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 teeny-weeny 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-media-chums-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?
Er, no, John, no. This defence — one frequently proferred by Today — is akin to Stalin saying, ‘Well, Chairman Mao hates me just as much as President Truman does, so that must surely mean I’m bang in the political centre.’
The real reason Today got so much stick from New Labour is that Alastair Campbell is an insane ravening bloodbeast. Never was this truer than during the Gilligan affair when a man was driven to his death largely, it seems to me, because Campbell chose grotesquely to overreact to the mild suggestion that New Labour had done something it does all the time, viz, lied its socks off. Whether it was or wasn’t telling the truth on that particular occasion scarcely matters. The point, surely, is that Campbell’s hounding of Today was the moral equivalent of Jack the Ripper suing a newspaper over a murdered prostitute he hadn’t personally killed.
One of the many things the Today programme still doesn’t get, of course, is the Islamist threat. Whenever a new bomb goes off or a devilish plot is uncovered, its first — indeed, only — concern is to remind listeners that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the lovely, bunny-hugging, not-wanting-to-take-over-the-world-under-any-circumstances religion of peace Islam.
Panorama does get it, though. At least it did on Monday (BBC1), in the programme on Hizb ut-Tahrir (‘HT’) presented by one of the organisation’s (extremely brave) lapsed members Shiraz Maher. HT was one of the extremist groups that Tony Blair promised to ban after the 7/7 bombings, and Maher’s insider report — including a trip to a Nuremberg-like massed rally in Indonesia — reminded us why. It may claim not to advocate terrorism but it doesn’t half get its adherents in the mood for it by encouraging them to work for global Islamic domination.
The ‘Community Cohesion Minister’ Parmjit Dhanda was asked what Labour planned to do about it. ‘What we’ve got to do is work across the land to make sure that the landscape is changing across the board and that’s what we’re committed to doing with these £6 million Pathfinder projects and a further £70 million of investment beyond that.’ There: doesn’t that make you feel so much safer?