Downing Street parties: BBC must not be a casualty of Boris Johnson's survival strategy – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

In a political Venn Diagram, the points at which the views of the right wing of the Tory party and the wilder outriders of the SNP intersect are few, but they do exist.

Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 4:55 am
Independence supporters protest outside BBC Scotland about perceived bias ahead of the 2014 referendum (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Independence supporters protest outside BBC Scotland about perceived bias ahead of the 2014 referendum (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Defunding the BBC is one such shared ambition and we saw this week that it has become a totem for both. In a flagrant attempt to divert the news agenda (I’ll come on to why in a minute) UK Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries, took to social media to suggest the end of the licence fee was at hand and, should she deliver on that threat, it is likely the corporation would go into managed decline. We can’t allow that to happen.

I refuse to write this column solely about the many reasons we should seek to protect the BBC, because that is what Ms Dorries wants every person with a newspaper column to do this week.

So, let’s be clear why this has arisen. Nadine Dorries is threatening the BBC as a distraction tactic, because she is fully engaged in something entitled ‘Operation Save Big Dog’, the effort to protect the Prime Minister from any further negative attention that could tip him off his perilous perch. And his misdemeanours bare repeating.

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Boris Johnson repeatedly disobeyed the very rules that he insisted we all follow, then lied to parliament about it. We’ve seen further revelations about the culture he has fostered and his general behaviour in Downing Street since. All of which demonstrate how unfit he is for office.

It transpires that he’s been so crestfallen about the threat to his premiership that he has actually (and for the first time) taken to reading the briefings provided him by his civil servants.

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We also learned of a puppy gate erected to stop him breaking isolation while he had Covid and mooching into the working wing of Number 10. A puppy gate! This man is in possession of our nuclear launch codes for crying out loud. He has to go.

The Johnson administration is in its death throes, so his ultra-loyalists are dissembling and laying down smoke like mad, in an effort to stop the inevitable. They are pushing every button they can and the future of the BBC is one such button. Let me tell you why we need to save it.

It is precisely because the governments of the day (both SNP and Tory) don’t like the BBC’s output that we should cherish it. State-funded broadcasters should not be beholden to their governments, they should hold them to account. An impartial state broadcaster is the hallmark of a free democracy.

For the better part of a century, the BBC has been respected the world over for its content and its probity. In the darkest days of Nazi occupation, refugees and resistance fighters across Europe would huddle around radios and listen to voices of hope being broadcast from London. In the 80s, images of famine in Ethiopia were first transmitted on the 6 o’clock news, sparking a country-wide philanthropy that continues to this day.

Both ardent nationalists and ​right-wing Tories resent the corporation because it has not bent to their will, because it reports facts over fantasy. Lose it now and we will regret it forever.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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