The paper had been quite specific in its claims about how the interview had been obtained, using words like “Entrap” in its front page headline. The clear implication is that there was an element of coercion, that the Beeb had been guilty of manipulating Diana. The problem for the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker is that she gave the interview of her own volition - and the BBC has now found the evidence to prove it.
As the Guardian has now reported, “The BBC says it has found the handwritten note from Princess Diana that it claimed clears Martin Bashir of wrongdoing in relation to his landmark 1995 interview with the royal. The broadcaster had previously said it had lost the crucial piece of paper, which it used to explain away Bashir’s use of fake bank statements to gain an introduction to Diana”. Oh dear, Charlie! And there was more.
“An internal investigation at the time of the original broadcast concluded that Bashir did not coerce Diana into giving the interview and ‘we also have her word in writing for that’. Until Friday the corporation had insisted it had lost the letter. However, after weeks of press coverage to mark the 25th anniversary of the interview, the BBC says that it has found the memo from Diana. It will provide the document to an independent inquiry that it is being set up to reinvestigate how Bashir obtained the interview”. Most convenient.
The Mail, egged on by Charlie Spencer, has run a series of front page attacks on the Corporation, the latter being hamstrung by Bashir being seriously ill with Covid-19 complications and unable to defend himself. And then, at the eleventh hour, as the Guardian headline puts it, “BBC finds Princess Diana's lost note that it says clears Martin Bashir”. No coercion, no entrapment. And on top of that is an article in the Sunday Times.
There, former BBC Royal Correspondent Jennie Bond tells how she met Diana some months before the Bashir interview: the Princess wanted to tell her story, apparently concerned that her forthcoming divorce settlement would contain a gagging clause. Ms Bond effectively backs up the claim that there was no coercion involved.
Where does that leave the Mail? Simples. They’ve kept the Royal theme, but pivoted to another attack on the Sussexes for being “preachy”, which means possessing opinions which have incurred the Mail’s disapproval. And because the Sussexes have begun a legal action against the Mail titles, which inevitably brings retaliation and abuse.
Earlier this month, I concluded that “Tim Davie should be wary of caving in to Charlie Spencer”. After finding that note and Ms Bond’s article, he should be yet more wary.
The Mail has expended so much effort. And has got precisely nowhere. Sad, really.
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