Influence: Richard Sharp (left) and Boris Johnson.
Here’s an aspect to Richard Sharp’s resignation as BBC Chairman that needs to be more thoroughly examined: his relationship with Boris Johnson and what that former prime minister wanted from the media.
This aspect was explored by James O’Brien on LBC:
The assumption is that Boris Johnson wasn’t happy that the right-wing of politics controls 90 per cent of the media and wanted to put his people in charge of organisations including Ofcom and the BBC, to ensure even more right-wing media dominance.
It suggests that Johnson failed with Ofcom but succeeded with the BBC.
Now take a look at the way the BBC’s Ros Atkins examines the Sharp case:
Again, Johnson is mentioned – but his intention in appointing Sharp is glossed-over. The report comes across as fence-sitting.
Is this an aspect of Sharp’s Tory influence?
If that is even possible, is it right that Sharp remains in post until June, while a new BBC chairperson is interviewed, vetted and appointed?
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How the BBC treats Jeremy Corbyn: remember the Newsnight backdrop making him look like a Soviet-style Communist?
Why is the BBC only ‘correcting’ its lie about Jeremy Corbyn on Newsnight? What about all the other occasions the same falsehood has been repeated on its programmes?
The corporation has issued a statement on its “corrections and clarifications” web page, as illustrated in the tweet below that juxtaposes the offence with the explanation:
The BBC issue a statement on their 'corrections and clarifications' page making it clear that when Newsnight claimed Jeremy Corbyn had never apologised for antisemitism, that was a lie.pic.twitter.com/GfCjO3Wt2h
“In an item about Labour’s National Executive Committee voting to stop former leader Jeremy Corbyn running as a candidate in the next general election, we referenced the row over antisemitism in the party and Mr Corbyn’s “refusal to offer up any kind of apology for that”. We also questioned whether he would refuse to apologise “as he has all the way up to now” if antisemitism came up in an election campaign.
“To be clear, Mr Corbyn apologised for antisemitism in Labour on a number of occasions as Party Leader, including ahead of a meeting with Jewish community leaders in April 2018. In 2020, after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigated antisemitism in the party and found unlawful harassment and discrimination, Labour suspended Mr Corbyn after he said he did not accept all the EHRC findings and said the scale of antisemitism had been ‘dramatically overstated’.”
But isn’t even the correction misleading?
The BBC apologises for lying then misleads again: "He said he did not accept all the EHRC findings." Corbyn: "While I do not accept all of its findings, I trust its recommendations will be swiftly implemented." Leaving out the "while" and all from the comma changes the meaning. https://t.co/TvPIU5ddZspic.twitter.com/msfMVKUiS9
But what about the falsehoods in other BBC programmes, such as Politics Live?
Consider the utterances of Rafael Behr and Jenny Chapman on February 20 this year, here:
Or those of Siobahn McDonagh and Sebastian Payne on March 27 this year, here:
The BBC may well try to duck out of responsibility by saying these were the words of guests on its programmes – but of course those words were not corrected by any BBC representative, despite the corporation’s duty to report the facts.
Jenny Chapman referred to “integrity and credibility”. By failing to correct all instances in which falsehoods about Mr Corbyn were uttered on its programmes, the BBC trashes its own reputation for either.
Martin Forde KC, the author of a major report on allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, has said there are serious issues of racism but, since it was published in July, nobody in the organisation has contacted him to discuss what should happen next.
he has “anxiety” and “genuine underlying concerns” about “racial issues within the party”.
Referring to Sir Keir’s speech last month, in which the Labour leader said the party will “never again be brought to its knees by racism or bigotry”, Mr Forde said: “It is not a sufficient response to say ‘that was then this is now’.”
He added: “These are serious debates that need to be heard in a respectful context. And I just feel this there’s work to be done.”
His words come after he was interviewed by Middle Eastern broadcaster Al-Jazeera for an episode of its Labour Files documentary series, in which he claimed that the BBC Panorama documentary Is Labour Antisemitic had been “objectively entirely misleading”, and that he had been contacted by BBC representatives who wanted him to “amend” his comments on the show.
