Posts Tagged ‘University Challenge’

News Rottweiler Richard Madeley Throws Gavin Williamson Off Programme for Not Answering Question

May 31, 2018

This is a turn up for the books. Richard Madeley is probably the last person I would have considered an aggressive, uncompromising interviewer, trying to hold the government and the authorities to account. But on ITV’s Good Morning on May 29th, 2018, Madeley showed he was not prepared to put up with Gavin Williamson’s repeated failure to answer his questions about the Skripal poisoning. And so, rather than let him continue, Madeley ended the interview, wishing him good luck with his project for Africa.

Mike put up a piece about this yesterday, remarking that not only had Williamson not answered the question, he was carrying on with a smug smirk on his face. Mike wrote of Williamson’s refusal to answer the question

He was deliberately withholding, not only his opinion on his ill-chosen words about the Russian government, but information on whether the Conservative government acted prematurely in blaming Russia for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

The Tory narrative that the Russian government was responsible has collapsed beneath a barrage of factual information suggesting otherwise, with no facts to support it.

If Mr Williamson had admitted his words were ill-advised, he would have been accepting that the anti-Russia stance was a mistake – and opening the UK government to an investigation into its own activities. So he was between a rock and a hard place.

And he thought he could brazen it out on TV because mainstream media interviewers are now notoriously soft on Tories.

Mike noted that this deference to the Tories had changed with Madeley’s actions, but was unsure whether it would spread to the Beeb because so many of the Corporation’s top news team are Conservatives. However, the public are also turning away from soft interviewers like Andrew Marr and Evan Davis, and this may force the BBC to adopt a tougher stance when interviewing Tory politicians.

Mike’s article also compares it to the incident, 21 years ago, when Paxman ended an interview with Michael Portillo because the future presenter of programmes about train journeys around the globe refused to answer a question on his party’s policy towards the single European currency. The incident happened in a good-humoured way, and Paxo was probably able to do it, according to Mike, because Portillo was out of Parliament at the time, and his political influence was due to be confined for the foreseeable future to being one of the commenters on Andrew Neil’s The Week.

Mike’s article is at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/30/the-madeley-moment-is-it-really-21-years-since-an-interviewer-dismissed-an-evasive-politician-for-failing-to-answer-a-question/

RT, as well as a number of other news sites on YouTube, also reported the incident. Here’s RT’s video of it.

Way back in the 1990s Jeremy Paxman was called a ‘Rottweiler’ for his persistent, aggressive questioning of politicians on his show, and his refusal to take any nonsense from them. Which was shown in his repeated questioning of Michael Howard whether he overruled another Tory minister. His ‘take no prisoners’ style of questioning enraged the Tories, and Michael Heseltine actually walked out during one interview, ‘angrily tossing his mane’ in the words of Ian Hislop later that week on Have I Got News For You.

The Tories responded as they usually do by claiming that Paxman and the BBC were biased against them. There was an article in the Spectator comparing Paxman to a similar TV interviewer in the Republic of Ireland, who went in hard with establishment politicians, but didn’t dare adopt the same stance with Sinn Fein or spokesmen for the IRA. And so eventually Paxo left Newsnight, and went instead to harass university students on University Challenge.

Then when Labour got it a few years later, the Tories showed once again how two-faced they are by lamenting how sad it was that Paxo had departed from political journalism, because now the country needed him to interrogate Blair and co with his aggressive refusal to allow his guest to get away with talking nonsense.

And so began the situation that prevails today, when members of the government turn up on television with the attitude that they can more or less say what they want, without being corrected or pressed by the interviewer. Some of us can still remember how Nicky Morgan repeatedly refused to answer one of the Beeb’s interviewer’s questions when she was minister for education. This was when Tweezer decided that every school should be an academy. The interviewer asked her a question about the number of academies, that had to be taken over again by the state, and all Thicky Nicky did was to repeat a line about how terrible it would be if children continued to be badly educated through attending failing state schools. In fact, the number of failing academies was high – about 21 or so, I seem to recall. Thicky Nicky clearly couldn’t admit that, and so she carried on repeating government propaganda. Just as the interview ended, the journo said, ‘You know the number’. He was clearly annoyed and frustrated at Morgan’s failure to answer the question, and made it very clear.

