Orf With His Head !

25 Sep

The BBC have got themselves into what is – I believe – technically known in broadcasting as “a fine mess” over Abu Hamza. ‘The End of an Era’ was a fair headline for their security correspondent’s piece on the prospect of his eventual departure from the UK for the USA (see here for The Guardian‘s summary of the decade-long story behind that word ‘eventual’) and further charges. See here for his recent Article 3 complaint about US Prisons and here for his Article 6 complaint about his trial.

Unfortunately, the journalist made himself the story by seeming to say¬†(at least in the eyes of The Guardian) that Her Majesty the Queen had lobbied the Home Secretary of the day for Hamza to be arrested and locked up. This quickly saw the BBC in full-on grovelling apology mode, to the glee of The Guardian – who (presumably citing Free Speech rather than a deficient sense of irony) also published a Comment piece to the effect of ‘Er, didn’t HMQ have a point ?’

As the dust began to settle, it seems that if HMQ did pass comment, it was simply to ask whether some law wasn’t being broken by Abu Hamza’s preaching ? (No-one suggests that this was an unreasonable question). However, the obvious candidate to be the Home Secretary (2001-2004) to whom HMQ spoke – David Blunkett – denied emphatically that it was he (see links above). It is not entirely clear whether it is suggested that it was the Home Secretary in question (whoever) or HMQ herself who passed on the comment to the BBC man – it may seem the latter ? – possibly the lawyers have advised that fingering either and getting it wrong could be very very expensive indeed in damages for defamation (we agree). On any basis, this was an outrageous breach of confidence.

Generally, the BBC’s luckless correspondent is advised to avoid Buckingham Palace Garden Parties, dark alleys on moonless nights, and corgi dogs for a very long time. If a vacancy for a correspondent in – say – Antarctica comes up, he may find a warmer welcome awaits him there.

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