MANDRAKE: The BBC’s remainer register exposed

PUBLISHED: 20:45 30 January 2019 | UPDATED: 21:09 30 January 2019

Andrew Marr (left) and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during filming for 
The Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

Andrew Marr (left) and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during filming for The Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Mandrake can disclose the BBC has a Remainer register of talking heads it deems to be ‘unsound’ on the most divisive issue of our times.

“What’s sinister is the extent of research that’s gone into it and how it extends beyond the political arena into other worlds such as show business,” a corporation journalist tells me. “You can be asked on to a show on the basis you’re a champion beekeeper, but, if you let slip you think Brexit’s a bad idea, then it will be noted. I don’t say it means you’ll be banned, but your appearances will be limited and you’ll always find yourself on with someone else for ‘balance’.”

Bookers under pressure to get a guest in quickly often take a risk on a Remainer, but find themselves subsequently over-ruled. “This explains why a startlingly large number of people booked for BBC shows get disinvited,” adds my informant. “Patrick Kielty – so vocal about his concerns about Brexit and the Irish border – was bumped off Today recently. Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show did it to at least one pro-Remain journalist last week. One familiar commentator I know told me he doesn’t even bother to get ready when the BBC phones, because he knows they’ll cancel once they realise he’s pro-EU.”

Nigel Farage appears during a BBC debate. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.Nigel Farage appears during a BBC debate. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

I ask the BBC press office what information they hold on potential guests and whether they would be willing to divulge it to them and – ever helpfully – they eventually decline to comment beyond directing me to various pages they are legally obliged to put up on their website. On one, there is the admission: “We may collect information about [guests] from public sources such as social media [and] industry contacts.”

SUCK IT UP

The Brextremist MP Mark “Gino” Francois raised eyebrows with his startlingly xenophobic comments about Airbus’s “Teutonic” boss Tom Enders and how he knew all about resisting the Germans because his father Reginald was a D-Day veteran.

Mandrake can only hope Reginald never got to find out about Francois’s inability to resist Peperami – a sausage snack manufactured in Ansbach, Germany – at the taxpayers’ expense. During the expenses scandal of 2009, it emerged Francois’s resistance was also low when it came to a wide range of snacks, all of which he felt it appropriate to charge to taxpayers.

On just one trip to Tesco, the man who tells Remainers to “suck it up” claimed £7.87 on ice cream, £4.36 on bags of sweets, £3.24 on Kit Kats, £2.68 on Mars bars, £1.28 on Snickers bars, and 96p on wine gums. On another visit, he spent £5.04 on Mars bars, £3.24 on Kit Kats and £2.42 on a Pot Noodle. A separate grocery trip saw him claiming £14.26 on biscuits, £3.26 on “bags of sweets”, and, oh yes, two more Peperami ‘hot’ five packs for £2.18 each.

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GONE TO GROUND

Few, if any, politicians take as much trouble over their personal security as David Cameron, so Mandrake wonders where the man who called the EU referendum plans to be on March 29, the day we are scheduled to leave the EU and when the Sunday Times reckons martial law may have to be imposed. “We don’t comment on DC’s future schedule,” says Laurence Mann, the former PM’s factotum, enigmatically.

TAKE A BOW

There was a moving moment at the end of the first night of Notre Dame de Paris at the London Coliseum when, after a standing ovation, the actors and the audience members stood contemplating each other in silence. It was hard not to feel an all-too-poignant connection.

The musical – which boasts an international cast that includes the Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji – is a symbol of international co-operation. Nicolas Talar, its producer, tells me: “I believe the UK and EU would be stronger together. People of all nationalities got together to make our show the best possible.

Audiences in Paris, Rome, Brussels, Madrid and 
Warsaw have reacted in the way you have in London. Culture is a unifying force and it begs a basic question: why be apart?”

• If you’re a Remainer who has been bumped off a BBC show, please email me at mandrake@theneweuropean.co.uk

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