A friend asks why Andrew Marr is off, sparking these thoughts about the BBC…

Our Dutch friend in York asks a question about Andrew Marr leaving the BBC to get his own voice back. “Is this as concerning as I think or part of British culture/tradition?”

I shall attempt to answer that by referring first to that other Andrew, the growly old Neil variety. Neil took the BBC shilling – very many BBC shillings ­– for 25 years and then slunk off grandly to set up the right-wing GB News network while grumbling about the wokeness of the BBC. That didn’t end well, and he left GB News soon afterwards in what amounted to a right-wing paintball fight.

Then there is John Humphrys. He was a mainstay on the BBC Radio Four Today programme for years. Once he’d finished, the puffed-up ingrate started mouthing off about the BBC in the Daily Mail.

Andrew Marr hasn’t mouthed off about anything yet, just said that in joining the media company Global he will be freer to say what he thinks. The company owns LBC and Classic FM, and Marr will present shows on both.

Here is part of what Marr said on Twitter: “I think British politics and public life are going to go through an even more turbulent decade and, as I’ve said, I am keen to get my own voice back. I have been doing the Andrew Marr show every Sunday morning for 16 years now and that is probably more than enough time for anybody.”

Perhaps Marr has been glancing enviously at LBC where James O’Brien has a high-profile gig sharing his unfiltered opinions about life and politics. Taking much-shared pops at the government has not done O’Brien any harm.

Will Marr follow the same path? At the online Aye Write Glasgow book festival last May, he was already musing about politics changing. The interviewer, Ruth Wishart, asked if he felt “a desperate urge to come out of the closet” about his political views to which Marr replied, “Yes, absolutely.”

Will those unfettered opinions fall to the left or the right? Left-wing types on Twitter think he’s a dreadful right-winger; right-wing types on Twitter think he’s a dreadful left-winger. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

The implication, of course, is that he feels he cannot say what he thinks, whatever that may be, while working for the BBC. The “British culture/tradition” bit, to quote our Dutch friend again, is that the BBC is always stuck in the middle whatever it does, risking pleasing no one as it wraps itself in media bureaucracy and rules on impartiality.

And that’s just got worse.

It’s a surprise to remember that the BBC used to stand up to Margaret Thatcher, whereas now it seems craven before the shamble-bum Boris Johnson. Part of the problem is that, to borrow from that M&S slogan, this isn’t just a rabid Conservative government… it’s a Boris Johnson rabid Conservative government.

And a government moulded to the unreliable shape of Boris Johnson is hard for the BBC to handle. Especially as Johnson & Co (purveyors of shifty right-wing politics to the fooled masses) seem keen on limiting the powers of the BBC, along with anyone else who might criticise what it does.

Back in October, the BBC produced what its own website described as a ‘significant’ ten-point impartiality plan. Bizarrely, this seemed to have been motivated by the recent media furore about how Martin Bashir conducted an interview with Princess Diana in 1995 – 26 years ago!

This 10-point plan from director general Tim Davie, a Tory-friendly appointment, looks designed to prevent the BBC from saying anything about the government, or anyone else, without first jumping through assorted impartiality hoops.

All that will do is make the BBC even more timid and neuter its journalism even more. That may please Boris Johnson, but everyone else should be worried.

Maybe that’s why Marr is off.

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