew Marr to question Mr Banks robustly about them, which he will do on Sunday morning”. Anyone spot the repeated false equivalence?
It’s right here: “The Electoral Commission ha laid out concerns about this”. Or as Mrs T might have put it, No, No, No, No, No, No. The EC has not merely “laid out concerns”. It has made findings of fact and fined Leave EU for breaking the law. That’s breaking the law, BBC people - I point that out because the mistake shows every sign of repeating the “Vote Leave broke the rules” claim, when Vote Leave had, you guessed it, broken the law.
Twice organisations involved in the Leave campaign are found to have broken the law, and twice the Beeb drives the issue round the houses rather than saying so directly. Small wonder that so many have expressed concern about giving Banks the stage.
Some, like Brexit Bin, believed the studio was not the place for Banks to do his explaining: “Surely a court is the place for him to do that”. Others, like Andrew Adonis, put their concerns in writing: he has complained to Director General Lord Hall-Hall.
Chris Kendall focused on that supposed balance: “Why are you not interviewing @carolecadwalla?” And Paddy French at Press Gang agreed wholeheartedly. “Damn good point … By all means interview suspect Banks - but it's basic journalism to talk to the reporter who exposed the issue. Get a grip”. Will Ms Cadwalladr appear? Don’t bet on it.
The lawyers in the audience were also unimpressed, with the Secret Barrister musing “I wonder whether the BBC would give a platform to a police officer to tell viewers, in advance of criminal proceedings beginning, why they believe the person they’re investigating is guilty. Can’t for the life of me understand this one”.
But Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman was all in favour of the exercise: “Surely interviewing Arron Banks is "news", which is usually the job of news organisations. Attack the man, demand answers, harbour suspicions: all valid. But attacking a news organisation for seeking his explanation on a matter of national interest is plain weird”. What is plain weird, though, is to expect Banksy to go anywhere near explaining himself.
The BBC seems rather too keen on ratings chasing right now. I’ll just leave that one there.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at