Claims that the BBC was not totally neutral in its coverage of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson have come thick and fast, yet the Corporation has tenaciously stuck to its line that it was merely reporting as it saw it. But yesterday came the giveaway moment, where all protestation of even-handedness was washed away, and not by those opposed to the Beeb, but by its own correspondents. Four of them.
The tub of lard was unavailable
Bozo The Clown had been to Luxembourg to meet Jean-Claude Juncker; once again, he claimed that lots of progress was being made in Brexit talks, only for Juncker’s team to point out that no concrete proposals had been tabled by the UK side. Then there was to be a meeting with Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel, followed by a press conference outside the Prime Ministerial residence. All had been agreed with both sides beforehand.
But then a problem arose: a group of protesters had gathered at the gates of the residence, and were not backward in coming forwards with their vocal opposition to Bozo. His team panicked, demanding the presser be transferred indoors. But the outdoor setup was already wired up, there was not enough space for all the journalists indoors, and so Brave Bozo ran away. He was frit, he was chicken. Bettel did the presser on his own.
So began the BBC excuses, starting with Brussels reporter Adam Fleming. “The anti-Brexit protesters in the square numbered fewer than a hundred but their music and megaphones made it sound like a lot more and they occasionally used language you wouldn't want to hear on the news”. Oh, the dreadful language! Except no-one else noticed.
Next up was Norman Smith, swallowing the Tory spin whole: “Boris Johnson says didn't take part in news conference cos ‘not fair to the PM of Luxembourg’ who might have been drowned out”. Look over there! Could Christian Fraser do any better? Sadly not: “Bizarre. Luxembourg PM stages a press conference outside, in front of a protest group - so that British PM can’t take part - and then delivers robust comments that his guest can’t respond to”. A presser agreed beforehand, that Bozo could take part in - except he ran away.
And then there had to be the approved version from political editor Laura Kuenssberg: “Source says No 10 asked for press conference inside so that the two leaders could be heard over the small but very noisy protest, but request was rejected and insisted on having it outside with the 2 podiums”. One anonymous source. No corroboration.
Matina Stevis-Gridneff of the New York Times corrected Ms Kuenssberg. “A Luxembourg govt official tells me there was no room big enough to transfer the presser indoors. When UK team was told, they suggested selecting a few journos & moving indoors. Lux team said that would be unfair to the rest. Lectern wasn’t removed bc it was wired up”.
This was confirmed by RTÉ Europe editor Tony Connelly: “Luxembourg govt source says the request to have the Bettel Johnson news conference inside came at the last minute - it was, said the source, impossible for logistical and security reasons to relocate everything inside because the Lux PM's office was too small to host all press”.
As Jon Worth concluded, this was “dire political management by Number 10”. That was the reality of what happened. And when the BBC finds itself on the same page as the Murdoch Sun and the Guido Fawkes blog, it’s time to stop being defensive and own up.
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