GB Losers: The only thing less surprising than Andrew Neil quitting is that Michael Gove is a disgusting human being

I am shocked! shocked! that Andrew Neil's ego has finally flung him from GB News and that Michael Gove has a long history of being odious. Who knew? (Everyone.)

There’s should be a long German word for news that is news but is also so unsurprising that you feel vaguely like it already happened.

Yesterday was a big day for deprimierenderwartetnachrichten1 as the long trailed exit of Andrew Neil from GB News was finally announced — although he will bob up twice a week on Nigel Farage’s programme like a fake-tanned turd that refuses to flush — and The Independent revealed the shock news that Michael Gove is a nasty piece of work, something that was a surprise to a small subset of readers just emerging from 30-year comas.

Neil hosted just 8 shows for GB News. Since he was the channel’s chairman as well as its frontman for the extensive pre-launch publicity and excruciating opening night, it’s a bit like Mick Jagger quitting the Rolling Stones before the release of their first single to be replaced by Steptoe’s Wilfred Brambell (played in this production by giant tobacco-stained testicle, Nigel Farage).

Neil’s presence brought a dubious sheen of respectability to the channel, providing confidence for investors and delirious rubes who thought he was a brilliant ‘impartial’ interviewer at the BBC while doing double time as chairman of The Spectator and big pal of Hungary’s far-right government.

With Neil in place, conducting WWE-style staged bouts against political ‘heavyweights’ like risky Rishi Sunak, the pretence that GB News was more than Fox News without the budget but with a bizarre love of sticking reporters on industrial estates could still be maintained slightly, even as ads exhorting viewers to “buy gold!” filled every ad break and the channel’s chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos shipped in more and more screaming monstrosities from TalkRadio’s darkhold of demotic shock jocks.

In the dim and distant days of… June 2021, Neil told The Evening Standard that while GB News was swiping Fox’s format of personality-led programmes rather than rolling news, it wouldn’t remotely follow its lead on content

In terms of format, we are like Fox but we won’t be like Fox in that they come from a hard right disinformation fake news conspiracy agenda. I have worked too long and hard to build up a journalistic reputation to consider going down that route.

Neil was betting correctly that interviewers wouldn’t ask him about his time at The Sunday Times, hiring holocaust denier David Irving to work on the Goebbels diaries and doubling and tripling down on a disgusting campaign of AIDS denialism for which he has never apologised.

What he didn’t account for was that Dan Wootton, the most despicable person in British media, for whom he would serve as the lead-in, would open his very first show — less than an hour after Neil promised there would be no fake news on the channel — with a conspiracy-theory flecked rant about Covid-19.

There will be plenty of Kremlinology about Neil’s statement and Frangopoulos’ email to staff which has been seen by many more people than GB News’ shows tend to be — at some points its output has rated zero — but I don’t think the situation is particularly complex. Neil was angry about the clown car technical difficulties that plagued the channel from day one and was never likely to return once Farage was installed as ‘the star’.

Having Neil appear twice a week as a disembodied head fawned over by Farage is part of what GB News insiders — imagine scurvy-addled pirates pleading for just a single lime — claim is an “elegant solution”. It allows Neil to pretend the excuse from his statement (“I am sorry to go but I have concluded that it’s time to reduce my commitments on a number of fronts…”) is true and spares GB News some embarrassment — it’s way over its quota — before he finally disappears from the channel.

When Neil stops popping up on the Farage hour (“get your daily dose of racism, xenophobic conspiracy theories and objectionable people drinking pints without having to visit a flat-roof pub”) no one will notice and, freed from the constraints of his GB News contract, Neil will be able to weasel his way back onto the BBC, welcomed with open arms by Director-General and former Tory council candidate, Tim Davie, who is desperate to appear in the Right way as the government steps up its siege of the corporation.

Neil is already booked to go Question Time on Thursday.

Frangopoulos’ email to staff — first leaked, inevitably, to drink driving enthusiast and bog monster Paul Staines of Guido Fawkes — is a masterpiece of shade and reality distortion. He wrote:

… I know many of you will feel incredibly disappointed by this [news], as I do. Andrew joined GB News 12 months ago and signed a multi-year contract so we hoped he’d stay longer.

