You’ll want to claw your face off: Scoop reviewed

Scoop is a dramatised account of the events leading up to the BBC’s 2019 Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew. The one he imagined would allow him to put Jeffrey Epstein behind him, but instead put Pizza Express (Woking) on the map, made us want to claw our own faces off with the horror of it, and led to the Queen stripping him of all his royal and military titles. (I think you know you are in trouble with Mummy when this happens.) Although billed as a ‘film’, this isn’t especially cinematic. It’s more like a bonus episode of The Crown but it is phenomenally cast (Rufus Sewell is a revelation)

The Sam McAlister Edition

36 min listen

Sam McAlister is a producer and author of Scoops: The BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews from Prince Andrew to Steven Seagal. When she worked for Newsnight, she was the producer who secured the infamous interview with Prince Andrew, conducted by Emily Maitlis. This interview eventually led to Prince Andrew being suspended from public duties and stepping back from all of his patronages. McAlister is now being portrayed by the actress Billie Piper in a coming Netflix adaptation of the Prince Andrew interview. On the episode, she tells Katy about coming from a ‘grafting, entrepreneurial’ family and how that informed her competitiveness; her brief career in law; and the behind-the-scenes story of how

BBC Newsnight presenter chased by anti-lockdown mob

It appears there was a nasty atmosphere down on Whitehall yesterday, where an anti-lockdown demonstration took place. Footage has emerged today of the BBC Newsnight presenter Nick Watt being pursued by an unpleasant mob at the event, with a group screaming at the journalist and calling him a ‘traitor’. Eventually, Watt was forced to run away from the group and finally found refuge behind a line of police. Mr S can only hope that Watt is well after the disgusting incident… Watch here: Update: Earlier footage of the incident appears to show that the police did nothing to protect Watt from being harassed. Instead, officers stood by as the presenter was

Why I refused to be interviewed by Emily Maitlis

On Tuesday, I was asked to appear on BBC Newsnight to talk about the Sussexes’ interview. When told it would be presented by Emily Maitlis, I declined, on the grounds that ever since her political speech against Dominic Cummings on the programme last year, I have had no confidence in her fairness. Sure enough, she spoke on the programme that night of ‘the sense of the attempted suicide’ of the Duchess of Sussex — though Meghan had mentioned only ‘suicidal thoughts’.  At the time, my little gesture seemed rather pointless, so I was pleased to read in the next day’s papers that Ofcom has at last decided that the Maitlis diatribe

The real problem with Newsnight

The Twitter feed of BBC Newsnight editor Esme Wren (remember, I read this stuff so you don’t have to) is full of plaintive whining that no cabinet minister will agree to appear on her benighted programme. The Twitter feed of her chief presenter, Emily Maitlis, is largely a screed of bile and petulance directed at the government, some of which is usefully later recycled into her opening programme monologue. Unless Esme has had her brain scooped out with a soup spoon you might expect her to have found a connection between these two facts. Not a bit of it. ‘Cabinet minister, what is it about Newsnight, with its left-wing presenters,

Watch: Tory MP admits ‘I wouldn’t do Andrew Neil as he’d take me to pieces’

Charles Walker, the former chairman of the influential Conservative 1922 Committee, took to the airwaves last night in an attempt justify Boris Johnson’s growing list of TV no shows. The interview followed a Channel 4 leaders’ debate on climate change in which the public service broadcaster decided to replace Boris Johnson with a melting block of ice. In return, the Tories threatened to put Channel 4’s current broadcasting licence on ice. Speculation abounds that Boris Johnson is attempting to wriggle out of an interview with Andrew Neil following Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous appearance earlier this week. That speculation was only made worse when the BBC press office confirmed that they had

War of the Worlds is as bad as Doctor Who

Edwardian England deserved everything it got from those killer Martian invaders. Or so I learned from the BBC’s latest adaptation of The War of the Worlds (Sundays). Everything about that era, apparently, was hateful, backward and ripe for destruction: regressive attitudes to women and homosexuality; exultant white supremacy (cue, a speech from a government minister on the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race); a general prevailing bone-headedness and stuck-upness; stiff, stuffy, relentlessly brown clothing with superfluous belts; and as for those ridiculous bristling moustaches… Still, I don’t think H.G. Wells would have been totally appalled by this travesty of his 1898 potboiler. Wells was, after all, a man of the left

