After Mandrake reported on a secret ‘Remainer register’ at the BBC, TIM WALKER speaks to the academics who have been dropped from its political programmes at the last minute.
Mandrake’s revelation that the BBC is routinely standing down guests after cross-checking them against their secret ‘Remainer register’ has prompted a number of senior academics to come forward.
Prof AC Grayling tells me Today asked him to record a ‘lessons from the last year’ piece for New Year’s Day. ‘I duly did so and talked about the harm already being done by Brexit, but it was spiked and no spike fee was offered, despite a demand both for it and an explanation,’ he says.
‘For many years a regular contributor to various BBC programmes, since the referendum I’ve been asked only twice, one being the spiked contribution for 2018, the other an item not on Brexit. Coincidence?’
For his part, Nigel Driffield, a distinguished professor at Warwick Business School, says: ‘I’ve been cancelled at short notice twice by BBC World. Once the show I’d been booked to do went out with just a Leaver on.’
Others got in touch to say they’d also been stood down, but didn’t want to be named as they feared it would result in a permanent ban and they needed the freelance income.
I’ve also heard Gina Miller was dropped by Newsnight last week – she declines to comment – and I can personally vouch for the fact The Jeremy Vine Show, on Radio 2, invited me on to talk about James Dyson’s decision to up sticks, and then, ten minutes later, had second thoughts.
The BBC admits it collects information about guests ‘from public sources, such as social media and industry contacts’.
Too ashamed now to utter the word ‘Brexit’, David Cameron’s Twitter followers must feel as if he’s living in a parallel universe. He dutifully records births (Ruth Davidson’s son), marriages (Harry and Meghan’s) and deaths (Paddy Ashdown’s). His other specialist subject is a company called Illumina which, over the weekend, he once again plugged.
Illumina? It’s a money-spinning life-sciences firm that a Commons watchdog banned him from lobbying for until last July, two years after he quit as PM. Ilumina has a contract to perform genome sequencing for the government as part of the Department of Health’s 100,000 Genomics Project.
Cameron said that while he had attended meetings on the Genome Project as PM, he had not, to his knowledge, had any direct meetings with Illumina during his period in office. His factotum Laurence Mann declines to disclose how much Illumina are paying him.
Sultan Muhammad Abuljadayel, a close associate of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia with a dubious record on human rights, continues to build up his stake in the Independent through his Saudi Research and Marketing Group.
The group is keen on exploiting the Independent franchise throughout the Middle East, and, in late January, Independent Arabia launched with a volley of shots against the Saudi ruler’s foes, Iran and Turkey.
Insiders say the Saudi strategy of buying up Western media outlets is being directed by the UAE, which is where Bloomberg has based its Saudi offshoot, Bloomberg Asharq, which is also backed by SR&MG. At least Bloomberg had the sense to insist on an exit clause if it starts to feel uncomfortable in the relationship. No such foresight at the Independent, alas.
Just before the EU referendum, Elizabeth Hurley tweeted a photograph of herself stark naked – but for a Union Jack pillow, covering her modesty – to show she was backing Leave.
The 53-year-old actress has had two opposing forces in her life swaying her on this issue: her old pal William Cash – the son of the veteran Tory Brextremist Sir Bill Cash – and her former boyfriend, Hugh Grant, a vociferous Remainer.
I stand to be corrected, but I hear whispers that Ms Hurley is reviewing the situation. Certainly, she hasn’t said a word on the subject for some time. If so, who, honestly, can blame her?