One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the utter stupidity of senior members of the Conservative Party. When it was announced that Tony Hall was being appointed BBC Director General after the sopping wet Lord (Chris) Patten foolishly rushed in to fill the post without carefully examining other potential candidates for the vacancy, the Labour Party speedily showered Hall and the decision with praise and plaudits.
You would have thought Labour’s delight would have started ringing alarm bells in Tory HQ, but no. Perhaps the problem is threefold. Firstly you have the legendary idiocy of the Tory elite, which treats its members and the public with contempt while making all manner of balls-ups. Secondly, perhaps Tories just possess incredibly short memories and therefore have forgotten about Tony Hall and what went on at the BBC while he was in cheif executive of BBC News and Current Affairs? Let’s take a couple of moments to remind them.
Under his Tony Hall’s management, the BBC had an incestuous relationship with the Labour Party. BBC staffers assisted Labour’s ‘rapid rebuttal unit’ by tipping them off every time a Conservative said anything that challenged Labour in the run up to the 1997 general election. Former BBC journalists ran as Labour candidates (remember Ben Bradshaw who remained on the BBC Radio 4 payroll despite not working and instead campaigning to win the Exeter seat?) while Labour people went the other way into the BBC (remember Joy Johnson, ex-BBC PR professional who became Labour’s director of communications, then lost her job and was immediately re-hired by the BBC?) What about the champagne strewn corridors of the BBC after Blair’s election victory and the BBC bias against the Conservatives that had Brian Mawhinney and Charles Lewington in red faced fury as the Patten-loving Major government was pulled to pieces? It was under Tony Hall that the BBC effectively campaigned for Martin Bell in Tatton, without once challenging him on his motivation for standing or probing his behind the scenes relationship with the Labour Party.
Small wonder Labour has welcomed his appointment, and the corporate stupidity of the Tories sees them also welcome a man into a post far more powerful than the one he used to help to see the Tories ejected from office in 1997. But what of the third possible problem? Maybe the long stroll leftwards of the Conservatives, which has accelerated under David Cameron, has made the Tory leadership so indistinguishable from Labour they now share the same mindset enabling them to convince themselves Tony Hall is someone they can do business with.
The timing is incredibly ironic. Here we are, mid-term of a somewhat unpopular coagulation government, where the Lib Dems are electoral dead ducks struggling to remain the third mainstream political party as UKIP catches and overtakes them in the polls; and the Conservatives are being painted as evil for supposedly trying to repair (badly it has to be said) the economic scorched earth of Labour’s insane tax, borrow, spend and borrow some more policies while continuing to fawn over the EU. Labour is on top of the polls for simply not being Tories or Fib Dims, despite being led by an incompetent champagne socialist career politician who has never done a proper job in his life and who lives in comfort with a couple of million in the bank. And now the man who gave Labour a free ride on BBC’s news output to help them win the election in 1997 is placed into an even more powerful role as head of the BBC, enabling him to ensure the BBC helps Labour to victory again in 2015.
Describing the Tories as lemmings doesn’t seem to go far enough.