Toby Young

Prince Andrew should have married someone like my wife

Like many people, I watched Prince Andrew’s Newsnight meltdown with mounting disbelief. Why had he agreed to do it? It wasn’t as if the general public was clamouring for an answer about what he was doing on the night he’d been accused of having sex with a 17-year-old victim of Jeffrey Epstein. And if he was going to give a television interview, why choose Emily Maitlis? That’s like booking yourself into Sweeney Todd’s for a short back and sides. Emily asked me to do an interview last year when I was forced to resign from the Office for Students over some embarrassing old tweets and, after humming and hawing for

Prince Andrew’s Newsnight interview was a career-defining calamity

Hats off to Newsnight. BBC 2’s flagship political show bagged itself an almighty royal scoop. Emily Maitlis was given an hour to quiz Prince Andrew about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex-offender who was found dead in his jail cell in August. The first bombshell of the night was the news that months of negotiation had led up to this stage-managed encounter in a Buckingham Palace drawing room. ‘Normally we’d be discussing your work,’ opened Maitlis, as if her main ambition in life is to cover the potterings of minor royals. ‘We’ve been talking to Newsnight for about six months,’ agreed the prince, ‘about doing something around the

America’s shootings aren’t Trump’s fault

The BBC’s flagship news and current affairs programme wasn’t in any doubt about who to blame for America’s latest bout of mass shootings. Newsnight’s report began with footage of Donald Trump addressing the faithful at a rally. ‘This is an invasion,’ he warned, referring to the refugees massing on the Mexican border. ‘When you see these caravans starting out with 20,000 people, that’s an invasion.’ It then cut to Emily Maitlis in the studio. ‘That was in May,’ she said. ‘Today, Donald Trump called on Americans to condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.’ She added that the President had made these remarks ‘with a straight face’ and ‘with autocue precision’

The complaints are piling up at the BBC after my Newsnight appearance

For those of you who were not watching, if you have the time, take a look at the interview I did on Newsnight with Emily Maitlis about my book. And tell me if you think that it was an even-handed, unbiased, rational discussion. The complaints are piling up at the BBC: here’s one from a remainer: Dear sir or madam, I am writing in relation to Emily Maitlis’s interview with Rod Liddle on Newsnight yesterday. I have the highest regard for the BBC: over many years, I have relied on the organisation to provide impartial reporting and comment on a wide range of issues. Moreover, I am well aware of

Watch: Polly Toynbee vs George Osborne – ‘the idea that he’s a centrist!’

In recent years, George Osborne has attempted to rebrand himself. Once known as the austere chancellor, the Evening Standard editor is keen to be depicted these days as a liberal progressive – who has more in common with Emmanuel Macron than Boris Johnson. The problem is that many of those who regard themselves as progressive don’t feel the same way. As was displayed on Newsnight when Grauniad hack Polly Toynbee launched a broadside on the former chancellor: ‘This man has done such harm and damage to the country. He has been the most right wing chancellor we have ever had. Nor do I think your ideas are in the centre.

David Aaronovitch: Brexiteers are dying at a faster rate than Remainers

After Tony Blair’s call for a second referendum (and maybe even a third if that one didn’t work out) fell flat on Thursday, the campaign to stop Brexit looks on shaky ground. However, Newsnight have put forward an argument that could be just the thing to put life back in the campaign. In a film for the BBC current affairs programme, David Aaronovitch – who once said ‘if every one of the PM’s demands had been turned down I would still have been in favour of remaining in the European Union’ – appears to find a glimmer of hope: Brexit voters are dying at a faster rate than Remain voters! The Times columnist

