by Paul Embery
Thursday, 28
May 2020
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Supporters of Emily Maitlis should be careful what they wish for

One day, the tables might turn
by Paul Embery
Emily Maitlis presenting Tuesday’s Newsnight. Credit: BBC

Of course Emily Maitlis’s Newsnight monologue demonstrated unacceptable bias. One isn’t required to be a defender of Dominic Cummings to believe that a presenter on the BBC’s flagship news programme should not be permitted to flout established rules on impartiality by making deeply partisan statements about live and contentious political issues.

Neither is one required to be any kind of Conservative to conclude that what the Beeb’s own Andrew Marr once described as the corporation’s ‘cultural liberal bias’ not only causes it to fail in its rightful duty to sufficiently reflect the viewpoint of large swathes of our nation, but may eventually prove to be its downfall.

Indeed, some of us on the Left who hold an affection for the BBC and wish to defend it are keen for it to rid itself of its ingrained prejudice precisely because we know its political opponents have lined up the corporation in their crosshairs and are merely waiting for the right moment to pull the trigger.

That’s why the usual suspects currently rallying to Maitlis’s defence ought to be careful what they wish for. In defending such naked partisanship, they are ultimately playing into their opponents’ hands.

They made the same mistake when they reacted gleefully to an unauthorised tweet attacking Cummings and Boris Johnson posted from the official UK Civil Service account. How hilarious they all thought it was. Owen Jones responded with a stream of laughing emojis, and JK Rowling even offered to pay the culprit’s salary for a year.

But in elevating short-term political gain over the upholding of impartiality throughout our public and state institutions, they merely demonstrate their own short-sightedness. For the political neutrality of these institutions is a cornerstone of our democratic society. And though the subverting of that neutrality may on occasion provide an opportunity to slam dunk an enemy, the wise person should refuse to take it — not least because, one day, the tables might be turned, and that enemy will hold the greater clout inside these bastions of influence.

Indeed, the Left has complained in the past when supposedly politically neutral institutions have been reported as having worked to undermine the Labour party. Even now, for example, the theory of an establishment plot to bring down Harold Wilson enjoys credibility (perhaps justifiably) on the Left, and, more recently, many on the Left were — rightly — up in arms when a serving army general predicted a mutiny in the ranks if Jeremy Corbyn were elected prime minister.

There really is no room for political opportunism in these matters. What goes around comes around. Those cheering Emily Maitlis to the rafters would do well to remember it.

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Julian Fletcher
Julian Fletcher
1 year ago

I agree. I am a Conservative supporter, but I want the BBC to be fully impartial. I have no interest in anyone’s political views on a current affairs programme (left or right); that’s not why I watch them. I want informed debate – not repetition of lies and eliding of facts from elsewhere. It is especially important that a national broadcaster takes the time to examine issue so that nuances can be brought out; if I wanted black and white views, without nuance I can choose to read the Guardian (increasingly a one-eyed Daily Mail of the left), Daily Mail etc, the Daily Mirror – you get my gist.

An example, perhaps not of bias, but certainly not something I wanted to hear was 3 hours after the track and trace there was a wholly negative view of the service offering. That’s not the BBC’s job.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

For the BBC to be’ fulliy impartial’ it would have to get rid of almost all its journalists and replace them conservatives and genuine left-wingers. And that is not going to happen. As Brendan O’Neill said recently, it is beyond saving. I threw out the TV 20 years ago and I no longer listen to BBC radio for more than a couple of minutes. In fact, this morning I switched off after two seconds because they were still going on about Cummings. It needs to be destroyed.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago

No women, or for that matter man, has done so much damage to the reputation of the BBC as the wretched Maitlis has.
Nearly a centuries worth of Herculean effort and expertise has been tossed away in a moment, to satisfy the inane vanity and prejudice of this woman.
It can never be repaired, so grasp the nettle now, abolish the license fee!

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I refer to her as the Preying Maitlis. But I can think of a few who have done at least as much damage as she has: Lineker, Marr, that absurd female reporter who cried at Arafat’s funeral, to name just three.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I think I may watch even less Telly than you, so who or what is Lineker?
Marr I have heard of, but fortunately, probably not the legions of others you speak of.
Presumably they would all be happy acolytes of the Frankfurt School, given half a chance?

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I just stopped paying the licence fee on Tuesday. I haven’t watched a BBC news or current affairs programme in years. Most of the drama and documentaries on all channels are just too woke for me.
I’m far better off reading a book or watching films on my DVD player.
If I think I have time after that I guess I could look into Amazon Prime. It seems I pay for it anyway.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

You also need to ask how much Lineker is paid.

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

It wouldn’t have been just her, but the editorial team working on Newsnight, and the majority of BBC staff. Maitlis was mere the front-woman.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  Lucy Smex

You’re correct, she is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and the once revered BBC, the ‘Titanic’.
Oh for the happy days of Emergency Ward 10, and Doxon of d**k Green!

