Published 17th September 2021
GB News: the end of the beginning
I have immense respect for the encyclopaedic knowledge of Andrew Neil across a plethora of geopolitical and macroeconomic matters.
His uncompromising excoriation of GB News on the BBC’s “Question Time” (which used to precede his successful “This Week” show) showed vanity, bitterness and weary disappointment.
Like a heavyweight boxer who goes one fight too many, Andrew looked every one of his 72 years. He may yet live to fight another day but thus far 2021 has been his annis horribilis.
Mr Neil was the public catalyst for drawing front and back of house team members to GB News. Two senior allies left in the wake of the Guto Harri debacle and a further three senior producers have left in the last week, with presenters including Simon McCoy and Kirsty Gallacher apparently considering their position.
Since Mr Neil’s hiatus, GB News has attracted Nigel Farage, Arlene Foster, Mark Dolan, Patrick Christys and Isabel Oakeshott in what many in the mainstream media feel is a lurch to the right and a more tabloid style of programming.
It is hard to resist the notion that there is a “FoxNewsification” of the channel occurring in Paddington. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on the future strategic direction the board of GB News looks to take and more importantly, viewing figures.
GB News claims that viewing figures of its app and YouTube channels add significant numbers to those watching on television.
With Nigel Farage, either on his eponymous Monday to Thursday nightly show or alongside Dehenna Davison and Paul Embery on “The Political Correction” on Sunday consistently leading the viewing figures, numbers watching on television have at best plateaued in recent weeks and fallen for certain times of the day.
Just over 3 months in to its time on our screens, GB News is already at an ideological crossroads. The lack of news bulletins means some loyal viewers still have to revert to BBC, ITN, Sky or Channel 4 for bulletins and introducing these certainly has anecdotal popularity in the digital court of opinion that is Twitter.
In terms of balance, whilst GB News is used as a piñata by its critics for perceived right wing bias, regular appearances from Rebecca Reid, Benjamin Butterworth, Amy Nickell and Paul Embery amongst other left leaners, does give balance to panel discussions.
The funders of the station have struggled to attract advertisers and even in their wildest dreams would not have envisaged the channel making a profit for several years if at all. That said, the loss of Mr Neil leaves GB News needing to redefine its identity, which from the outside appears to be at odds with his opening monologue when the channel launched.
GB News must now decide the zeitgeist it wishes to tap into. To remain the voice of predominantly nationalistic Conservatives is a perfectly laudable position, providing it can maintain and add to its roster of credible, established presenters and youthful edgy relative newbies.
The continued difficulties with sound quality need to be addressed. It makes the station look amateurish at best, which whilst endearing for a while, when combined with frequent syntax errors, including Tom “Hardwood” on its banners, will be frustrating for the more seasoned presenters who must be retained in the short to medium term as the channel stabilises and grows its audience base.
The imminent arrival of the next new news thing, Rupert Murdoch’s Talk TV, anchored by Piers Morgan, who reportedly rejected the opportunity to join GB News, means the “prime mover” advantage GB News has enjoyed since its launch will have evaporated by early 2022. Murdoch’s billions will ensure that the glitches GB News has suffered are unlikely to be repeated on a grand scale.
Personally, I am broadly happy with GB News’ output. It is a breath of fresh air compared to the overtly leftist agendas pursued by other mainstream television news outlets. The majority of content is rational and well debated and they dare to “go there” with stories that the usual suspects ignore, particularly those which do not suit their narrative.
I remain hopeful but realistic about the future prospects for GB News. The next 3 months will be a seminal period. I wish all involved unbridled success.
To quote Nicholas Klein, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. Let us hope this ultimately applies to GB News.
AUKUS is welcome if overdue
Well that came from left field. Hot on the heels of the diplomatic and humanitarian disaster of the US and allies withdrawal from Afghanistan, whilst Joe Biden remains PRINO (“President in name only”), US military commanders have clearly taken control of rebuilding global strategic alliances to begin the process of rebuilding global credibility.
The exclusion of Five Eyes members, Canada and New Zealand is pragmatic given the increasingly cosy relationship each is developing with the Chinese Communist Party, which is the principal raisin d’etre of AUKUS, along with Russia and Iran.
Biden’s latest on screen gaffe, referring to Australian PM Scott Morrison as “that guy down under” was, well, Biden. The ad nauseum debate of his fitness for office rumbles on but should not detract from the significance of AUKUS.
By sharing their nuclear submarine technology with Australia, the US will provide the antipodean nation with the capability of reaching Taiwan quickly, quietly and without the need to refuel.
AUKUS would not have happened without Brexit and Boris Johnson is entitled to claim a major diplomatic coup. Given the ongoing issues with France failing to control migrants heading from its shores to the UK, it is hard not to engage in an element of schadenfreude given the multi billion Euro contract that the Australians have cancelled for the French supplying them with non-nuclear submarines.
