After the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance caved in to whistleblower Shahmir Sanni, effectively admitting the links to several other Astroturf lobby groups and yet more corrupt dealing in and around the 2016 EU referendum - thereby validating the investigations by the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr - the last thing the BBC needed was for one of its star names to open mouth and insert boot by slagging her off.
But, sadly, that was exactly what they got last night after alleged political heavyweight Andrew Neil allowed himself an excess of candour on Twitter. After telling “I’ve just had the most bizarre request of my life (and believe me this is a high bar): to be the rapper on Nicki Minaj’s Starship song (nope, never heard) at (and for once caps justified) THE ROYAL VARIETY PERFORMANCE??!!” his follow-up went totally over the top and out of order.
He’d have to say yes? He couldn’t refuse Ms Minaj? No worry, it would be “Nothing compared with having to deal with mad cat woman from Simpson’s, Karol Kodswallop”. He’s not a pal of Arron Banks, honestly, he just has the same line in abuse.
Henry Porter put it mildly. “A surprising way to describe @carolecadwalla, winner of Orwell prize and Reporters Without Borders award. Last night, talking with @lindseyhilsum at @frontlineclub, we discussed how investigative journalists were facing risks similar to Marie Colvin's. This doesn't help”. Louis Barfe did not put it so mildly.
After asking “Is this a reference to the very good, very thorough investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr?” he continued “It shows whose side Brillo's on all too clearly, doesn't it?” and completed his exposition with “Isn't it that sinister shortarse Arron Banks' nickname for CC? Cadwalladr is a better journalist than you've ever been or ever will be, Andrew. Fuck it, Neil Sean's better than you”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point.
But, alas, no man is of perfect courage, and certainly not Brillo, as Owen Jones discovered. “He's deleted the tweet, presumably at the direction of his bosses. That's not really good enough, is it? If the flagship BBC politics presenter was as left-wing as Andrew Neil is right-wing (which would itself never happen), do you think they'd get away with this behaviour?” QTWTAIN, then. He was not alone in voicing disapproval.
Adam Bienkov of Business Insider simply said “When you're an award-winning investigative journalist who has broken some of the biggest political stories of the past year, but also happen to be a woman”. Quite. And the disbelief continued.
Jones’ friend Ellie Mae O’Hagan added “I can't believe what Andrew Neil gets away with”. But perhaps Neil did not get away with it. The Beeb is already under pressure over all those talking heads from the TPA and their pals who it allows on its airwaves. There is the real likelihood of legal action from Ms Cadwalladr and Byline Media’s Peter Jukes after Arron Banks smeared them both on The Andy Marr Show™, with no right of reply given.
Andrew Neil’s Twitter excursion says one thing: he’s above mere criticism, and can please himself who he kicks, because there won’t be any sanction. And by implication, as he’s on their payroll, he’s suggesting the BBC can do it too. And that’s not good enough.
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