The current government doesn’t have a great track record taking on footballers in the media. We all know how the row with Marcus Rashford ended for them.
Who guessed this row would have blown up in the way it did. Tory MPs may regret taking on the national treasure!
But despite my affection and admiration for Leicester lad Gary Lineker and what he said last week I fear there are many on the Right who are happy to see the battle with the BBC carry on.
Two things are lost if we concentrate on the ‘story’ of Lineker. Don’t get me wrong I am fully behind what Lineker said (and his reference to the language of Germany in the 1930s) but there are bigger issues going on here that Lineker and Match of the Day, including his right to free speech.
First the reason for the original tweet. Gary was absolutely right about the new illegal Immigration Bill. It is not a genuine or serious piece of legislation to deal with a genuine issue. I described it last week as dog whistle politics, but quite rightly rebuked on twitter that this is in fact foghorn politics. Putting a massive slogan, Stop Small Boats across everything they do and say, the Tories are far from being subtle.
We all know what is happening here. The issue of the small boats, caused by successive Tories attempts to be seen to get tough on immigration and asylum numbers does need addressing we all know that. Nobody wants to see a system that relies on people smuggling and loss of life. But this Bill does nothing to solve the problem, but does play into the hands of the Right and their friends in the media. Many voters refer ‘illegal immigrants’ without understanding any distinction in migration/ immigration. But they have whipped up into a frenzy about the issue. This is despite the UK being one of the least generous countries in the world for the number of refugees we take and the conditions which they then have to live.
We on the left really do need to offer a solution to the problem whilst highlighting the Tories failure over the last decade despite all their noise and xenophobia. For those on the liberal left immigration/ asylum and migration cause all sorts of problems trying to have a sensible debate in the noise created by the hysteria in the media. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Secondly, I have found myself attacking the BBC for its handling of this debacle. Of course the Right #defundthebbc brigade can’t believe their luck. They have been arguing for years that the BBC is a liberal biased ant British institution, and it needs to be cut to make way for the free enterprising likes of GBNews!
I have been very critical of the BBC in recent years and particularly since #Brexit when it did seem to be a mouthpiece for the Leave Campaign. No week went by without Farage and his ilk on Question Time. Political coverage has been way too slavish to Johnson and the Tories in recent years. The Chair Richard Sharp should never have been given the job and the allegations of his Tory party donations and secret arrangements to help secure a loan for Johnson make him unfit to continue. The other Tory Place-men on the Board and Executive mean the BBC has lost the impartiality it seeks, but towards the Tories not Lineker and the Woke agenda the Right are always moaning about.
So whilst Davie and the BBC have handled this poorly, it is probably a good thing if we get back to reducing the overtly political appointments to the Board and government interference. The hold over the BBC has always been the threat of Charter Reviews and Funding settlements for the Licence fee. The BBC has taken substantial cuts in recent years and lives in constant fear from the Tories. But let’s go easy on the idea of a public funded (Not taxpayer funded as the Right try to pretend) broadcaster, and get it back to being a loved and respected brand. Let’s not lose faith in the institution just yet. We will all be poorer if the Right win this battle an we lose the BBC even in its far from perfect form at present.