Good morning, Today programme readers. This is my first experience of blogging away from home. And the Today programme Who Runs Britain web site is quite an appealing alternative soapbox.
I've decided to start as I mean to go on. That's by being subversive.
I'm not going to wait for the panel before I do this morning's blog. Instead, I'm going to stick my neck out, and have some guesses about who and what I think they might suggest when they're asked to discuss if either the media or someone in it runs Britain.
Then, I'm going to see if the helpful and long-suffering tech staff of the Today programme will bear with me and allow me to put up a supplementary or update page later on today, when I've had more time to think through what the panel actually says.
In any case, I'm going to put updates and another commentary on my own blog, Adloyada, so you can follow up my commentary there if you're minded to.
Does the media or someone in it run Britain? I'd need some convincing that it does. I think a much more interesting question is how it gets to shape debates. If you want to look at that in the context of the Today programme, then you can't do better than to look at who gets invited to do on air discussions.
I've posted in my blog in the past about a time when the Today programme invited someone from the tiny, highly unrepresentative-of-Muslims and racist MPACUK on to define what it is that Muslims want politically. And the MPACUK speaker was the only Muslim invited.
The people invited for today's Who Runs Britain? panel have impeccable media qualifications. Greg Dyke, no less than the former Director-General of the BBC. Piers Morgan, former editor of the Daily Mirror. Amanda Platell, best known as the former Press Secretary to William Hague at the time of the 2001 election.
Balanced? Yes, in theory. The Daily Mirror is a left-leaning paper, and Morgan certainly ran it that way. Amanda Platell declared an unswerving loyalty to the Conservative Party.
But these folk maybe have much more in common than that.
I'd say they have a common anti-Blair agenda. And in the case of Dyke and Morgan, that's fuelled by a quite ferocious venom that follows their both having lost their jobs as a result of very high profile errors they made in pursuit of their opposition to the Iraq War.
Dyke famously lost his job after the Hutton enquiry had found that he failed to carry out his duty to check the veracity of Andrew Gilligan's notorious account on the Today programme of his meeting with Dr David Kelly. That had been a moment when it looked for as if it might be possible that a report on the Today programme might bring down the premiership of Tony Blair. Dyke has never accepted Hutton. He even claimed that Gilligan's faked story was "essentially true".Since his resignation, he's become increasingly lurid in his claims:
In July 2004 Dyke was awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Sunderland and Middlesex University. In his acceptance speech for the latter, he attacked the government over its stance on the Iraq war heavily, and maintained that the Andrew Gilligan story was essentially true, the story government dossier was sexed up and that the government staged a "witch hunt" to deflect from the real issues surrounding the Iraq war.
On May 2 2005 the former Labour supporter Dyke went public at a Liberal Democrat press conference and said that "Democracy was under threat if Labour was elected for a third term".
Morgan is no stranger to controversy. The ferocity of the Daily Mirror's opposition to the Iraq war under his editorship was legendary. But it all came to grief when he published what turned out to be hoax pictures of British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners, and subsequently had to resign. Like Dyke, he resorts to saying the pictures were "essentially true"
..I don't know the facts about these pictures, but they do seem to illustrate a wider truth about British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners....
I think Gilligan was right. It was an absolute farce that the people who have lost their jobs over Iraq are me, Andrew Gilligan, Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke. If it is MI5 that is behind it they should all get promotions and pay rises. They can't find weapons of mass destruction, but, by God, they can get media people out of their jobs.
Amanda Platell is a journalist with much lighter agendas. Since she stopped being Hague's Press Secretary, she has written columns in the Evening Standard and the New Statesman, often involving minor scandals. But she's currently fronting a joint Channel 4 show with... Piers Morgan.
So, I'd say, a common anti-Blair agenda. A common anti-Iraq war agenda.
It makes me think that one or other of them might centre their discussion on media figures they don't like. And although he's actually pro-Blair, I'd say they might try picking on Rupert Murdoch as a supposed media figure who runs Britain. Because their argument might well be that Murdoch actually controls Blair's agenda.
There are plenty of slightly nutty conspiracy-minded web sites like the one I've just linked to which claim that Murdoch controls the US, the oil market, and just about every area of policy you can think of. I found an even nuttier viciously anti-semitic one that claims that Murdoch is actually Jewish, and his whole empire is run by Jews, who anyway control all of the world's media. Both types of claim are based on the same bullshit approach. You just list companies that Murdoch owns (like the controls-the-US) or names of Jews you can find in those companies. Voila! There's no more to be said.
You never of course look at contrary evidence. Or even consider that owning a clutch of companies in different sectors might not mean you're running them to pursue a single political agenda. Like Murdoch also owns the Times Educational Supplement, which is rabidly against the Blairite education policies which the rest of his stable tends to favour.
Well, maybe our panel today won't even mention Rupert Murdoch, let alone claim he runs Britain by running Tony Blair, who supposedly shapes his policies to fit the editorial preferences of the Sun, which is Murdoch's flagship UK paper.
We'll see. And I'll be the first person to admit I was wrong if they don't.
Watch this space. I'll be back later to update when I've heard the panel discussion and had time to reflect on it.