Newsnight must die: Savile and McAlpine kill the BBC’s analytical news show
IN the mire for the Jimmy Savile debacle, the BBC’s analytical news show Newsnight is now well and truly stuffed. When Newsnight ran an item that a Conservative politician who worked with Margaret Thatcher had sexually abused children at care homes in North Wales, it set the hare running. The hunt had begun. Who was he? Was he still alive? Why now? Why not name the politico? Why not grow some balls, Newsnight, and back up the claims with a name? Why just dangle it and leave it there?
In a word: Savile. Desperate to deflect attention from itself to a still higher power, the BBC wanted us to look at a paedos in the Tory Party. And not just one, but an entire ring of them.
We got no name.
And then with the with hunt in full cry, Lord McAlpine, the former Conservative Party treasurer, felt compelled to make a statement. You can read it in full here. It was not him.
Steven Messham was the single claimant featured on Newsnight. Messham, who was abused at the care homes, says he made a genuine mistake. He has offered his “sincere and humble apologies” to Lord McAlpine:
“After seeing a picture in the past hour of the individual concerned, this is not the person I identified by [a] photograph presented to me by the police in the early 1990s, who told me the man in the photograph was Lord McAlpine.”
Why didn’t Newsnight show him a photo of Lord McAlpine?
The irony is rich. Newsnight spiked a report into Jimmy Savile’s alleged abuse of children, some of it on BBC property. But Newsnight went with this one.
The old media loves to point the finger at Twitter and Facebook for allowing people to spread libels. But what when the BBC is doing the same? Why did the Guardian named Lord McAlpine? Why did Channel 4 News’ Cathy Newman ask ex Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy and Tory MP Karen Lumley that there was a “danger for the Conservative Party that these allegations may not concern isolated figures in the party?” Why did This Morning’s Phillip Schofield hand David Cameron a list of suspected paedos in the Party? Schofield got the names from the internet.
At the heart of this lies a serious story. The media, in scoring points and spreading innuendo, are making a mess of it.
Lord McAlpine’s lawyer Andrew Reid puts it well:
“What I think is so wrong is Newsnight trailed this and encouraged people that some major revelation was going to come about but then took the coward’s way out, then told everyone where to go and look for that man. They have done a very good job of severely damaging Lord McAlpine’s reputation. Great credence has been given to the fringe by programmes that are very very respectable such as Newsnight and This Morning. Those two together have informed most of the country of something that simply is a complete lie.”
Newsnight must be dead. Big media is undermining a serious matter with petty points scoring and ego.
Does the BBC look impartial now?
Finally: bring back the News of the World. We miss it.
Photo: File photo dated 13/08/75 of Margaret Thatcher with Lord McAlpine, who today said allegations linking him to alleged child abuse were “wholly false and seriously defamatory”.