Saturday, 11 March, 2023

[Day 1090]

It looks as though the current really cold snap may well be petering out. So this morning, after breakfast, Meg and I decided that we would brave the park today but not stay too long sitting down so that we did not get too cold. We decided on a slightly different strategy this morning and took a flask of coffee with us but in a smallish little bag instead of the more normal rucksack. There was a slightly icy wind but we sat down just long enough to have our customary coffee and then decided to return home fairly rapidly. Then we got home and we treated ourselves to a packet tomato soup and then read the paper quietly until it was time for lunch. As a treat, I had bought ourselves some venison meatballs and these were delicious, heated up initially and then complemented by some fried onions and a little gravy left over from past meals. We were anxious to get all fed and washed up before the rugby match (Italy vs. Wales, the two bottom teams both striving to avoid coming bottom of the table) but Wales won this match with ease. This afternoon, we shall watch the first half of the England vs France match, then go for church and, upon our return, we may be able to pickup the second half of the match on our PVR. This we did upon our return from church only to witness a massive win for the French, 53-10, and complete humilation for England.

I think it is fair to say that the Lineker/BBC row absolutely exploded this morning. It loks as though the BBC suspended Lineker at least for this week (using words like ‘stepping back’ from Match of the Day). Once this news had percolated through, all of his co-commentators immediately withdrew, as well as the presenters of other sports programmes this afternoon. I do not think for a moment that the BBC had anticipated this mass show of support from Lineker’s fellow commentators and what had started off with a dispute with one (admittedly well paid) presenter has become a major problem for the BBC. In this situation, the BBC may feel that they cannot possibly ‘back down’ and will not be in a mood for compromise as it looks as though they are abandoning the policy of impartiality. For his part, Lineker has no intention of backing down either, has the support of his fellow commentators and can probably increase his remuneration by going off to another network. It may be that the BBC and Lineker part company in which the BBC as a whole will be the ultimate loser. The wider picture of all of this is that the BBC is trying to operate impartiality in a political climate where the language used even by Government ministers is both extreme and inflammatory. Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, accused her own civil service of trying to thwart her cross-channel migrant policy which even the Bill that she is sponsoring admits may break the convention on Human Rights. Then Gary Lineker steps into the breach and complains that the language being used is redolent of 1930’s Germany which can be proven to be correct. However, the Lineker contribution to social media could well be (and has been) assumed to be a direct comparison of the present government with Nazi Germany, which, if this was the intention of the tweet, would be quite dispropotionate. There is a great difficuly in the climate in which the BBC is operating. Much of the press is exhibiting a marked right wing flavour and, as such, Brexit is lauded and hostile language against migrants coming to these shores is the order of the day (encouraged and sustained by a right wing government) The BBC finds itself in a position where right wing influences on the BBC are allowed or even condoned. Gary Lineker’s suspension for expressing political views set off an avalanche of comparisons with other BBC stars who have not been similarly sanctioned for lacking impartiality. Some of these were obvious: Lord Sugar of The Apprentice, whose 18 years of firing people have been punctuated by political outbursts, from newspaper interviews calling on people to vote Conservative to tweeting a mocked-up image of Jeremy Corbyn sitting next to Adolf Hitler. But Lineker has been suspnded whilst the recently appointed Chairman of the BBC is only under investigation (and not sanctioned) for his part in organising an £800,000 loan facility for Bris Johnson. So the BBC has regrettably got itself into a situation here it is loathe to criticise those on the right of politics but immediately jumps upon anybody who expresses opposition to present government policy on migration – largely because it fears the wrath of the right wing media (and calls for its disbandment)if it takes no action on the views expressed by Lineker. The backdrop to all of this is a massive threat to the independence of the BBC which has often in its history not seen eye-to-eye with the government of the day of whatever political persuasion. There are hints this evening that the BBC realises this, belatedly, and is rowing back on its previous decision and may be seeking an early resolution of the Lineker affair.