Robin Aitken

Was this the BBC’s ‘Emily Thornberry’ moment?

Robert Jenrick (photo: BBC)

Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty’s mocking of Robert Jenrick’s flag was unintentionally revealing of the BBC’s problems. It also made it clear that Tim Davie’s decision to shift hundreds of jobs outside London won’t solve the corporation’s quest for diversity.

What instantly came to mind watching this interchange was another telling incident nearly seven years ago now, during the Rochester and Strood by-election. Ed Miliband had sent the Islington battlecruiser Emily Thornberry out on manoeuvres on the touchingly misplaced assumption that she would ‘bring out the vote’. She did, but not in the way intended.

While touring the constituency, Thornberry snapped a picture of a modest house, festooned with large Cross of St George flags and with a white Transit van parked prominently outside. She tweeted this shot with a mere three word caption ‘Image from Rochester’ – another example of dog-whistle politics, for clearly her supporters were intended to understand that what she was really saying was: ‘See what I’m up against?’.

No wonder there is alarm in the New Broadcasting House boardroom

The upshot was that Thornberry’s subliminal snobbery was rumbled, a huge row ensued, her opponents piled in and she had to resign from her role as shadow attorney-general. Oh, and in the event Labour’s vote slumped by 12 per cent and Ukip took the seat. What is it about some of those on the left and patriotism? Why the Pavlovian response to the flag?

A lot has changed, of course, in the intervening years and the caravan has moved on. Today it is the BBC which is struggling with the same problem.

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