Under its Europhile Director General and board of governors the BBC has still not given up hope of thwarting Brexit. Ousting Mr Cummings is seen as a possible way to achieve this end, argues David Sedgwick

When historians look back on the post-Brexit years how might they categorise the torrid times in which we live? 'The post-truth era,' or perhaps 'the age of truthiness' – there are numerous memes competing for the honour. As apt as those memes are, a strong contender would surely have to be 'the age of hypocrisy.'

Indeed, we live in an era where the sins of those casting the stones are very often far more egregious than those of their targets. As a prime example take a look at the Emily Maitlis saga which is currently engulfing social media.

Kicking off Tuesday's edition of BBC Newsnight with a bizarre Fox News-style op-ed attacking Dominic Cummings, Ms Maitlis assailed viewers with a monologue shot through with inaccurate statements together with some astounding generalisations. Due to his much publicised trip to Durham Mr Cummings, we were gravely informed, 'broke the rules.' Maitlis added that 'the country can see that and it's shocked the Government cannot.'

And it just went from bad to worse. The host went on to criticise what she termed the PM's 'blind loyalty' to his advisor before declaring the public mood to be one of 'fury, contempt and anguish.' Pinch yourself, because this was indeed the publicly-funded BBC in action making these wild claims.

In the aftermath of the programme and having come under immense pressure, the BBC quickly issued a standard non-apology statement stating that Maitlis' broadcast 'did not meet our standards of due impartiality.' Notwithstanding, calls for her resignation build. Two days after this extraordinary outburst the presenter is feeling the heat. The boot is very much on the other foot.

Given that the rights and wrongs of Mr Cummings' Durham odyssey have not and cannot be established beyond doubt, (there are arguments both for and against) Maitlis' outburst was particularly ill-judged and smacked of partisanship – an opportunity to settle a few political scores. Thus, in aligning herself (and the BBC) so blatantly with the received wisdom of the anti-Cummings left-wing, pro-EU faction the host wilfully broke very clear impartiality guidelines.

Apologists though are applauding Maitlis for speaking the 'truth.' But of course this defence only works if you share the strident political opinions of the rabid pro-EU anti-Cummings faction – which Ms Maitlis does. Just because Maitlis' 'truth' coincides with your own 'truth' does not make it literal truth. Mr Cummings' actions can certainly be criticised, but an equally compelling case can be made with regards to the exceptional circumstances as articulated in the Rose Garden press conference. There is no definitive truth – just opinion, highly partisan opinion at that, which makes Maitlis' antics even more misplaced.

Or perhaps not. Certainly, the political affiliations of those supporting Maitlis should come as no surprise and reveals much about the presenter's overt political bias displayed night after night on Newsnight. From anti-Brexit activists such as James O'Brien and Gina Miller through to members of the left-wing commentariat encompassing the likes of Owen Jones, Paul Mason and former Green MEP Molly Cato, apologists have a distinctly familiar feel to them.

Write for us.

We're always on the lookout for talented writers and welcome submissions. Please send your opinion piece or pitch to: editor@commentcentral.co.uk

This is precisely the same set in fact who, along with Maitlis and the BBC, just 24 hours previously had been demanding the head of Dominic Cummings because, according to them, he had 'broken the rules' viz social distancing. The Newsnight host duly continued that theme in a monologue which wilfully broke rules set out in the BBC's Royal Charter. The hypocrisy is jaw-dropping.

While Cummings may or may not have broken rules, (Durham constabulary have said if any breach did occur it was of a 'minor' nature) there is absolutely no question that BBC Newsnight broke explicit rules governing their obligations as a supposed impartial public service broadcaster – not that such trivialities will necessarily bother O'Brien and the rest of the Camden Town mob.

And it's not as if Ms Maitlis does not have form. When it comes to politicking Newsnight's pouting presenter has a long history. This is the same woman who suggested Rod Liddle was a racist and who rudely and aggressively berates wrong-thinking Polish and Hungarian politicians for the crime of implementing the wishes of their respective electorates rather than adhering to the broadcaster's multiculturalist mantra. Compare these always bellicose encounters to her polite, almost reverential chats with former Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell and what emerges is a strident left-wing political activist masquerading as an impartial journalist.

For make no mistake there was nothing accidental about Maitlis' rant. It did not just slip under the radar. The objective was political damage and can thus be viewed as the latest stage of a calculated BBC campaign against any individual the broadcaster deems responsible for Brexit and as well as Mr Cummings includes the likes of Priti Patel, Boris Johnson, Aron Banks and Nigel Farage etc.

The fact remains that under its Europhile Director General and board of governors the BBC has still not given up hope of thwarting Brexit. Ousting Mr Cummings is seen as a possible way to achieve this end: to keep the UK under the Brussels' yoke for perpetuity. This explains the corporation's total indifference to Stephen Kinnock's arguably more serious breach of social distancing advice: Kinnock is a left-wing Europhile. The age of hypocrisy is indeed upon us.

Nor is this the first time Ms Maitlis and her Newsnight team have promoted falsehoods. In my recent BBC critique, The Fake News Factory: Tales from BBC-land.  I chronicle a complaint made against Maitlis in which she and her Newsnight team deliberately mislead the public during Donald Trump's June 2019 state visit to the UK.

Instead of accepting incontrovertible evidence, the broadcaster simply invented more untruths to cover Ms Maitlis' original falsehood – a charade that is chronicled in a whole chapter of the book. No apology and absolutely no contrition was forthcoming. Regrettably, it's an attitude that has become all too familiar. Neither Miss Maitlis nor BBC Newsnight have yet to show any remorse over their recent antics. Thus far, doubling down appears to be the tactic of choice.

'Our staff have been reminded of the guidelines,' so ends the BBC statement. Perhaps if the broadcaster were staffed with impartial journalists rather than political activists in the mould of Emily Maitlis such reminders would no longer be necessary. Be assured the presenter will simply brush herself off, thank the metropolitan elite for its support and return to the host's chair to berate BBC wrong-thinkers like Dominic Cummings and fellow Brexiteers as if nothing had happened.

Pious and sanctimonious to a quite insufferable degree BBC Newsnight's Emily Maitlis wanted the head of Dominic Cummings. She wanted it badly. But those who live by the sword must be prepared to die by it otherwise they might start to come across as hypocrites of the most unappetising sort.

128 votes

Sign-up for free to stay up to date with the latest political news, analysis and insight from the Comment Central team.

By entering your email address you are agreeing to Comment Central’s privacy policy