Our very own RBG moment emerged over the weekend with Prime Minister Boris Johnson lining up extreme partisan candidates to oversee the BBC and broadcasting regulator Ofcom.
According to widespread reports, the former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore is tipped for the post as BBC Chairman and ex-Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is favoured to become Ofcom chairman. Both men are arch-Brexiteers, right-wingers and critics of publicly funded public service broadcasting. Recently Boris Johnson appointed the former deputy chairman of Hammersmith and Fulham Tories Tim Davie as BBC Director General, Tory peeress Dido Harding to a key public health position and former right-wing Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot as a trade advisor.
Not only is this the normal behaviour of an oligarchy, it is an aggressive declaration of intent. For Johnson and his chief ideologist Dominic Cummings, they want to irretrievably shake up the Brexiteering British state and make it in their own image. What’s really bad is that he’s only really starting and more is to come.
How will this go down in Scotland? Very badly I expect. Johnson already has calamitous public ratings. He currently sits at minus 50 – a full 100 points below First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
As the outcry over the BBC decision to axe the live coverage of the daily Scottish Government Covid briefing made clear, people here will resist attempts to politically interfere with public broadcasting. (The decision to pull the live coverage came one week after the new BBC DG visited Glasgow and responded to calls from the Tories and Labour politicians).
The other broadcasting news of the week sees Andrew Neil leaving the BBC to head up a new right-wing channel GB News. Funded by US right-wingers and managed by former Tory media boss Robbie Gibb, the new outlet will influence UK public discourse as Fox News has in the US. Do not underestimate the impact of the move on public debate or the influence that Andrew Neil wants to exercise. If you thought that current UK network coverage of Scotland is out of kilter you have not seen anything yet.
The UK is morphing into a right-wing Brexit little Britain. It is there for all to see. We have a Prime Minister who is proud to break international law now making political appointments to public positions that would make autocrats blush. He is doing this for a reason: to fundamentally change political culture and society in the UK to favour his caste and cronies. I have no doubt that most people in Scotland oppose this. The fact that support for Scottish independence is a sustained and growing majority is a reflection of Scotland’s divergence from Boris Johnson’s plans for a new right-wing Britain.
In the forthcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections, there will be a straight choice between two futures: a right-wing Brexit Britain or a moderate mainstream Scotland which is open, tolerant and pluralist. Many of us can’t wait for that better future and record numbers of people are coming to the same conclusion. If you’re still swithering please take another look.
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