Andrew shared our vision for GB News. He knew instinctively that many Brits, especially beyond London, were crying out for a trusted, accurate, news channel, that stands for tolerance, diversity, free speech and fair debate…

I’m sure there are, Angelos, but aren’t you meant to be talking about GB News?

The email also refers to the channel’s “Editorial Charter”, a pamphlet that was ludicrous from day one but was ripped to shreds after Guto Hari — who has since resigned — was suspended after taking the knee on air because that kind of free speech was the sort that the small but radiantly beetroot red audience of GB News does not want to hear.

Here’s what that charter says:

We stand for:

  • The independence of our journalism.

  • Putting facts first.

  • Respect for opinions and those expressing them.

  • The right of every individual to form and share their views.

  • Holding our leaders, our society and ourselves accountable.

  • Bringing clarity to complex and contentious issues.

  • Celebrating the potential and achievements of the individual and communities in shaping their and our nation’s future.

  • Being one team, innovating side by side to bring the best out in each other.

Keep that list of commandments — tossed down the mountain by Neil in a Moses beard and a wig more unconvincing than the suspicious syrup he already sports, in mind — then watch this clip from recent GB News recruit, former talkRadio splutterer, and man with the face of a junior estate agent who was caught pleasuring himself to a vintage copy of the Kay’s Catalogue in the staff toilet, Patrick Christys:

Recorded after Churchill’s grandsons — one a former MP, the other chair of the charity that Christys is castigating — called the story about the wartime leader being “cancelled”, “absolute bollocks”, it’s a classic example of how GB News never “puts facts first” but prefers instead to be a fairground mirror station, twisting and distorting whatever stories pass in front of it.

Or try Colin Brazier, formerly a respected figure at Sky News — who also twisted the Churchill story in a ‘Wokewatch’ chat with perma-chuckling humour vacuum Andrew Doyle — delivering this monologue on “schools indoctrinating children”:

I’m sure Brazier would argue that he was "holding our leaders, our society and ourselves accountable” but it’s a fact-free rant full of assertions that could make even the Daily Telegraph’s comment editor baulk. He howls about living in a dystopia, selectively quotes, and concludes that schools are teaching children to believe their parents are evil. Every line would provoke a kind of fact-checking VAR system to rule: Absolute Bollocks.

Frangopoulos concluded his email to staff by saying:

We’re already making our mark as a cheerful, fearless, and open-minded voice that dares to stand up for Britons who simply want to hear all sides, including theirs, in the national conversation. We made a promise to them and it’s one we will keep.”

In the mirror world of GB News cheerful means making what viewers you have terrified of woke culture warriors hiding beneath the bed waiting to indoctrinate your children, change your pronouns, and smash your copy of The World at War.

Open-minded means screeching about “cancellation” whenever someone has an opinion to the left of Franco.

And “hearing from all sides” means that the centre-right, right, and far-right are all given a fair hearing with the odd quisling interjection from The i’s Benjamin Butterworth, a man who would have had a quick chat with Lord Haw-Haw if there was an appearance fee, thrown in for balance.

It’s no surprise that Andrew Neil has quit GB News because he likes to do his far-right fostering through the ‘respectable’ pages of The Spectator and in paid gigs for Hungarian right-wing organisations. He doesn’t mind the racism — he is, after Spectator chairman and cheerleader for such horrors as Rod Liddle and Taki of “in praise of the Wehrmacht” fame — so long as it done with a classy font and a ‘polite’ frontman like Fraser Nelson to push it.

Neil’s problem with GB News is not the content but that its xenophobia, racism, conspiracism and crank science were not delivered with the level of polish that he became accustomed to at the BBC where huge teams made him look good. At GB News, under the glare of incorrectly installed lights, in a set that looked like an S&M dungeon decorated by a dominatrix on a B&Q budget, Neil had nowhere to hide, no storied past to lean on, no historic masthead to justify the cruelty and crassness as ‘debate’.

The ‘revelations’ in The Independent about Michael Gove simply put a similar spotlight on something that anyone remotely paying attention already knew: Gove is a goblin who says and does horrible things in order to keep his place among an elite that despises him. When the Cameron bandwagon came off the tracks, he leapt to Vote Leave, and after a failed prison shanking of Boris Johnson during the 2016 Tory leadership election, he now sits in the cabinet of a man he claimed: “wasn’t up to the job”.

