While many in the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press are in a state of ecstasy over yesterday evening’s interview of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by Andrew Neil, others are looking forward to next week’s Brillo encounter with alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and wondering if The Great Man will be equally tough on someone with whom he goes back rather a long way.
Bozo The Clown has been a regular at the Spectator magazine’s summer parties; as a former editor of the magazine, this should be no surprise. Also a regular at those parties is Neil, which is also no surprise, as the Gordon Poole Agency has told: “Andrew Neil is Chairman of Press Holdings Media Group (owners of The Spectator, Spectator Life, Spectator Australia, Spectator USA and Apollo)”. Thus the problem.
Moreover, as Peter Jukes has told this morning, “Andrew Neil is conflicted. Dismissed the Cambridge Analytica scandal as ‘hearsay’ (his Barclay brothers bosses met them). He dismissed Vote Leave lawbreaking as ‘conspiracist’. (His editor is married to campaign director Cummings). He invited Arron Banks to his club to fundraise”. The “editor” mentioned is Mary Wakefield, Spectator commissioning editor.
Neil is one of many players in the right-leaning and interconnected part of the Westminster bubble. He has been seen rubbing shoulders with current and former minions who work in the service of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog - which veteran journalist Peter Oborne recently dubbed “the provisional wing of Conservative HQ”. The Spectator peddles rank Islamophobia. It has an anti-Semite on the books.
And talking of anti-Semitism, Neil used the services of infamous Holocaust denier David Irving during his tenure as editor of the Murdoch Sunday Times. Hence the potential problem. But perhaps his most significant recent mis-step is over the Vote Leave and Cambridge Analytica scandal - Bozo was involved with VL, which broke electoral law.
To this end, Carole Cadwalladr laid out her concerns. “Will Neil ask Boris Johnson about his role in Vote Leave fraud? And why he’s stonewalled MPs? Neil dismissed [Shahmir Sanni]’s now proven allegations, [The Observer]’s investigation & has been abusive to me. He also employs Cummings’ wife. I trust he will not omit these crucial qs”.
There was more. “Neil has systematically minimised the now substantial body of evidence of illegalities in EUref. His [Spectator] has published multiple pieces on ‘conspiracy theories’ now proven. To hold Johnson to account for his role in these crimes, Neil first needs to acknowledge them himself … I trust Neil will put also aside his personal feelings & ask Johnson about his meeting with ex-KGB agent Lebedev in middle of Skripal crisis? Both he & his [Spectator] magazine have again systematically minimised allegations & evidence of Russian interference in UK politics”. Well, quite.
With the BBC under scrutiny more than ever - not least after the Corporation admitted it made a mistake editing a clip from last Friday’s Question Time leaders’ special which made Bozo look less ridiculed - Andrew Neil will need to overcome his prejudices.
Bozo was involved with an act of lawbreaking. He must be held to account for it.
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