'Darren Grimes: Political Commentator': Just because an alleycat is loud doesn't mean it's a lion

The British media has a bad habit of letting chancers give themselves grand titles. Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, joins us to debate that...

I don’t smoke or take any drugs harder than Lemsip, but I am shortening my life with a talkRadio habit. With chat that is far more carcinogenic than a packet of Marlboro Reds, Dan Wootton’s jamboree of gibberish is one of the most toxic products of the talkRadio smokestack and, among his favourite guests, is Darren Grimes, a man deemed legally too stupid to correctly fill in a form.

I’ve written about Darren Grimes before in this newsletter, but today is not as much about the shite that pours unstoppable from his gob and more on how he is now described by broadcasters who lazily prod him on to panels to express his half-digested right-wing cant. Alongside Wootton yesterday, ginning up some outrage because BBC News Europe editor Katya Adler used the term “fisherpeople” rather than “fishermen”, Grimes was billed as a “political commentator”.

Remember, Grimes is the man who was on Twitter decrying the Irish political system as “bloody confusing” one day and on TV the next opining about the Anglo-Irish relationship on Politics Live. Flick through a visual dictionary, alight on the page for ‘chancer’ and you’ll find a picture of Darren Grimes, probably stood next to Nigel Farage, grinning. ‘Political commentator’ implies someone who takes an analytical view of what is occurring. Grimes is a provocateur and an activist.

The problem is, while an activist journalist like Owen Jones is often described, accurately, as a “left-wing journalist”, the right-wing is allergic to being accurately placed on the political spectrum. That is because they see the political advantage of claiming that their views are firmly in the centre — regardless of what polling might say about, for instance, support for renationalisation of transport — and they can frequently be heard shouting that they are simply presenting “common sense”.

So while the gutter skimming gang at Guido Fawkes frequently fulminate about what they consider to be the inaccurate presentation of left-wing commentators on news channels, they don’t really care if the same is said of their own side. It’s why they are so desperate to rebadge Nigel Farage as a journalist when he scuttles down to the coast to lurk about on beaches in the hope of spotting some refugees he can point and sneer at. Nigel Farage had an LBC show — and will no doubt find a berth on one of the new right-wing news channels which are in the works — but he’s no more a journalist than a penguin is a tiny butler in a tight-fitting tuxedo.

It is an example of the unbalanced situation in the British media so large that it might as well be in 50ft neon letters atop Broadcasting House: The left has to operate within the definitions put upon it by producers and newspaper columnists while the right is allowed to tell the world what it is and how it would like to be called. Hence Toby Young is not introduced on news programmes as “the egg-headed professional contrarian whose own wife mugged him off in the pages of The Spectator” and his boss there, Fraser Nelson, gets billed as “Editor of The Spectator” and not “Spectator editor and habitual liar, Fraser Nelson”.

It’s not just that there is not an even playing field for the left and right in the British media, but that individuals like Grimes are offered comfy lawn chairs, while left-wing commentators have to pick their way through landmines. Darren Grimes: Political Commentator? Fine. But next time I’m on broadcast, I demand to be introduced as Mic Wright: King of All Norwich.