Thursday, 23 September 2010

Live working or die fighting - in Barnet and the BBC

It has come to my notice that Someone in Barnet (I can hazard a guess as to who) is annoyed by the idea that Paul Mason, "Newsnight" journalist, was ever mooted as a guest speaker at the public meeting the trades council has organised tonight (for details of the meeting, glance to your right).

And, because they have such a high regard for themselves, this Someone went straight to the top and complained to the Director General of the BBC Mark Thompson.

Mark Thompson is battling the idea that the BBC has a left-wing bias - he says it did, for 30 years, but not now! - and that it wastes tax payers' money. Mark Thompson cut his own pay by 20% this year, so that he now earns only... £600,000. Thompson is in dispute with the BBC workforce, as he tries to cut their pensions, and in response the unions have called two 48-hour strikes which could affect coverage of Tory party conference, and the Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October.

In this climate, I can see why Mark Thompson might be anxious to reassure Someone in Barnet that the BBC is not farming out its journalists to support left-wing causes. (Although I still don't think it's a good use of his time.)

But the whole story is really such a non-story! I'm genuinely sorry if any toes have been stepped on in this case (I don't yet know whether they have). But the trades council did have reason to believe that Paul had said he would speak at the meeting - in a personal capacity. When we heard that he couldn't we took his name off the publicity. It is not a secret that Paul knows a bit about the struggles of the working class - a glance at his bibliography would tell you that.

I can only imagine that the story is being aired now, the day of the public meeting against cuts and privatisation in Barnet council, on purpose. It looks like a rather desperate attempt to create some scandal around the trades council, when all we are guilty of, at worst, is a misunderstanding. I'll be interested to see how this plays out - if it does at all.

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