Here’s how the Al-Jazeera documentary describes what happened:
This man was hand picked by Starmer’s Labour to investigate the Labour leaks.
What Martin Forde KC found when he looked under the car bonnet was not what Sir Keir Starmer KC wanted to hear.
Did their Tory bosses order the BBC to keep coverage of the strikes off its website yesterday?
Apparently the only way to see the size and scale of the march that took place in London was via German television.
See for yourself:
I’ve scrolled through several of your webpages @BBCNews but can’t seem to find a video or much at all about U.K. #strikes Do we now need to rely on foreign news to find out what’s happening in our own country? 🤷🏻♀️ https://t.co/lvuqkq8m7P
Fiona Bruce: would she have been better-off staying with Refuge and quitting the BBC?
Neither Fiona Bruce nor the domestic abuse charity Refuge wanted this; it seems to have been prompted by the sense of betrayal felt by domestic abuse victims – over words the BBC obliged her to speak.
Ms Bruce has quit as an ambassador for Refuge after saying on the BBC’s Question Time last week that it’s understood an incident in which former PM Boris Johnson’s father broke his wife’s nose was “a one-off”.
The charity has said survivors of domestic abuse have been in touch over the weekend to described how “devastating” Ms Bruce’s words had been to them.
Refuge’s position has always been that “domestic abuse is never a ‘one-off’; it is a pattern of behaviour that can manifest in a number of ways, including but not limited to physical abuse. Domestic abuse is never acceptable.”
Ms Bruce should have known that – but it seems that she was caught between a rock and a hard place, because she was “legally obliged” by her contract with the BBC to say the words that were given to her during the recording of the programme on March 9.
The BBC explained this in a statement on March 10: “When serious allegations are made on air against people or organisations, it is the job of BBC presenters to ensure that the context of those allegations – and any right of reply from the person or organisation – is given to the audience, and this is what Fiona Bruce was doing … She was not expressing any personal opinion about the situation.”
So it seems the BBC was at fault for telling Ms Bruce to speak words that were at odds with accepted facts about domestic abuse.
That certainly seems to be Refuge’s take on what happened: “While we know the words were not Fiona’s own and were words she was legally obliged to read out, this does not lessen their impact and we cannot lose sight of that.”
Contrast this with the Corporation’s attitude to Gary Lineker, who has been reinstated as host of Match of the Day after (rightly) refusing to retract his comparison of Suella Braverman’s words about Channel migrants with the rhetoric of Germany in the 1930s.
In both situations, the presenters knew (or should have known) what was right, but their bosses wrongly thought they knew better.
The BBC still hasn’t learned its lesson; Lineker is back in his job while an “independent” review of its social media policy takes place. This Writer can guess right now that it will demand stricter restrictions on presenters’ rights of free speech on other platforms.
And Suella Braverman is still othering and demonising Channel migrants.
In her latest Parliamentary appearance, she blamed vulnerable refugees for the supply of illegal drugs in the UK:
Suella Braverman says police chiefs have told her "that drug supply… is now connected to people who came here on small boats illegally" pic.twitter.com/62XtYBhb70
After days in which Labour politicians have lambasted BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker for publishing entirely reasonable comments about the Tory Illegal Migration Bill on Twitter, party leader Keir Starmer has changed course radically.
Mr Lineker said the rhetoric used by Home Secretary Suella Braverman was similar to that of Germany in the 1930s.
He has since been shown to be right.
There is no stipulation in his BBC contract to suggest that he, as a sports presenter, should not be allowed to discuss politics on his own personal Twitter feed.
But Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper had this to say about it when she was interviewed on LBC, after the row initially broke out…
Contrast her words with Keir Starmer’s comment, after the BBC suspended Mr Lineker from presenting Match of the Day, prompting a huge walkout by his fellow sports presenters that critically hampered the Corporation’s sports coverage and brought its decision-making into question.
This was just bandwagon-jumping by Starmer.
He saw an opportunity to hammer the BBC for pandering to Conservatives and he took it – never mind the fact that he was speaking in opposition to his own shadow ministers.
