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« Smokers may be refused operations | Main | Tory and Lib Dem rebels fight back against Big Government »

Norris McWhirter and the BBC: loose words cost reputations

Via Iain Dale on Twitter I was alerted to an extraordinary post on the Archbishop Cranmer blog. I can't summarise the situation better than His Grace so if you want to know what I'm talking about nip over there and read The Freedom Association is ‘a posher version of the BNP.

Welcome back.

First, I have to declare an interest. I was never a close confidante of Norris McWhirter, co-founder of The Freedom Association, but we did work together, directly and indirectly, on various occasions and he was always very friendly and extremely supportive.

The first time we met was in the Eighties when I was analysing BBC current affairs programmes for, er, left-wing bias. I remember visiting him at The Freedom Association office off Oxford Street and again when the Association downsized to a smaller office south of the river.

In 1990 Norris wrote the foreword to a booklet entitled Broadcasting and Political Bias that featured an essay that was based on a speech I gave to Granada TV's 'Reporting the Nineties' conference in Manchester.

A decade later I'm pretty sure I interviewed him for Freedom Today, The Freedom Association magazine, when I was editor and he was still chairman of the Association.

Outside the Westminster village Norris was far better known for founding the Guinness Book of Records and presenting the BBC children's programme Record Breakers with our old friend Roy Castle. Despite Norris's fame he remained until his death in 2004 the nicest, most modest person you could wish to meet.

Appearances could be deceptive however because his self-effacing charm masked a steely determination never to submit to the unions, who very nearly destroyed Britain in the Seventies, or the IRA terrorists who murdered his twin brother Ross a short time after they launched the National Association for Freedom (later re-named The Freedom Association) in 1975.

The Freedom Association can fight its own battles so I won't bother to respond to comedian David Baddiel's claim on Five Live yesterday that the Association is "a very, very right-wing, kind of sub-BNP, slightly posher version of the BNP organisation".

I'm more interested in defending the reputation of McWhirter, six years deceased, who spent a large part of his life fighting totalitarianism and defending democracy. Ignoring this, presenter and comedian Alan Davies chose to ponder whether McWhirter was "a brown shirt with Mosley". With no-one in the studio to put him right this slur went completely unchallenged.

I'm sure Davies and Baddiel weren't being malicious. But that's not the point. In my view this is a classic example of the unthinking political bias that permeates the BBC at every level.

Fortunately Norris McWhirter has a lot of friends who won't rest until the BBC apologies for yet another deplorable lapse. Watch this space.

Reader Comments (8)

"a very, very right-wing, kind of sub-BNP, slightly posher version of the BNP organisation".

And this from David Baddiel - a sort of Ben Elton in a state of Suspended Intellectual Pubescence. Another comedic uber-twat, the sharpness of whose perceptions about the Real World were thrown into doubt somewhat when he remarked (around ten years ago) that a) he didn't know what 'political correctness' was, and then b) sought to define what he didn't know by suggesting that "It's about being courteous to people".

Yes, David. Now be a good boy, drink your milk, and get some sleep.

Baddiel is as wise as he is funny (and vice versa). I don't think the Freedom Association should worry too much about such infantile slander: in my experience, the sort of people who take the Baddiels of this world seriously are the LAST people who would do ANYTHING serious about Freedom, anyway. You can leave THAT sort of nonsense to Spitfire Pilots, Resistance Fighters, Whistle-Blowers, Free-Thinking Journalists and Film-Makers, solitary Davids taking on the Corporate Goliaths, and all those other loony 'Right-Wingers' so popular with the Sneering Class and its audience of drooling admirers.

December 19, 2010 at 10:49 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Dan Hannan has picked up the baton.

December 19, 2010 at 12:05 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

The TFA should be proud of its association with Britain's bravest political party who will not run and hide under their beds whenever some smug stinking hypocritical liberal whispers "racist" in their ear, unlike the lily-livered Tories and UKIP.

Let us face the fact that middle class activists are almost without exception feeble of spirit and feeble of mind.

The TFA and UKIP are mainly made up of the elderly while the BNP membership remains youthful and energetic, and are not too stuck up to do the bread and butter work of political activism, ie leafleting.

The strength of the British proletariat to fight the disgusting and evil LibLabCon is required when so many members of the bourgeoisie are are so easily contemptibly easily to intimidate.

The strength of the BNP lies in the fact that the typical member has already crossed the Rubicon of refusing to shut up even when they are intimidated socially and politically for speaking what they believe to be the truth.

No other party has this quality of courage and determination.

What good are these so-called libertarians and UKIP for when they don't even recognise totalitarian thoughtcrime legislation even after it has repeatedly kicked them in the head?

Is it because they are stupid or because they are scared?

How typical of the easily-frightened middle classes to start talking about "BNP scum" the moment they are accused of having similar policies.

Pathetic, dishonorable and contemptible.

The truth is that the white middle classes hate the BNP much much more than the BNP are said to hate non-whites.

It would appear that those who like to think of themselves as Traditional Conservatives are more than prepared to let their nation die of the class divisions they are so apparently proud to live under.

The spinelessness, snobbery and stupidity of British men who wish to fight the liberal political establishment has to be experienced to be believed.

December 19, 2010 at 15:41 | Unregistered CommenterClaire Khaw

Sorry, Claire, can't agree. Until recently, when it was forced to change its membership rules, the BNP had a "whites only" members rule. That alone is enough to put it beyond the pale in any civilised society. There is nothing courageous about the BNP. "Pathetic" and "contemptible" just about sum them up.

December 19, 2010 at 18:29 | Registered CommenterSimon Clark

Actually Ms Khaw I think you will find that Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance has been outspoken in his support of the BNP against the attack upon it by the PC establishment.

December 24, 2010 at 19:10 | Unregistered CommenterJulius Blumfeld

I don't expect you to agree, Simon, because you are one of those libertarians who vote Conservative, and that is why the libertarianism is precisely nowhere in this country.

What I am trying to say is that I am such a good libertarian that I stand up for a party that wants to exclude me as a member because I feel it is their right to do so, on grounds of freedom of association.

December 25, 2010 at 7:30 | Unregistered CommenterClaire Khaw

Julius, I would hardly call Sean influential or his defence of the BNP "outspoken". To what are you referring anyway?

December 25, 2010 at 7:32 | Unregistered CommenterClaire Khaw

This story has been picked up by in case anyone's interested.

December 28, 2010 at 11:33 | Unregistered CommenterClaire Khaw

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