Daily Mail says BBC bodyguards for Clarkson threat are waste of money

But yesterday the paper ran a piece on ignored death threats to Jill Dando


The Daily Mail is not happy. News that licence-fee holders are paying for BBC director general Tony Hall’s bodyguards, after he received a death threat over his decision not to renew punch-happy host Jeremy Clarkson’s contract, have brought out the worst in the paper’s leader column.

Though the paper says it has ‘some sympathy’ for Lord Hall, it basically thinks he’s being a big girl’s blouse, at the cost of ‘untold thousands to licence fee payers’. It notes that the police aren’t taking the threat very seriously, adding that “in the internet age, there’s hardly a high-profile figure in the world who hasn’t received vicious hate mail from maniacs and social inadequates.” It goes on:

“Who but a publicly funded corporation would think of incurring such a monstrous expense to protect one of its panjandurms after a single threatening email? […]

“If only the BBC showed one tenth as much concern for those struggling to pay its extortionate fees.”

Leave aside for a moment the question of whether £12.13 a month is ‘extortionate’, (a subscription for the Daily Mail Plus is only £2 cheaper, and doesn’t include television and radio services, let alone drama, comedy, documentaries, or relatively balanced news coverage), and let’s not linger on the paper’s new-found concern for people struggling to pay for things.

Within 24 hours of running this piece, the Mail ran a story online about police failings over death threats made to BBC host Jill Dando, who was killed outside her home in 1999, and her colleagues. If the police had acted differently, or had the BBC arranged for bodyguards to protect Ms Dando, would the Mail have complained about this waste of public money? 

Jill Dando

We needn’t speculate. In 2012, the Mail greeted the publication of author Salman Rushdie’s memoir by accusing him of ingratitude for years of protection by the British state, after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa in 1989 ordering ‘all Muslims’ to kill the Indian-born novelist. Rushdie was a British citizen at the time, and had been to school here, not that it matters.

This January the Mail ran defiant editorials about the murder of journalists in Paris at the magazine Charlie Hebdo. Would the paper have said the protection offered by the French state to the magazine, which included the police officer who was killed in the attack, were a waste of taxpayers’ Euros? Or would the paper be happy so long as it was private bodyguards manning the doors, so that protection is restricted to those who have money?

The Mail’s own news story quotes Tory MP Philip Davies saying:  “Obviously the person who sent it is some kind of nutter. But you never know what these people are capable of.” He continued:

“The BBC are in a difficult position. If they do nothing about it and something dreadful happens, they will be criticised. But if they take some action and nothing happens, they will be accused of over-reacting.”

Well, quite. You need only turn to the paper’s leader column on page 14 for an example.

So the ‘no ifs or buts’ message from the Mail is clear: people who receive death threats should not be killed, but don’t expect us to fork out to protect them.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.