For many years the broadcasters on radio and later on television have allocated broadcasting space to reviews of the contents of the newspapers.
Holdenforth has thus far distanced itself from this activity but on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, January 9 and 10, the Times and The Daily Mail gave many column inches to accounts of and opinions on three separate but not wholly unrelated stories.
These stories were:
- The gender pay gap at the BBC.
- The performance of Mrs May as she sought to refresh her administration.
- The decline and fall of Mr Toby Young.
The opportunity to comment was too good to miss – so – here goes.
There are, as the saying goes, lessons to be learned from all three stories, although not everyone will have learned the same lessons. As a bonus and given that Holdenforth is both a campaigning blog and a fertile source of suggested remedies for the various problems under discussion – solutions will be put forward where appropriate.
The gender pay gap at the BBC
“Lawyers advise women on BBC pay row”
“The BBC’s failure to treat women fairly beggars belief” – Giles Whittell
Headlines in The Times – January 9, 2018
“Male BBC stars face salary cuts as equality row flares”
Headline in The Times, January 10, 2018
“The BBC does not exist”
Headline above a piece by Matthew Parris, The Times, January 10, 2018
Well – up to a point, young Matthew.
I suspect that Lord Hall would second this puzzling assertion on the grounds that it might afford temporary relief to his very real and sadly beleaguered organisation.
“BBC begs Huw to cut £600k pay cut.”
“Radio 4’s Flagship Show imploded in a soggy morass of smuggery”
Daily Mail Headlines on January 9, 2018
(The last quotation is included not for its topicality but for its relevance.)
This particular spat was triggered by the resignation of Carrie Gracie from her BBC job as its China Editor. The gist of her complaint against the BBC was that it was and is acting in breach of the law which states that equal jobs should receive equal pay.
The problem was by no means a new one and resentment by the fair sex against the other sex had been simmering since the BBC had been required to publish pay bands for its highest paid employees. This information was sufficiently informative to trigger resentment amongst significant numbers of female household names.
This observer was startled only because these household names had been all too ready to pretend to exercise their investigative and forensic skills to expose inequalities around the world but also that they were seemingly unaware of what the man sitting next to her was being paid – considerably more as it turned out.
Options open to the BBC were said to be just two:
- Bring the rewards paid to the men down to the rewards paid to the women.
- Bring the rewards paid to the women up to the level paid to the men.
- For obvious reasons the top boys in the BBS were less than enthusiastic about option 1.
- For equally obvious reasons the ladies were prepared to settle for nothing less than the going rate for the men?
At first glance the solution is obvious – obey the law and pay the same rate for the same work.
Listeners to Radio 4’s flagship Today programme had a field day as the various problems were debated between John Humphrys and a most unhelpful Ms Frostrup who was said to be fuglewoman for the cause of the downtrodden females.
During their lively altercation Carrie Gracie was sitting at the next desk but taking no part in the proceedings.
“Women fume as Humphrys jokes about BBC pay”
Times headline, January 12, 2018
The widespread ineptitude at the BBC has evidently been passed to John Humphrys – during the Today programme in question the following exchange between Mr Humphrys in London and Jon Sopel in America was recorded.
Remember – recorded – not broadcast. Remember also that the feisty Carrie Gracie was sitting next to John Humphrys at the time:
“JH – Oh dear God she’s actually suggested that you should lose money. You know that don’t you?
JS – Yeah I have Yeah.
JH – The idea is I’m not allowed to talk to her about it throughout the whole course of the programme. Not a word.
JS Can we have this conversation somewhere else?”
The last comment by the cautious Mr Sopel was a good example of securing the stable door after the horse had bolted.
To get back to the main issue – how might the BBC get out of this fine mess that it has created for itself?
In my capacity as a company manager I had long supposed that the rate for the job was the same regardless of sex.
I vividly recall the question arising around 30 years ago when I queried the situation. The fiery female HR Officer told me – “Don’t even think about it – just pay it.”
Some male chauvinists might argue that for Carrie Gracie to claim pay parity with her male colleagues is rather like Mr XYZ who plays centre-forward for Solihull Motors claiming pay parity with Harry Kane who plays in the same position for Tottenham Hotspur.
One point to note here is that if both players were to be placed on the transfer list then the asking price for Mr Kane would be significantly more than that asked for Mr XYZ.
The same point would apply to the requested salaries for the two players.
There is a clue here as to how the BBC problem might be resolved.
The point to highlight is the anomalous position occupied by BBC in the world of UK, European and Global media businesses. Its highest paid employees – the senior managers and the celebrity stars – are quick to use the need to pay competitive salaries when he argument to do so is convenient.
