MANDRAKE: Rupert Murdoch’s man at the BBC

PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 February 2020

Rupert Murdoch listens to a gathering of reporters immediately following a shareholder meeting. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Rupert Murdoch listens to a gathering of reporters immediately following a shareholder meeting. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

AP/Press Association Images

TIM WALKER on concerns about The Sun’s former managing editor at BBC Radio 4 and Arron Banks’ failed Blue Wave Movement.

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Paul Lewis, the presenter of BBC's Money Box, made an interesting observation the other day about his Radio 4 colleague Stig Abell, who presents the station's Front Row. He pointed out he has another job as launch director of Rupert Murdoch's forthcoming Times Radio, "the stated purpose of which is luring listeners away from Radio 4 and 5 live..."

At the corporation, there's concern that Abell - the former managing editor of Murdoch's Sun - is being allowed to remain in post when he's effectively the "recruiting officer" for a rival.

By contrast, John Pienaar quit immediately as the BBC's deputy political editor when he announced he would be joining Times Radio.

"Abell got into journalism not via the traditional route of coming up through the regions, but instead by doing a spell at the unlamented regulator the Press Complaints Commission," a corporation toiler tells me.

Still, ever loyal Evan Davis weighed in once again on behalf of BBC management and said that "while it might look odd the BBC employs someone who is setting up a rival service, it's simply a sign of how wonderfully open the BBC is." Incidentally, Davis also dutifully backed management when it was under fire over unequal pay for women.

Wave goodbye

With Boris Johnson's Tory Party heading in precisely the direction he wants it to, Arron Banks is shutting down the Blue Wave Movement that he set up two years ago to pack the party full of Brextremists.

The strike-off notice he's submitted to Companies House comes before the outfit has produced any accounts, which may well spare Banks some blushes given his track record. Latest accounts for his Better for the Country and LeaveEU show that they are £9.8 million in the red - £3.5m for the former and £6.3m for the latter - and he is keeping them afloat with £8m worth of loans.

Blue Wave was saddled with a bit of an image problem from the very start: it's also a brand name for a range of toilet chairs for geriatrics.

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Endgame

Thirty-six years ago, I was invited to go on the BBC's fledgling breakfast news programme to review the papers and remember chatting in the green room with the then employment minister Tom King.

I counted in and counted out a great many politicians and presenters in the years that followed, saw the show change its name and move from Shepherd's Bush to Salford. Anxious questions in the past few years about my views on Brexit from the bookers, increasingly long intervals between appearances, and now suddenly it's faded totally to black with the show unwilling to book me on again.

Since I never got to say goodbye, I'd say only this to the show's viewers. I don't believe I changed very much at all over the years, but the BBC has, a great deal. Moderate voices like mine may not make for very scintillating television, but they're what the BBC should, above all things, be about.

Write stuff

Brexit-backing politicians have a reputation for writing badly-written novels. Nadine Dorries with the clunky The Four Streets, Iain Duncan Smith with his absurd thriller The Devil's Tune, and Ann Widdecombe, with her slushy The Clematis Tree.

Now I hear that the former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain is showing how a Remainer politician can write with his own thriller, The Conspiracy. It's is set in South Africa and tells of a fictional friend of Nelson Mandela who discovers a plot to kill and export rhinos. Hain was brought up in southern Africa where he was a key anti-Apartheid activist.

In the Lords, he identified Philip Green as the businessman accused of bullying and sexual harassment by using parliamentary privilege, and, more recently, showed his support for the former speaker John Bercow - himself accused of bullying - by putting in an appearance at the party to launch his memoirs.

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Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press with your support. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

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