The BBC is once again in the news, this time for censoring an appeal for Gaza. They claim portentously that they have to be ‘impartial’. But are they? They are certainly manipulative. Last week the World at One rang me to ask for my reaction to Ken Clarke’s appointment. Actually, I’ve always got on very well with him, and even voted for him once to be leader. But when I said I was relaxed about it and thought it a sound idea to get good people like him into the Shadow Cabinet, the researcher immediately lost interest and made to end the conversation. I said to her that if I had been prepared to criticise the appointment I would have been on the programme quicker than greased lightning.
They had had their morning conference and said to themselves ‘Let’s ring round all the right-wingers in the Conservative Parliamentary Party, and when we get one critical of Ken, we’ll put him on.’ They couldn’t find one, and had to make do with an ex-MP. How manipulative. And how typical of an organisation that is so puffed up with pride and deceit that it seems to make the news, not report it honestly.
It reminds me of an incident many years ago in the early 1990s. I was asked by a Newsnight researcher what I thought of a Catholic Bishops’ Conference document which was mildly critical of the then Conservative Government’s Inner Cities policy. I could spot their game immediately, but also criticised the document to the researcher. When they put me on that evening, I defended the Church. I could see Bishop Vincent Nichols (as he was then) relaxing opposite me perceptibly.
It was obvious that Newsnight had tried to do what they often do with Anglican MPs: ring round till they find someone prepared to criticise their own Church.
By the way, have you noticed that Muslim and Jewish MPs never criticise their own religion? Wise.
Anyway, after the programme Jeremy Paxman stormed into the Green Room and openly criticised me for leading astray his young researcher. I told him I would never criticise my own Church in public. From that day to this, fifteen years ago, despite the fact that I have been fairly vocal over the years and chaired a committee of the House etc, I have never been allowed back on Newsnight for a live interview. Occasionally in the early years I would be asked , but it was always cancelled by 10.30. Now I don’t bother responding.
These people have long memories. Do I care? No. Appearing on Newsnight is a bore. I want to be tucked up with a glass of wine by then. The great majority of the audience know their opinions already and won’t change them as a result of watching. It’s mainly a programme for show-offs, presented by show-offs.