I agree with Gary Lineker when he says rules on BBC bias shouldn’t apply to him, says JAN MOIR. But he should have the guts to stand by his views, not blame others for the fallout

Here are two words that speak volumes about BBC impartiality: Gary Lineker.

The Match Of The Day pundit has a fresh and challenging hot take on his free speech row of last year. You might recall that in March 2023 Lineker was briefly suspended by the BBC for tweeting that then Home Secretary Suella Braverman had used language ‘not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s’ in setting out the Government’s small-boats policy.

There was no mistaking his reference to Nazi Germany then, now or for ever. Yet during an interview at the Hay Festival on Wednesday, Lineker squarely blamed the Daily Mail for his problems, claiming that our front page headline on the story was a ‘distortion’ of his original comment. Us? Really? What? Are you kidding me? The headline in question read: ‘Lineker Faces BBC Rebuke For Likening Small Boats Plan to Nazis.’

There was no distortion there. Nor was there distortion in other newspapers of all political persuasions which also covered the story.

‘Gary Lineker hits back at critics following comments he made comparing Home Office immigration policy to Nazi Germany,’ said The Guardian. ‘Gary Lineker refusing to delete tweet comparing UK to Nazis,’ said The Independent. 

Gary Lineker is the highest-paid BBC star, with £1.35million rolling into his bank account every year

‘Lineker rides the tackles over ‘flippant’ Nazi remark,’ said The Times. ‘Lineker compared the language used by ministers to describe their asylum policies to that of the Nazis in 1930s Germany,’ said The Observer. ‘BBC urged to sack Lineker after ‘Nazi’ migrant jibe,’ said the Telegraph.

But he hasn’t complained about them. Only about us. What does that tell you about Lineker, his hypocrisy and his petty motivations? Nothing good, that is for sure.

And it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth for me personally, considering my support of his argument that, as he is not a political commentator, BBC impartiality rules should not apply to him.

Let’s be reasonable here; you can’t silence an entire entertainment, showbiz and celebrity class from voicing their views on the issues of the day. Surely a sports pundit such as Gary Lineker or a Strictly dancer or a Sewing Bee presenter or Henry the Dog on Blue Peter should all be able to say and post what the hell they want on their social media accounts?

Yes, you are right. It is annoying that Lineker is the highest-paid BBC star, with £1.35 million rolling into his bank account every year — I’ve never understood why what he does is so special or worth so much, but that sure is a lot of television licence fees. For the privilege of his publicly funded salary, Lineker is supposed to keep his political views to himself, but he kicked that idea into touch a long time ago.

However, the essence of free speech means sometimes having to listen to something you might not want to hear from someone whose opinion you don’t value, so suck it up, kids. Gary is one of those Leftie dreamers who fondly imagines that everyone arriving on these small boats is a victim of slavery and persecution.

He is just another bleeding heart who has no answer to the illegal immigration problem except to let it drift on and on, from crisis to calamity to catastrophe.

It is not fascist nor inhumane nor criminal to try to control our borders and who lives in the UK — but obliquely comparing to Nazis those government ministers tasked with finding answers is, I would argue, a heinous moral crime.

For with free speech and a big platform comes much responsibility. If, like Gary Lineker, you are going to post inflammatory tweets invoking the spectre of the Nazis to your 8.9 million followers, then you also must accept any critical backlash that might come your way.

If Lineker wants to use his highly remunerated position at the BBC as a springboard to inflict his views on the public, no one can stop him. Not even, as it turned out, the BBC itself.

However, if his beliefs don’t get the fawning reaction from all quarters that he so obviously desires, then he should at least have the decency to accept responsibility for his own words.

He should have the guts to stand by his tweets, not start holding others accountable for the fallout. To turn around now, a year after the event, and blame the Daily Mail is both pathetic and predictable. It’s risible. And it is also demonstrably, patently untrue.

After this bout of muck-raking and blame-spreading, Gary Lineker was presented with a Hay Festival medal in recognition of his services to broadcast journalism. Bah. I’d like to pin another medal on that puffed-up old chest of his — Hypocrite of the Year.

Will Holly survive the TV jungle?  

Yes, it’s what everyone isn’t asking — how is Holly Willoughby getting on? Along with co-host Bear Grylls, the former daytime presenter has been in Costa Rica filming a Netflix series called Bear Hunt. 

Celebrities taking part in the jungle survival show include Shirley Ballas, Boris Becker, Lottie Moss, Danny Cipriani and Scary Spice — or the dinner party guests from hell, as I like to call them. Of course the biggest fight for survival is the one Holly is waging herself. After leaving This Morning she is a just little bit Last Night — but at least she’s still got her Wylde Moon lifestyle company.

‘Life is better when you light a candle,’ says Holly on the company website, and let’s hope she is following her own advice. Her triple-wick scented candles sell at £65 each and ‘capture the evocative aroma of a wild country garden after rainfall’. Down in the jungle weeds, she would know all about that.