So far – so good.
These same advocates also stress the admiration in which the BBC is held across the civilised world and the need to preserve the commendable Reithian standards.
It is time that this self-serving balloon was punctured. The BBC is an organisation responsible to no one, and, at the top, full to the brim with the arrogant, the complacent, the elite, and the mediocre.
Matthew Parris in the piece referred to earlier noted that in the BBC “there are endless meetings and a lurking fear of what other meetings might think”. Mr Parris – there is unanimity across the top echelons of the BBC on one key issue – their the readiness to loot the system to their own financial advantage.
The remedy for this confusion could not be simpler – sell the BBC to the highest bidder.
It would then be interesting to see how the pampered mediocrities get on the real world. Its senior managers and its celebrity stars would soon find out just what value the real world placed on their services.
I suspect that a few of them might be able, via their agents, to negotiate reward packages at or close to the present levels.
A closing, clinching argument – The revenue brought in from the sale of the BBC could help provide the funds for the renationalisation of the privatised utilities.
The May Reshuffle
The big event in No 10 on the first two days of this week – January 9 and 10 – was the eagerly awaited cabinet reshuffle. There had been numerous press briefings telling the hacks that there was to be an infusion of new blood, new energy, new ideas. Out with the old and in with the new.
How it was done in the good old days:
“I particularly remember when (Lord) Derby was asked by Bonar Law to come and see him. After I had shown him in I went back to my room, The bell rang; I went into Bonar’s room and Bonar said – “David, where did you send Derby?“…. I said to Bonar – “Oh Sir – you thought of offering him the War Office.”
“Oh yes” said Bonar; “Derby -what about the War Office?
Formation of the cabinet of Mr Bonar Law following the Tory win in the 1922 general election. Memoirs of a Conservative by Lord Davidson
Given that nearly a century has elapsed since the above exchanges one might think that the management of the processes of cabinet selection and of cabinet reshuffles would have become rather more efficient.
It would appear from the accounts of what happened earlier this week that if anything things have got worse.
“What happened, what happened – I’m coming to that” – as WH Auden might have said – indeed as WH Auden did say.
The following selection of headlines from The Times and The Daily Mail indicate the disappointment felt in the media at the gap between the glowing prospects held out during the briefings and the understandable reluctance of some of those marked out for the P45 treatment to go quietly.
It should be noted that the quoted comments are from newspapers not noted for their Bolshevik tendencies.
“Greening quits in shambolic reshuffle”
“Defiance and derision greet May’s day of mixed messages”
“Shambolic day for a powerless prime minister” -Rachel Sylvester
Headlines in The Times, January 9, 2018
“Backroom reshuffles can’t save the Tories”
Lord Finkelstein in The Times, January 10, 2018
The last quote would have caused most concern in Tory HQ because Lord F gave cogent reasons why backroom reshuffles “can’t save the Tories.”
“No Prime Minister!”
“On day of reshuffle chaos, Health Secretary turns down new job and May is forced to sack Education Secretary after she refuses to move”
“May sacks Greening after 2-hour stand off”
“Education Secretary snubbed new cabinet job in clash at No 10”
“But “Unsackable” Hunt defies PM to stay in charge at Health”
Daily Mail headlines, January 9, 2018
The Daily Mail headlines do not suggest that the planned changes had proceeded smoothly and the accompanying reports simply bruised the flesh on the already bruised bones of the May administration.
The obvious point was made that if Mrs May is unable to manage her own cabinet – and clearly she can’t – then how she can be trusted to grapple with rather more urgent and serious matters – like Brexit.
“How Theresa’s showdown with Justine turned ugly”
Andrew Pierce, January 10, 2018
The master plan ahead of the meeting between Mrs May and Ms Greening had been to move Ms Greening from Education to Welfare. According to well-informed sources the meeting was ill tempered but the key outcome was that Ms Greening opted to leave the cabinet rather than be moved.
She was said (by the well informed sources) to be furious at being fingered by the No 10 briefers as a contributory factor in the abysmal Tory performance in 2017 election. She did not take kindly to being described as “dead wood” – and who shall blame her. After saying something along the lines of – you can stick welfare up your **** – but I wasn’t there and can only conjecture as to her actual words – out she flounced, looking suitably aggrieved.
Deborah Ross in her Times column on January 10 wrote about the case to raise funds for “the middle aged white men that are the victims of something that didn’t actually happen nonetheless and may be crouched under a table at the Garrick, hoping that this this will all go away, even though it never came.” Trust the acerbic Ms Ross to kick a man when he is down even though he is not actually down.