“Blatantly Backing Conservatives”: the malady seems to have spread from BBC news and is now affecting all its departments. But can the Corporation bow to public demand and restore its tattered claim to impartiality?
Who would have thought that one little tweet would rock the world’s biggest public service broadcaster to its foundations?
That’s what Gary Lineker seems to have done with this message:
He was referring, of course, to the language used by Suella Braverman when she introduced her silly Illegal Migration Bill to Parliament last week – and he was right.
Subsequently, we learned that the measures in the Bill, and the language around it, would be more appropriately compared to the UK’s own treatment of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s – politicians of that time sent more than half a million back to Europe where an unknown number ended up being killed in extermination camps as part of the Holocaust.
Everybody should think very hard about that – and about the way politicians in both the Conservative Party and Labour condemned Mr Lineker and denied that the current Bill, or the way it was described, bore any resemblance to what happened in the 1930s.
The BBC reacted to Tory pressure the way it usually does – it caved in.
Mr Lineker was removed from his position as host of Match of the Day – and the Corporation lied about the circumstances. First we were told he was “stepping back” voluntarily until he could reach an agreement with the BBC over how he conducts himself on a social media account that is nothing to do with his employment and over which his employers should have no influence at all. Then we found out that he had been forced out.
And then the effluent hit the air conditioner.
Mr Lineker’s co-presenters on MOTD walked out in solidarity with him and everyone asked to be a possible stand-in host refused on principle.
Now, we are learning that sports coverage at the Beeb is suffering even more:
Presenters, pundits, commentators, players and another BBC football shows pulled….am sure no-one at BBC had any idea the decision to take Lineker off air would escalate as quickly or dramatically like this. And when crises do blow up like this, climb-downs become even harder…. https://t.co/BfyD9wHkwG
And the backlash has spread into other parts of the BBC.
Question Time, which actually discussed both the Illegal Migration Bill and Mr Lineker’s tweet about it, has come under fire after host Fiona Bruce played down the significance of Stanley Johnson beating his wife, in a discussion of his son Boris’s nomination of that man for a knighthood.
Here’s what she said (with apologies for the strong language used by the person tweeting it):
“Domestic abuse is never a ‘one off’, it is a pattern of behaviour that can manifest in a number of ways, including physical abuse. Domestic abuse is never acceptable.”
In a parallel with the BBC’s treatment of Mr Lineker, the charity said it had also been in talks with Ms Bruce: “She is appalled that any of her words have been understood as her minimising domestic violence. We know she is deeply upset that this has been triggering for survivors.
“Like the host of any BBC programme, when serious on-air allegations are made about someone, Fiona is obliged to put forward a right of reply from that person or their representatives, and that was what happened last night. These are not in any way Fiona’s own views about the situation.
“Fiona is deeply sorry that last night’s programme has distressed survivors of domestic abuse. Refuge stands by her and all survivors today.”
Sadly, the BBC did not see fit to support the charity’s assertion that Ms Bruce was “appalled” and “deeply sorry” for “triggering” and having “distressed” survivors.
Instead, it merely defended what happened on the programme: “When serious allegations are made on air against people or organisations, it is the job of BBC presenters to ensure that the context of those allegations – and any right of reply from the person or organisation – is given to the audience, and this is what Fiona Bruce was doing last night. She was not expressing any personal opinion about the situation.”
Not good enough.
A BBC decision not to broadcast an episode of Sir David Attenborough’s new series Wild Isles for fear that its its themes of the destruction of nature would risk a backlash from Tory politicians and the right wing press has provoked a huge backlash – not just from environmental groups but, again, from within the Corporation itself.
The sixth episode will appear only on BBC iPlayer. All six episodes were narrated by Attenborough, and made by the production company Silverback Films, which was responsible for previous series including Our Planet.
