John Pilger's Today contribution riles Robinson and listeners
'Opinions not facts' argues BBC political editor as 'Guardian types' take over Today programme
NICK ROBINSON, the BBC's Political Editor, this morning launched a broadside at the veteran left-wing journalist John Pilger for mixing facts and opinion on Radio 4's flagship Today programme.
Robinson led a barrage of criticism from commentators and regular listeners after the programme was handed over to its latest guest editor, "rock goddess" P J Harvey.
She was responsible for the day’s agenda, which mingled issues such as the use of torture by Britain with a Thought for the Day by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and a poem by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
According to the Daily Telegraph, scores of "Radio 4 devotees" went online to complain about the dreary songs and poems and general "left-wing tosh".
Robinson, who usually stars on Today himself but was not included this morning, clearly choked over his cornflakes at Pilger’s contribution on censorship and fired off two angry tweets.
Pilger accused US President Barack Obama of hypocrisy for shedding a tear in Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island (Obama visited in June, six months before Mandela's death) while presiding over "the cages of Guantanamo".
Pilger also attacked George W Bush and Tony Blair for spreading death and destruction into Syria after the invasion of Iraq.
Robinson tweeted: “Pilger always thought-provoking but was he really suggesting that BBC ignore Obama's Mandela grief as he is a hypocrite? Or Sunni Shia massacres in Syria as Blair & Bush's fault? Surely, John those are what we call opinions not facts?”
Joe Murphy, political editor of the London Evening Standard, tweeted: “Must be confusing for Romanians - 1st met by Keith Vaz, then find BBC R4 has gone bonkers…”
Patrick O’Flynn, political columnist of the Daily Express and a Ukip candidate, protested that "Guardian types” had taken over the Today programme: “Awoke to the strains of John Pilger's sub-Will Self polemic and apparently Rowan Williams poems are imminent. Gdn types in charge!”
Even Michael White, veteran political commentator at The Guardian, for whom Pilger is an occasional contributor, conceded it was a “lefty” agenda. White tweeted: “Singer PJ Harvey edits R4 Today - now on. Words from lefties John Pilger & Rowan Williams, Julian Assange ahead. Lively alternative tone."
The “lively alternative tone” was guaranteed to infuriate Tory MPs who believe that the BBC is a left-wing stronghold desperately in need of reform following the Jimmy Savile affair, extravagant pay-offs and the waste of nearly £100m on a scrapped IT project.
BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten is the main target for the Tories' anger because he is a former Conservative Party chairman, and appears to them to be doing nothing to curb BBC excesses.
Grant Shapps, the current party chairman, told the Sunday Telegraph three months ago that the BBC could face a cut in the £145.50 annual TV licence fee or have to share it with other broadcasters unless it rebuilds public trust. He said the broadcaster must be "more transparent" and change its "culture of secrecy".
Greg Dyke, the former BBC director-general forced to resign over "sexed up" Iraq dossier affair, accused Shapps of putting pressure on the corporation because it was 18 months from an election.
Either way, Today producers might want to consider giving Shapps a turn as guest editor next Christmas. ·