Reflections on this latest shambles:
- Yet further evidence of a Government on its last legs. In my previous blog I opined that Mrs May will not be in No 10 come the end of March.
- Meanwhile I suggest that Mrs May seeks the advice of Lord Sugar about the most efficient way of dispensing with the services of those deemed surplus to requirements. I gather that Lord Sugar is commendably crisp in handing out P45s. Get him in, get his advice, and next time – if there is next time – follow it.
The decline and fall of Toby Young
As with the previous two stories I will get the show on the road via a few headlines:
“Knives out for disgraced Young over role at free schools charity”
The Times, January 10, 2018
One of the knives was inserted by Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the national Education Union, who said that “now his repugnant views were in the open, Mr Young’s role as director of the New Schools Network must be in doubt.”
“Fury as hypocritical Labour MPs force Toby Young to resign”
Daily Mail, January 10, 2018
Mr Young resigned from the board of the Office for Students (OfS) following a furore over inappropriate remarks he made several years ago.
Sadly the main cause of the peevish comments in The Mail was that his critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party had not been equally critical of colleagues in the Labour Party who had been exposed for carrying out similar unseemly activities.
For me the only point to be made here is that politicians from all parties have a long record of selective indignation – evidently it goes with the job.
“Why chumps like my friend Toby should get a second chance”
Headline above a piece in the Daily Mail by Sarah Vine, by chance the wife of Michael Gove, a close friend and stout defender of Mr Young, January 10, 2018
The gist of the story
- Toby Young was recently appointed to a nice little earner on the board of the OfS.
- It belatedly appeared that Mr Young had been in the habit of sending out Twitter messages that some might consider as verging on the indelicate.
The Times published a small sample of his tweets, one of which read as follows.
“Referring to a publicity shot of himself with Padma lakshmi, fellow judge on US TV show Top Chef who he appeared to be touching, he said:-
-Actually, mate, I had my d**k up her a**e -”
We can all decide for ourselves if we consider the writer of pithy little tales like this and hundreds more is just a chump and that he should be given a second chance.
What do you think?
- My Young was initially inclined to tough it out – but it soon appeared that he was fighting a losing battle.
- He fell on his sword in the full glare of the media lights.
The publication date of the most recent edition of Private Eye magazine was too late to include the news about Mr Young’s resignation. It did, however, publish a piece about Toby Young which dwelt at some length on other aspects of his career. Friends of Young (including Messrs Gove and Johnson) had emphasized his passion to improve education standards in schools, a passion which he had pursued tirelessly in recent years.
Private Eye drew attention to the fact that Toby Young had done very nicely from his activities with New Schools Network, a charity that promotes academies and free schools and relies heavily on government funding.
Now – we are getting warm.
Last year I wrote a blog about the pros – not many – and cons – no shortage – of academies. At one point I wrote the following:
“Let me speculate about the probable consequences of a mass transfer of schools from Local Authority control to management by super heads. I predict that the teaching profession will be invaded by a Tsunami of Arthur Daleys masquerading as pedagogues, but in reality in hot pursuit of a quick buck, the sort of quick buck easily acquired by those familiar with the no mans land of the public – private sector, a world where the public funds the business and the private operators scoop up the profits, if any. We are looking at an educational version of the City of London populated and run by spivs for spivs, all avid for frenetic activity in the business of mergers and acquisitions.
“More prosaically my concerns about this switch to academies centre on the following points.
1.Arrangements have been in place for many years whereby the control of schools rests with democratically elected local authorities.
“My contention is that to the extent that these bodies are failing to discharge their responsibilities then the public has the means to take effective actions.
- My main concern is that this transition to academies will divert the attention of Head Teachers away from the core task of providing the best possible education for all pupils to one of casting about for ways of maximising their own reward packages.
“In short I see a replay of the squalid farce that has been enacted in Higher Education with the shameless looting by Vice Chancellors of the unguarded public funds.
“I see a significant number of Academy CEOs plunging into wholly unnecessary restructuring in order to line their pockets at the expense of pupils and of the public.
- I would go further and predict that if the dash to academies wins out, in a few years time the standard of education will suffer a further decline, a decline that is wholly avoidable.”
Unlike Toby Young with his unseemly tweets, I would not retract or redact of what I wrote about academy schools.
It is wholly apposite that the two most prominent defenders of Toby Young are the GOBO (GOveBOris), the Guilty Men of the Brexit farce.