Magazine article The Spectator

The Occasional Ex-Fascist Is the Least of the BBC's Problems

Magazine article The Spectator

The Occasional Ex-Fascist Is the Least of the BBC's Problems

Article excerpt

We live in a recriminatory age, one in which we are only ever a step away from the cringing, self-abnegating apology. Take the case of BBC Newsnight's latest appointee, as economics editor, a chap called Duncan Weldon. Duncan is doing the tail between the legs thing right now, desperately attempting to excise part of his past in case it puts paid to his promising career in a fusillade of political accusations and an appalled reaction from the general public. The problem is, in his younger days, it seems Duncan worked as an adviser for the deputy leader of the Labour party, Harriet Harperson. 'It is embarrassing. I was young and naive and didn't properly understand what a mendacious and potentially dangerous bint she was. It was a youthful dalliance, no more, a mere flirtation of which, obviously, I am now deeply ashamed. I hope people will allow me to put this dark side of my past where it properly belongs, i. e. behind me, or at least to one side, either way, not in front, ' he said, via the medium of his blog.

Well OK, he didn't - I made that up. Or most of it, anyway. It is true that he did work for Harperson and indeed the TUC, and this provoked in some Conservative quarters a certain outrage. It's the BBC at it again, was the gist, appointing well-known lefties to important and influential posts. For example, Newsnight's former economics editor was Paul Mason, who had been a rabid Trot in his earlier days. Its recently appointed editor is Ian Katz, a charming, clever and perfect embodiment of north London bien-pensant liberal opinion, honed by long years working at the Guardian. As the Tory MP Angie Bray put it, there is a 'one-way street between the left-wing and the BBC'.

I'm not sure that metaphor is quite right, if I'm honest. The 'one-way street' thing seems to bemoan the fact that there aren't people coming out of the BBC to the leftwing, wherever that is, which probably isn't what she meant. Another Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen, announced that the appointment of Weldon was a stitch-up and that a former economic advisor to Labour was an unsuitable candidate for the post. Frankly, I don't think it is any of Andrew or Angie's business whom Newsnight appoints to any post and they should keep their noses out of it.

It is one thing to identify, largely correctly, a limp-wristed, whining liberal bias within the BBC's output - only a faux-lefty organisation could have poured so much money into, for example, David Hare's tedious, clunking and predictable production Turks & Caicos, which you may have had the misfortune to have watched last week. But it is another thing entirely to start vetting BBC appointments and telling Newsnight who is suitable for employment and who is not. …

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