Saturday, 19 October 2013

The new FA Chairman Greg Dyke has been “hideously” out-liberalled on the race issue

Jamaican-born Heather Rabbatts, the only female member of the board of the Football Association, has criticised the ethnic and gender composition of the commission recently set up by Greg Dyke to dream up ways of improving the England team. Like the team itself, the commission is all-male, but, unlike the team, it's all-white. Ms Rabbatts, who is of mixed race, said:

By proceeding along this current path we are not only failing to reflect our national game but we are also letting down so many black and ethnic minority people - players, ex-players, coaches and volunteers, who have so much to offer and are so often discouraged and disheartened by the attitudes they encounter. 

Dyke was my last BBC Director-General – in fact, he was booted out on the day of my leaving do early in 2004. He had fallen out spectacularly with the Labour government over the dodgy dossier radio broadcast. Despite the fact that there’s nothing quite as funny as watching left-wingers trying to claw each other’s eyes out – Dyke is a lifelong Labour supporter – I was sorry to see him go.

I’d enjoyed his “Cut the Crap” campaign, in which he had essentially encouraged a sort of internal peasant‘s revolt against those BBC bureaucrats who had made it their life’s work to place as many obstacles as possible in the path of those of us who actually wanted to make programmes and launch services. I was having awful trouble with some particularly boot-faced examples of the breed when Dyke’s clarion call sounded, so I felt he was on my side (though I couldn’t quite figure out why he didn’t simply sack the worst offenders pour encourager les autres).

I also enjoyed the way Dyke punctured pomposity. He once - accurately - described one of his senior executives as a “random word-generator”. And when the New Media department got a bit above itself by holding a sort of staff mega-rally at the vast Earls Court Arena and invited Dyke along to address the troops, he spent a while gazing out over our massed ranks before remarking, “Blimey! There’s an awful lot of you, isn’t there?” This elicited some distinctly nervous laughter.

But my sneaking regard for the Dear Leader waned markedly when he described the BBC as “hideously white” – a remark so crass, insensitive and patronising, I can't even be bothered to bother to refute it. I’d been hearing this sort of nonsense from the moment I joined. In the early 1990s one of News’s senior editors was charged with sorting out what was then called “representation” – i.e. squeezing more black and brown faces onto news bulletins in the form of presenters, reporters and “experts”. I did make two points at the time: first, that my Cornish in-laws were probably already scratching their heads wondering why there were so few white folk on news programmes these days; second, that it would mean that no black or Asian appearing in new bulletins could be sure he or she was there on merit rather than because of their skin pigmentation (a point later made eloquently by star BBC newsreader George Allagiah).

Dyke’s bizarre outburst sent another frisson of terror running through New Media because, in those early days – apart from one black IT operative, one black designer, one Asian online exec and a smattering of Asians in accounts – we were undoubtedly the most hideously, eye-wateringly, white department in the whole of the corporation: hell, you practically needed to don sunglasses to enter our building. This had nothing to do with the BBC’s culture – which was hysterically anti-racist - or the fact that BBC staff had always been overwhelmingly white: I was one of a tiny handful of BBC old-timers in this shiny new department and almost everyone else had been brought in from outside. Our policy was to hire the very best people we could afford to build all the services the BBC wanted us to build – an affirmative-action hiring policy would simply have meant spending yet another chunk of the license fee on making liberals feel good about themselves rather than on developing those interactive services - BBC Online, the iPlayer, the red button text service - which the vast majority of license-fee payers now use regularly.

I have no idea whether Dyke has got the right people on his commission. In fact, I suspect the whole thing’s a waste of time – lefties don’t half love boards and meetings and commissions and “experts”. But the idea that it should somehow “reflect” the racial make-up of the country or the sport itself is childish and asinine, and should lead to Heather Rabbatts (whoever she is) being fired on the grounds that she’s a posturing, disloyal ninny.

Mind you, I feel absolutely no sympathy for Dyke. It must have made him feel all noble and crusading and on the side of the angels to accuse the organisation he ran of being racist (because that’s what his remarks boiled down to). Now, the shoe is on the other foot, the biter has been well and truly bit, and yet another morally superior liberal has been hoist by his own petard. Good!


  1. "I have no idea whether Dyke has got the right people on his commission. In fact, I suspect the whole thing’s a waste of time....". I suspect you may be 100% accurate.

    I looked up Heather "Brer" Rabbatts. She's been on Desert Island Discs, no less. So BBC approved, then. There are numerous images of her. She has the Bonnie Greer "who farted?" look about her which always spells trouble. Since the departure of Sven Goran Erickson and fellow serial shagger Mark Palios the standard of female beauty at the FA has fallen off sharply.

    The FA has been a moribund organisation for years [ see 2001 film "Mike Bassett: England Manager". It has some great moments]. Perhaps people like "Brer" will give it the final kiss of death?

  2. Never seen Mike Bassett - surprised to hear it's okay - will catch it when it gets its inevitable pre-World Cup airing next year.

  3. Dyke's comment sure hit the spot.Word on the street had it that the hideously white were 'donating' their laptops in their guilt shame to all the unhideous denizens of Shepherds Bush and White City like it was Christmas in commuter land.