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Monday, November 17, 2003
 
Conrad Black to resign

It has been reported this morning that Conrad Black, proprietor of the Daily Telegraph is to resign. In honour of this national treasure (What nation? - Ed.), here is an example of Black's magnificent rhetoric, almost in its entirety:
The BBC is pathologically hostile to the government and official opposition, most British institutions, American policy in almost every field, Israel, moderation in Ireland, all western religions, and most manifestations of the free market economy.

It benefits from an iniquitous tax, abuses its position commercially, has shredded its formal obligation to separate comment from reporting in all political areas, to provide variety of comment, and is poisoning the well of public policy debate in the UK.

It is a virulent culture of bias. Though its best programming in non-political areas is distinguished, sadly it has become the greatest menace facing the country it was founded to serve and inform.

It isn't just at war with the government; it is attempting to take over the formation of public opinion and is masquerading as the officially persecuted voice of truth against the government. Alastair Campbell's excesses have facilitated this pretence. But he, at least, has been doing his job, and promoting Tony Blair's interests.

It is not the BBC's function to assassinate the truth about the Iraq war. From Jeremy Paxman's insolent question of the prime minister: "Do you pray with" President Bush, to the mouthy challenges to British military spokesmen at Iraq war press briefings, the BBC's only interest seems to have been to destroy and supplant the government as a source of authority in the country.

It must not succeed and the Conservatives should not assist it. Neither the government nor the BBC killed Dr Kelly. To everyone's sorrow, Dr Kelly himself did.

We don't know how many journalists he spoke to, but he should have been more careful when doing so. In the circumstances, the government's curiosity about his identity and what he said to the press is, on the face of it, excusable. Andrew Gilligan's apparent exaggerations of what he said to him are inexcusable.

Where Boris Johnson and the Tories go badly wrong is they don't recognise the present news and public affairs service of the BBC as a greater enemy to all they believe in than the government. And they mistakenly imagine that in legitimising the BBC's assault on the Iraq war, they can gain ground against the government while preserving their record of support for the war. They are in danger of becoming useful idiots.

There is not the slightest evidence that the prime minister deliberately misled the country, but if he is to counter this assault from the BBC, he will have to clear out those in his entourage who are tainted and he should use his office to expose the BBC for the rogue and putschist organisation it has become.

The Conservatives have the same duty to put country ahead of party - and resist the BBC's usurpation, of which they would be as much the victims as the government - that they bravely displayed in the Iraq debate.
This offering originally appeared as a letter to the editor on 26 July 2003. You can read the whole piece here. At the very least, it makes one wonder why we bothered to have the Hutton inquiry at all. Such perception will be sorely missed but let us hope for similar penetrating contributions in the future.


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