A few hours ago I watched BBC1’s Question Time programme. I imagined it might be one of the more interesting outings of what has increasingly become a lame excuse for a serious political debate.
In general, the QT panel is composed of three mainstream politicians, each determined to spin their views as tightly as they can around the gurgling corporate sluice that is nowadays mistaken as political middle ground. Their prefabricated offerings are then juxtaposed against on the one hand, a boring but self-righteous and loud-mouthed journalist/business leader/blogger, and other the other an insane academic (generally an historian) who is no less loud-mouthed or self-righteous, and only less boring by virtue of being so completely potty.
In fact Question Time has long since become just another of the many hours of predicable political dross I occasionally skim through on the iplayer. But then sometimes, when the moon is blue and there are a pair of R’s in the month, there will appear one guest on the panel who not only speaks their mind, but actually has a mind worth speaking.
Just such an occasional panellist is George Galloway. For love or despise ‘Gorgeous George’, Question Time with Galloway is just about worth tuning in for. So tonight’s show (and I choose the word “show” very, very carefully) certainly did not disappoint in this regard. With Galloway posted on the panel, QT was once again livened up immeasurably.
Indeed, tonight’s show actually left me shaking… though not with excitement (as such) or anger, but literally with fear. In fact, by the end of the final half hour, I was trembling and thoroughly exhausted by the spectacle. I could barely even make a cup of tea to calm down afterwards. I also needed to write this post without delay and before I could possibly sleep. Writing in such haste has meant, of course, that I needed to get by with rather minimal research – hence the many references to wikipedia. But in searching wikipedia there was already enough evidence to validate my suspicions without any real need for digging deeper (although I do try to dig deeper as I go along).
It really didn’t take me very long to gather more than sufficient evidence to show how the programme had been deliberately framed with Galloway set up precisely as he had appeared to be: centre stage in a show trial.
The greatest proof of this comes in considering the backgrounds of the assembled hit squad – supposedly a neutral panel – whom I am about to name and shame more or less as they appeared in turn. There was also the audience… but I’ll come back to that later. Let’s begin with the man who led on the prosecution. Here is a little of what the wikipedia entry has on Jonathan Freedland (with original footnotes maintained):
A leading liberal Zionist in the UK, he wrote in 2012 that he only uses the word Zionism infrequently. He explained:
“That is because the word has become so misunderstood, so freighted with excess baggage, that it has become all but impossible to deploy it without extensive explanation and qualification. Most of the time, it is best avoided. Part of the trouble is that a single variant – right-wing Zionism – has come to stand for the whole.”
And this is Freedland speaking at — um — what’s the name of the place…? (also from wikipedia):
Next up on this supposedly balanced panel was someone called Cristina Odone:
Cristina Patricia Odone (born 11 November 1960) is a journalist, editor, and writer. She has written for several newspapers, and was formerly the editor of The Catholic Herald, and deputy editor of the New Statesman.
Odone’s father was a World Bank official, which led to the family regularly moving.
Odone is also from the Legatum Institute think tank. What’s that you may ask? Well, here’s wikipedia again:
So how is Legatum Institute think tank connected to the Legatum private investment firm? Well, read on…
The Legatum Institute is an independent policy, advisory and advocacy organisation within the Legatum group of companies based in London, United Kingdom. The Institute researches and promotes the principles that drive the creation of global prosperity and the expansion of human liberty.
Hmmm, sound lovely, don’t they…? well, if you want more information it helps to go to their own website:
Sian Hansen is the Executive Director.
Previously Sian spent seven years as the Managing Director of the UK think tank Policy Exchange; an educational charity promoting research and discourse on public policy. Sian is a Non-Executive Director of the JP Morgan Income and Capital Trust plc. and is a Non Executive Director on the Advisory Board for Cerno Capital PLC.
And then there is Director of the Transitions Forum Anne Applebaum who “leads the Legatum Institute’s Transitions Forum, a series of projects which examine the challenges and opportunities of radical political and economic change”:
She is a former member of the Washington Post editorial board, a former deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, a former political editor of the Evening Standard and a former Warsaw correspondent of the Economist. Her work also appears regularly in the New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the Daily Telegraph and many other UK and US publications. She is married to Radek Sikorski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland.
Connected – you might say.
So yes, in short, Cristina Odone is an establishment insider who happens to be married to another establishment insider and neo-liberal enthusiast, Edward Lucas:
Lucas works for The Economist, the London-based global newsweekly. He was the Moscow bureau chief from 1998 to 2002, and thereafter the central and east European correspondent. He has also been a correspondent for The Independent and the BBC. Lucas also writes occasionally for The Daily Mail.
I come back later to the CEPA too.
It turns out that Edward Lucas has locked horns with Galloway on an earlier occasion:
Whilst on December 22nd, he had tweeted the following: “interesting but incomplete infographic of Putinistas in Europe. Why no Die Linke, Commies, George Galloway?”
So not exactly a friend, we might say…!
Then, of the remaining two panellists, there was also Tristram Hunt:
Tristram Julian William Hunt, FRHistS (born 31 May 1974) a British Labour Party politician, historian and broadcast journalist, who currently serves as Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central in Staffordshire.
The Guardian being the paper that Jonathan Freedland is (as noted above) the executive editor. And here is an excerpt from a recent article which offers a flavour of Hunt’s personal position when it comes to Middle Eastern politics and Israel:
Splits within the Labour party over the Palestinian question were laid bare last night as one of Ed Miliband’s most senior frontbenchers invoked Winston Churchill in a passionate tribute to Israel.
Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, praised the former prime minister’s 1921 declaration that he had “full sympathy for Zionism”. 1
Taken from a Times article published only a month ago under the headline “Hunt risks party split with loving ode to Israel”.
