Instant Opinion

‘The Bashir report shows the BBC needs a complete cleaning of the stables’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press


Roger Mosey in the New Statesman

Can the BBC emerge unscathed from the Martin Bashir and Princess Diana crisis?

on damage control

“The BBC has been prone to crises throughout its history, and it has the ability to survive them and even emerge stronger,” writes Roger Mosey, a former editorial director of the BBC, in the New Statesman. “But it is now facing one of its greatest ever tests after the coruscating findings of the Dyson report into its Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995.” “This story is first and foremost about a vulnerable young woman and how she was misled,” Mosey says, and “every journalist… should be shattered by the evidence”. “There is no doubt that the extraordinarily bad behaviour of one man – Martin Bashir – caused this tragedy”. However, “the editorial processes failed too, and accountability was non-existent”. The crisis has produced “an urgent need for openness, and for a complete cleaning of the stables”, Mosey adds. “Otherwise, this is one crisis from which it has zero chance of emerging unscathed.”


Marina Hyde in The Guardian

They won’t remind us, but the tabloids hurt Diana just as much as Panorama did

on red-top royalty

“The conclusions of the Dyson report are a shameful stain on the BBC, deeply compounded by coming 26 years after the offence, by way of cover-up and whitewash,” writes Marina Hyde in The Guardian. But “I think we can live without today’s preposterous moralising from much of Fleet Street, who know very well the terrible things they and others did on countless occasions to get stories relating to Diana or her wider family”. However, as Hyde continues, “we will spend the next few days hearing of the BBC’s shame from some of the most shameless hypocrites in human history”, and while “the tabloids may not like Prince Harry’s reincarnation as a super-rich Californian wellness bore… it does have the moral edge over pulling people’s medical records and hacking the phones of murdered 13-year-old girls”. “Few have rewritten their own history more than Fleet Street’s Diana-watchers,” she adds. “Twenty-four years later, a full-spectrum failure to acknowledge any of this means many of these same people now sit and venerate Diana in the course of slagging off her troubled son, Prince Harry.”


James Forsyth in The Times

Tories’ lurch to the left looks unstoppable

on shifting priorities

“Boris Johnson’s view of economic growth is quite state-centric,” writes James Forsyth in The Times. “He is a big believer in the value of infrastructure projects and thinks that increases in state spending on research – it is at its highest level for nearly 40 years – will help make the UK a ‘science superpower’ and drive economic growth.” “Britain is not alone in this shift to a bigger state”, with “demographics and cultural trends pushing other countries the same way”. Plus, as Forsyth adds, “Johnson faces no serious challenge from his backbenchers: most small-state Tories are still sated by their victories on Brexit”. The Brexiteer Tories “may have routed Michael Heseltine and his fellow One Nation Tories on the European question”, Forsyth says. But the result is “adopting a far more Heseltinian approach, complete with his famous willingness to intervene before breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner, in the economy”.


Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph

Boris is fighting a lonely battle against his own officials to reopen Britain

on optimistic instincts

“The Prime Minister badly wants to reopen and capitalise on the vaccine success, but it’s a lonely business,” writes Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph. “He’s surrounded by officials who are wary of his optimism and usually find ways to contain it.” Each time a new variant is found “a range of possibilities is laid out by Sage and others”, but “magically, the scariest figure always seems to leak to the press”. Meanwhile, “scientific advisers pop up on television to urge caution” and “then in cabinet committee, someone – usually [Michael] Gove – makes the case for tighter restrictions”. “Politically, it’s hard for other ministers to challenge,” Nelson says. “Who wants to go on record arguing for relaxation”? “The Prime Minister spent most of last year trying to fight his predisposition to see the sunny side.” But after a successful vaccine rollout, “it is, perhaps, time for him to trust – and act upon – his optimistic instincts”. 


Chris West in The Independent

Eurovision is sticking to its values in an increasingly illiberal world

on celebrating freedom

“As Conchita Wurst stepped up to accept the cut-glass microphone that is the Eurovision Song Contest winner’s trophy, it seemed fantastically apt,” writes Chris West in The Independent. But “that was in 2014” and “the world seems very different now”. Since Wurst’s winning performance, “the US may have seen off Donald Trump (for the moment), but nationalist anti-liberals have risen to power all around the globe”. But “Eurovision has not changed, of course”. Eurovision organisers have banned the entry from Belarus this year over concerns that its lyrics backed President Alexander Lukashenko’s suppression of protests. “In a world where, unlike in 2014, liberal views face uncompromising opposition in many places” the Eurovision Song Contest “has chosen to stick to its core values”, says West. “Good for it.”


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