Stephen Glover: Not biased, just too nice: Is Davis quite the right man for Today?

Twittering is a new political weapon. Once, if you did not like some aspect of the BBC, you would say so openly. Norman Tebbit attacked it for bias. So did Alastair Campbell. Last week Ben Bradshaw, the Culture Secretary, twittered his disapproval of the Today programme's allegedly soft interviews of leading Tories. He described Evan Davis's questioning of Michael Gove as "disgracefully feeble," and his grilling of George Osborne as "wholly feeble and biased".

Coming from the minister ultimately responsible for the BBC, these fierce remarks bordered on the unconstitutional. Yet although widely noted, they did not cause great controversy, and Mr Bradshaw was not much criticised for making them. That is the beauty of twittering. A minister can throw off a remark in a careless, distracted way, and it is not taken as seriously as a forthright speech or a newspaper article. And yet it makes an impact all the same. In this case, the target – and victim – was Evan Davis.

The notion that the BBC in general, or the Today programme in particular, is pro-Tory is obviously laughable, although the Corporation is certainly less anti-Tory than in pre-Cameron days. There is nonetheless a lot of truth in Mr Bradshaw's somewhat cowardly attack on Mr Davis. I don't at all suggest the Today presenter is a closet Tory, but it is undeniable that his questioning of Mr Gove and Mr Osborne was as robust as a game of vicarage rounders. The same can be said of most of his interviews of Labour ministers.

I am a fan of Mr Davis in his other incarnations. He was a brilliant BBC economics editor because he understands economics, and could present complex arguments in a cogent way. As the anchorman on the BBC's Dragons' Den he is also impressive, partly because he is so good at soothing would-be entrepreneurs who have been savaged by those sneering businessmen. Indeed, there is a quality of sweetness about Mr Davis which has served him well in his other jobs, but disables him on the Today programme. His gentleness does not help him when he engages with hard and slippery politicians – which means most of them.

Mr Davis has been hopelessly miscast by BBC executives. I am not sure whether the Today new boy Justin Webb is much more robust. With John Humphrys' retirement approaching, we face the prospect of Britain's most influential current affairs programme on either television or radio becoming toothless.


Still on the subject of the BBC, guidelines issued at the end of the last week warned its journalists against being opinionated in blogs. I have banged on about this several times. According to the BBC Trust, "Nothing should be written by [BBC] journalists and presenters that would not be said on air".

In other words, journalists should beware of editorialising in their blogs. One example among many last week was Nick Robinson's description of George Osborne's speech as "a massive electoral gamble". This was opinion – one with which I happen to agree, but opinion nonetheless. Mr Robinson is a gifted reporter, and his reputation for objectivity is liable to be undermined by judgements of this sort.

Hence the BBC Trust's advice. Its shortcoming is that BBC journalists are now in the habit of giving their opinions on air as well. Mr Robinson offered the view on television last week that the Tories had not had a particularly successful party conference. Opinion again. Unfortunately many BBC reporters fancy themselves as pundits in blogs and on air.

The dilemma facing Lebedev over London Lite's future

Last week I suggested that the giveaway London Lite will probably close as a result of the London Evening Standard's decision to go free from today. London Lite buys some of its editorial copy from the Standard – I am told the charge is about £800,000 a year – and this arrangement could hardly persist if the two giveaways were in direct competition.

But that, of course, does not mean that London Lite has to close. It could generate more of its own editorial copy, and continue as a rival to the Standard. But with the advertising market in its present condition it would go on losing money, though not as much as it did before the closure of Rupert Murdoch's freesheet thelondonpaper last month.

For the Standard's owner, Alexander Lebedev, it is make or break whether or not London Lite shuts. Without any giveaway rivals, his paper might eventually prosper. However, even in a recovered market the Standard would be most unlikely to generate enough advertising revenue – on which, as a free newspaper, it will be wholly dependent – with London Lite still around.

This means that Mr Lebedev must persuade Jonathan Rothermere, the proprietor of Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), which owns London Lite that there is no point in soldiering on with the loss-making freesheet. After all, DMGT retains 24.9 per cent of the Standard, and has an interest in its survival, and possible eventual profitability.

Mr Lebedev could conceivably offer DMGT a larger share in the London Evening Standard, but is unlikely to want to do so since it would make DMGT an active partner rather than the passive one it is with its existing shareholdings. No doubt there are other possible arrangements which I have not thought of. All the same, this is not going to be easy.

FT needs a reality check on Tory Eurosceptic hobgoblins

The Financial Times is famously Europhile. Fair enough. Nonetheless, I was struck by a phrase in its first leader last Monday. The paper spoke of "the swivel-eyed euro-frothing on the fringes of the Tory party".

That very afternoon I attended a meeting of the Bruges Group at the Conservative party conference in Manchester. If one can entertain legitimate hopes of encountering slavering Tories with rotating eyeballs, this was the venue in which to find them. I am afraid to report that no one in the audience remotely lived up to the FT's expectations. A meeting of the local Rotary Club would have been more animated.

Perhaps no one at the paper has ever met a real Eurosceptic, and so in the way of these things they tend to demonise what they don't know, as little children will imagine hobgoblins in the wood beyond the end of the garden. The FT's mandarins sometimes complain about the tendency of the Eurosceptic press to manufacture scare stories from Brussels, yet think nothing of representing Eurosceptics as sub-Neanderthal. I wonder how they would respond if they were described as "swivel-eyed, euro-frothing Europhiles".

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice