London Diary: Sunak in far-right TV show row

Sunak appeared on a ‘town hall’-style programme and answered questions on a range of issues. GB News has earned notoriety as a platform for what one critic described as “loonies” and “closet racists”

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

Hasan Suroor

As if Rishi Sunak didn’t have enough problems on his plate, he is now being investigated by Britain’s communications regulator Ofcom for alleged breach of impartiality rules by appearing on the far-right television channel GB News

Ofcom ordered the investigation after receiving more than 500 complaints from viewers. Specifics of the complaints are not known.

Launched two years ago, GB News has earned notoriety as a platform for what one critic described as “loonies” and “closet racists”. Its star attraction is Nigel Farage, a.k.a. Mr Brexit, the main architect of the campaign that led to UK’s exit from the EU.

Sunak appeared on a ‘town hall’-style programme and answered questions on a range of issues from immigration and the rising cost of living to the deepening crisis in the National Health Service (NHS). 

In a statement, the regulator said: “Ofcom has launched an investigation into ‘People’s Forum: The Prime Minister on GB News’ under our due impartiality rules. We have received around 500 complaints about the programme which aired on GB News on 12 February 2024."

It said the Broadcasting Code provided “additional due impartiality requirements for programmes dealing with matters of major political controversy and major matters relating to current public policy”.

Meanwhile, Sunak’s Conservative party is facing certain defeat in this year’s general election, triggering an intra-party plot to replace him with a more popular leader. The last thing he needs is incidents likely to embolden the ‘plotters". The GB episode does just that.


Illegal Indian migrants, beware

The British government has announced a crackdown against illegal immigration targeted specifically against immigrants from India, Albania, Iraq, Egypt, Vietnam and Turkey. 

The Home Office will pay celebrities to post messages on the popular social media site, TikTok, urging migrants not to cross the English Channel in fragile boats. If they do, they face dire consequences.

Social media influencers in countries that account for large numbers of illegal migrants to the UK will be offered thousands of pounds to publicise new immigration laws.

The move is part of a £1 million advertising blitz against illegal immigration which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has flagged as a priority ahead of the general elections.


London Diary: Sunak in far-right TV show row

It’s not cricket, Lord Botham

The England cricket team, currently visiting India, might not be amused to hear about the renewed spotlight on racism and English cricket.

The once great cricketer Ian Botham—a hero to many in the present team—is embroiled in a row over his reaction to a report which found that English cricket is rife with racism. He called the 300-page report “nonsense” and declared that he threw his copy on the floor after reading it.

He also complained about not being asked for his thoughts and observations before the publication of the report—a claim which has drawn sharp rebuke from its author. 

Cindy Butts, the chairwoman of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) that produced the report, has accused Botham of “untruths” and said English cricket chiefs should have had the “backbone” to criticise him for telling "lies".

She told Parliament’s culture, media and sports selection committee that "we did invite Lord Botham to give evidence to us, but he didn’t respond." She also said that given that Botham was chair of a first-class county cricket club, his attitude would undermine confidence in English cricket administration to tackle racism.

Thirty-odd years ago, Imran Khan famously called Botham and his colleague Allan Lamb “uneducated racists” in an interview to <India Today> and went on to win a libel case that Botham and Lamb brought against him.  A London court ordered Botham and Lamb to pay court costs amounting to an estimated 500,000 pounds to Khan in damages. 

Well, Botham appears not to have learnt any lessons from that chapter in his life. 


The last edition

Britain’s last-ever phone directory was delivered this month. ‘Final edition’, it says on the cover. ‘Hold on to it forever.’

The phone book has been in existence from 1880 to 2024 but now it’s curtains. Or, as commentators said, recalling Bugs Bunny’s signature sign-off: “That’s all, folks!”


Judge Victoria McCloud
Judge Victoria McCloud

Casualty of culture wars

Britain’s only transgender judge has resigned, claiming that she cannot remain on the bench “in a dignified way” and that she risks making the judiciary political. 

Victoria McCloud said she was quitting because she had become “a target” in Britain's increasingly toxic culture wars.

At 40, she became the youngest senior civil judge. After 18 years on the bench, McCloud told the senior judiciary in a letter: ‘I have reached the conclusion that in 2024 the national situation and present judicial framework is no longer such that it is possible in a dignified way to be both ‘trans’ and a salaried, fairly prominent judge in the UK’.

McCloud kept her trans identity out of the public eye for much of her time as a judge until her status was revealed by a newspaper in 2016.

And, finally, a quote from British pop star Holly Valance that’s been doing the rounds: “Everyone starts as a leftie and then wakes up and realises all the ideas are crap”. 

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