Alastair Campbell whips Lad out, takes measurements

In editorial on May 28, 2010 at 09:23

BBC Question Time caused a row yesterday following the appearance of Alastair Campbell, the former Labour spin-doctor, on the program. (ed. We should note that while we abhor almost everything Labour stands for, Campbell is a bit of a genius at spin, and we – with not a little guilt – find him quite competent)

Campbell was there representing Labour, but the government refused to put forward a senior minister for the show – which focused on the Queen’s Speech debate – because he is not an elected member of Parliament.

The row erupted into a dick measuring contest, with Mr. Campbell calling the government’s communications director ‘totally incompetent’.

He went on to say that the government was staffed by ‘control freaks’, calling their refusal to appear on the program a ‘pathetic ploy’ by ‘a bunch of wimps’.

The actions, he said, subverted the government’s claims to be engaged in a ‘new politics of engagement’.

We suppose that Mr. Campbell can say that, but simply announcing it doesn’t make it true.

First, the government’s actions do not imply that they are trying to influence or ‘veto’ the BBC’s choice of panelists.  If the government actively lobbied the BBC to remove Mr. Campbell from the program, or threatened to cut funding, or sent nobody at all, the claim might stand.

The Tories did send a spokesperson, though.  It may not have been a cabinet minister, but the government was, in fact, present and therefore represented.  So Campbell’s claims are a bit bizarre, really.

Second, one might argue that it is the BBC – with the support of Mr. Campbell – that is doing the bullying.

Gavin Allen, QT executive editor, joined the opposition’s pile-on, accusing the government of ‘political interference’.

What the BBC needs to remember is that they are not the government watch-dog that they seem to believe they are.

There are countless more media outlets, very few of which have such strong ties to the public purse, that are doing the job – in many cases more competently – that the BBC appears to believe belongs to them alone.

In the end, this seems to us to amount to little more than a tantrum by a spoiled child denied his entitlement, and a desperate swing at the government by a defunct, irrelevant party.

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