After Andrew Neil, host of BBC Daily Politics and This Week - as well as, with his other hat on, being responsible for the Spectator magazine - came off second best in a Twitter exchange with Berlin-based Brit Jon Worth on the subject of the supposed political crisis in Germany, some might have thought the best course of action was to concede defeat, and if possible, do it with good grace. But that thought would have been sadly misplaced.
Yet more for The Great Man to chew on
Iain Dale - pointless intervention
Not only did Neil keep on digging, in petulant defiance of Healey’s Dictum, the exchange sucked in another supposedly upstanding member of the Pundit Establishment, who to no surprise at all also fared less well than his star billing. What that tells you about Neil’s Sunday Politics claim that “We’ll be talking to … the commentators who count”, when so many of their number can’t cut the mustard, I will leave to others.
Neil began by dismissing Worth’s credentials, loftily declaring “I’m sure you’ll forgive me if, despite your clear qualifications, I pay more attention to the German President and experienced commentators like Der SPIEGEL. Will watch this week’s developments with interest”. It was not, in the circumstances, the best available gambit.
This was demonstrated by Worth’s riposte: “Andrew - you said this was the most serious German political crisis since the 1940s … Keep digging by all means, but it isn’t. And neither Spiegel nor Steinmeier has said it is [my emphasis] … Oh, and maybe check a person’s Twitter profile before firing off your missives next time?”
Still, if at first you don’t succeed, well, just suck a bit more seed instead. Back came Neil: “I’ve just discovered you’re the numpty who encouraged The Economist’s Berlin correspondent to start a new anti-Brexit centrist party. From Berlin! Closed down in hours. But you want me to take you seriously!” If in doubt, switch to abuse.
Worth dismissed this feeble attempt to get Neil’s followers to “look over there” by noting “One gains the impression I have got under Mr Neil’s skin. Now resorting to personal attacks. One might wonder whether calling someone a numpty is appropriate for someone in his position”. Neil did not respond. But someone else did on his behalf.
That someone was LBC host Iain Dale, also an ostensibly respected member of the Pundit Establishment, who snapped “If you really are offended by @afneil calling you a 'numpty' a) you need to get a life and b) be grateful it wasn't me calling you a name. I'd have called you something far worse”. Worth clearly wasn’t offended, and it would have moved Neil’s argument forward not one jot if Dale had decided to use stronger language.
Still, onwards and, er, onwards, eh? But one onlooker had had enough of the bluster being marshalled in Neil’s defence, and was prepared to use what the Official BBC Announcer might have called Very Strong Language From The Start in saying so. J Clive Matthews, aka Nosemonkey, simply asked “Have you just spent two days finding out that Andrew Neil and Iain Dale are clueless, partisan, arrogant fuckwits?”
This is, it has to be conceded, a little OTT. But only a little: Neil had lost the argument, his bluster had not changed that fact, and Dale might as well not have bothered, for all the good his intervention did. The “commentators who count”, eh? Maybe not.