It would solve a lot of problems if interviewers did adopt a more uncompromising stance, and did throw politicians off the programme if they didn’t answer their questions. Reith was an authoritarian, who supported Mussolini, but he was right when he said that broadcasting to the nation was a privilege, not a right. This is a democracy, and the role of the press and the media – the Fourth Estate, as they’ve been called – has traditionally been to hold the government to account. Of course, this collapsed at least a decade ago, when the media became dominated by a very few big proprietors, who made sure that their papers represented their interests and those of the Conservative government, including Blair’s Thatcherite New Labour.

It’s good now that some TV interviewers are tired of giving the government such soft treatment. And as I said, it’s remarkable that this should come from Richard Madeley, who would be the last person I would have thought would do it. But obviously he decided he’d had enough, and something snapped. All hail Madeley, news Rottweiler. And I hope this attitude carries on and spread, so that we get something like the media we deserve in this country, rather than the one that’s foisted on us by the Beeb, Murdoch, Dacre and the Barclay Twins.

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Paxo Draws Blood Again and Savages May

May 30, 2017

The Beeb’s crowing about how they caught out Jeremy Corbyn over the costs of free childcare on Woman’s Hour has shown several things that the Beeb definitely wouldn’t have intended. Firstly, it revealed how massively biased the Corporation is towards the Tories. As the French Philosophical Feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, has pointed out, the Beeb never, or rarely ever, asks where the money is going to come from when the Tories announce tax cuts. It sounds counterintuitive, but he makes the point that tax cuts also involve costs as well. Not that this would have mattered – none of the Tories’ policies are costed. But it also shows how desperate the Beeb and the Tories are getting, now that Corbyn is closing the gap between them and Labour.

A poll conducted shortly before the Manchester bombing showed that the gap was down to 5 per cent.

Hence the Beeb trying to make as much out of this minor victory as possible.

Last night, May and Corbyn were interviewed separately by Paxo. And, for many people, May’s performance was a debacle, while Corbyn came out far better. How poorly May performed can be seen on the clips Mike put up on his blog earlier today.

Paxo showed that he still had the power to lay into the great and powerful after leaving Newsnight and becoming the scourge of student quiz teams on University Challenge. Commenting on May’s various U-turns, such as when she announced she wouldn’t call a general election, and then did, and reversals she had made over Brexit, he said that instead of finding someone who was a good negotiator, the EC’s politicos and functionaries would instead find ‘a blowhard who falls down at the first sign of gunfire’. May, at least, had the decency to acknowledge they were U-turns, but tried explaining them away as necessitated by the circumstances.

And the responses from Twitter have been brilliant. WirralinItTogether, in response to Paxo’s brief, pithy characterisation of May as a negotiator, posted a picture of a little girl falling out of her chair laughing. Tory Fibs put up a list of the devastating cuts that have been inflicted on the NHS, and their equally devastating effects, like waiting lists are now at a seven year high. Members of the audience laughed at her, were seen mouthing ‘that’s bollocks’ when she spoke. And Martin Lewis posted the results of the poll.

Asked who they believed won,
48 per cent, who also supported Labour, thought he’d won.
37 per cent, who were not supporters of Labour, also thought he had.
11 per cent, who were Tories, though May had won.
And 9 per cent, who weren’t Tories, believed May had been the victor.

For more information, go to Mike’s blog, at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/30/battle-for-number-10-more-of-a-rout-as-theresa-may-falls-apart-under-questioning/

He has various clips, including a whole video of the interviews, so you can judge for yourself, along with other Tweets and videos showing Labour’s promises, including their pledge to reverse the damage to Britain’s security inflicted by May’s cuts to the police, border guards and armed forces.

Coming Soon to TV this Christmas: IDS – A Real Video Nasty?

December 13, 2014

Ever since Charles Dickens invented the ‘traditional’, Victorian Christmas with A Christmas Carol, ghost and horror stories have been a part of the season’s entertainment. In the 1970s and ’80s the BBC broadcast a series of ghost stories, including a version of Dickens’ The Railwayman, and the chilling tales of the master of the British ghost story, M.R. James. The latter were told by Robert Powell, taking the part of James himself, who every Christmas settled down in his room at Oxford to tell a story of the ghastly and supernatural to his students. Last year Mark Gatiss of the League of Gentlemen and now Dr Who, presented a documentary on James’ life and career. Gatiss and the other members of the League were horror fans, and arguably much of the new Dr Who has its roots less in Science Fiction than Dark Fantasy and Horror. He therefore was a good choice as the programme’s presenter.

