Brexit battered and bewildered, Boris blitzed and buggered. Such alliterative abuse of the first consonant shouldn’t be allowed, but perhaps my editor won’t be paying attention.
This isn’t really about politics, as it’s all been too much. This is about politicians rounding on the BBC in the kicking fields of Westminster.
As it licks its deep wounds, Labour scowls across at the BBC, complaining that the corporation’s reporting played a role in its electoral defeat. And over in the smug seats, the new Tory government raises its own chorus of threatening belittlement.
They’re both unhappy so we must be doing something right – that’s the traditional BBC response to such double-headed assaults.
The BBC’s coverage of the election was far from perfect, but only because it just never can be. Closer study than a glance from one man on a ledge will decide this one. As a snap judgment, I’d say the BBC is sometimes pro-government in outlook, and as the Conservatives are so often in power, that gives an impression of being pro-Tory.
Despite that, Johnson the victor is threatening to cramp the BBC by turning it into a Netflix-style subscription service, something apparently long favoured by Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s semi-hidden adviser, a man who lurks in the shadowy gutter of national life.
The government is also refusing to appear on the BBC Today programme, in response to what it regards as anti-Tory bias.
This is childish or chilling or maybe both.
Two incidents are thought to lie behind this threatening behaviour.
One is Andrew Neil fronting up Johnson about his refusal to be interviewed; the other is said to be the BBC’s extensive reporting of that interview with the local reporter who asked Johnson about the boy being treated on a hospital floor (an ITV reporter mind, but they don’t seem to get it in the neck like the BBC).
To risk harming what, for all its problems, remains one of the most trusted institutions in Britain, and around the world, is just rankly irresponsible.
This is doubly so as the Tories get most things their own way in these matters. Nearly all the newspapers were slavishly on side for the election, kissing Johnson’s fat Etonian arse, while kicking Jeremy Corbyn’s skinnier behind all down the street and back.
With bias in mind, the veteran BBC newsreader Hugh Edwards wrote something interesting on LinkedIn earlier this week (I know, interesting and LinkedIn – remarkable!).
Looking back on his 35th year at the BBC, Edwards said that the BBC now faced “toxic cynicism and accusations of bias (from all sides)”. He added that the “real purpose of many of the attacks is to undermine trust in institutions which have been sources of stability over many decades. The apparent purpose, in short, is to cause chaos and confusion”.
Edwards said much else besides that is interesting, so do seek out his words.
Here is one section ready plucked and put on a plate for you…
“It’s not ‘biased’ just because you happen not to like it. And here we have the real poison of the social media age: there is a refusal to entertain an alternative point of view; there is a desire to embrace only those sources which confirm your own ‘worldview’ or ‘groupthink’; in short, it’s ‘biased’ if it challenges your own bias. It’s unhealthy and profoundly damaging.”
How true, Hugh.
The best comment I’ve seen from the other side is this from Chris Bryant, Labour MP for the Rhondda – “politicians who complain about their portrayal in the media always seem like fishermen complaining about the sea. Our whole task is to navigate choppy seas”.
In the spirit of supporting the BBC as it faces down Boris Johnson, I tentatively nudged open the door to the Today programme. That door shut two minutes later when Dr Liam Fox, the arch Brexiter, filled the airways with the usual nonsense.
Back to BBC Radio Three, for beautiful music, gentle chat and a minute’s worth of news about once an hour (just enough).
To borrow from an unlikely source, I’ll be back. But for now, Brexit, Boris, Trump, Corbyn – and the rest – are testing the patience of this lifelong news junkie.