Rebecca Bartleet
Rebecca Bartleet
1 year ago

…one day, the tables might be turned, and that enemy will hold the greater clout inside these bastions of influence.

Spot on, I have made this very point many times when arguing with friends who are more to the left than me. A society where only one political position is acceptable is fine – unless and until you disagree with that opinion.

Su O.
Su O.
1 year ago

I find that such people (and I know quite a few) always believe that they and those who agree with them will be the ones who determine which opinions are permitted and which are punished. This in spite of the fact that, with a Conservative government visibly in power right now, they have no reason whatsoever to have such a belief. Along with this fundamental error, they hold a firm belief that opinions that differ from theirs deserve censorship while their own opinions are sacrosanct and must be heard by everyone, everywhere, at all times.

Jan Cunningham
Jan Cunningham
1 year ago

The British public are not fooled. They switch over when Emily comes on

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Jan Cunningham

Ha, ha, yes. My parents used to watch Newsnight but stopped some years ago. In fact, they don’t even watch the BBC’s TV news any more. As Douglas Murray points out elsewhere on this site, Newsnight is only watched by only 300,000 people, which is fewer views than a relatively minor podcaster might receive for one podcast spread over YouTube and various other ‘alt tech’ channels.

Jeremy Hummerstone
Jeremy Hummerstone
1 year ago
Reply to  Jan Cunningham

Emily is not the only one. There is a whole coven on Newsnight.

Helen Wood
Helen Wood
1 year ago

Displays of gloatingly vitriolic triumph parodying hate figure Cummings by Alastair Campbell, actually subverts the public satisfaction in seeing Cummings tried jand judged by mms and the understandable indignation of the altruistic public acknowledged.
I refer to the bizarre clips on Twitter (self released) of Campbell in military uniform singing God save our gracious Dom to the Queen in a maniacally gloating manner.
Its actually so repulsively vindictive that one veers towards humanist sympathy to Cumms even forgiving his lack of apology..(.a major blunder in this saga). Campbell to his credit has been upfront about depression and the impact of lockdown on the vulnerable but his sadistic and ruthless demeanour is excessive
even given his mission of politically humiliating
the Tory establishment.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Wood

‘…Campbell to his credit has been upfront about depression…’

Whenever the despicable Campbell’s depression is wheeled out I always say ‘Well yes, if I had been partly responsible for the death of a million or more by sexing up a dossier then I, too, would be depressed’.

And no, I never voted for New Label so I don’t have the blood on my hands in that sense, either.

Helen Wood
Helen Wood
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I agree…I felt his depression should endow him with some vein of compassion where Cumms is concerned rather than this vindictive display of gloating.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen Wood

To me Campbell’s behaviour doesn’t look like depression but mania.

David Waring
David Waring
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Just don’t mention Dr David Kelly eh?

Spong Burlap
Spong Burlap
1 year ago

Well then. Apart from Mr Cummings’ forthcoming revenge now to be served at absolute zero degrees it could be presumed, and Mr Johnson having successfully flushed out another wave of less-than-loyal colleagues, it’s a good political result for H M Govt, this early in its tenure.

Looks again like our PM is a serial winner and his many gormless foes serial losers (and who the heck reads the Graun or watches Newsnight any more?)

‘Breakin” Beff Rigby, Laura Carlsberg (She Who Must Be Obeyed — with apologies to Mr Mortimer), the ludicrous Mateless — they’re simply ordinary hacks who we… (some) pay far too much attention to.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong…

Howard Medwell
Howard Medwell
1 year ago

I enjoy reading about this continuing controversy, but would wish to make one request to all who participate: please don’t describe the BBC’s bias as “left-wing”.
The politics of the BBC are not left-wing, but centrist. Yes, they are opposed to Johnson, and Brexit, etc., but they also played an important role in the campaign which ended, rightly or wrongly, in Jeremy Corbyn being kicked to political death. Maitlis herself was not backward in coming forward on that issue.
The BBC stands for a middle-of-the- road, ordered political culture in which both right-wing Brexiteers and left-wing anti-capitalists are treated as an unpleasant smell.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
1 year ago
Reply to  Howard Medwell

Good points, all. Thank you for the recalibration.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
1 year ago
Reply to  Howard Medwell

You’re going to have to run that past me again Howard.
What did the BBC do to kick Jeremy Corbyn to political death? And what role did Maitlis play in that?

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Howard Medwell

It’s difficult to describe them, isn’t it. The centre nowadays is quite a way to the left if we take an historical view. But you’re right to point out their role in kicking JC who could be described as ‘old left’.

Kelly Mitchell
Kelly Mitchell
1 year ago

Nah – it’s great. Political bias should be openly displayed, rather than the sneaky style usually used, where it’s pushed subliminally.
this is better.

