Donald Macintyre's sketch: MP attacks the Beeb's panel of 'piranhas'

The Democratic Unionist Party MPs were the most vigorous Beeb-bashers

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The main worry about Chris Bryant’s approach to the BBC is what he’ll have left to say if it really is dismembered. On Thursday his prose was not so much purple as a lush, glossy, pomegranate. The Corporation, the Shadow Culture Secretary told MPs, was not just “a beacon of accuracy and impartiality around the world”, or “part of the national furniture”. It was “a miracle of constitutional engineering… the cornerstone of our creative industries, earning respect and money for Britain and British values.” Above all it was “our cultural NHS”.

What exactly did he mean? Presumably not that it was established by a Labour government. (It became a public institution under the Tories, back in the days  when radio announcers were properly dressed in dinner jackets.) He then dwelt on the BBC-phobic advisory panel appointed by Culture Secretary John Whittingdale. “Like Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, [he] has lined up a tank of piranhas,” but without reckoning  “with the ingenuity of M and Bond in the shape of Judi Dench and Daniel Craig, who lined up to attack him yesterday.” (Even if it turns out the protest letter they and other stars signed was organised by Beeb execs.)

The Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party MPs were the most vigorous Beeb-bashers. While lavishly praising the “wonderful” World Service, Ian Paisley claimed  that “up to 200 people work for Twitter at the BBC” at a cost of “five to six million quid”. His colleague Sammy Wilson thundered: “So long as the BBC is guaranteed a source of income…there will be no incentive for it to address…massively wasteful expenditure or…bias.”

As Bryant had been doing his Bond villain number, Lord Fowler in the peers’ gallery nodded almost imperceptibly. The Tory peer had earlier said with some justice that the advisor panel “clanks with special interests”. It’s hard to decide which was the worse move – Aunty caught out after  winding up celebs to make its case, or Whittingdale’s one-sided panel.