MICK HUME: How appalling that Boris Johnson, a prime minister with a mandate from 14 million voters can be cancelled by Twitter and Britain’s Brexit loathing elite
Radio 4’s specially extended edition of the Today Programme on Thursday morning was interrupted for the BBC’s political editor Chris Mason to boast that he had just received a call from Downing Street informing him that ‘the Prime Minister has agreed to stand down’.
But Mason might as well have announced that Boris Johnson ‘has agreed to stand down, as the BBC demanded’ — for that has been the clear and relentless message of its coverage over recent months.
And when Today host Nick Robinson declared soon afterwards that, ‘the Boris Johnson era is coming to an end’, it seemed almost celebratory in tone.
BBC’s political editor Chris Mason interrupted the Today programme to say: ‘The Prime Minister has agreed to stand down’.
Like the Mounties, the BBC — and the rest of the Europhile Establishment it speaks for — had finally got their man.
It was the moment they had been waiting for since December 2019, when Johnson won his resounding 80-seat majority. Perhaps even since the result of the EU referendum in June 2016, when David Dimbleby told the nation in shocked disbelief that: ‘We’re out!’
Now, the combined forces of unashamedly biased media executives and journalists and the smug, liberal warriors who make up the twitterati have succeeded in effectively leading a coup to ‘cancel’ an elected politician with one of the biggest electoral mandates in history. And in the aftermath of Johnson’s defiant resignation speech and his decision to stay on in No 10 until October, few of the usual suspects could not hide their glee on social media.
Stephen Fry tweeted: ‘He’s STILL Prime Minister?’
‘He just couldn’t do the decent thing and step aside at once. He doubtless pictures himself as an unleashed buccaneering, cavalier swashbuckler rather than the rogue elephant he is, trampling down what’s left of our democracy,’ he wrote in another blast.
TV presenter Sue Perkins tweeted: ‘No contrition. No reflection. No basic understanding. And take the name of the NHS out of your privatising mouth.’
Foul-mouthed comedian Nish Kumar also piled in. ‘Yes him going doesn’t solve the institutional rot that brought him to this position. And yes, the real solution is changing a system that elevates a person like [sic] to the position of ultimate power. But for one moment let’s focus on how incredibly funny it is that the c*** failed,’ he tweeted.
Nick Robinson began his review of Thursday’s newspaper headlines, unsurprisingly, with the Guardian’s attack on Johnson as ‘desperate and deluded’
Presenter, screenwriter and Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker reacted similarly: ‘It’ll take an exorcist to shift this f*****’.
Finally, there was Rory Stewart, a former Tory MP and one-time party leader hopeful, whose rant on Sky News reached new heights of hysteria. ‘A liar, a showman, a buffoon, a rank incompetent and probably the most shameful Prime Minister that Britain has ever had and somebody the like of whom I pray we will never see again,’ he said.
Early on Thursday morning, before it was known Johnson had decided to resign, Robert Peston wrote a particularly aggressive piece for ITV’s news website.
‘This spectacle is pure gold to Labour. But the PM is insisting he has a personal mandate from the British people. This is constitutional claptrap. If it wasn’t such a cliche, I might say there are shades of Donald Trump here . . . the Conservatives won a mandate, not him — however much of a contribution he made to that victory. He is also trampling on the UK’s unwritten constitution in a second sense.’
It is, however, the BBC — or the Boris Bashing Corporation — which has led the ‘Remainstream’ media campaign against Brexit, blaming Boris for ‘duping’ the millions of Leave voters whom they hold in contempt.
This pro-EU bias might have bubbled along below the surface for much of the past six years, but in recent months the Beeb and some other sections of the media appear to have set aside any notion of objective journalism in their obsessive pursuit of Boris, first over Partygate and most recently over the Chris Pincher affair.
While many voters view these stories as no more than Westminster-bubble issues, they have sought to elevate them into full-blown Watergate-scale scandals, whipping up a mood of confected outrage day after day, week after week.
To their delight, this relentless campaign came to a climax this week. On Tuesday, within an hour of the former foreign office mandarin Lord McDonald publishing his letter accusing the PM of lying about what he knew about Pincher’s alleged past misdeeds, this self-appointed mouthpiece for Whitehall’s Remainer blob had been whisked onto the Today programme to deliver his sermon live to the nation.
The following evening, BBC 2’s flagship show Newsnight took up the fight with 45 minutes of sustained Boris-bashing. It even replaced its usual closing credits with a black-and-white image of the PM, over which it ran the names of all the ministers who had resigned from Government over the past 48 hours. It was like watching a running death toll of the fallen in wartime.
