Just so you know at the outset, I love the BBC. I love at least three of its radio stations (2,5 and 6) and possibly even four if BBC Radio Bristol could get its act together (Emma Britton plus Geoff Twentyman’s sports team excepted from any criticism). It makes the best telly in the world although, yes, I know there is a lot of crap on as well. But the news coverage is driving me nuts.
London Mayor Boris Johnson’s announcement that he was to put his prime ministerial ambitions above the needs of the country was one thing, but it was the BBC’s fawning attitude towards him that really grated. Many people in our country have bought into Johnson’s buffoon act; that comedy character who at least has a bit going for him, unlike other grey politicians. But that’s not really the way it is. The buffoon act is just that. Johnson is your ultimate establishment politician, an old Etonian, an Oxford university man. He possesses the ‘common touch’ of the Duke of Edinburgh.
It was all a laugh on the BBC, with it’s presenters and newsreaders referring to ‘Boris this’ and ‘Boris that’ in a way never they never, ever refer to any other politician. It is never Jeremy or Jezza when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn, it’s never Dave when it comes to David Cameron. But Boris: well, he’s a laugh, isn’t he? And so it went on during the pieces I saw on BBC News and heard on Radio Five Live.
And after Johnson nailed his colours to the ‘Boris for PM’ mast – sorry, the ‘Leave Europe’ campaign, silly mistake there – who did the BBC ask about it? Alan Johnson, perhaps, who leads Labour’s ‘In’ campaign, or maybe even the PM himself, or perhaps Jeremy Corbyn? Don’t be silly. They chose another popular figure of fun to comment: BBC News’s favourite go to politician, Nigel Farage.
It is not so much the right wing bias of the BBC news that annoys me. Actually, I don’t think the reporting is all that right wing at all, but the constant emphasis on personality in all of the media is distracting and destructive.
No one had the nerve to tell Johnson what many of us think of him, that he’s just another cynical politician who wants to be prime minister and sees the best way of achieving his ambition by taking a different view from his party leader. His calculation, surely, is that if the UK votes to leave the EU, Cameron will be toast, that all Johnson’s other rivals for the top job (May, Osborne, Javed) will be tarnished by the result and it will be a clear run between Johnson and ‘Dr’ Liam Fox. What a prospect that will be. Johnson won’t worry about that, though. The entire media will be his campaign team.
This is not new. I didn’t always agree with Tony Benn but he was the first significant politician to point out the media obsession with personalities rather than policies. This is because politicians with personalities – few and far between – are more interesting than the tricky business of debating the minutae of complex subjects. Get Johnson to do a turn. He’s good for a laugh.
I can’t warm to Boris Johnson. It is all an act. He’s a serious right wing politician with ruthless ambition. The Daily Mail supports him. Doesn’t that tell you everything?