But then the muck gets thicker, as we come to an article published by The Independent on Tuesday, just two days prior to the broadcast of tonight’s Question Time broadcast. It reads:
George Galloway, leader of the Respect Party, has caused a stir in a constituency that has one of the largest populations of Jewish people in the UK after it was announced that he would appear in the area on Question Time this week.
The broadcaster’s inclusion of the MP, who is a vocal opponent of Israel, was criticised as being “deliberately provocative” by Mike Freer, the MP for Finchley and Golders Green in north London. […]
The MP for Bradford West is to sit on the panel alongside Tory education secretary Nicky Morgan, Labour shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, deputy chairman of Ukip Suzanne Evans and The Guardian executive editor and columnist Jonathan Freedland.
This was later changed, of course. After UKIP’s Suzanne Evans went absent without leave, into her seat was plonked Cristina Odone instead: that representative of the UAE’s Legatum Institute; daughter of that World Bank official; as well as wife of Edward Lucas from the globalist think tank CEPA, which gets glowing praise from not only Zbigniew Brzezinski, but also Radosław Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland. You remember Radek, he is husband of Legatum Institute’s Director of the Transitions Forum, Anne Applebaum (see above). But back to The Independent article:
A BBC spokesperson said: “Question Time invites panellists who reflect a significant range of opinions on a number of different topics. Whilst Mr Galloway’s views are entirely his own, as an MP he has a right to appear on the programme and has done so previously.
“A significant range of opinions” Really…? So do they not have access to wikipedia at the BBC?
The piece goes on:
“Subjects for discussion are chosen by our audience ahead of each show and this edition of Question Time will be no different.” 2
Does that include the question asked by audience member Gabriel Rosen: “Why is anti-Semitism rising in the UK and does a certain member of the panel bear some responsibility?” This was the extremely pointed question that actually kicked off the main event of the evening – the last half an hour of the show. An outcome that was hardly surprising given the insinuation of a direct link between “a certain member of the panel” and the rise in anti-Semitism in Britain. In effect, what Galloway is being asked can be reduced to: “are you ashamed of yourself for provoking anti-Semitism in this country?” It’s a “have you stopped beating your wife?” kind of a question.
Part of Galloway’s answer to this more or less unanswerable accusation – an accusation from which he was in any case given inadequate opportunity to defend himself – is embedded below. All of the answers he gave during this inquistion by television were notable for their restraint:
Galloway is a politician and so it is entirely proper that his opinions and actions are closely scrutinised. As I say, you are absolutely at liberty to detest Galloway, but the issue here is what on earth had led the BBC to consider it justifiable for him (or anyone else for that matter) to publicly tried in such a fashion?
This was, in my view, an unedifying spectacle, and one that presents us with a terrifying indication of how narrowly restricted real freedom of speech is becoming. These are scary times, and it was not without reason that as I finished watching earlier, I felt shaken.
We know perfectly well where true racism always leads, and so it is our duty to ask with unflinching honesty, who is really inciting racial division and stirring up hatred? In last night’s so-called discussion, I say it certainly wasn’t Galloway. I go further, and say that for all of his faults, Galloway cannot be justly accused of racism. He is not a bigot. And shame on the BBC for ever orchestrating such a disgusting piece of inflammatory propaganda.
To judge for yourself (if you didn’t watch earlier) then click here to see the whole show on BBC iplayer. [And now I must sleep]
George Galloway has since published his own highly critical response to the QT show of February 5th. He writes:
Mr Dimbleby [presenter and mediator] told me immediately after the show that the final question posed by the audience was not in fact the question which had been tabled and selected. The last part of the question which sought to put me on show trial, make the final part of the show about me, had merely been added after the fact by the questioner. This has subsequently been admitted by the questioner in the Jewish Chronicle.
But there there [sic] was no point in telling me this in private with an apologetic air (he did not actually apologise, I gave him more credit than he deserved in my initial comments after the show) when millions of people oblivious to the trickery were about to watch the results on the show.
Mr Dimbleby had a couple of options when this ruse occurred:
He could have shot the question again, the show is not live, there is time for editing (although the only person who was edited was me with a chunk of my answer on Bradford schools mysteriously excised).
He could have made it clear on the recording, immediately, that the question had been changed, with obviously potentially defamatory consequences.
He did neither and with predictable results.
He also points an accusing finger toward both Cristina Odone and Tristram Hunt, whilst singling out Jonathan Freedland as “Hypocrite in Chief”:
A special place in the hall of shame must go to the Guardian’s executive editor Jonathan Freedland selected for the role of chief prosecutor in the show trial. The Guardian, a faux liberal newspaper which last summer accepted (that which even Rupert Murdoch had declined) a paid full page advertisement from an Israeli organisation while the blood was still running in the streets of Gaza seeking to justify the slaughter and slander the Palestinians, thousands of whom had by then been slain.
There is intense competition for the title of Hypocrite in Chief at The Guardian but Freedland in my view shades it.
Once the doctored question had been posed, he lit the touch paper before smugly stepping well back. He made a series of distorted allegations against me knowing that if I got into rebutting them there would have been no time for the bigger picture. Like a latter day McCarthy he patted a portfolio which he claimed contained the basis for his allegations. Who produced this dodgy dossier must be open to question.
Click here to read Galloway’s full reply.
1 From an article entitled “Hunt risks party split with loving ode to Israel” written by Laura Pitel, published in The Times on January 7, 2015. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4315908.ece
2 From an article entitled “Jewish groups protest against George Galloway appearance in Finchley for BBC’s Question Time” written by Lamiat Sabin, published by The Independent on February 3, 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/jewish-groups-protest-against-george-galloway-appearance-in-finchley-for-bbcs-question-time-10021775.html