Sacked for joking about the Queen

A musical response to the absurd sacking of the radio DJ Tom Binns

As we prepare to enter 2010 here's a candidate for most absurd sacking of the year. The radio DJ Tom Binns has been dismissed after interrupting the Queen's Christmas message on air, saying: "Two words: bor-ring."

The humourless directors of BRMB, a Birmingham radio station, took fright after a handful of listeners complained. That the station had not planned to broadcast any of the speech (it mistakenly picked up a feed) was not, apparently, grounds for leniency.

Binns's sacking is indicative of the post-Sachsgate climate of fear and of the extraordinary deference the media continue to show to the royal family. We have grown used to the subservience adopted by the BBC when reporting on the monarchy and, depressingly, this attitude now seems to infect the commercial sector, too.

Binns's swangsong was distinguished by at least one decent gag. As he segued into Wham's "Last Christmas" he quipped, "From one queen to another . . ."

Had the voice of Elizabeth Windsor invaded my broadcast (in my student days I anchored a show, Clash, Fuse and Amplify, on Radio Warwick), I would have retaliated with something far stronger.

So, as an antidote to the apologists of the airwaves, here are two of the finest republican songs, the Stone Roses' "Elizabeth My Dear" and the Smiths' "The Queen Is Dead". Enjoy.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Harriet Harman warns that the Brexit debate has been dominated by men

The former deputy leader hit out at the marginalisation of women's voices in the EU referendum campaign.

The EU referendum campaign has been dominated by men, Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman warns today. The veteran MP, who was acting Labour leader between May and September last year, said that the absence of female voices in the debate has meant that arguments about the ramifications of Brexit for British women have not been heard.

Harman has written to Sharon White, the Chief of Executive of Ofcom, expressing her “serious concern that the referendum campaign has to date been dominated by men.” She says: “Half the population of this country are women and our membership of the EU is important to women’s lives. Yet men are – as usual – pushing women out.”

Research by Labour has revealed that since the start of this year, just 10 women politicians have appeared on the BBC’s Today programme to discuss the referendum, compared to 48 men. On BBC Breakfast over the same time period, there have been 12 male politicians interviewed on the subject compared to only 2 women. On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, 18 men and 6 women have talked about the referendum.

In her letter, Harman says that the dearth of women “fails to reflect the breadth of voices involved with the campaign and as a consequence, a narrow range [of] issues ends up being discussed, leaving many women feeling shut out of the national debate.”

Harman calls on Ofcom “to do what it can amongst broadcasters to help ensure women are properly represented on broadcast media and that serious issues affecting female voters are given adequate media coverage.” 

She says: "women are being excluded and the debate narrowed.  The broadcasters have to keep a balance between those who want remain and those who want to leave. They should have a balance between men and women." 

A report published by Loughborough University yesterday found that women have been “significantly marginalised” in reporting of the referendum, with just 16 per cent of TV appearances on the subject being by women. Additionally, none of the ten individuals who have received the most press coverage on the topic is a woman.

Harman's intervention comes amidst increasing concerns that many if not all of the new “metro mayors” elected from next year will be men. Despite Greater Manchester having an equal number of male and female Labour MPs, the current candidates for the Labour nomination for the new Manchester mayoralty are all men. Luciana Berger, the Shadow Minister for mental health, is reportedly considering running to be Labour’s candidate for mayor of the Liverpool city region, but will face strong competition from incumbent mayor Joe Anderson and fellow MP Steve Rotheram.

Last week, Harriet Harman tweeted her hope that some of the new mayors would be women.  

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.