POLITICS

25 January, 2022

AUTHOR: James Dowen

JUST WILLIAM: Operation Dead Meat

Hello one and all! I’d like to start by thanking everyone for their book suggestions last week – if there’s one thing I won’t lack for this year then it’ll be quality reading material!

You can see the list – and suggestions – by clicking here!

There’s only one place to begin this week; Boris Johnson’s seemingly never ending battle for survival.

After yesterday’s dramatic events in Westminster, when we saw the first Conservative-Labour defection since 2007, today we’ve had the accusation from William Wragg (a senior Tory MP and committee chair) said Number 10 staff, special advisers and government ministers had said there would be embarrassing stories released to the press if MPs did not support the prime minister. For good measure, he also made the claim that Number 10 had threatened to withdraw funding to his and other backbenchers’ constituencies if they did not withdraw their opposition to the PM.

That allegation was then backed up by Christian Wakeford – remember him? – who told reporters that when he was in the Tory party, he was ordered to vote a certain way or a school in his constituency would not get funding.

Then there’s also the small matter of Sue Gray’s looming report – which appears to be the crucial matter upon which most Tory MP’s judgement is going to be reserved – now finding an email warning Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary against holding a lockdown-breaching party in Number 10, according to ITV Political Editor Robert Peston.

(A reminder here that Boris Johnson claimed he hadn’t been warned the May 20, 2020 party was against the rules and that he only attended because he thought it was a work event)

Apparently, the warning email – sent by a senior official – told Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds that the party “should be cancelled because it broke the rules” – I think it’s fair to say that there will be considerable interest in what the report shows. Or it might just get leaked beforehand, which appears to be the fashion these days.

Our market on whether Johnson faces a no confidence vote before February has moved – you can now get 5/4 that 54 letters are sent in by the end of this month, and 4/7 that Johnson makes it through to February unscathed – and whatever happens it looks sure to go down to the wire.

It’s fair to say that this has been an incredibly eventful week, but the heroes are surely the good people from Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. Enjoy their response to reports that Britain could send refugees to Ghana for ‘processing’ below:

Troubles Ahead for the BBC

As part of ‘Operation Dead Meat’ (that is how I’m referring to it now, no further questions) the Government has moved aggressively against the BBC, a tactic for which it was already well known, to put it politely.

Now the news that the BBC licence fee is set to be frozen isn’t a surprise to anyone watching. And a new funding model is something that has been discussed with more seriousness over the past decade (click here for a rundown of potential alternatives from the Guardian’s Jim Waterson).

But the consequences of such an action are yet to be seriously felt across the country by the majority of people who use BBC services. Whilst attention will be on the mega programmes such as Line of Duty, Vigil, and Death In Paradise, cuts could end up having a much bigger effect on local services – which have already experienced cuts in the past few years – and it’s those products which are far harder to replace (and impossible in quite a few cases).

Anyhow, here are my Scorching Hot BBC Takes (first seen on Twitter):

1. It’s massive value for money

You might only use certain parts of it, but £13.13 a month for four TV channels, more radio stations than you can throw a stick at (I can count 8 which you’d call national), a full website with a wide range of online services, and then catch up services on TV and radio.

2. There are many things the BBC must do better (and it doesn’t make you a basher to say it)

No organisation that big will be perfect, but there’s much the BBC can and must improve on, especially with it’s newsgathering operations. Many have made the point that BBC has less defenders now than it would have a decade ago due to controversies with news (from all sides) and change is needed for people to retain faith in what is one of the world’s biggest news operations.

3. For all the issues in recent years with News and Current Affairs, the BBC isn’t *just* news

This is so often forgotten, but you don’t see many MP’s or columnists firing diatribes at David Attenborough (nor Line of Duty).

4. People’s belief that the BBC is just News +Current Affairs is probably it’s biggest threat

A lack of separation from the two in public discourse is one of the biggest PR battles facing the corporation.

5. The unseen work of the BBC in being representative (and more accountable in that) is massively important

The BBC often finds itself in the centre of what one might call the culture wars when it comes to diversity, but it’s commitments in that sphere are incredibly valuable and good – and more people should say so!

6. Reforms – big ones – need to be made to news and current affairs, but the budget cuts won’t do this (the opposite if anything)

Staff cuts anywhere are likely to increase the number of mistakes made and reduce horizons/experiences/perspectives rather than broaden them, leading to more of the same mistakes as before.

7. Any sort of cuts will end up being felt with something a lot of people enjoy or need (local services in the main)

“Everyone dislikes paying the licence fee until something they love goes.” (William Kedjanyi, January 2022)

8. Whilst licence fee’s days were numbered, going to be a massive blow for many creatives if BBC essentially turns commercial (it’s a big net good for UK IMO)

The beauty of the BBC’s funding and remit means that you can take the chances others might not think of – or aren’t able to.

Best,

William


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.


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