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Nadine Dorries faces squealing lefties: HENRY DEEDES watches Culture...
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Nadine Dorries faces squealing lefties: HENRY DEEDES watches Culture Sec shredding the licence fee

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Heavens, the noise! Tea time in the Commons yesterday and opposition MPs were making a right din. It’s been a while since a minister’s statement has caused such uproar but Nadine Dorries’s turn at the dispatch box had sent them into apoplexy.

Normally you’d have to visit a pig farm at feeding time to hear such a cacophony of high-pitched squealing.

The Culture Secretary had come to the House to serve notice on the BBC licence fee. For the next two years, it would be frozen. As of 2027, Auntie will have to start thinking of new ways to fund itself.

Nervy times for all those phalanxes of BBC execs. Not to mention the velvet-voiced maitre d’s at their favoured Marylebone canteens.

Raring to go: Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries makes her Commons statement yesterday

Raring to go: Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries makes her Commons statement yesterday

Raring to go: Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries makes her Commons statement yesterday

Rarely do ministers enjoy announcing a budget freeze but in this instance Nadine was raring to make an exception.

Hates the Beeb. Loathes it. All those pointless strategy meetings, all those oily management types who peer down their noses at her.

She regards it as a haven for Lefties and judging by the howls of protest that greeted her announcement – not least in The Guardian – she may well have a point.

Labour culture spokesman Lucy Powell reckoned this was all part of the Government’s ‘long-standing vendetta’ against our national broadcaster.

She described the move to freeze the licence fee as ‘cultural vandalism’ and the actions of a ‘tinpot dictator’ rather than a democracy.

A bit OTT, surely. Were we living in a dictatorship, whoever was in charge of BBC 3’s infantile offering would surely by now have got their comeuppance.

One hardly needs a degree in media studies to recognise the BBC is anathema to today’s youth. They look upon its constant spool of smug panel shows and painfully woke dramas with as much puzzlement as cassette tapes and dog-eared copies of the London A-Z.

Yet in Powell’s dreamland, it remains some time-honoured institution before which families still gather on a Saturday evening and marvel. Out came all those well-worn cliches trotted outside the employ of New Broadcasting House.

Good old Auntie was a ‘well-loved treasure’ she said. It was a ‘jewel in the crown’ and the ‘envy of the world’.

Out came all those well-worn cliches trotted outside the employ of New Broadcasting House

Out came all those well-worn cliches trotted outside the employ of New Broadcasting House

Out came all those well-worn cliches trotted outside the employ of New Broadcasting House

It is true one rarely encounters a foreigner with a grumble about the Beeb. Then again, they don’t have to pay for it – and they only get the highlights.

John Nicolson (SNP Ochil and S Perthshire) thought the move was an attempt to muzzle the BBC’s news output after its critical coverage of Downing Street drinking sessions.

Kevan Jones (Lab, N Durham) also wondered if the Government was trying to distract attention from the Partygate hoo-ha.

To be fair, we waited a whole 40 minutes before we heard one of those lachrymose paeans on the World Service.

Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds C) spoke of people overseas still ‘huddling around the radio’ to hear the words ‘this is London’. In which century is he living?

It is true one rarely encounters a foreigner with a grumble about the Beeb. Then again, they don’t have to pay for it – and they only get the highlights

It is true one rarely encounters a foreigner with a grumble about the Beeb. Then again, they don’t have to pay for it – and they only get the highlights

It is true one rarely encounters a foreigner with a grumble about the Beeb. Then again, they don’t have to pay for it – and they only get the highlights

Others were more appreciative. Julian Knight (Con, Solihull), chairman of the Culture Select Committee and a former BBC journalist, broadly welcomed the statement.

Yer man Sammy Wilson (DUP, E Antrim) congratulated Dorries on finally having the guts to tackle what amounted to a broadcasting ‘poll tax’.

Peter Bone (Con, Wellingborough) was most excited. He’s been gunning for the licence fee ever since Bill and Ben first sprouted from their flowerpots. One reason the licence fee has become such an anachronism of course is streaming. Netflix, Amazon Prime et al have put us in charge of our own schedules.

Dorries bragged that some 97 per cent of households in the UK now had access to superfast broadband, which meant they could stream as many as five movies around the house if they so wished.

How polite, genteel Jamie Stone (Lib Dem, Caithness) longed for such luxuries. His patch is almost last stop before you hit the Orkneys.

Poor chap probably has to dangle a metal hanger out of the top window just to get a faint television signal.

For about an hour Dorries stood defending her decision to try to drag the BBC into the 21st century.

During the Cameron and Osborne era, she was always denounced as old-fashioned.

But it was those attacking her while defending the corporation’s antiquated business model who risked looking outdated.

Source: Daily Mail

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