Has the BBC been invaded by a cabal of Extinction Rebellion protesters who have tied up the Director General in his swivel chair? I ask because of a remarkable interview on Newsnight which marks a new low in the objectivity of the BBC’s climate coverage.
The flagship BBC Two news programme last night covered the threatened disruption of the London Marathon by Just Stop Oil protesters. Given that activists from another organisation did indeed carry out leaked plans to disrupt the Grand National – which delayed the start of the race – it is a threat to be taken very seriously. It was entirely proper that the subject be covered, and that the programme highlight an apparent split between climate protest groups; Extinction Rebellion has pledged not to disrupt the event, while Just Stop Oil has so far refused to make any such assurances.
However, what followed was an extraordinary one-sided item. Newsnight’s presenter, Victoria Derbyshire, proceeded to hold a three-way discussion between herself, a Just Stop Oil activist, Indigo Rumbelow, and, er, Rupert Read, formerly of Extinction Rebellion. Read now leads an embryonic organisation called the Climate Majority Project, whose web page suggests it has a strikingly similar outlook to Extinction Rebellion.
There were obvious questions to ask Rumbelow: namely, who do you think you are, thinking you have the right to ruin a sporting event that is enjoyed by millions, either as participants or spectators? And why target a running event, which is surely all about doing something of which you ought to approve: getting about on foot?
There were questions to be asked of Extinction Rebellion, too – given that it has offered to ‘police’ the event. Are climate pressure groups now operating as a kind of protection racket, to which we are also supposed to go and negotiate before we are allowed to go about our day-to-day business?
None of these questions got asked. Rather,