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?"

"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
Emo rockers Fall Out Boy

music

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment

film

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links