Monday, 17 January 2022
In their glory days, the Blairites hated the BBC. I vividly recall a very well-connected and limitlessly ambitious member of the then Government Chief Whip's staff making the pint glasses shake as he banged on the table, "Fuck their licence fee! Fuck their licence fee!" For a few days 18 years ago, Alastair Campbell came closer than anyone else, ever, to destroying the BBC.
But now they are the only people in politics to be mounting any kind of defence of it, thereby making the point of its detractors from Nadine Dorries, to the post-Corbynite Left, to the DUP, to Scottish, Welsh and Irish Nationalists. Only dislike of Dorries and her ilk is motivating the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the Alliance Party, since they have had plenty of complaint against the Corporation in the past. The Labour Right alone really believes in it. Exactly as Dorries contends.
Following the introduction of the Universal Basic Income, then a suitably renamed version of the licence fee ought to be made voluntary, with as many adults as wished to pay it at any given address free to do so, including those who did not own a television set but who greatly valued, for example, Radio Four. One would not need to be a member of the Trust to listen to or watch the BBC, just as one does not need to be a member of the National Trust to visit its properties, or a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to be rescued by its boats.
The Trustees would then be elected by and from among the members. Each member would vote for one, with the top two elected. The electoral areas would be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions. The Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, with the approval of the relevant Select Committee. And the term of office would be four years.
Here as elsewhere, we ought to be bypassing the weedy brains of the Liberal Establishment and the brainless brawn of the municipal Labour Right, in order to secure the representation that had never been afforded by those who had presumed to speak for our people, but never to our people. Yes, that would indeed involve doing deals with the Conservatives. We could not possibly get less out of them than we had ever managed to get out of the Lucy Powells of the world.