Chris Packham, presenter of Springwatch, told The Guardian: “At this time, in our fight to save the world’s biodiversity, it is irresponsible not to put that at the forefront of wildlife broadcasting.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “For the BBC to censor of one of the nation’s most informed and trusted voices on the nature and climate emergencies is nothing short of an unforgivable dereliction of its duty to public service broadcasting. This government has taken a wrecking ball to our environment – putting over 1,700 pieces of environmental legislation at risk, setting an air pollution target which is a decade too late, and neglecting the scandal of our sewage-filled waterways – which cannot go unexamined and unchallenged by the public.”
The Guardian added that “senior sources at the BBC [said] that the decision not to show the sixth episode was made to fend off potential critique from the political right.
Again, the BBC’s response was cowardly. The broadcaster claimed the six-part series was only ever intended to have five episodes: “Wild Isles is – and always was – a five part series and does not shy away from environmental content. We have acquired a separate film for iPlayer from the RSPB and WWF and Silverback Films about people working to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the British Isles.”
If this sixth film is part of a package of such films – a series, if you will – all made by the same organisations and narrated by the same person, and all to be available together on iPlayer, then it seems clear that it is an episode of that series and the BBC is again being economical with the truth.
This behaviour – and the decision over Mr Lineker – drew the following comment from economist Richard Murphy;
So, this afternoon the BBC gives in to fascists over Gary Lineker’s support for asylum seekers and on David Attenborough’s desire to highlight the impact of climate change. Fascism isn’t a threat. It is happening here and now, with the BBC enabling it.
Finally (for now), the BBC has faced a backlash against its continued employment of Lord Sugar on The Apprentice, whose own political tweets – particularly attacking former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – have gone unquestioned by the Corporation.
Mr Corbyn found an unlikely defender – on a BBC news programme – in Alastair Campbell. And the former New Labour press secretary didn’t pull his punches when referring to any of the scandals mentioned above:
Finally some honesty about the disgusting treatment Jeremy Corbyn received from figures at the BBC. And it’s coming from…Alistair Campbell. pic.twitter.com/sBhNOMFrIL
Islamophobia: the creator of this image thought it was bad enough in the Tories under Theresa May. Now, with racist Boris Johnson in charge, who knows how far the rot has gone?
How long has the Equalities and Human Rights Commission been looking for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party now? A year?
Either it is very well hidden – which would be odd, considering the number of (admittedly mostly false) claims made against the party – or the EHRC is determined not to stop until it has managed to concoct a convincing case.
It doesn’t fill one with confidence in that organisation.
And now we see that the EHRC is trying to squirm out of handling 300 documented cases of Islamophobia – in the Conservative Party.
Does anybody else smell a rat?
According to the Mirror, the dossier handed to the EHRC – by the Muslim Council of Britain – contains information about 16 Conservative MPs, one MEP, nine election candidates and 183 party members.
That’s 209 people, so presumably some are multiple offenders. I wonder if Boris Johnson is listed among them?
A former councillor calling for “unconditional surrender” by Muslims, who they label “brutes who beat, kill and maim young women”;
A local party association chair who called for Muslims to be banned;
A member who called for Muslims to be thrown from bridges;
Another member who called for the forcible sterilisation of Muslims.
The MCB also condemns the Conservative Party’s failure to suspend MP Daniel Kawczynski after he spoke at an event alongside far-right leaders, and for failing to take action on MP Karl McCartney, who shared Islamophobic and anti-Semitic social media content by Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins.
Secretary General Harun Khan said the EHRC had failed to give any response to the MCB’s first formal complaint in May 2019, and says it was ‘extraordinary’ that the watchdog had taken no action in the 10 months since.
“There is no doubt that the Conservative party has an Islamophobia crisis: it is institutional, systemic and widespread” he said,
“The party’s response has been one of denial, dismissal and deceit – this results in clear discrimination against Muslims because of their religion”
The EHRC says it is waiting for information about a promised internal inquiry by the Conservative Party, which it is claiming will be “independent” even though it is to be carried out within the party structure.
This Writer can only wish them good luck with that. We’re all also awaiting publication of the report on Russian influence on the Conservative government, and on Boris Johnson’s relationship with Jennifer Arcuri.
Wise heads think it won’t just be a cold day in Hell, but their subjects may actually have taken up residence there before these reports are published.
