Three prime ministers in two months… no wonder the BBC can’t keep a straight face

Yare you watching the bbc News at 10, and everything went crazy crazy,” news readers may have wanted to say, but they haven’t. For months, even years, broadcasters have been heroically reporting on the unfolding chaos in our political world without giving any hint of their own thoughts or feelings. They must tell us the unprofessional things the government has been doing while remaining consummately professional. But levels of dysfunction within the Tory party have recently reached a high water mark, and some of the on-screen poker faces have slipped. And frankly, who could blame them?

How, for example, could BBC news presenter Martine Croxall No get the giggles, late on Sunday night, when he told us that Boris Johnson would not show up in the leadership contest? His David Brent-style return from the Dominican Republic to try to win back his old job had failed beautifully, and the human response was to find that profoundly amusing. In Channel 4 News, Krishnan Guru-Murthy called Steve Baker “ac ***” in a hot microphone moment, after a “robust” interview with the Tory MP. I doubt this is the first time the outspoken Brexiteer Baker has received this word.

Of course, presenters are not supposed to do these things. Instead, political editors and correspondents tell us, ad nauseum, that it is “a momentous day.” That Westminster is “feverish.” Or that a week/day/hour “is a long time in politics”. Unfortunately, everything has been either momentous or feverish for so long that these now clichéd words barely do their job. The only thing that really captured the spirit of these times is the much-remembered clip of Brenda from Bristol yelling, “Oh, for God’s sake, no other!” in Theresa May calling an election in 2017. Yes, 2017. Since then, we’ve had three PMs. Brexit. The pandemic. A collapsed economy. party gate. Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham. Oh, and that time Matt Hancock, caught in a butt-grabbing office hold, killed sex for good. How can anyone not be incredulous or hysterical?

Hot mic catches host Krishnan Guru-Murthy calling Steve Baker ‘ac ***’ after interview

The truth is, these unsuspecting moments of genuine frustration or humor make for a great soap opera. The fairness debate is not only out of sync with these volatile times, it is incredibly patronizing, as if there is a leftist uprising unless all news is delivered to the public with cold, blank stares. Furthermore, when our politicians’ behavior hasn’t reached Benny Hill levels of farce, it has been bad-tempered. Should Emily Maitlis really have been disciplined for her outspokenness? news night monologue about breaking the rules by Dominic Cummings? And was it really appropriate for the BBC? BreakfastWill Naga Munchetty be censored for sharing her personal experiences of racism in response to a racist statement by Donald Trump? Under these circumstances, the departures of Maitlis, Andrew Marr, Jane Garvey and Fi Glover to outlets where they can speak more freely do not seem unexpected.

The strange thing is that no one complained when the announcers recently showed human emotion after the Queen’s death. In fact, they were praised for it: part of it was chilling and historic television. Who could forget the crack in Huw Edwards’ voice as he broke the news on the BBC? Or Mary Nightingale on ITV, speaking shakily as she fumbled for her official statement? Or Kirsty Young’s emotional sermon at the end of her funeral?

Some events are too big for serious, emotionless faces. The Queen’s death was one of them, and so is the intense chaos of our current government. It is not a political party to fight with that. Perhaps, in fact, it is not that the broadcasters have broken impartiality, but that the Tory Party has broken our broadcasters.

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