AUKUS will not offset the pain of ceding control of Afghanistan to the Chinese/Russian/Iranian trifecta. As well as the Conservative $1trn of minerals including lithium that will now be in their orbit, leaving behind $85Bn of high grade military hardware and ammunition is more than likely to haunt the West at some stage.
The dye is cast in Afghanistan but AUKUS is deserving of praise for the vision shown by all 3 parties given their strategic locations in beginning to provide a defensive shield against the looming military might of the Chinese Communist Party, which has assembled an impressive naval fleet in short order.
Whether the Chinese have the wherewithal to deploy their naval hardware is not a risk the AUKUS allies can afford to take.
After years of chronic underfunding and scaling back our military capability, it is a welcome change to see Defence being given appropriate prioritisation by a British Government and given the Prime Minister’s propensity to spend, a cost effective multilateral solution.
Insulate Britain highlights need for Police priorities to be realigned
Despite retaining her position as Home Secretary, Priti Patel’s inbox remains beyond full. She will need more than rhetoric and jet skis to resolve the Channel migrant crisis, let alone get her Nationality & Borders Bill on to the statute books.
It is shameful that not one of the migrants who has arrived in 2021 has been expelled from the UK at the time of writing.
After 2 weeks of the Metropolitan Police largely standing by and allowing Extinction Rebellion to do as they please in Central London, (for which the head of the Met, Cressida Dick was rewarded with a further 2 years on her contract through to 2024), the XR affiliate, Insulate Britain has caused chaos to motorists by blockading junctions of the M25.
To regard the Police response as supine is to damn them with faint praise at best. The scourge of wokery has clearly contaminated all the way through to the frontline when criminals breaching the Highways Act are treated like victims and asked if they need anything to make their stay more comfortable whilst causing distress, delay and of course, pollution.
I’m no climate change denier but as a country that has reduced our CO2 emissions by 44% in 20 years and accounts for less than 1% of all CO2, however laudable their cause, the activists need to look East to Germany, Russia, China and India or West to the US for where the real problems lie.
None of which excuses the reluctance of the Police to deal swiftly and effectively with criminals intent on disrupting an economy that desperately needs to recover from the tsunami of COVID-19.
Instead of shepherding the protesters away from the very roads they seek to block, they have facilitated them, which is unforgivable.
As for those who superglue their skin to the road, the criminal justice system needs to get creative with sentencing. That starts with our Home Secretary and new Justice Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister. Talk, like superglue is cheap, it is time for robust action.
Liz Truss: Embracing Brexit pays dividends for one Remainer
The government has had a challenging year and continues to have the propensity to shoot itself in the foot with alarming regularity, to such an extent that John Redwood is a more effective opposition than the entire Labour Party.
The paucity of quality on the Conservative benches both in cabinet and junior ministerial posts is stark. Liz Truss is a most honourable exception.
Her vote for Remain has not prevented her from rolling her sleeves as International Trade Secretary and signing a raft of trade deals with countries across the globe.
Whilst the majority are rollovers from expiring EU wide treaties, this is no mean feat.
Ms Truss has also made it her mission, on the record, to push back against wokery including unconscious bias training in the civil service.
Her promotion to Foreign Secretary is well deserved and with the Prime Minister dumping any blame at the feet of previous incumbent Dominic Raab for the disorderly departure from Afghanistan, her hawkish, Thatcherite instincts will bring a breath of fresh air and more than a drop of clear blue water to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Scottish Independence? UK army rescues Scottish NHS
As part of the SNP’s devolved powers, they have full autonomy (and therefore full responsibility) for healthcare provision in Scotland.
The sight of the Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, falling off a scooter in a corridor was a metaphor for the state of the current Scottish NHS.
Mr Yousaf who delighted on Twitter in Douglas Ross taking a tumble whilst performing as Assistant Referee in the 2018 Scottish League Cup Final, did not see the funny side of his own face plant. Funny that. Or not if you’re Mr Yousaf.
Having already used the British Army for support with setting up mobile testing centres, with a mounting A&E crisis, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed at First Minister’s Questions that the Army had once again been prevailed upon to provide 100 soldiers to support the Scottish Ambulance Service, following the death of one patient who waited 40 hours for an ambulance that failed to arrive.
Despite their super majority with the hard left Greens leading to Sturgeon to seek indyref2 by the end of 2023, the SNP’s lamentable record in health does not augur well for an independent Scotland.
With the highest level of alcohol and drug related deaths in Europe, nearly half of all top 20 COVID-19 hot spots, lower life expectancy than other parts of the UK and lengthy A&E treatment times, they would do well to begin looking after those portfolios they already have autonomy over (including education where outcomes have plummeted under SNP rule) before seeking independence.
© justchrisdavies 2021