Andrew Neil’s career in journalism and broadcasting is as a grifter using promotion of far-right perspectives as his source of income. At Sky, The Times and The Spectator Neil directed a consensus of encouraging bigotry, xenophobia, racism and othering. The strategy is simultaneously a contribution to a political strategy of creating division and also a tool to benefit financially from the existence of prejudice among readers and viewers.
Though skilled enough to conduct productive interviews with guests and to write eloquently, Neil uses those skills merely as tools to attract positive criticism from unaligned observers so that his professional persona focusses on his performances rather than on his intent.
During his employment at the BBC Neil interrogated adroitly his guests, including conservative politicians and activists, but never queried them on the intrinsic failings or unfairness of conservative ideology. He performed well and received plaudits from within his industry for his work but his success was limited to exposure of inadequacies in methodology.
Neil’s tenure at the BBC was summed up by the cool reaction of rock legend Bobby Gillespie, a guest on Neil’s late evening This Week show.
Meanwhile, throughout his time at the BBC, Neil was (and still is) chair of the company that owns The Spectator magazine that hosts a wide variety of far-right extremists including holocaust deniers.
Neil is an example to follow and to admire for far-right screaming heads and Gits but he is more accomplished as a grifter than his admirers and he promotes a wider range of prejudices. He is what they aspire to be.
Next year Neil will present shows on GB News, a new TV channel, as well as assuming the post of chairman of the channel. Inspired by ratings for right-wing radio channels TalkRadio and LBC, GB News will try to be a British version of Fox News. It will yes-platform extremists, ridicule knowledge and lie incessantly. Neil will fit comfortably into the GB News philosophy. It will be his apotheosis.
His appointment was based on more than his skillset or experience. Neil will bring his false professional persona with him to GB News and that will attract contributors and guests beyond the far-right pit.
Neil’s announcement of his new job was greeted by circle-jerking journalists and talking heads who expressed their eagerness to be invited (and paid) to appear.
BBC’s Amol Rajan: “Thirty-two years ago Andrew Neil was founding Chairman of Sky. The chance to play the same role in what could be the biggest shake-up in UK broadcast news for decades was more enticing than the various proposals made by the launch of GB News will be a big moment for British culture.”
Centrist broadcasters and journalists don’t need much persuasion to sell their words to anyone but the presence of the supposedly respected Neil at GB News, rather than just Gits like Grimes, Harwood and Hartley-Brewer (who are certain to be there), helps the centrists assuage their displayed concerns about possibly supporting far-right broadcasting.
In response to his pompous statement of departure from the BBC there were many fawning vomit-inducing ejaculations of support for Neil from centrist hacks desperate to be his mate in order to get some work at GB News.
Daily Mirror’s Pippa Crerar: “A huge loss to the Beeb, which will be less of an institution without you on it. Good luck for what comes next.”
BBC’s Anthony Zurcher: “Andrew Neil may not be a familiar name to many Americans, but he’s one of the best political interviewers out there.”
Mihir Bose: “Good luck Andrew. I much enjoyed working for the Sunday Times when you were the editor and your interviews on BBC were compelling television.”
Guardian’s Gaby Hinsliff: “Whatever you make of him on twitter, Andrew Neil is still the best political interviewer on screen. His departure feels like something of a moment for the BBC.”
BBC’s Chris Mason: “It’s one of the biggest privileges of my career to have reported for your programmes. I’ll never forget those by election nights!”
It’s a very low bar to label Neil’s talent so highly as the above did.
When Andrew Neil first became known on TV decades ago he was ridiculed for wearing an obvious rug on his head. That should have been the limit of our knowledge of him. The continuation of his career as a protagonist in British journalism and television is an indictment of the poor quality of news media. At GB News he found another cesspit in which to wallow, and flies, from both the far-right and the centre, are attracted by the malodorous stink.
The Tories and the British Fox News