In recordings from appearances at the Cambridge Union, in 1987 (when Gove was 20) and 1993 (when he was 26), he can be heard making crude sexual comments about the Lucy Frazer, now also a cabinet minister but then president of the Union, describing Prince Charles — not incorrectly — as “a dull, wet, drippy, adulterer”, channelling Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army to talk about “fuzzie-wuzzies” and accusing Sir Leon Brittan2 (then still living) of being a paedophile. In the earliest performance, he rejoices that Margaret Thatcher’s policies had produced a “new empire” in which “the happy south [stamped] over the cruel, dirty, toothless face of the northerner”.

It’s interesting too to hear him claim to have spent many occasions in New York bathhouses and claiming that gay people “thrive primarily upon short-term relations.” [This part of the newsletter redacted for legal reasons]

The Independent’s presentation of these recently rediscovered recordings is hilarious for its air of faux-shock…

Michael Gove made crude sexual comments, joked about paedophilia within top levels of government, and used a racist slur in a series of remarks in his twenties, The Independent can reveal.

… as if evidence of Gove — who compared being interviewed by John Humphries as like going into a room with Harvey Weinstein (“You just pray you emerge with your dignity intact.”) as recently as 2017 — being a crude, crass and cruel man who makes bigoted jokes is an incredible find.

This is a man who is still — until the divorce goes through — married to a Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine and whose shared bookshelves with her contained a stack of books by some of the most reprehensible people going (including David Irving, Charles Murray, Douglas Murray (no relation) and Guillaume Faye, proponent of the ‘great replacement’ theory so beloved of white supremacists).

The same man who as recently as 1997 wrote for The Times that he would favour the restoration of capital punishment — just like his future cabinet colleague Priti Patel — arguing:

Were I ever alone in the dock I would not want to be arraigned before our flawed tribunals, knowing my freedom could be forfeited as a result of political pressures. I would prefer a fair trial, under the shadow of the noose.

And, indeed, the same man who called the British Empire “benign” in 2003 and argued in 2014 wrote an article for The Daily Mail arguing that the First World War was “plainly a just war” that had been maligned by “left-wing academics”, before accusing Blackadder — yes, really — of “clearing Germany of the blame for World War I”. It’s lucky that Gove didn’t pay tuition fees for his time at Oxford, because he’d have a strong case for asking for his money back now.

The notion that Gove will face any consequences for the grim jokes and sexual harassment captured on tape is farcical given that he serves at the pleasure of a Prime Minister who made comments even more recently about “piccannies with watermelon smiles” and “tank-topped bumboys” (among many others). He will suffer a brief period of mild embarrassment and some mild inquisitions on radio and TV political shows before the whole thing is forgotten.

The emergence of these recordings is ‘curious’ however in light of the ongoing nods towards a cabinet reshuffle and Gove’s recent statements that he is no longer friends with Dominic Cummings.

Perhaps Johnson, still nursing the metaphorical wounds from Gove’s clumsy backstabbing in 2016, will find an excuse to demote the Cabinet Office minister, repeating the humiliation meted out to him by David Cameron when he was dragged out of the Department of Education.

What you can be certain of though is that Gove’s comments will be dismissed as the stupid comments of a callow youth. This is the cursed island we live on: Where Shamima Begum, a woman who groomed aged 15 to head to Syria is made to live with the consequences of her actions by a government that stripped her of her citizenship, but Gove, a member of the government, can be excused a litany of bigoted remarks he hooted in public as an adult.

Andrew Neil’s inevitable return to the BBC should not be a surprise, nor should Gove’s continued presence in government — like a self-satisfied tick buried deep into the flesh buttock of British public life — because this is the society we live in. A place where right-wing men can never fail, where no embarrassment is big enough, no scandal toxic enough to topple them.

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1

“Depressingly expected news” — a word I have just made up by smashing these terms together as if they were linguistic Meccano. I’m sure a reader who speaks much better German than me can suggest a real (and more appropriate term) but I’m writing this at 5.30 am so this is the best I can offer.

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Brittain was targeted by Scotland Yard in 2015 by a VIP sexual abuse investigation triggered by the testimony of fantasist Carl Beech. The allegations against Sir Leon were found to be false, and Beech was sentenced to 18 years for perverting the course of justice and for fraud. How curious that Gove was casting similar aspersions back in 1993…