Magazine article The Spectator

Today's Issues

Magazine article The Spectator

Today's Issues

Article excerpt

So the big question this week is: is the Today programme a viper's nest of evil pinkoes, all of whom should be put in sacks and dropped into a deep well?

And the answer is: yes.

Shame, though, really, because wrong and bad though it is I do have a soft spot for Today. I like the poshness of the cars they send to pick you up when you're on it and the producers' apparently genuine gratitude that you've agreed to appear at such a hideously early time. I like the teenyweeny half-nod of acknowledgement which is all you get from the presenters when you creep to your mic in the studio because they're busy concentrating and guests are two-a-penny. I like the fact that everyone you know hears you when you're on it and takes you seriously for at least ten minutes afterwards. I even like Jim Naughtie, for God's sake.

Why, then, must they all die? Well, it's so obvious, I should have thought, that it's barely worth explaining. But, very briefly, it's that they think they're the voice of balance, reason and moderation, whereas in fact on almost any issue - Europe, global warming, capitalism, Israel, women, hunting, race, immigration - you know damned well that the spin they're going to put on it will essentially be that of the glib, unthinking, this-is-the-way-all-our-mediachums-think-so-it-must-be-right liberal Left.

This is what so infuriated me about that famous occasion when Brian Redhead gave Nigel Lawson a dressing-down on air for presuming to judge which way he voted. It was clever gamesmanship, no doubt about that, but it was also hypocrisy of the rankest kind. Of course, Brian Redhead wasn't a Tory voter. Never in a billion years would he have even begun to understand why it is that Tories think the way they do. What incredible cheek, then, to act so affronted when his bluff was called!

On BBC4's 50th anniversary celebration documentary 50 Years of the Today Programme (Thursday), this incident was of course presented as a marvellous example of Today programme feistiness and independence in the face of government interference. Then we heard John Humphrys (looking way too sleek and rich these days, one notices) telling us how the second New Labour got into power they were just as much on his case as the Tories had been.

So that must mean Today gets the political balance about right, mustn't it? …

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