George Entwistle’s sprint into retirement begs a question. Did he, by picking John Humphrys for his Today programme interview on Saturday morning, willingly commit professional suicide?
Any of Humphrys’s fellow Today presenters Evan Davis, Justin Webb or Sarah Montague would have been respectful to their director general. In 16 minutes of cross-examination by Jim Naughtie, 15-and-a-half would have gone on the questions.
Mr Entwistle must have known he was walking into a hail of bullets when he took the last-moment decision – Humpo had no idea he was coming almost until he arrived – to go on the programme.
As Chris Patten said yesterday, languidly batting away superinjunctor Andy Marr’s military-medium, no one expects “slow, full tosses” from Humphrys, which is what makes him “a great journalist”. So he is, and for an illuminative reminder of BBC greatness in its darkest hour – do you recall much lethal grilling of the Murdochs on Sky News during theirs? – the Beeb should be on its knees with gratitude. That is where one imagines Mr Entwistle today. His spirit crushed and facing a horribly drawn out death, he wisely went for career suicide by cop.
Outsiders looking in
On the assumption that Patten survives as Trust chairman for the few weeks required, the first show of betting on the next DG is as follows. The imperative for an untainted, external candidate makes Ofcom boss Ed Richards – whom Patten overlooked last time when presciently deciding that Entwistle would do a bang-up job – a prohibitive 2-7 favourite, with Anne Robinson next on 14-1. Bracketed on 25s are BBC1 controller Danny Cohen, chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, and Trojan Horse candidate Alastair Campbell.
The late Mr Pastry and ITV’s Kevin Lygo (my cousin by marriage whom I have now met) are on 66s, and it’s 100-1 bar those. My preference is Gerald Kaufman, the one-time media select committee chair who seems ideally suited to the Mr Chips wartime interim headmaster role, gently steering the organisation through the bombings and keeping everyone’s spirits up with tea and cake by the fire. The bookies disagree, and quote Sir G at 750-1.
Meanwhile Murdoch is one to gloat...
The Tweet of the Week came before the Entwistle resignation. “Editor-in-chief apologises and pleads total ignorance,” wrote a gleeful Rupert Murdoch. “What are editors for?”
Well, quite. No Murdoch editor would ever deny knowledge of what went on under their aegis (dodgy newsroom practices, six-figure payments to private investigators, whatever). That sceptical “pleads total ignorance” carries all the moral authority and self-awareness we expect of Rupert. Is there anything more pernicious in a media monolith than wilful blindness at the top?
Mad Mel on Obama – a rant too far
I am appalled by the social media reaction to Melanie Phillips’s blogged response to the re-election of Obama (“a sulky narcissist with close links to people with a history of thuggish, far-left, black power, Jew-bashing, West-hating politics”). Judging by the trolls, you’d have guessed that she’d gone doolally.
But a glance at the article “America Goes Into The Darkness”, where she foresees Obama colluding with Iran to build a “genocide bomb”, gives the lie to that. Some will always misrepresent her, but so long as the Daily Mail hosts her column and BBC producers ask her on Question Time, she will speak for the silent majority who share her world view. Viva Mad Mel!
A £714 reprise for the Blair heckler?
A final reminder that David Lawley-Wakelin, the hero who interrupted Mr Tony Blair’s Leveson appearance to accuse him of war crimes, is up before the Highgate magistrates on a public order rap on Friday.
Mr Tony will not be there. However, he is scheduled to lecture on “resilience in leadership” on Tuesday at a University College-hosted conference (tickets are a snip at £714). The venue is kept secret for fear of disturbance, but if David can discover it, will he prepare for his date with justice by nipping along to reprise his appearance at Leveson?