Former Tory-supporting columnist Peter Oborne thinks – well, see for yourself:
300 allegations of Tory Islamophobia in devastating report. No coverage in FT or Daily Telegraph. Seven paras on p.16 of Times. Nothing in the Daily Mail, Express, or the Sun. My new column for MEE:
The problem stretches from the lowest ranks of the Tory party to the very top. There is a massive problem with Islamophobic bigotry among Tory grassroots, where the MCB has provided a list of more than 100 cases.
Party members, councillors and officials have repeatedly made disgusting statements about Muslims, calling for them to leave the country, making provocative insults about the Prophet Muhammad and peddling malicious lies.
I’ve written before about Bob Blackman, the Conservative MP for Harrow East, who shared an anti-Muslim post by Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League; hosted the anti-Muslim Tapan Ghosh, the right-wing Hindu nationalist; and shared far-right and Islamophobic content on Facebook.
Anti-Muslim bigotry is not a barrier to promotion. Nadine Dorries, who also shared a tweet by Robinson, is now a health minister. This is no surprise, given that Johnson himself has a long record of making anti-Muslim remarks.
Tellingly, Johnson is surrounded by Islamophobes. Dominic Cummings, his most senior advisor, reportedly had overall responsibility for The Spectator website in 2006, according to Stuart Reid, the magazine’s acting editor at the time, when a controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban was posted on the site.
One of Johnson’s up-and-coming advisors is Chloe Westley. She praised Anne Marie Waters, leader of the anti-Islam party For Britain, as a “hero”, even though Waters has called Islam “evil” and also has links to Robinson.
But he made a very important point: the UK’s mass media are ignoring this story:
I could find nothing at all about the MCB report in the Financial Times or Daily Telegraph. There were seven paragraphs on page 16 of the Times and 11 paragraphs on page 7 of the Guardian. Nothing in the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, or the Sun.
Most British newspapers are as Islamophobic as the Conservative Party itself, and in some cases, more so. This means they are effectively giving Johnson and his senior advisers and ministers a free pass to reshape the Tory party as a far-right, populist organisation of the type we already know too well on continental Europe.
It shows how the media have been manipulating your opinions and – by proxy – the actions of organisations like the EHRC.
The papers kicked up a huge fuss about the imaginary crisis of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (where I doubt if even 200 genuine cases have been found among a membership of more than half a million in the past four years).
But their silence over 300 evidenced cases of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, which is much smaller than Labour, means few people know about it and any outcry is therefore minimised.
So the EHRC can say there’s no real demand for it to investigate, despite the fact that, in real terms, it is a bigger issue.
Jeremy Corbyn, writing about Jews including Roza Robota, Szmul Zygielbojm and Anne Frank, in the Holocaust Educational Trust’s book of remembrance.
What has been going on over at TheGraun and Observer?
First Sonia Sodha wrote an almost fact-free article suggesting that Keir Starmer was right to say Jeremy Corbyn would not be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate in general elections again, as if Mr Corbyn was somehow responsible for the plethora of (mostly false) accusations of anti-Semitism against the party during his time as leader.
Then The Guardian ran an editorial that was pro-Corbyn.
And then the letters came in – from the usual suspects. The Graun ran a few of them on its letters page.
“It is simply neither sufficient or even accurate to say, as you do, that ‘Mr Corbyn has a formidable record fighting against racism and in speaking up for many persecuted peoples, but in this case he was too slow and too defensive. To show how much better he was than some of his critics allowed, he should have tried harder to engage with their criticisms,'” wrote crossbench Baroness and Rabbi Julia Neuberger.
“The truth is that he was not slow or defensive. He simply did not act. He failed to engage with those who pointed out how toxic the party had become for Jews. He consistently failed to accord antisemitism the status of racism – which it undoubtedly is. He has been selective in those causes he has taken up – and rising antisemitism, including within his own party, apparently was not worth worrying about. Meanwhile, due to his inaction and failure to understand, he made absolutely miserable the lives of several Jewish MPs in his own party. To name but a few, Louise Ellman, Luciana Berger, Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth all had a terrible time and had to put up with the vilest of hate campaigns on social media. Some even left the party.”
