I woke up this morning to news that the Director General of the BBC, George Entwistle, has resigned. Whether he should have done so or not is a matter of debate; I’m not so certain that he’s personally culpable to that extent but it may well be that he’s decided that he simply doesn’t want to be a part of it any longer. And, if so, I can well understand it.
There’s a concept in sport known as the “make up decision”. If, as a referee, umpire or whatever, you realise that you’ve made a major mistake which significantly favours one team, there’s a tendency to try to right that wrong be giving an equally dubious decision the other way. So, for example, the football referee gives a penalty, or the cricket umpire gives a player out, and then realises that, in fact they should not have done so. So, later on in the match, they’ll give an equally dodgy penalty or dismissal to the other team. It rarely works; if anything, it makes the ref look even weaker. Two wrongs, as the saying goes, do not make a right.
The Newsnight programme which almost, but not quite, named Lord McAlpine (but gave enough clues to enable people to find his name anyway) is looking more and more like a make-up decision. Having been roundly castigated for failing to expose one abuser, they then went overboard on trying to expose another with only the scantiest of evidence.
If it was just a mistake, though, then that may have been excusable. Being weak is not the same as being evil, and a referee who gives a make up decision and later regrets it can become a stronger referee as a result. But what concerns me is that finger which pointed at Lord McAlpine may have been pointed in malice rather than simple error. And the BBC Newsnight team swallowed it because of their own inbuilt bias. Caught out covering up abuse by one of our own? Well, let’s make up for that by exposing a prominent Tory. It isn’t just about being seen to be on the side of the victims this time, it’s about revenge.
Incidentally, if you Google for the names of those fingered by the Twitterati as being part of the so-called paedophile ring (and I’m not going to name any more of them, although it only takes a minute or so to find the same list used by Philip Schofield), one other name crops up repeatedly: the name of David Icke. Not, I add, as an alleged abuser himself, but as a source of a lot of the allegations. If that simple fact didn’t ring any alarm bells in the minds of Newsnight’s researchers (or, for that matter, the Labour politicians who have seen this as a good opportunity to attack the government), then, frankly, they are not fit for purpose. Maybe the next BBC DG might like to address this alarming lack of competence in his (or her) staff.