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Sunday 26 April 2020

Come In Agent Brillo, Your Time Is Up

If BBC management were in any doubt about the wisdom of continuing to employ their ace political interviewer Andrew Neil well beyond his 70th birthday, that doubt has been well and truly dispelled by The Great Man himself in an outburst of shameless pro-Tory partisanship - with a potential side order of outside interest promotion. The subject, as so often at the moment, concerns chief Downing Street polecat Dominic Cummings.
Polecat Dom had been revealed by both the Sunday Times and Guardian to have been a regular attendee at SAGE meetings. Concerns had been raised about the presence of Government advisors (a “data scientist” was also there) on a science committee. Government “sources” had pushed back, sometimes via MPs willing to repeat the approved form of words. And then in marched Brillo.
The British media needs to get a grip of itself. Why shouldn’t the PM’s top advisor sit in on meetings of its expert medical advisors in middle of a pandemic crisis? The government needs to get a grip and stop obfuscating. Just justify it. Stop spinning”. That’s the British media of which he is a part. But he was just getting warmed up.
"We have it from Neil Ferguson, key member of SAGE - Dominic Cummings observed, but did not get involved in decision-making at SAGE. What’s wrong with that? Good idea he was there to listen and learn?” Do go on. “If he could influence them then we had the wrong experts. And there’s not a scintilla of evidence to show he did”. Is there not?
So there he is, merrily digging himself the kind of hole in which he is likely to be well and truly buried if the ST, Guardian or both come along with a follow-up. The whole spectacle was made worse by Neil deciding that he knew more about pandemics and other crises than anyone else, so when David King’s Cummings concerns were raised, “David King has never been through this sort of crisis”. Wrong kind of crisis! Bring me another!
Now remember, he had already said that Cummings was merely sitting in. Not involved with decision making, right? “Why shouldn’t experts be watched and questioned?” And hardly had the acrid smell of that screeching180ยบ U-Turn dissipated than he started digging again. "And are you really saying that these experts, of huge reputation and independence, were cowed by him. Evidence for such nonsense?
Well, I hate to bring bad tidings, but the Guardian has indeed posted a follow-up, and yes, it buries Brillo good and proper. The paper has two anonymous SAGE attendees who made comments such as “He was not just an observer, he’s listed as an active participant … He was engaging in conversation and not sitting silently … When you get to discussing where advice might be going, there have been occasions where they have been involved, and a couple of times I’ve thought: that’s not what we are supposed to be doing”.
Ah, if only Andrew Neil had done a bit of that journalism thing before sounding off. He did, though, have time for a last snipe: “Who is ‘James O’Brien’?” Well, Brillo old bean, it’s like this: James O’Brien is the bloke who stood down from hosting BBC Newsnight, rather than allow the Corporation to be hit with complaints about lack of impartiality.

That bell shouldn’t just be ringing in Andrew Neil’s ear. It should be deafening him.
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Faculty of Stuff said...

Data Scientist? Nudge, nudge. Say no more.

Anonymous said...

I know at least one Students Union where the mere mention of Lard Arse Neil causes an eruption of jeers and raucous laughter.

It's not unique, though. The same goes for Kuenssberg, Robinson, Smith, Bruce, Barnett, Humphrys, Maitlis, Wark, Marr, Davis, Gosling and any other of the usual tramps.

The Toffee (597) said...

It's a quite simple solution if they want to be seen to be impartial...

Either these scientists tell cumminge & co where to go, or they refuse to attend.

Jonathan said...

Obviously Brillo has never heard of The Observer Effect, where someone's presence effects outcomes and behaviours in research, common problem in Social Science research, hey but Brillo knows best, must be mates with Polecat Dom.