None of the immediately preceding paragraph is true. Mr Corbyn did act. He launched a strategy to handle anti-Semitism in 2016 – but due to the reluctance of right-wingers in the party machine, had to wait until his choice of general secretary, Jennie Formby, was installed in 2018 before he could see it put fully into practice. He never denied anti-Semitism within the Labour Party – in fact he accorded it a great deal of importance. And if the named ladies suffered hate campaigns, how many of them were brought on because they had fabricated accusations of anti-Semitism? One example would be Luciana Berger’s claims against Liverpool Riverside CLP; she has yet to provide any evidence of anti-Semitism by any member of that organisation (to my knowledge).
Simon Sebag Montefiore wrote: “It is extraordinary that the Guardian should devote a formal editorial to defending Jeremy Corbyn only three years after his toxic crankery led to the unprecedented shame of an Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into racism in the Labour party – and a Tory landslide.” His toxic crankery? The EHRC found that efforts to improve Labour’s response to anti-Semitism allegations had been hampered by right-wing factionalists (and did improve after Ms Formby because gensec)… and wasn’t that Tory landscape more to do with Labour’s policy on Brexit – that had been written by a rising shadow minister called Keir Starmer?
He continued: “To suggest his sole fault was that he was ‘too slow and too defensive’ would be laughable if it was not so deliberately dishonest.” I don’t know about deliberate dishonesty but it is mistaken. I’ve already mentioned the reason the Labour Party had been slow to take up Corbyn’s plan to better-handle accusations. As for defensiveness – unless I’m mistaken, several people directly accused Mr Corbyn of anti-Semitism. As he was and remains a lifelong campaigner against discrimination of any kind, it’s possible that he had a right to act defensively.
There was more of the same from Karen Pollock of the Holocaust Educational Trust and Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement (which you don’t have to be either Jewish or a member of Labour to join, unlike Jewish Voice for Labour which, we’re told, is occupied by the wrong kind of Jew – whatever that means).
Only Glyn Turton of Baildon, West Yorkshire – who is not, apparently, a peer or a member of a campaigning organisation – was shown standing up for the former Labour leader.
Even then, the support was lukewarm. “One can surely ask more of Labour than to use up so much political capital in defining itself in opposition to its own past,” he wrote. “There is a graver threat to the country than the political ghost of Corbyn. It is the party currently in office that has brought this nation to the brink of ruin.”
Fortunately for balance, a couple of days later, Jewish barrister Geoffrey Bindman KC, chair of the British Institute of Human Rights and former legal adviser to the Commission for Racial Equality, appeared in the Graun letters page with a more substantial defence:
Let's see what manner of pond life is prepared to call Geoffrey Bindman KC, Chair of the British Institute of Human Rights, former legal adviser to the Commission for Racial Equality, solicitor, and himself a Jewish man, an antisemite. 😀
Here’s a video clip of him saying much the same as he stated above; that from 220 complaints the EHRC could find only two cases of unlawful conduct by people labelled as Labour Party agents – both of whom are challenging the findings in the High Court, that the findings of interference by the party leadership have been questioned in the Forde report, and that the party’s inadequate training of its staff was not a failing of Mr Corbyn:
And then former Labour MP Chris Mullin stepped into the fray to point out that, under Labour rules, Mr Corbyn is fully entitled to put himself forward as a candidate to stand for Islington North Labour at the next election:
If only some of the current @UKLabour MPs had the courage to speak the truth!
Laughter: I doubt this has been Jeremy Corbyn’s reaction to the latest vain attempts to destroy his reputation, but let’s hope he gets a warm feeling from the fact that the rest of us are laughing at his detractors.
This is what I get for missing Not the Andrew Marr Show.
On Sunday, it featured award-winning human rights lawyer and former legal advisor to the Race Relations Board, Geoffrey Bindman KC, who exposed the failures of both The Guardian and The Observer to report the facts of the EHRC investigation into whether there was “institutional antisemitism” in the Labour Party when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.
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