The dangerous bigotry of the BBC

I was not allowed to infer that Mandelson's situation is not a million miles from Oscar Wilde's

THE BBC lady seemed to be in touch with HQ, as I shuddered in the cold, hauled out of the Evening Standard awards luncheon to do an interview on the pavement.

"No," I heard her say, "Stephen Fry can't be located. But we do have a substitute."

Ah. That's what I was. Not there to discuss the awards, as I'd thought. This was back to Oscar Wilde. Which is where the trouble had started.

Earlier that day I'd been at the unveiling of a memorial to that self- destructive man, over 100 years after Oscar Wilde's trial opened at the Old Bailey - on 3 April 1895. It had been a quiet ceremony.

Maggi Hambling, the sculptor, had concocted a slightly grotesque creation. The head of Wilde, hairy, effete and thick-lipped, seemed to be waving a bejewelled hand from the depths of his marble sarcophagus. Perhaps Wilde on a plinth would have been more appropriate, as that was how he saw himself.

Then I had to dash. Down the Strand to the Savoy Hotel, where I was attending the Evening Standard awards luncheon.

Whether one likes award ceremonies or not is beyond the point. They are part of our lives now, and, in the theatre world at least, they help draw attention to one of the country's greatest and most profitable industries.

However, half-way through my melon (when you tell the Savoy that you're a vegetarian, they take it seriously), a spokesman for the event whispered apologetically in my ear that he would be very grateful if I were to agree to doing an interview.

"What? Now?"


With respect, I abandoned my conversation and followed the spokesman into the foyer - and then out on to the street.

There was a camera. It was on the far pavement. A BBC lady asked me to step over to be wired for sound. A technician puzzlingly enquired whether I had hearing problems before inserting a minute plastic object in my left ear. Through the noise of the traffic, I could just about hear what seemed to be the news. I guessed I was on when that was finished.

The Peter Mandleson story featured in considerable detail - the bars he is reputed to have visited in Brazil and so on - and then on to other matters. It was cold out there, and still the newscaster chuntered on, and still I waited patiently to be interviewed. At the very moment that I was struggling to adjust to my role as a Stephen Fry stand-in, who should arrive, but Stephen himself.

"Oh my God," he said. "You do it," I said. "No, you," he replied. "Please - no!" I said, trying to unfasten the microphone from my belt. Then the technician decided. "We're almost on the air. It's too late. You're on, Mr Hawthorne." And I was. Through the roar of London's traffic a voice seemed to be asking: "What relevance do you think a statue of Oscar Wilde has today?"

"Well," I answered, "I've just been listening to the news story about Peter Mandelson, and I think..."

"I'm sorry", the interviewer cut in. "We don't want you to talk about personalities."

The programme, you should know, was going out live. I was flabbergasted. "If it's not to do with personalities then what is it about?" But I was cut off.

Right. Fine. The BBC, in its all-powerful position, seems to think it can operate as it pleases. Double standards to the fore. We're perfectly happy to discuss the details of Mr Mandelson's alleged sexual activities in the news because that is fact, but we do not want to hear any discussions about it, or opinions.

The fact remains that what Peter Mandelson does is not my or anybody else's business. I do not know the man. I have never met him.

But what, more importantly, I was not allowed by the BBC to infer, was that Mandelson's situation is not a million miles from Oscar Wilde's. Have we learnt nothing in the past 100 years?

To hold someone up to ridicule because of his or her sexual proclivity is cheap, hypocritical and retrogressive. Would we dare do the same were they Jewish, black or a member of any other minority group? And to censor somebody because he has dared to draw attention to the parallel between the past and present and hint at the inherent dangers seems to me to be dangerously close to bigotry.

I made my way back to the award ceremony, seething with rage about injustice, bigotry and hypocrisy. I don't suppose many people noticed. But, dear old Auntie, if you set yourself up to have such high moral standards, as you have done all these years, then you ought to be bloody well ashamed of yourself.

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?