Newsnight’s charm offensive

As BBC2’s flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight prides itself on attracting the finest politicians and pundits to offer their two cents worth on breaking news stories. So, Mr S was curious to learn of the tactics deployed by one producer to get politicians on the show. Speaking at an event in Soho, Amber Rudd recalled a call she received from a staffer on the show back when she was a fresh-faced backbencher: ‘I remember quite late at night, getting a call from Newsnight asking me to come speak on something. And I took pity on the poor young man asking me to do this and I said to him: “Listen,

The idiot box

How to sum up David Frost? The lazy writer’s friend, aka Wikipedia, calls him ‘an English journalist, comedian, writer, media personality and television host’. To which I would add only: ‘Britain’s first TV superstar.’ (To some he was also ‘The Bubonic Plagiarist’, but we won’t dwell on that.) That Was The Week That Was, The Frost Report and The Nixon Interviews made him a key cultural figure of the 1960s and 1970s. But his true significance struck me only recently. He may have damaged Britain, unintentionally, as much as anyone in living memory. Frost, in my view, was a Pied Piper who helped to lure a generation of the brightest

Newsnight’s Tory conference meltdown

After Theresa May’s leader’s speech fell victim to pranks, health issues and technical glitches, the Prime Minister has received a rough ride in the media. Last night’s episode of Newsnight was no exception – the programme promised to ‘make sense’ of the ‘hitches’ in May’s speech: A few hitches in Theresa May's speech today… We'll be making sense of it all on the programme tonight #CPC17 — BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) October 4, 2017 Alas Newsnight producers soon discovered that they weren’t immune to technical glitches themselves. There were several hitches in the cutaway packages – with Theresa May even labelled as ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ at one point: Happily, viewers were

Lord Bell’s Newsnight PR disaster

Although Lord Tim Bell is often referred to as Britain’s first king of spin, Mr S suspects he still has some work to do when it comes to mastering the art of good public relations. After his former PR firm Bell Pottinger was expelled on Monday from the UK public relations trade body for its work on a controversial contract in South Africa, Bell appeared on Newsnight to put forward his side of the story. In an interview with Kirsty Wark, Thatcher’s PR man discussed the firm’s work on the campaign for Oakbay Capital – denying accusations he played a role in securing the business. However, it was hard to focus on what he

Corbynista MP asked about Venezuela – but condemns America instead

Well, this is going well. As chaos reigns in Venezuela with at least 100 protesters dead in recent months and opposition leaders under arrest, Jeremy Corbyn has come under pressure to speak out against the socialist regime he previously claimed showed a ‘better way of doing things’. While the Labour appears to have taken a vow of silence, his shadow cabinet are at least proving more forthcoming. This evening top Corbyn ally Chris Williamson appearing on Newsnight, alongside former Labour MP Tom Harris, to discuss recent events. However, rather than just condemn Maduro’s regime, the shadow minister went on the offensive about America. Asked about the political turmoil in Venezuela, Williamson was

James O’Brien spreading ‘fake news’ via the BBC is a must-watch

The row about ‘fake news’ and the ‘crooked media’ appears to be ongoing.  And every time the BBC and other mainstream media mention it they present themselves solely as the victims of such phenomena.  So let us turn to just one edition of the BBC’s Newsnight. On Wednesday of this week the programme was presented by James O’Brien.  Now in the first place Mr O’Brien is a strange choice to present this programme.  Not just because his awkward, cut-out, Lego man gait makes it obvious why he has made his career in radio, but because he is the sort of hyper-partisan figure who, if they came from the opposite political

Watch: David Aaronovitch makes an utter fool of himself on Newsnight

I thought you’d like to see this, in case you haven’t already. This is David Aaronovitch being made to look like an utter fool on Newsnight because he doesn’t know what he is talking about. He doesn’t get Brexit, or Trump, or the Chatham House survey which I reported on a couple of days ago. He is in a state of denial – a familiar state for David, because however good a writer he may be, he has the analytical capacities of a wardrobe. And not a very good wardrobe, either. A DFS thing, I would reckon. Wrong about the Iraq War, wrong about Islam (until he conveniently changed his