Tonight at 8pm I’m going to be on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions
. I welcome all the support you can give me but don’t get your hopes up: I can pretty much guarantee I’m going to be rubbish – as I have been on the four or five previous occasions I’ve submitted to this ordeal.
Why am I so rubbish on Any Questions? Well one reason, obviously, is that I’m not a sufficiently experienced or quick-witted broadcaster. I’m not as silvery and slippery and avuncular a politician as my fellow panelist Tony Benn, nor yet as loveable a wag as my second fellow panelist John Sergeant, nor yet as straight-down-the-line bright, informed and likeable as my third fellow panelist Ruth Lea.
So, yes, I’m rubbish – I fully acknowledge that. But I don’t think my rubbishness is the only – or indeed the main reason why I always seem to come across so badly on Any Questions. If it were, then I would also be rubbish when I do US talk radio or shows like Glen Beck and Fox & Friends and, without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I’m not. On US shows I come across as likeable, self-deprecating, witty, informed, honest, funny. I can even come across that way on British TV productions, such as the oft-repeated Channel 4 documentary When Boris Met Dave.
What is it, then about Any Questions that brings out the worst in me?
Well, in three letters: BBC.
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We have discussed here, many times before the institutional left-liberal bias of the BBC. We have also observed that this bias is rarely intentional. Most of those who work at the BBC, such as Any Questions presenter Jonathan Dimbleby, genuinely, sincerely strive with all their might to be as neutral as they can be – regardless of their personal politics. The problem is that their notion of the reasonable centre ground is what any neutral observer would consider to be the really-quite-left. And therein lies rub: if you’re a libertarian rightie like me, any time you make a programme of any description with the BBC you’re walking into the lion’s den. According to the BBC’s lights you’re not merely a guy who happens to believe in limited government, low taxes, empiricism, property rights and liberty: you’re a weird and dangerous extremist.
Of course if you had the hide of an elephant this wouldn’t matter one jot. You’d go on, say your piece and damn the torpedoes. In reality, even the toughest conservative-leaning ideologues have a need to be liked and get the odd clap from the studio audience. I’m not going to name names but I’ve lost count of the number of sturdy, fearless right-wing types I’ve heard go on Any Questions and end up sounding slightly to the left of Polly Toynbee. It’s a terrible dispiriting thing hearing your ideological soulmates willingly chopping off their own testicles on air, but behaviour I can entirely understand. Speak up against eco-fascism; defend Israel or elitism; argue for small government on Any Questions (or indeed on Question Time) and it’s a virtual given that you’ll become the audience’s whipping boy. And being the whipping boy, let me tel you, is not fun.
But hang on a second. How can this possibly so when, as we know, the BBC scrupulously selects its studio audiences on balanced political lines? The answer to that, I fear, lies in the way the Gramsciite left – with enormous help from the BBC - has suborned our entire culture so that even those who would describe themselves as natural conservatives often think in an instinctively left liberal way. Thanks to decades of BBC indoctrination (and this is why I’d scrap the licence fee forthwith) the default position of the average BBC punter is that the State is an essentially benign institution which really ought to do more to solve the problems in our lives, that taxation is not licensed theft, that public sector jobs are not a drain on the economy, that “green” is good, and so on.
It takes a bold man to argue otherwise. I hope I have the balls to do so tonight. But if I chicken out and play for sympathy instead, you’ll at least have an idea why.