WE are told by earnest looking experts on TV that the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party must be properly ‘interrogated’ as a test of their suitability, interrogated by media circus that is. Boris Johnson quite reasonably did not fancy placing himself into the hands of Channel 4 and was heavily criticised for it, as dodging the proper testing process. Is trial by the metropolitan media really any sort of honest ‘interrogation’ rather than forcible participation in a human circus under a ringmaster or mistress inevitably hostile to politicians to the right of Tony Blair or Theresa May? What we seem to be getting is a human version of bear baiting, designed to avoid any ‘debate’ or any really important questions and terrorise the candidates into politically correct compliance.
Channel 4 has produced Big Brother House, and perhaps their TV ‘debate’ was in fact towards that genre rather than serious political engagement. Boris predicted a ‘cacophony’ and so it was; the participants were encouraged to take chunks out of each other and to face questions from a youthful audience perfectly attuned to Rory Stewart’s ‘ever so umble’ Uriah Heep mood music. Dominic Raab’s seriousness was severely disadvantaged. Boris had been set up as hostile to gays by a fake Ch 4 story on the day of the circus.
The BBC did not have an audience but put out ‘email@example.com’ to attract questions for the participants and must have got thousands. No doubt with their extensive detective agency resource and ‘fact checker’ expertise they chose twelve and took them to studios for the event. One was a girl demanding that climate change stop now: this new public religion gained instant genuflections from all five, of course. Ticking that box with no reasoned discussion was vital.
One was ‘Abdullah from Bristol’ who attacked Johnson for his burka letterbox joke, darkly saying that ‘words have consequences’. Johnson had been exonerated from any wrongdoing by a judge, but Sajid Javid seized his opportunity and insisted on a commission to root out any ‘Islamophobia’ in the Tory Party, assuming it was rife. Again all immediately prostrated themselves before this talisman of moral purity and said yes. Could they have done otherwise, with no discussion of the evidence or what religious minorities could insist upon, let alone the western value of free critical speech? So Johnson was smeared successfully by Abdullah.
Thanks to the brilliant blogger Guido Fawkes we discovered the next day that Abdullah had been given a free ride for his propaganda by Nicky Campbell on BBC Radio 5 Live on the morning of the circus. Guido discovered that Abdullah was a Corbynite activist and detester of the state of Israel, a proponent of anti-Semitic views and later to be suspended from his teaching duties. But the BBC had given this man, a deputy head of a school and Imam, vast positive social media publicity involving the smearing of Johnson.
Nicky Campbell apologised on Twitter
I would like to apologise. We had the Imam from the BBC Tory leadership debate on our programme this morning. His social media comments have been extremely disturbing. We should have checked. We didn’t. I’m sorry.
— Nicky Campbell (@NickyAACampbell) June 19, 2019
But we note that he accused Guido, Paul Staines, of fascism in a BBC interview. Oh dear Nicky, do you need ‘interrogation’ for fitness for your job?
Guido has also exposed the last questioner of the programme ‘Aman from London’ as a Labour party apparatchik working for Labour on anti-Semitism, so another plant and far from an ordinary member of the public.
It’s not just Nicky who needs to apologise, it’s the whole BBC empire, enjoying oceans of licence fees, now shown to be worse than careless when it comes to vetting hostile questions aimed at damaging the right of centre politicians. When it comes to vetting Boris they are like the Spanish Inquisition. Sadly BoJo crumpled when granted this opportunity for defiance.
But if the programme damaged Boris, it damaged the BBC far more. If Guido with his tiny team can successfully vet two of the dozen questioners, why is the BBC with its thousands of staff so lax and apparently biased? Far from apologising, the BBC has defended inviting ‘Abdullah from Bristol’. No other apology had been forthcoming at time of writing. Elsewhere on the BBC’s Asian network the hue and cry over the Conservative Party’s putative Islamophobia continues. ‘Do you trust the Tories on Islamophobia?’ assumes rather than questions its existence while asking people to ‘get in touch and have your say’ in another bout of classical BBC activism.
Brexit has exposed a mass of bias in our institutions, from the House of Lords, to the political parties ignoring their election manifesto commitments, to the Electoral Commission and the media. We don’t have to buy the Guardian or the Telegraph but we do have to fund the BBC. This disgracefully biased debate should at least have served as another nail in its coffin.