Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

The New Labour assault on John Humphrys was inevitable, not because he is a Tory (I have no reason to suppose he is) but because he defies Labour's Gestapo, being always scrupulously fair. He interviewed me last week in a debate with the genial Mr Billy Bragg. When Mr Bragg misrepresented something I had said, Mr Humphrys immediately corrected him and set the record straight. Instead of being castigated by a director-general who manifestly lives in fear of his masters in No. 10, Mr Humphrys should be given a huge pay rise and put in charge of improving the training of other BBC journalists.

One offence he would never commit is to join in the BBC's insulting use of the phrase 'right-wing'. I first noticed this a couple of years ago when interviewed on The World This Weekend. One of my fellow interviewees was introduced as a journalist, the other as a Lib Dem peeress, and I as 'a right-wing controversialist'. At least one of my opponents (if not both) could quite fairly have been described as a left-wing controversialist, but that would not have matched the presenter's desire to ensure that I alone was labelled -- doubtless as a health warning to the listeners -- before I had opened my mouth. On the seven o'clock news one morning last month Migrationwatch was branded by the newsreader as 'the right-wing pressure group'. Perhaps someone complained, because by eight o'clock the adjective was gone. Then, last week, Dr Madsen Pirie was introduced in a debate on The World Tonight as director of the 'right of centre' Adam Smith Institute. Dr Mad instantly observed that his Institute was 'right of centre' just as his opponent's think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, was left of centre. The lady presenter, who had not of course flagged the IPPR man in this way, was unabashed. The BBC's head of news, Helen Boaden, is shrewd enough to see that every time a politically motivated underling utters such a remark, another nail is driven into the Corporation's coffin. Oh for the days when they saw the need at least to pretend to be impartial.

Several of the BBC's reporters in New Orleans will have done themselves no harm with the ruling caste in their barely suppressed expressions of rage at the US government's failure to help those afflicted by Hurricane Katrina. Mr Matt Frei especially distinguished himself; if I were Hillary Clinton I would sign him up forthwith as my spin doctor for 2008. Despite watching much of the BBC's coverage, I found little or no emphasis placed by correspondents on the devastating failure of Louisiana's Democrat governor, Kathleen Blanco, to agree at once to President Bush's early offer to send in help. Nor was the attack on Mr Bush interrupted too often for comparable comment on the wickedness of a feral section of the population in engaging in their traditional pastimes of looting, raping and mugging, even though there was a national disaster in progress. My only visit to New Orleans, 18 years ago, was during a tornado, and these same plucky characteristics of the locals were much in evidence in the aftermath. When, the morning after, I asked the hotel concierge -- in my extreme naivety -- to suggest interesting places I might walk to, he instead suggested that I might, in that case, consider making a will. God knows why they want to rebuild the place. Its underclass having been dispersed to 13 states, there is surely hope that, separated from each other, they might aspire to something better. …

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