Lou Campbell
Lou Campbell
1 year ago

It occurred to me today. That by practically ignoring of foibles when you like the politician (example Durham MP going to a 100 year old birthday with 30 other people and chatting with some of them shoulder to shoulder).
And talking of nothing else for 6 days when similar transgression is done by someone you certainly don’t like is hypocrisy.
Combined with Labour MPs and many Cummings critics, celebrating heckling at someone’s home, giving untold air time to likes of Alistair campbell to spout such hypocrisy (speedos anyone!?). Talking opinion as fact and being shocked that someone disagrees..not to mention the promotion of some of venom on Twitter, which in any other context is bullying at a minimum ….is rather more like Trump than anyone else!
Harsh but fair assessment?

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
1 year ago
Reply to  Lou Campbell

No.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 year ago

If Boris succumbed to pressure and sacked Dom, Dom could then sue for unfair dismissal and win – he did not break the rules at all in his trip to Durham (he knew them as he probably had a hand in writing / approving them). He was taking the mick with his excuse for the trip to the castle, but the old bill would just have encouraged him to go home (not sure to which one). The people really undermining the coronavirus “message” are people like Maitlis.

We must move away from daft rules and simple slogans and start giving advice and guidance and trust the common sense of the majority to apply it to their own situation sensibly and bring peer pressure to bear on those who think it is ok to do the complete opposite of what the majority are doing. Rather than trotting out the same tired slogan ahead of the VE day weekend (knowing it would not be followed by many especially when we knew there was going to be some relaxation we could not be told about until the Sunday evening), would it not have been far better to have given some pragmatic advice on how to make the most of the weekend in a risk managed manner? As it was there were enough street parties that ended in drunken brawls broken up by the old bill, while ambulances carted off the injured to A&E.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago

This is so, so, spot on.

Peter KE
Peter KE
1 year ago

It would be good if the bbc was balanced and centrist. Unfortunately for many years now it has been left wing and woke liberalism. Mis reporting at every opportunity against the conservatives and against BREXIT and anything that might represent the man/woman in the normal population. Maitlis and Kuensberg are just 2 of many along with the bbc dg. Reform is drastically needed starting with removing the license fee.

mccaffc
mccaffc
1 year ago

Impartiality has been basic to public service broadcasting for a very long time. It serves polarised, balanced political controversy and it serves both the industry and those front of camera. It doesn’t relate greatly to the public at all. Moreover, it has lead to passive, unconsidered coverage of all sorts of nonsense. It needs to be critically reconsidered. This might be of interest: https://colummccaffery.word

madeuop names
madeuop names
1 year ago

Right here actually Paul is what the problem is with Labour but its not be careful what you wish for cos it could happen to you. It is the lack of principal the idea that they define someone as a Tory or the other and therefore it simply doesn’t matter how you treat them. What we all know is what Labour considers a “Tory” changes over time so there is simply no way to know whether you will be in Labour’s good books one year to the next.

Labour people if they actually want to ever be popular again need to actually learn to have principles and standards that apply to all people and demobnstrate those principles and standards for a very long time. but being brought up to despise “tories” is the nature of Labour so I really can’t see how they ever achieve this.

stephen.budd
stephen.budd
1 year ago

is it political bias to point out when a government representative, or indeed any opposition member, has flouted the rules so brazenly ? I dont think so. its called Good Journalism and this brave woman deserves our praise for risking her job… she knew what the potential outcomes were standing up to Cummings and Johnson’s lies, even though she simply pointing out the truth.

Su O.
Su O.
1 year ago
Reply to  stephen.budd

Opinion is not journalism. If someone has flouted the rules and/or lied, all that is necessary is to state what they have said and done; people can come to their own conclusions when presented with the facts. Ranting is unprofessional and certainly not brave.

Jeremy Hummerstone
Jeremy Hummerstone
1 year ago
Reply to  stephen.budd

Has he risked her job? If only!

David Waring
David Waring
1 year ago
Reply to  stephen.budd

Anyone remember Dr David Kelly?

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
1 year ago
Reply to  stephen.budd

He hasn’t broken the spirit or letter of the regs, except in respect – potentially, this is a ‘might have been’ – of the trial drive. In ALL other respects, his choices, motivations & care were all well within letter & spirit.
I would be intrigued to know what specifically you claim was wrong.
Maitlis made a series of assertions, some of which were factually wrong. Since she knew the facts, let me name her piece as containing several outright lies. She should not, in my view, anchor the leading nightly political show again, unless she’s first willing to apologise, specifying her wrongdoing (to prove that, sincere or not, she knows how she overstepped the limits of editorialisation.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
1 year ago
Reply to  stephen.budd

You seem to be happy that she is prosecutor, jury, and judge in the case. But by what right? Just because she was appointed by and is surrounded by people with opinions identical to hers (and to yours)?
And to add to the injury, she is paid a fat salary from a hypothecated tax levied on everyone who wishes to own a television set.