Desert Island Risks: A Tory MP's attempted 'cancelling' of Alexi Sayle is red meat for the columnists...

... and proves again that it's not about the right to free speech but the freedom of Right speech.

The entry-level joke about Lady Diana Mosley and Enoch Powell’s appearances on Desert Island Discs is something about the fact they both chose several pieces by Wagner. But the one for the real heads is that Diana Mosley chose a Procul Harem track… A Whiter Shade of Pale. The jokes write themselves…

I was digging through the Desert Island Discs archives last night because a Tory MP is demanding the BBC ditch this Sunday’s broadcast of a new episode featuring Alexei Sayle.

Matthew Offord, the MP for Hendon — a Christian who voted against same-sex marriage because he argued it would inevitably lead to legalised polygamy — has written a letter to the corporation. A statement on his website explains he…

… has written to the Director-General of the BBC asking that he stop the broadcast of Desert Island Discs featuring Alexei Sayle… The letter says that every broadcaster should be wary of giving a platform to anyone who is seen to excusing antisemitism.

In 2017, following an interview with Sky News, My Sayle claimed that all allegations of antisemitism ‘amongst supporters of Jeremy Corbyn are a complete fabrication”.

In 2014, Sayle claimed that a BBC presenter, Emma Barnett, was abusing antisemitism to discredit Palestinians before denouncing her as ‘supporting the murder of children, the murder of women… from a fascist, Zionist ideology’.

For a person to state publicly that another who made allegations of antisemitism is a liar is not only wrong but allows antisemitism to continue and in some cases flourish. In addition, to conflate Jewish identity with Zionism ensures that British Jews are physically and verbally attacked for actions that occur in Israel for which they have no cause or control.

Matthew said: ‘ITV recently took the decision not to broadcast the final episode of a drama starring Noel Clarke after allegations were made against him. In the light of Alexei Sayle’s continuing behaviour and the distress this is causing my constituents and others, the BBC should take the same action and not broadcast the next episode of Desert Island Discs…

What Offord’s letter declines to mention is that Alexei Sayle is Jewish. Instead, it uses the common trick of selectively quoting fragments from previous interviews given years ago to make a case.

But Offord goes even further: He makes an elision between Sayle’s political opinions and the accusations against Noel Clarke.

At the time of Sayle’s clumsily-phrased comment to Adam Boulton in the 2017 Sky News interview, the Campaign Against Antisemitism argued that the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, of which he is a patron, should sever ties with him. This is Offord trying to reheat that particular controversy.

I don’t propose to use this newsletter to litigate Sayle’s views on Israel — that would take a lot more space and time than I have — but rather to look at how an obscure backbench MP’s lurch for publicity is picked up.

So far Offord’s letter has only been covered by frequent IPSO complaint loser Lee Harpin writing for The Jewish News. Under the headline, Hendon MP urges BBC to pull Desert Island Discs with Alexei Sayle, Harpin writes…

Hendon MP Mathew Offord has written to the Director-General of the BBC to demand he stop the broadcast of Desert Island Discs featuring Alexei Sayle, scheduled for this Sunday.

The parliamentarian said his request came in response to the antisemitic incidents which occurred last weekend in the UK over the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

… then quotes extensively from Offord’s statement before including a contrary view from David Baddiel who tweeted:

Me and Alexei Sayle don’t agree on much about the present nature of antisemitism. But he’s a very great comedian, the Godfather of modern alternative comedy, and perfectly entitled to his opinions. The idea of banning his Desert Island Discs is culture war nuts.

The BBC responded with a straight bat:

In common with many Desert Island Discs castaways during the programme’s long history… Alexei Sayle reflects on his professional life, family, upbringing and private life rather than discussing his personal political views.

Here’s a sentence I’m not accustomed to writing: David Baddiel is right.

The idea of banning Sayle from Desert Island Discs for his views on Israel and the Palestinians is bananas. It’s particularly unhinged if you consider that Diana Mosley’s engaged in Holocaust denial during her appearance.

Mosley says in the episode that she admired Hitler “very much”, having met him many times, and denies that her husband, Sir Oswald, was antisemitic — “He didn’t know a Jew from a gentile…” — despite the presenter Sue Lawley quoting him calling Jewish people “an alien force”. She then goes on to claim that the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis was exaggerated:

After the war, I simply didn’t believe it, having been in Germany a good bit… It was years before I could really believe those things had happened. I don’t really, I’m afraid, believe it was six million people — it’s just not conceivable.

Sue Lawley barely holds her anger in as she asks Mosley to introduce her next record… another piece of Wagner. Later in the episode, she rightly accuses Mosley of “rewriting history”.

There is no comparison between Alexei Sayle and Diana Mosley, but the point is that Desert Island Discs has always had guests that many listeners could and did find controversial. An MP demanding that Sayle be banned from the show is an actual example of the ‘cancel culture’ that the government and its media outriders talk about obsessively.

While the Sayle story has only appeared in Jewish News so far, but I predict it will be picked up by The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator to name just three. The opportunity to attack the BBC will be just too tempting for them to miss. That arguing for an interview with a comedian about his life and career to be banned is a contradiction of the thousands of words they’ve published in recent years on ‘free speech’ and ‘cancel culture’ won’t matter a jot.

That’s because the right-wing British press’ arguments about the right to free speech are, in fact, demands for the freedom of Right speech. Columnists who frequently honk on about how committed they are to free speech often ditch those strongly held beliefs when an opportunity to attack someone they don’t agree with comes up.

Oddly that Voltaire misquote they all love so much doesn’t apply in every scenario. In fact, it turns out that it’s totally fine to no-platform a Jew if you don’t agree with their political opinions…

I happen to think that Matthew Offord is a virulent homophobe who is attempting to have a left-wing Jewish comedian silenced as part of a wider programme of political attacks on the BBC. But I’m not arguing for interviews with him to be banned. I’d rather the whole world heard his dunderheaded, antiquated, idiotic opinions and could judge them for what they are.

Hopefully, Offord’s failed attempt to get Alexei Sayle’s Desert Island Discs pulled will mean more people are aware of the MP’s own views. He voted to…

reduce housing benefit for social tenants, voted against spending public money to help young people get jobs, voted against higher benefits for people with disabilities and long term illness, voted to reduce benefits and against raising them in line with prices, voted in favour of retaining hereditary peers, voted against same-sex marriage, and voted against LGBT inclusive sex education in schools…

to name just a few of his greatest hits.

Watch for which commentators and columnists get behind the calls for Sayle’s episode to be canned. It’ll be a good barometer for which of them are not even capable of concealing how full of shit they are.

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