If a bully gives you a poke in the eye on Monday, turn up on Tuesday with a Stanley Knife. It’s the only language that they understand.
Sir Michael Lyons, in a bid to cover up his non-existent legitimacy, has paid the ransom. He’s turned up to a fight that he should have always known he would have to have with a sick-note. A perfectly good broadcaster has been sacked. An entertaining and talented comedian has resigned. The BBC has had one of its most important strategies – the need to compete for talent and provide a universal service that can match its light-entertainment rivals – taken off it.
Lyons has failed his first test. He has failed to stand up to a rival and he has capitulated. He’s paid the ransom. He should be sacked.
Yet I’m not sure that this is absolutely clear to everyone, so let’s just rehearse a few things that we already know, shall we? Firstly, the political right have suffered a crushing ideological defeat in the last few weeks. Something that they won’t properly recover from for some time. They will, naturally, turn all of their resources away from asserting their economic position, and instead, they will play the only card they have left: The cultural one.
In a month when a need for effective regulation has been established more firmly than ever before, we can expect a very short respite from the centre-right’s routine attacks on parliament and parliamentarians. But there is still the old question of dealing with competitors. Newscorp and The Daily Mail represent wider interests that would like to see the destruction of the other pillar of liberal democracy: Public Service Broadcasting.
Not only does PSB represent an immediate competitor to the commercial interests of Newscorp and The Mail, it also represents an enemy in the Culture Wars that the these outlets have been waging for decades. PSB needs to be popular. It also needs to be able to take risks. Both will be harder, and PSB’s rivals will be gloating this weekend. The BBC’s ability to be creative – it’s very lifeblood – has been threatened – and those who should be stopping this from happening have, instead, aided and abetted the whole process.
This is an intolerable defeat. The Poujadists have recruited the management and regulators of their opponents in their cause, and it will damage the one organisational model that we British should still be urging the rest of the world to adopt. I hope you don't think that I usually go for simple narratives or slogans, but nothing else is needed in this case:
Defend the BBC!
Sack Sir Michael Lyons!
Reinstate Lesley Douglas!
Be prepared to fight and win next time!
And know who your enemy is.