Other spooky delights on offer on TV in the past were Hammer’s gory and grisly tales, such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and The Wolfman, featuring Oliver Reed as a werewolf, a part, which it could be said, he continued playing in many of his subsequent dramatic performances on chat shows around the world for much of his life. Some of his still remember his finest hour when he was thrown off the final programme of the discussion programme, After Dark.

Now watching the trailers last night for the forthcoming seasonal delights on the Beeb, I came across something that was genuinely unpleasant, far more so than anything dreamed up by Terence Fisher and the other fevered minds at Bray Studios in the 1960s. It was for a celebrity edition of University Challenge, and one of the faces looked like that of IDS.

This is genuinely grotesque. Christmas is traditionally a time of peace and goodwill to all, and yet there’s precious little of that on display with IDS and his actions. This is the politician, who has cut benefits and imposed sanctions to the point where claimants have actually died of cold and starvation on Britain’s streets, in their homes, or taken their lives through desperation. This is the politicians, who has lied and lied again about the effects of his policies to parliament. Not only that, but he is also personally treacherous and utterly without honour. When one lady, a Dutchwoman who had grown up here, worked all her life and paid her tax came to him as her MP about immigration problems, not only did … Smith refuse to help, he tried to have her deported.

Good King Wenceslaus, the song goes, took pity on a poor man ‘gathering winter fuel’, and so took him home to share his food and hearth out of charity. The real King Wenceslaus was the early medieval king of Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic, who converted the country to Christianity. I’ve got the feeling that the Czech version of his name is Vaclav, which is obviously still a popular name in the Republic. It’s the first name, for example, of the dissident poet and first democratic Czech president after the fall of Communism, Vaclav Havel. I don’t know whether the real King Wenceslas ever did what the carol describes, but it’s not impossible. Medieval religion strongly emphasised charity and the ‘works of mercy’ as part of the co-operative grace granted to humanity through which they could gain salvation partly through their good works. It formed what modern scholars have termed an ‘economy of salvation’ in which wealthy merchants and rich noblemen were careful to work out exactly how much money they should spend on charity for the poor in order gain time off in Purgatory. Looking after the material needs of the poor was particularly important, as it was believed that they far dearer to the Lord than the rich, and so their blessings and prayers were particularly important in securing God’s pardon.

For all IDS’ rhetoric about ‘social justice’, I’ve seen precious little evidence that IDS has anything but hatred and contempt for the poor. Far from helping the poor man collect his firewood, and show due concern for the page following in his footsteps against treacherous, icy footing, IDS strikes me as far more likely to have taken away the pauper’s firewood as above the level allowed by feudal law, and given him a strong lecture on his improvidence and lack of self-sufficiency in not having rationed his firewood properly in the Christmas season. And the page would have to have made his own way to keep up with the king, as this would have been the only way to give him the proper training to compete in the go-ahead, globalised economy of the 11th century.

It also struck me as the beginning of a charm offensive by the Tory party in preparation for next year’s election. The Tories are keenly aware that they have an image as ‘the nasty party’. IDS himself is surely aware that he is one of the most hated men in Britain. It’s why he opened a jobs fair in his constituency, Chingford, early and left before the masses arrived. It’s also why he has been forced to sneak out the back when appearing at a job centre in Bath, as well as hide in laundry baskets to escape protesters. He’s also such a physical coward that when he appeared before a select committee in parliament to give evidence, he was surrounded by bodyguards and armed cops, pointing their guns at the public, including a number of disabled people and their carers in the public gallery.

His appearance on a festive edition of University Challenge looks like an attempt to present him as genial and family-friendly, a jolly type quite prepared to make a fool of himself on a quiz show at this time of year, rather than the vindictive, mean-spirited curmudgeon his really is.

