There have been misgivings about the BBC’s behaviour for some years, something that was not helped by stunts such as having a Labour shadow minister resign live on the Daily Politics at a time that benefited the Tories. That one was excused by Robbie Gibb, more recently exposed as a right-winger and fervent Brexiteer. But even after Gibb’s departure, the disquiet has only magnified. Now the dam has finally burst.
Lord Hall-Hall - needs to call time on himself
What happened this week leaves no doubt that some at the Corporation should face the sack for their shameless partiality, not least Director General Lord Hall-Hall, serenely carrying on as if nothing were amiss, and Director of News and Current Affairs Fran Unsworth, on whose watch the organisation has given Vote Leave’s lawbreaking a free pass, and failed to keep its political editor in line.
The matter that caused push to come to shove was the round of set-piece interviews of party leaders, which should have been conducted by Andrew Neil, who, despite his back-story of supporting Mrs T while editor of the Sunday Times, and overseeing the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine, has thus far been an equal opportunity giver or short shrift to those passing before his inquisition.
Neil grilled Jeremy Corbyn; the next to occupy the hot seat would be alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Bozo The Clown had come off second best to Jezza in last week’s Question Time leaders’ special, and at a head-to-head debate on ITV. He had fared badly the last time Brillo grilled him. The presenter was, he claimed, already working on his preparation. But then Bozo apparently got cold feet, and may chicken out.
While the Beeb told that “As part of our series of leaders' interviews, we have dates for two more next week. Andrew Neil will interview Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage”, they then admitted “For those asking when Boris Johnson's interview will take place, we're in ongoing discussions with his team but we haven't yet been able to fix a date”. So what had they told Labour before the Corbyn interview?
Theo Usherwood of LBC had the answer: “Labour source tells me BBC informed them Boris Johnson would do an Andrew Neil interview next week. Turns out no such agreement had been reached. If Tory leader isn't subjected to same scrutiny as Mr Corbyn, but his team was told he would be, that's a problem for the BBC”. Kevin Maguire of the Mirror didn’t quite believe it. “Unforgivable of both the BBC, which should’ve nailed him down, and a cowardly Johnson if this interview doesn’t happen”.
And Owen Jones hit the nail on the head. “This is an absolute disgrace from [BBC News]. They lied to Labour and said they'd agreed an interview between Andrew Neil and Boris Johnson next week. If that doesn't happen then no one can ever trust a single word the BBC say ever again and senior figures will have to resign”. Could it get worse?
It certainly could. After Randeep Ramesh of the Guardian revealed “The prime minister’s senior aide, Dominic Cummings, has resigned as a special adviser, according to a Cabinet Office source”, up popped Ms Kuenssberg. “Was probably a matter of time.. Dominic Cummings back on his blog … warns Brexiteers there is 'real possibility of a hung parliament' and a second referendum”. Promoting a Government advisor. Or former one.
Aaron Bastani responded “What on earth is happening to broadcasting impartiality during an election? You’re literally sharing a call to action for Tory activists about what they need to do. I’m honestly gobsmacked”. And Donahue Rogers concluded “Do you know what? Most people wouldn't have seen that if you hadn't provided the link and that includes [Ofcom]. This is election purdah period, can you now provide links to close advisers of other political parties as you now need to do to maintain balance?”.
That Ms Kuenssberg Tweeted that out speaks volumes for not only her hideous partiality, but also for her confidence that she will get away with it - again. If there is any justice in this increasingly wayward media world we now inhabit, her tenure as the Corporation’s political editor must be brought to an end, and sooner rather than later.
Unlike the Thatcher years, when the Tory Party’s assault on the BBC was incessant, and vicious with it, there has been criticism from many on the left, but not from the Labour leadership. Perhaps if there had been, someone in the organisation might have stopped and thought. If Bozo really does chicken out of a Brillo encounter, they will then.
For decades, BBC News and Current Affairs has been the Gold Standard, the bar against which all other broadcast journalism was measured. Now, the Corporation’s currency has not so much decoupled from that Gold Standard, as it has crashed out of it.
If we cannot trust the BBC, what news can we trust? We live in disturbing times.
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