The Tories are using cancel culture as a tool to silence dissenting voices and stifle democracy. They are placing laws, curbing free press and cancelling initiatives & services to further their own interests.
T o absolutely no-one’s surprise, emails and WhatsApp messages leaked to the Guardian newspaper show that the BBC “regularly” bows to pressure from the Conservative Government over the wording of its headlines and the framing of its stories.
The whistleblower claims that among other instances of the BBC pandering to the demands of the Conservatives, Downing Street was demanding that the Corporation’s reporters refrained from using the word “lockdown” in relation to the lockdown ordered by Boris Johnson on 23 March 2020. Perhaps Johnson was hoping that if the BBC did not call the lockdown a lockdown then no one would notice all the parties going on in Downing Street. As a result of the pressure from Downing Street, the BBC website and broadcasts that day spoke about ‘restrictions’ and ‘curbs’ whereas other broadcasters and outlets such as Sky News were referring to a ‘lockdown.’
Even the Daily Mail, not noted for its critical stance towards the Conservative party, had LOCKDOWN BRITAIN in block capitals across the greater part of its front page on its edition published the following day. Another leaked message showed a senior editor congratulating news staff for staying away from the subject of Jennifer Arcuri after the American tech entrepreneur had given an interview to a newspaper in October 2020 which confirmed that she had had an affair with Johnson, following allegations that he used his position as London mayor to secure favourable treatment and financial payments for her.
This is worth considering when we look at the otherwise inexplicable way in which the BBC avoided reporting on the allegations levelled against the Conservative peer Michelle Mone, allegations which were deeply embarrassing to the Conservative government until the story was dominating the news agenda and had become impossible to ignore. This was markedly different from the treatment the Corporation meted out to SNP Michelle Thomson, who was hounded and doorstepped by BBC reporters over allegations – later found to be without substance – which led the BBC’s Scottish news day after day relating to a sum of money a tiny fraction of that involved in the allegations levelled at Michelle Mone, allegations which the Tory peer continues to deny.
A BBC insider told the Guardian: “Particularly on the [BBC] website, our headlines have been determined by calls from Downing Street on a very regular basis.” They added that the messages seen by the Guardian represent only a small snapshot of what was going on because most pressure was applied verbally rather than written down.
It is clear that this behind-the-scenes pressure is pervasive and it causes the Corporation to self-censor in order to avoid offending the sensibilities of the snowflakes of the Conservative party. In any case, the BBC is primed at its highest levels to be sympathetic to Conservative messaging. Not only is Richard Sharp, the chair of the BBC’s board of directors a Conservative party donor and personal friend of Boris Johnson, who helped to facilitate an £800,000 personal loan for Johnson, he was also Rishi Sunak’s boss when the current Prime Minister was making millions at Goldman Sachs. Tim Davie, the director-general of the BBC, in charge of the day-to-day running of the broadcaster, is a long-standing Conservative supporter. He was a Conservative party council candidate in the 1990s and was once deputy chairman of the Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative Association.
When criticised for its perceived pro-Conservative bias, the BBC generally retorts that it also receives complaints about ‘pro-left wing’ bias from Conservative supporters and therefore it must be impartial and unbiased. There are certainly many such complaints from right-wing figures in the wake of the BBC’s humiliating U-turn on Gary Lineker.
The 1970s ‘comedian’ Jim Davidson, who is to comedy as Jurassic Park is to wildlife management, has joined the long list of right-wing figures who rail against ‘cancel culture’ by demanding that the entire BBC be cancelled. Davidson took to that notably unbiased publication the Daily Express, AKA the Beano for fascists, to call for the TV licence fee to be scrapped, claiming that BBC stands for Bring Back Communism and called for everyone to watch GB News ‘all day long,’ because apparently, a channel which touts extreme right-wing conspiracy theories is unbiased. Davidson was once the favourite comedian of the famously humourless Margaret Thatcher, which tells you all that you need to know, claims that the BBC has ‘lost the public.’ And indeed Jim Davidson is something of an expert in this respect, as he lost the public sometime around 1982.
There is however a fundamental difference between the criticisms levelled at the BBC by Scottish independence supporters and those on the left on the one hand and those of the likes of Jim Davidson and the frothing right-wing conspiracy theorists of G Beebies News on the other. I am a long-standing critic of the BBC, but I do not want it to be abolished and the news space given over in its entirety to privately owned and funded news outlets and broadcasters where right-wing views are overwhelming dominant, I want a public service broadcaster which genuinely reflects the range and diversity of opinion in the population which it serves.
The left and Scottish independence supporters want fairness, impartiality and an equal platform, however, that is not what right-wing Anglo-British nationalists want, what they want is complete and utter domination of the news space and the media environment. They tolerate no opposition or different points of view. We can see this all too clearly in the reaction of British nationalists to the very existence of The National, the sole newspaper in Scotland out of 38 daily and weekly newspapers which supports Scottish independence in a country where more than half the population is sympathetic to the idea of an independent Scotland. Its very existence is a huge affront to right-wing British nationalists, who seek a return to the days when there was no Scottish Parliament and no Scottish newspaper advocating independence.
This is why there is no equivalence between the criticisms of the BBC from independence supporters and the liberal left and criticisms of the Corporation from the Conservative right. The two sets of critics seek very different things, the first want fairness and impartiality, the second want complete and total domination and the silencing of views that they disagree with, and in pursuit of this aim they gaslight us by falsely claiming that this is the goal of those who want a BBC and a wider media which truly represents the population that they purport to serve.
— AUTHOR —
▫ Wee Ginger Dug, also known as Paul Kavanagh. Blogger who writes and talks about UK Politics and Scottish Independence.
▪ Text: This piece was originally published in Wee Ginger Dug’s blog and re-published in PMP Magazine on 16 March 2023, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
▪ Cover: Flickr/Number 10. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)