At the beginning of the month, during a Newsnight interview, Tory education spokesman Michael Gove made an extraordinary threat to interviewer Kirsty Wark: pointing his finger, Gove warned “We’ll be watching”. The effect, coming from someone not possessing an attack dog reputation, was hardly overpowering, but the intent was clear. And this is not an isolated example.
I recently considered the shelving of a Panorama programme about Michael Ashcroft, which has been put down to legal threats. However, it appears that there was also considerable pressure on BBC DG Mark Thompson from senior figures in the Tory Party. The argument from the Tories is that transmission may be prejudicial in the run up to the General Election, but the counter is that this is an attempt to bully the Corporation, with the implicit threat of a Cameron Government taking revenge for what the Tories are increasingly trying to call bias.
It will surprise no-one that the attack from the Tories is coming at the same time that the Super Soaraway Currant Bun is laying in to the Beeb, with its recent broadside digging up a six year old Basil Brush Show (yes, before Cameron became leader), and trying to smear the Beeb with the footage of Young Dave tidying his hair, which was filmed by Rupe’s troops at Sky News (“first for breaking wind”).
Attempting to silence impartial reporting for political ends should, in any mature democracy, be off limits to all mainstream politicians, so perhaps Young Dave will come out and tell his cheerleaders to desist. Or perhaps not: after all, the Tories are desperate enough to get their hands on the levers of power for this kind of tactic to be declared legitimate, albeit perhaps only informally.
Expect lots more bullying of the Beeb in the next few weeks.