Left-wing musician PJ Harvey, guest hosting for the BBC on Radio 4’s current affairs program Today, created a firestorm of criticism for featuring a cadre of left-wing guests, including Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, John Pilger, a journalist who asserted in September, “With al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran,” and Phil Shiner, the attorney who took the side of Iraqis who claimed British troops tortured them.
In addition, Harvey included readings of verse by Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Shaker Aamer, who is held in Guantanamo Bay.
Conservative Cabinet Minister and the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson responded, “Pilger always thought-provoking but was he really suggesting that BBC ignore Obama’s Mandela grief as he is a hypocrite? Or Sunni Shia massacres in Syria as Blair & Bush’s fault? Surely, John, those are what we call opinions not facts?”
David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, commented, “Today’s @BBCr4today is apparently the work of a ‘guest editor’. Have to wonder who extended the invitation.”
Some listeners were fed up with the virulently leftist slant. Melvyn Bloomberg tweeted: “Today Radio 4 taken over by PJ Harvey as guest editor. Left-wing tosh, even weather messed with. I hope she never edits the programme again.” Ashley Perks added, “Now I’m watching Sky News to get some idea of what’s important today. Wrong to test this weird format and dreary music.” Seema Kennedy tweeted, “The nonsense coming out of @BBCr4today today has riled me so much that its forced me out of bed.” Maggie Lavan commented, “Come back Today Editors. All is forgiven.”
Harvey defended herself by saying:
When I was invited to be guest editor on Today, I saw it as an opportunity to try and do something unusual with the format and content of the programme. I began by thinking of people I consider to be highly articulate, stimulating and extremely interesting to listen to–people who challenge us and move us to examine our deepest beliefs and feelings. I wanted to fill my programme with their voices. Most importantly, I wanted to let them be heard in a manner of their choosing, whether that be a monologue, a poem, or interviewing others. What I didn’t want was for them to be restricted from saying what they wanted to say.
The BBC chimed in:
The well-established role of the guest editors is to bring their own unique ideas and expertise to the Today programme, working closely with the regular programme team. Our guest editors come from all walks of life and represent a range of views. This year they have included Antony Jenkins, CEO of Barclays Bank, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, Tim Berners Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium and the writer, traveller and broadcaster Sir Michael Palin.
Leftists rejoiced at the takeover by Harvey. Paul Mason, an economics editor for Channel 4 News, wrote, “Brilliant @PJHarveyUK edition of @BBCr4today demonstrating difference between ‘truth’ and ‘editorial policy’–amazing how weird it feels.”
David Hendy wrote: “Well done @PJHarveyUK for getting #r4today to discuss issues that are censored on every other day of the year.” Another tweet from a leftist read, “Anyone who thinks the BBC is run by lefties needs to hear today’s #r4Today prog. This is what being run by lefties would be like. I like it.”