Wednesday 16 May 2012

The Boris Broadcasting Corporation

What is Boris Johnson doing? He is elected Mayor of London and tells us all that he's going to redouble his efforts on our behalf, but finds that he can't keep his head and mouth sufficiently in gear to do so. Instead, he thinks that being voted into this job has given him a platform to sound off about something that he can do nothing about, is nothing particularly to do with Londoners being Londoners but has everything to do with how he wants to position himself in relation to the Tory Party and the country.

His attack on the BBC is not a serious discussion of what kind of institution the BBC is, who works for it, and what kind of function(s) it serves. It's a visceral attack from someone who has learned in his life that he and the people around him at school and university have an entitlement to rule. In the past, this entitlement took people like him into the top ranks of everything (as Michael Gove of all people has pointed out) and being top dogs everywhere, including the BBC, was enough. Now, this entitlement is embodied in Boris's mind in the notion of the market, which is in the throes of its greatest failure. Precisely at the moment when the market in money is about to plunge millions of people's lives into unemployment and poverty through no fault of their own, Boris is championing the market as the best regulator of our minds - through the media.

The BBC is many things but one thing it isn't is a subsidiary of Rupert Merde-och. Boris's elite is suffering some of the greatest discomfiture that it has ever faced with the unravelling of the hacking story. More precisely, what has emerged is a conspiracy between News International, the police and the upper ranks of the Tory and Blairite Labour Parties. There was an open corridor between all three. The illusion that the Boris elite always want to create is that they rule on our behalf. What has emerged through the hacking story is that they rule on their own behalf. For this to be exposed is clearly giving them great pain. In Boris's mind, that part of the media not in the firm grip of his elite's marriage to the market end of the media is the BBC and constitutes a threat to him, his elite and the need for the conspiracy to be kept hidden.

Yet, the response, sadly, to Boris's outburst has been to ask, is he right or wrong? No, the first question is, Boris, what do you think you're doing using your position to sound off about the national question of the BBC? You were not given a mandate by the people of London to do that. Secondly, Boris  you were elected in part by virtue of being trucked into County Hall on the back of the Evening Standard (Evening Boris, I prefer to call it), a monopoly free sheet handed out on street corners and Tube stations. Every day, the Evening Boris carried double page spreads celebrating the wit and wisdom of Boris, the loveable buffoon who wears funny shorts when he goes running. Tory Party Central Office were gifted millions of free election material. That's what the freedom of the market gave Londoners. This is what you Boris are defending. This is what you Boris want to replace the BBC with.