The fallout from Owen Jones’ appearance on BBC This Week last Thursday continues, and it continues to make grim reading for the Corporation’s bosses, as their long-serving host Andrew Neil becomes increasingly embattled, and increasingly running out of both excuses and credibility. Now, a figure from his recent past has returned: this may be the move that administers the coup de grace to his broadcasting career.
Brillo has taken the stance that anything relating to the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine is the responsibility of routinely dishonest editor Fraser Nelson, and not himself as chairman of the group that publishes it. This attempt to head off increasing criticism of what looks like a conflict of interest has met with some resistance.
Answering criticism of his clumsy attempt to shut Jones up when the latter brought up Neil’s role at the Speccy, he told “Maybe seemed that way but I didn’t cut him off. I’d already allowed segment to overrun by 6 mins so he could have a full say. But we had a packed show and we had to move on. Also, he was raising Spectator matters which are not my responsibility. He needs to confront the editor”.
Watching this exchange from a safe distance was the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, whom Brillo had smeared as a “mad cat woman”, for which he has still not apologised, despite the pretence otherwise by BBC DG Lord Hall-Hall. “You sure about that, @afneil? Because ex-Spectator employees have started getting in touch...& that's not what they're saying”. How revealing - ex-Speccy types confiding in Ms Cadwalladr.
And the testimony of one such type blows Brillo’s denial of editorial involvement apart: “The Spectator today is entirely made in Andrew Neil's image. His constant presence in the building means that he looms over everything editorial … he shapes the agenda by his contempt for anyone and anything that challenges his right-wing, ultra-capitalist world-view. He wishes the Spectator was the Economist and that Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister. He has drained the magazine of gentleness and joy”. Ouch!
Ms Cadwalladr had more bad news for the Brillo apologia: “Or what about this? ‘The idea that Andrew is not responsible for content at the Spectator is...laughably false.’ … ‘The editors were frankly a little scared of Andrew.’ Any comment, @afneil? You've said you had NOTHING to do with content. Yet, these 2 people are calling you a liar”.
It would be richly deserved, and the most supreme irony, if the journalist Andrew Neil so casually smeared, and to whom he so deliberately refused to apologise, were to prove to be his nemesis. He got away with paying David Irving a shed load of money, libelling Carmen Proetta (twice), overseeing the Sunday Times losing Mordechai Vanunu, and the flagrantly untrue claims about HIV not being a precursor to AIDS.
He got away with using the BBC to peddle his agenda of climate change denial. He got away with conflicts of interest including the Addison Club, which may have helped with Arron Banks’ fundraising efforts in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum.
He got away with all of that. But one callous insult could now bring Brillo’s world crashing down. Off the cuff once too often? I’ll just leave that one there.
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