Rishi Sunak 1, Gary Lineker 0
Look past the national debate and you'll find a different story
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There are times when Twitter becomes especially unbearable -and the past week was one such moment. I don’t know about you but I spent it watching a very interesting and a very important debate about how to secure Britain’s borders, which many voters want to have, deteriorate into a very boring and a very self-indulgent debate within the BBC about how to secure its own commitment to impartiality.
The storm arrived after BBC pundit, Gary Lineker, took to Twitter to criticise the government’s new policy for dealing with illegal migration. While this is by no means the first time Lineker has criticised the government, on this occasion he went so far as to compare the policy with Nazi Germany.
Aside from being historically illiterate and insulting to the victims of Nazi atrocities, Lineker’s intervention was also seen, rightly, as a violation of the BBC’s guidelines on impartiality, which makes it clear personal statements in politically sensitive areas are not permitted -especially for the most high profile BBC voices.
When Lineker was subsequently taken off-air, many of his fellow BBC pundits walked out, too, in an apparent gesture of solidarity —though, interestingly, all of them were more than happy to participate in the lucrative World Cup gigs in Qatar.
Nonetheless, within a day, the natural order was restored. The BBC promptly caved, backing down, issuing an apology and announcing a ‘review’ of guidelines. Lineker was hailed triumphant while the BBC was left looking ridiculous.
Or, as The Times pointed out this morning:
There is a suggestion that Mr Davie may be about to climb down and welcome Lineker back. But he should stick to his guns. If the director-general retreats now he will surrender all authority and with it the BBC’s reputation for enforcing impartiality. If Lineker wants to air his views in public let him find a private broadcaster willing to allow him to do so. He will no doubt get a big pay rise, and good luck to him. And he can take his protesting colleagues, some of whom can be best described as non-entities, with him. There will doubtless be plenty of viewers for a politicised “Gary Lineker Show”. It’s just that it should not be on the BBC.
Now, if you’re spending any time at all on Twitter you’ll been left with the distinct impression that Gary Lineker was merely speaking for the masses, that many people think like him, and that the government is badly out-of-sync with the new zeitgeist.
But is this true? Not really. If you look past this debate at the evidence on how things are starting to move in British politics then you’ll find a very different story -and one which I think will end up helping Rishi Sunak more than it does Gary Lineker.
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