BY JAMIE FOSTER
On 3 September Lord Adonis tweeted something truly shocking. He said he was writing to Lord Hall, the Director General of the BBC, to ask that Andrew Neil be fired from the BBC because of his pro Brexit stance. To anyone who takes political reporting seriously Andrew Neil is in a class of his own. He asks the tough questions in a way that no other journalist manages to. He is always immaculately briefed and understands his subject intimately. Above all he is even handed. He grills government and opposition figures with the same laser like forensic skill. He is the political interviewer that grownups tune in to find out about the subject.
For Adonis to attack Andrew Neil in this way he must feel particularly wounded. The wound comes in the form of the truth. Neil has an uncanny ability to cut through spin and lies and expose the truth about any given political issue. For a Remainer like Adonis this is a particularly difficult ability to cope with. The narrative that Remainers like to cling to is that all of the lies are on the Brexiteer side of the argument, but Neil has consistently shown that this is not the case. From Osborne’s punishment budget to the countless prophesies of economic disaster in the pages of the Financial Times, Neil has managed to expose the untruths that the Remainers relied upon to scare the British public. Adonis has attacked Neil for shining a light of truth on a series of Remainer falsehoods.
It is remarkable enough that he feels secure in demanding Neil be fired. This is a problem with the BBC and its left leaning political stance. Those on the left like Adonis truly believe that the BBC is their territory and all they need to do is ask to have any voice silenced that isn’t singing from their hymnbook. It is even more remarkable that he feels secure in making this call so public. Neil’s crime, according to Adonis, is in agreeing with 52% of the voting public. We are now in a time when a voice from the minority can demand someone’s sacking for merely agreeing with the majority. If Neil had used his position in the run up to the referendum to campaign for Brexit, Adonis may have had a point. He didn’t. All he has done is to question the statements made by Remainers who are unwilling to accept the will of the people and poke holes in them. This is a perfectly reasonable thing for a serious political commentator to do.
If there is any complaint that can be made about the BBC it is that it has been too quick to run with anti-Brexit stories. Like its left leaning politics, perhaps understandably the BBC employs a lot of people with Remainer sympathies. If Neil provides balance by being part of the BBC that can only be a good thing. The trouble is, for people like Adonis, it is not enough that the BBC is balanced. He wants them to put forward his world view or none at all.
It is an open question whether Adonis made this call after Neil already announced he was stepping down from the Daily & Sunday Politics in order to try to claim credit for this move. It is hard to imagine those programmes surviving the loss of Neil, who brought so much to them by way of gravitas. Maybe the intention was to throw a spanner in the works of any new move. Whatever the plan is, the BBC should be very careful how it treats the call made by Adonis. The BBC’s track record of dealing with conservative figures in its ranks has been very poor. The Clarkson fiasco cost the BBC real cash and a great deal of goodwill. Turning its back on Neil would cost the BBC a great deal more in terms of respect. Neil is a highly respected figure because of his clear objectivity and no-nonsense approach to political reporting. Adonis, by comparison, is a lightweight figure ennobled as a yes man to Tony Blair. If the BBC has any sense they will give his suggestion the short shrift that it deserves. We need more of Neil’s straightforward approach to the truth, not less. I hope the BBC realises this. Neil in charge of Question Time might be a good start.