The soundtrack was a cover version of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, ending on the line: ‘I can’t change, oh, no, I can’t change.’ Subtle and nuanced it was not!
And that brings us back to the Today programme on Thursday, where it seemed to me hosts Nick Robinson and Mishal Husain spent the entire first three hours either warming up for the anticipated celebration of Boris’s exit, glorying in a succession of parliamentary resignations or repeating the ‘extraordinary’ fact that he hadn’t yet resigned — despite the Beeb’s best efforts.
This is the same Mishal Husain who came under intense criticism only last month for comparing the Government’s plans to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol to Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine.
‘What are you going to do next time you need to have stern words with a country like Russia? Telling them to act within the rule of law and they hit back and say, “Well you’re not willing to honour your agreements”,’ she asked an incredulous Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss.
Nick Robinson is little better. He began his review of Thursday’s newspaper headlines, unsurprisingly, with the Guardian’s attack on Johnson as ‘desperate and deluded’.
Today programme hosts Nick Robinson and Mishal Husain spent the entire first three hours either warming up for the anticipated celebration of Boris’s exit or repeating the ‘extraordinary’ fact that he hadn’t yet resigned
Then political editor Mason came on to report with visceral relish how he had sensed Johnson’s authority ‘draining away’ in Parliament on Wednesday: ‘You could hear it, you could feel it, you could SMELL it!’
Robinson also had fun reading out an article that ridiculed a Prime Minister for still being ‘holed up in Downing Street’ like ‘someone who’s lashed himself to the radiator’.
He added gleefully: ‘Not my words, but the words of Boris Johnson, writing in the Daily Telegraph in 2010 when Gordon Brown was resisting calls to quit. How, you may be wondering this morning, can Boris Johnson still be in office?’
That might have raised a laugh from fellow debating students in the Oxford Union, where Johnson and Robinson first met as rivals, but it had no place in a serious BBC news report on a day of crisis for the country. And so the coverage went on; a near-orgiastic carnival of sneering contempt.
Sky News is also in the frame when it comes to a perceived lack of impartiality.
Its deputy political editor has made a name for himself recently with what his colleagues have termed ‘the Sam Coates treatment’ — which consists of frantically shouting at ministers as they walk into No 10.
After Boris had resigned, he was repeatedly interrupting live reports to bellow across the road at various politicians arriving at Downing Street.
‘Is this a sad day for you?’ he yelled at Culture Secretary and Boris loyalist Nadine Dorries as she walked up to the famous black door.
‘Do you have confidence in Boris Johnson doing the job?’ he heckled as Deputy PM Dominic Raab came by. And so it went on, like a bad Alan Partridge tribute act.
Let’s be clear: everybody knows that Boris is not an easy character to defend. He’s made bad mistakes and told lies, and ultimately, they have brought him low.
But, arguably, it would be naive to imagine that the broadcast media’s Get-Boris crusade was motivated solely by its concern for standards in public life.
No, I believe the more insidious factor at play here has been a bitter campaign for Remainer revenge over Brexit.
Step forward, once again, Nick Robinson, who illustrated this perfectly in an interview with Attorney General Suella Braverman on Thursday.
BBC 2’s flagship show Newsnight replaced its usual closing credits with a black-and-white image of the PM, over which it ran the names of all the ministers who had resigned from Government over the past 48 hours
‘What this is really about is this,’ he lectured her. ‘You Brexiteers are now fighting like rats in a sack about what on earth to do now we are out of the EU.’
This in a democracy where more than 14 million Conservative voters handed Boris that mandate in 2019 to get on with the job.
Then, after Boris resigned, BBC Europe editor Katya Adler — who has been accused of unabashedly taking the EU’s side against Britain — published a round-up of international reactions.
She quoted Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s former Brexit co-ordinator who did little to facilitate our leaving even when it was a done deal. He said Johnson’s reign was ending in ‘disgrace, just like his friend Donald Trump’, and protested that ‘EU-UK relations suffered hugely with Johnson’s choice of Brexit’.
They still don’t get it. That ‘choice’ wasn’t Boris’s — it was made by 17.4 million Leave voters who clearly matter as little to Brussels elites as they do to the BBC.
At the end of Newsnight on Wednesday evening, just before that risible credit reel, the programme’s political editor Nick Watt was given the last word to point out that Braverman, one of the ‘Spartan’ Brexiteer MPs who are hardline Eurosceptics, had now called for Boris to go.
‘So,’ he smugly assured us, ‘this is not a Remainer plot.’
Well, if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.
n Mick Hume is a media specialist and the author of Revolting! How The Establishment Are Undermining Democracy And What They’re Afraid Of (William Collins).
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