Starmer wakes up on woke… and the culture secretary lands in a hopeless muddle over BBC ‘bias’

Despite promising not to look at the Daily Mail’s front page, I did like this headline: “Starmer Wades into Culture Wars on the side of the Woke.”

Oh, good – about time he did something to cheer me up. This obsession with woke this and woke that is just deeply tedious. Those who burble incontinently about wokeness merely illustrate their lack of having anything sensible to say.

Mostly they are stirring a shitty quagmire of their own making. Or, rather, one made in the US by the alt-right and their media pals.

Anyway, Sir Keir Starmer used his speech to stick up for, among others, the National Trust. It’s an odd world where that purveyor of bog-standard afternoon teas to the middle classes and holder of the keys to fine historical properties has become the number one enemy to various right-wingers, but there you go.

The hatred of the Daily Telegraph/Spectator classes for the National Trust seems to date to a report published some years ago charting the connections of its properties to slavery.

Members of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs – more accurately designated the Usual Old Nonsense Group – complained that the National Trust was engaged in an “ideologically motivated endeavour” to rewrite history.

Or, if your marbles haven’t all rolled away, a simple and honest attempt to write a fuller version of history, reflecting the bad as well as the good.

Anyway, times two, what Starmer needs to do now is carry on pointing out this stuff – and to stick to his sensibly stated plans (on green investment, for one) rather than retreating at every tired Tory taunt.

The football commentator and part-time culture warrior Gary Lineker is a man much hated by supposedly commonsensical Tory MPs and their backing vocalists in many newspapers. In an interview at the weekend, he gave a sensible account of himself, and of the anti-woke crusade.

“I mean, what is woke? Having a conscience, having a heart, having empathy? How is that a bad thing?”

Quite so, Gary.

Keir Starmer’s speech coincided with the latest attack on the BBC by a Tory culture secretary, in this case that heap of hopelessness known as Lucy Frazer. In an interview with Sky News, the presenter Kay Burley asked Frazer why she thought the BBC was biased.

Her answer came with an ‘Er’ here and an ‘Er’ there.

“So, where’s your evidence?” asked Burley, an admirably persistent sort.

After stumbling for the right words like a pigeon chasing seeds, all Frazer had to offer was that some people perceived the BBC to be biased. Burley helpfully pointed out that perception was not evidence. She gave Frazer another chance to explain herself, but there was nothing more, just the bob of her seed-chasing head.

Right, so the latest bumble-bum in charge of culture thinks that ‘perception’ is the same as ‘evidence’. And that saying it often enough in a squeaky, ill-tempered voice (a tic caught from Rishi Sunak) will make it so.

After Frazer wielded her blunt razor, Downing Street felt moved to deny the government was pursuing an agenda against the BBC over impartiality.

But before you could say what about this then, a different minister lashed out, this time at a long-running show on Radio 4 .

Huw Merriman said last Friday’s episode of The News Quiz was “completely biased”.

“For 10 minutes all I heard was… just diatribe against Conservatives. Not the government. And I did listen to that and think ‘for goodness sake’ where is the balance in that?” he told Sky News.

When reminded that it was a satirical show, he said it did not strike him as particularly satirical, so there.

The trouble is that for the BBC impartiality is the impossible straitjacket. Wear this nice restraint, various governments insist – it’ll stop you waiving your naughty opinions about. It doesn’t do that but instead imposes an unworkable restriction, especially as what most ministers mean by impartiality is, just be nice to us, don’t criticise, say anything rotten.

Of course, the idea that the BBC is left-wing is more than faintly ludicrous. Robbie Gibb, a non-executive director of the BBC board, was head of communications for Theresa May, a friend of Boris Johnson, the brother of Minister Robbie Gibb and was instrumental in setting up the extremely partial GB News.

And don’t forget the former chairman Richard Sharp, so Tory-friendly he had to resign after failing to declare a connection to a secret £800,000 loan arranged for Johnson.

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