I thought until today that baseless attacks on our institutions were the preserve of the hardest Brexiteers.
I was wrong. This was Lord Adonis today tweeting about the BBC:
“BBC on ropes. Sport largely gone to Sky. Quality drama gone to Netflix. BBC news increasingly Brexit, weak & simply Govt press releases. If Netflix set up a sharp, balanced News service, what would be left besides local radio, a desert island & a few good foreign correspondents?”
What do you notice first about this tweet? The sneering tone or the sinister threat it seems to promise?
The BBC is very often brilliant. It is one of most important British public institutions bar maybe the civil service, with a commitment to good debate, tolerance and the free exchange of ideas, in the best British traditions.
Lord Adonis is a key figure in the burgeoning campaign to stop Brexit. I wrote yesterday about his backing for ‘Our Future, Our Choice’, a youth movement who want to reverse the referendum result.
As someone who voted to remain, I am deeply troubled by his tone – he apes Rees-Mogg’s recent attacks on the civil service and the Brexiteers’ predilection for random accusations of media bias directed at the free press.
Adonis is going against the spirit of what Remain should properly represent. I voted Remain because I am European and I think the European Union, for all its flaws, does a good job in giving a political reality to that sense of emotional attachment. It also works as a bulwark against the enemies of a tolerant West that is everywhere under attack. I thought a vote to Remain was about defending British liberalism – tolerant, outward looking and pragmatic.
We face resurgent nationalisms in Russia, China and America. These nationalisms take an extreme interpretation of ideas of national loyalty. They emphasise ethnic exclusivity and homogeneous cultural identity in place of liberal ideals such as citizenship, civic pride and active participation in a tolerant public sphere.
We face threats from organizations that have a global appeal, twenty-first century successor projects to the world creeds of Communism and Fascism that aim their demands against nation-states. Neo-fundamentalists in the European Far-Right and Jihadist groups in the Middle East want to replace the nation-state as the most important form of political organization with global entities like the ummah or the racially-defined white ethno-state.
Europeans need to restate what the West is for. Europeans need to restate that the West is a tolerant place. We have our values and this makes us strong. In opposition to the creeds of nationalism and neo-fundamentalism, which detest a public space which is free and open and diverse, we must remind ourselves that those things are hard-won. They are protected by a robust and independent press and public institutions that are independent of political influence.
In wildly attacking the BBC, Adonis undermines all that. He weakens his own case.