Do we really care more about Prince Philip than Barack Obama?

A strange decision by the "establishment" BBC.

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm not the biggest of Barack Obama fans. But I do recognise that he is the world's biggest, most important and perhaps most interesting political figure.

Evidently, the bosses at the Beeb disagree. From the Metro:

The BBC has downgraded Prince Harry, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, meaning their deaths are no longer important enough to interrupt normal programmes.

Princess Anne, Princes Andrew and Edward and the Countess of Wessex have also been removed from the "death list" although their departures will still be treated as major breaking news events.

They are now in a category known as "other notables" that includes Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair and Nick Clegg.

The new protocol has been drawn up by a group of senior BBC executives, including deputy director general Mark Byford. The details, seen by the Mail on Sunday, have been sent to all senior BBC news staff, editors, producers and reporters.

Category 1 consists of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Prince William and remains unchanged. If they die there will be the immediate interruption of BBC1, BBC2 and the BBC News Channel, with an official announcement normally via a Buckingham Palace statement.

I get the downgrading of Anne, Andrew and Edward -- would even the Queen notice if they dropped dead? But Obama? Brown? Would people really care more about the (inevitable) death of the boorish and ancient Philip than they would about the sudden and shocking death of the leader of the free world?

Is Obama equal in importance only to Nick Clegg?? And does the hypothetical death of Wills affect our lives more than the hypothetical death of the British Prime Minister?

Madness. Sheer madness. And another arrow in the quiver (to borrow a phrase from the man sitting behind me) for those of us who argue that the BBC has a conservative, establishment bias.

 

 

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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