It also seems to bear out a comment by Mark Kermode about the personal character of the makers of Horror and Family movies. Kermode’s the film critic on Radio 5 Live. He’s a long term Horror fan, having written books on Horror cinema and spoken before the British Boards of Film Certification about the censorship of particular video nasties. You remember them. They were films like Driller Killer, I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left, that were so disgusting that when they appeared in the 1970s and ’80s they were banned. Kermode has said in his reviews that the makers of Horror movies all invariably tend to be really nice people. Wes Craven, who made Last House on the Left and then the Nightmare on Elm Street series, was actually a genuinely nice, highly educated, intelligent man. Craven has said in interviews that the extreme and genuinely disgusting violence and brutality in Last House on the Left was partly inspired by the images that were coming out of Vietnam in 1973. He saw the film as a polemic against violence, and showing how violence simply begets even more violence. To that point, he once walked out of one of Quentin Tarentino’s flicks. When one of the horror great Horror directors asked him how he could walk out of Tarentino’s movie, after he had directed something as revolting as Last House on the Left, Craven replied, ‘Well at least my movie’s about something!’

M.R. James seems to be another case in point. Rather than being a pale, sour misanthrope, Gatiss’ programme described James as quite a jovial, very sociable figure in real life, who enjoyed physically romping with his fellow students. Gatiss talked to the son of one of James’ students, who said that his father believed him to have been a non-practicing gay. Regardless of the speculation about James’ sexuality, what was clear was that James was a genuinely friendly man, who enjoyed his friends’ company and affection.

By contrast, according to Kermode, you can bet that the people who make family films are personally nasty. Well, this seems pretty much the case with IDS, which is no doubt why he wants to appear on TV in a positive light. Forget Hammer, Frankenstein, Dracula and Freddie Kruger, this is one Horror story I’ll be glad to miss.

Tories Accused BBC of Bias While Going Grouse Shooting with Them

January 11, 2014

Mike over at Vox Political has several times raised the issue of the BBC’s Right-wing bias, quoting the analysis of the state broadcaster’s news content by academics at Cardiff University. This does not stop the Conservative Party and various other Right-wing organisations from routinely accusing the BBC of bias against them.

Jeremy Paxman was a particular target of such accusations when John Major was premier in the 1990s because of the way his tough questioning had left ministers floundering and, in a couple of cases, flouncing out in pique. I really don’t think it was an accident that following these claims, Paxo was taken from Newsnight and put on University Challenge. Hypocritically, this then became the subject of further Tory accusations of bias when Major’s government was replaced by that of Tony Blair. According to the Spectator and other Tory journals, it was again all due to BBC anti-Conservative bias that Paxo was confined to the quiz, and not allowed to unleash his Rotweiler-like inquisitorial questioning to savage the new Labour government on Newsnight. It was, of course, conveniently forgotten that it was the Tories, who attacked him for his bias there in the first place.

The BBC’s former Director-General, Greg Dyke, has also been another target of these accusations because of his association with members of Blair’s cabinet while he was at London Weekend Television. Possibly his critics may also be motivated by a secret fear of Roland Rat, but who knows? Perhaps they’re afraid that Roland and his rodent comrades may stage a takeover of the BBC, and that the signature theme tune of the news will be replaced by Rat Rappin’ in an attempt to boost ratings as broadcasters dumb down even further.

Despite these accusations, the BBC, or at least some of its senior executives, do seem to have had close personal connections with leading Conservative politicians even while making accusations of anti-Tory bias. Going back once again to Major’s administration, Private Eye ran a story about how one of their journalists or correspondents encountered various members of Major’s cabinet in the Scottish highlands. I’m afraid I can’t remember the precise details, but a very senior BBC executive had been holding a grouse shoot, which the Eye’s correspondent had bumped into just by accident. Along with the BBC boss, the journo also saw Major’s ministerial deputies hunkered down in the bushes, waiting to take their turn to blaze away. The Eye duly reported this and commented with gleeful irony on how this showed reflected on the Tories’ accusations of left-wing bias.

This was nearly twenty years ago, but I’ve no doubt the point remains. The BBC sees itself as part of the British establishment, and despite supposed maverick left-wingers like Dyke, its senior staff have the same very middle class, establishment backgrounds as the government and civil service, and often have close personal connections with them. One of the other blogs, which have commented on this issue, noted just how many of the BBC’s news broadcasters are members of the Conservative Party. In this milieu, it is perhaps naïve to expect that the BBC in its news programmes would show anything else than bias towards, not against, the Tories.