Holly Willoughby has been in Costa Rica filming a Netflix series called Bear Hunt

Holly Willoughby has been in Costa Rica filming a Netflix series called Bear Hunt

Bashing Right-wingers is a real family affair 

The election is barely a week old and already a BBC News presenter has had to apologise for breaking the impartiality code.

Geeta Guru-Murthy — a bit of a nobody with a more famous brother, who cares what she thinks about anything? — took it upon herself to accuse Nigel Farage of using ‘his customary inflammatory language’ when he was speaking at a Reform UK event in Dover.

Never mind that Farage was quoting the Polish prime minister at the time. In her rush to condemn him, Geeta wasn’t bothered about objectivity or even being fair.

Farage made a complaint later, forcing a constipated apology from the BBC. He might have pointed out, although he did not, that no one from the BBC accused Green Party councillor Mothin Ali of using inflammatory language when he shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ after being elected in Leeds earlier this month.

It’s a joke. All of it. Including Ms Guru-Murthy’s apology. Glassy-eyed and grim-faced, she made it clear that she was making this expression of regret under extreme sufferance. ‘It didn’t meet the BBC’s editorial standards on impartiality,’ she said, looking about as sorry as a wasp.

BBC News presenter Geeta Guru-Murthy has had to apologise for breaking the impartiality code

BBC News presenter Geeta Guru-Murthy has had to apologise for breaking the impartiality code

However, her original transgression and the ease and comfort with which she made it, tells us much about the BBC’s institutionalised bias, about where they are really coming from and what we can expect from their upcoming election coverage.

Should I add that Right-wing bashing seems to run in the family? In 2022, Geeta’s brother, Channel 4 news anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy, was reprimanded for calling Conservative MP Steve Baker a ‘c***’. This followed an interview when the presenter’s remark was picked up on the channel’s live feed and broadcast to the nation.

Krishnan also had to apologise — it’s a family tradition — and his punishment was to be taken off the airwaves for a week. That’ll teach him!

Stop bullying Taylor and let her spread joy 

Taylor Swift is facing pressure from ‘fans’ to state her stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict and the situation in Gaza.

‘Your silence has been deafening and in times like these you should speak up!! #SpeakNow #Swifties ForPalestine there are children being burned alive and beheaded in Rafah so SPEAK NOW TAYLOR #Free Palestine,’ was one such tweet, typical of the fevered, ill-informed, asinine, partisan online exhortations being directed at the pop superstar.

Taylor Swift is facing pressure from fans to state her stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict and the situation in Gaza

Taylor Swift is facing pressure from fans to state her stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict and the situation in Gaza

But why should Swift speak up? To insist that she must is not only an absolute nonsense but also the worst kind of virtual bullying. I think we can take it as a given that the famously good-hearted singer is against war, killing and the suffering both sides have endured. Who, or what, is it going to help if she makes a statement about any of it?

Swift is in the middle of a global tour that has been spreading absolute delight, a much-needed respite from the world’s problems. She is to be commended for this, not dragged down by these aggressive tormentors seeking meaningless validation only for themselves.

My election news highlights – Week One  

  • Big love to my brothers and sisters on the election airwaves! Sky’s Beth Rigby wasted no time in giving Sir Keir Starmer the benefit of her salty economic advice. ‘You could raise taxes on the top 5 per cent! You could raise taxes on the top 5 per cent,’ she bellowed at the blithering Labour leader on Bank Holiday Monday.
  • On Wednesday, her colleague Kay ‘Just To Clarify’ Burley had a telling exchange with Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting. Kay was a bit confused about something and a giddy Wes saw his chance. ‘That’s because you spent so much time on Diane Abbott. Let’s get into Labour’s plan,’ he giggled, shoulders shaking like Tommy Cooper’s. How appalling that a senior Labour politician should treat Ms Abbott in this dismissive way; as an irksome distraction, yesterday’s news. God knows Diane is no saint, but she was elected as an MP — the UK’s first black female MP at that — when Streeting was only four years old. She deserves a little more respect from this upstart buffoon. The closer Streeting gets to power, the more excitable and capricious he becomes. If this is his attitude to someone like Diane Abbott, what hope do older women have in an NHS run by him? 
  • LBC’s Nick Ferrari struck just the right tone of respectful incredulity — only he can make that work — when questioning the BMA’s Dr Rob Laurenson on the timing of the new doctors’ strike, which ends two days before the General Election. ‘You honestly want my listeners to swallow the medicine that this is not in any way politically motivated?’
  • Nick Robinson got Chancellor Jeremy Hunt into his clutches on Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, asking for answers to the unanswerable. ‘Are the Tories really saying,’ he began, ‘that it’s risky to change government after a period of office in which living standards are lower, waiting lists are higher, immigration is higher, you’ve had five prime ministers, you’ve ripped up our relationship with the EU and we’ve had the Truss mini-Budget?’

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