After a rather poor showing last week, the Telegraph’s resident idiot savant is right back on form. Unluckily for me, a big chunk of this week’s column is taken up by the new BBC drama series Jekyll, which I avoided because there’s only so much of James Nesbitt’s mugging the sensitive viewer can take. Gail works this up into a humorous metaphor on our new devolved regime, in the kind of spoof I can’t help feeling Newton Emerson would have done much better. But it’s encouraging that Gail manages to get through that whole section without going off on a tangent about the size of Michelle Ryan’s chest.
What with the end of term fast approaching, Gail will have to lay off the saucy schoolgirls for a couple of months. But she does manage to get stuck into two of the modern teenage girl’s favourite pinups, Princes William and Harry. I must confess, the whole Diana saga interests me not at all and I still can’t tell what Gail’s point is here. Anyway, her heart doesn’t seem to be in Diana, and we quickly move onto a discussion of how the young lads are partial to the odd tipple, they have occasionally been seen frequenting nightclubs and Pope Benny is rumoured to be a Catholic. And Gail treats us to the insight that William is “already balding”. That wasn’t obvious to me, but Gail evidently pays more attention to his hairline than I do.
The most interesting part is Gail’s take on the Tait report [pdf], which she uses to rehearse her usual routine on leftwing bias at the BBC. We can safely ignore the intro about the Beeb being full of “lefties” and “pinkos”, standard Walker boilerplate for anyone she disagrees with. I mean, if Hillary Clinton, New York’s fervently pro-war senator who is in receipt of more Israel money than any other presidential candidate, is a “pinko”, that’s a term that has no meaning whatsoever. And, if Gail is reading this, I would point out that I have never knowingly listened to Coldplay in my life. You’re more likely to find me cranking the Ted Nugent, and even Gail might hesitate to call Ted a “leftie”.
The 81-page report itself – and you would never guess it had been commissioned by the Beeb, and the corporation had immediately accepted its recommendations – is a bit of a curate’s egg, discussing how the corporation can report impartially in the new era of single-issue movements, and in the process examining almost any allegation of bias made by rightwing curmudgeons, sometimes upholding, sometimes dismissing. A huge chunk of it is given over to Make Poverty History, but it’s hard to see how that could have been balanced, given the very vacuity of MPH and the absence of a rival Let Africa Starve lobby. I would add that, since Sir Geldof and Sir Bono are both essentially conservative figures and big mates with Gail’s hero Yo George, I fail to see how this counts as bias towards the “left”.
Where Tait scores is in pointing out that the Beeb is marked by a deference towards institutions of power, and political discussion is framed by the very narrow spectrum of what counts as mainstream opinion at Westminster. This is not leftwing by any sensible measure, as opposed to the measure of Gail, who seems to be channelling the late Woodrow Wyatt, the Voice of Reason. As a thought experiment, listen carefully the next time BBC news runs a report from France or Germany. You would never guess that both these countries are outperforming Britain economically. What you will almost certainly hear is reference to those countries’ “sluggish” or “ailing” economies which are said to be in need of “free market reforms”. I wasn’t aware that advocacy of privatising everything not nailed down was a leftist position.
Gail is so promiscuous in her allegations of bias that she only succeeds in tipping her hand. It isn’t enough to repeat the thinly-veiled accusations of anti-Semitism from Zionist wingnuts. Or to imply that coverage of ethnic minorities fails to give racists a fair crack of the whip. No, Gail’s prime exhibit is the BBC’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina, where a few correspondents dared to ask awkward questions about a flood defence system that left the richest country on earth looking like Bangladesh. This was apparently evidence of institutional anti-Americanism and an obsession with bashing Yo George. After all, Gail’s authority in this matter is Mr Tony Blair, and we all know he doesn’t lie. At this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if Gail was claiming Jane Hill’s big boobs undermined the Beeb’s Hurricane Katrina coverage.
And what, pray tell, is a “politically correct” position on climate change? You can argue about responses to it, but either it’s happening or it isn’t. Nearly every scientist in the field reckons it is. Maybe Gail would have the Beeb correct this “leftwing bias” on behalf of the, er, scientific community by giving lots of airtime to, um, the artists formerly known as the Revolutionary Communist Party.
On this evidence, I find it difficult to tell if Gail is angling for a column in the Daily Hate Mail – in which case she’d better take a number – or if she thinks the BBC would become less biased by making her a regular on-air pundit. I would suggest that a slot as the National Enquirer’s political columnist would be more up her street. If she really wants to make a career out of purveying this sort of flapdoodle, I direct her to my old friend Peter Hitchens to get some idea of how it should be done.
Gail Walker – we read her so you don’t have to.