Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Boris Broadcasting Company

Boris Johnson – another politician that simply doesn’t “get it“.

So what do you think, eh?” I turned to the BBC’s art critic, the brilliant, bulging Professor Branestawm lookalike Will Gompertz. We were standing on the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit in Stratford; London was spread beneath us like a land of dreams – was that France I could see in the distance? – and yet I was nervous.

London is a land of dreams but only in the la-la sense.  Ground zero being centred on Westminster, of course.

This sculpture is a masterpiece, far better and more rewarding up close than it appears at a distance. The steel loops are an arterial red, writhing and shifting against each other beneath the blue sky. Anish Kapoor already has many fans, but he has excelled himself with this vast fallopian ampersand, this enigmatic hubble bubble, this proud vertical invitation to London 2012.

This blessed plot, this, earth, this realm, this England?  Give me a break!  That heap of junk would have the Bard himself frothing into his beard. Let’s hope that it gets nicked, weighed in and shipped off to China.   It would be a mercy.

The Orbit is a decisive assertion of the city’s status as the world capital of culture and the arts. That’s my view, anyway, and I am sticking to it, though I am conscious that not everyone agrees.

First we get that ridiculous Olympic 2012 logo foisted upon the event and now this?  Do you really want to associate London’s credibility status in the cultural arts on that tortured miscreation, Boris?  The only way that “sculpture” could be worse is if Tracey Emin had been commissioned to tie used femidoms all over it.

There are plenty of people who absolutely hate the thing, just as most Parisians initially despised the Eiffel Tower (and didn’t Charles Dickens campaign against the building of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster?).

Boris, Boris, Boris.  You can’t go around comparing architectural wonders with a high rise scrap yard.  It just isn’t the done thing, old bean.

I have heard it compared to a catastrophic collision between two cranes, a mutant helter-skelter, a mangled trombone, and worse. So of course I waited with bated breath for the verdict of the BBC.

Why?  Haven’t you got something better to do with your time?  Like mayoral stuff or riding your bike or something?

Did Gompertz like it as much as I did?

Who gives a flying fig?

My friends, he did not.


Or at least, he liked it, but he had two complaints. “It’s not big enough,” he said, “and surely it should be free.” Not big enough! Free! There you have everything that is wrong with the BBC and with this country.

At which point Boris departs from this reality and signs up as a jockey for the Megalodon Steeplechase.

The thing is already colossal – about twice the height of Nelson’s column. If we went much higher we would have to re-route the planes out of City airport. And yes, it costs something to go up – though less than it costs to go up the London Eye – but what is the alternative? The alternative is that the whole operation would have to be subsidised by the taxpayer when it is one of the (many) saving graces of this structure that it has been very largely financed by private sponsorship.

It’s colossal all right.  A colossal eyesore.  And how largely subsidised by private sponsorship is very largely subsidised?  Boris doesn’t say.  It goes without saying that the rest of the money was wrested from the public purse.  So let’s set Boris’ semantics aside and be truthful.  Joe and Joan public have picked up part of the tab for this epic tower of cultural mutilation.

In his criticisms, Gompertz was revealing not the instincts of an art critic – but the mentality of the BBC man. Unlike the zany eccentric ArcelorMittal Orbit, the zany eccentric Gompertz is almost entirely publicly funded. It is up to you whether or not to go up the Orbit – though I thoroughly recommend it. You have no choice about funding Gompertz. Everyone who possesses a TV has to pay more than £145 to put him on air.

So the taxpayers who dug into their pockets to make up the lack of 100% private sponsorship were given a choice, were they?

The BBC is unlike any other media organisation in the free world, in that it levies billions from British households whether they want to watch it or not. No wonder its employees have an innocent belief that everything in life should be “free”. No wonder – and I speak as one who has just fought a campaign in which I sometimes felt that my chief opponent was the local BBC news – the prevailing view of Beeb newsrooms is, with honourable exceptions, statist, corporatist, defeatist, anti-business, Europhile and, above all, overwhelmingly biased to the Left.

Of course they are: the whole lot of them are funded by the taxpayer. Eurosceptic views are still treated as if they were vaguely mad and unpleasant, even though the Eurosceptic analysis has been proved overwhelmingly right.

And the different between the Beeboids and post normal Toryism Cameroonism is…?

In all its lavish coverage of Murdoch, hacking and BSkyB, the BBC never properly explains the reasons why other media organisations – including the BBC – want to shaft a free-market competitor (and this basic dishonesty is spotted by the electorate; it’s one of the reasons real people are so apathetic about the Leveson business).

It’s that same dishonesty so prevalent in party politics that has been spotted by the electorate, Boris.  People have also grown wearily apathetic to the LibLabCons.  Aren’t you aware of the similarities?  Or are you willfully blind to them?

Well, folks, we have a potential solution. In a short while we must appoint a new director-general, to succeed Mark Thompson. If we are really going ahead with Lords reform (why?), then the Lib Dems should allow the Government to appoint someone to run the BBC who is free-market, pro-business and understands the depths of the problems this country faces. We need someone who knows about the work ethic, and cutting costs. We need a Tory, and no mucking around. If we can’t change the Beeb, we can’t change the country.

That isn’t a solution, Boris.  Labour bias, Tory bias, what’s the difference?  We’ll still get bias!  The solution is to scrap the telly licence, remove the BBC from the public teet and let market forces prevail.  Who then will give two hoots what bias the BBC has because we won’t be paying for it.  And who gives a kipper’s dangly bits what the Lib Dems will allow or not.  They lost the last election, Boris.  L. O. S. T. lost!  Stupendously!  iDave seems to have sold his soul to Clegg in order to get his greasy mitts on the crowbar of power only to find it was actually a teaspoon, one that only stirs to the left!  Was it worth it?  Apparently so.

Boris, I like you as a bloke.  You are affable and amusing.  You make interesting documentaries.  However, there is no way, in the seven screaming hells of Wattalottaflanul, I would ever accept you as potential Prime Ministerial material.


  1. mark says:

    British architecture and design are going through a “stoopid” phase – just look at the buses… they look like they’ve been designed to stop toddlers poking their eyes out with them. No sharp edges on anything anymore. Same with supermarket trollies, baskets. Big, round and stupid.
    Just like the people.

    Market forces will never “prevail”, because people often don’t make independent decisions and very often don’t think all when buying things.
    Power limitations within institutions are important, but as we have seen many times, the market mechanism often has a hard job doing it.
    Also, with the economy in the doldrums, it is very unlikely that public spending on building costs the taxpayer very much at all. Unless the government rather stupidly and unneccesarily decides to raise tax for it…

    PS I don’t like the bbc precisely because it tries to compete with the commercial channels. I really can’t see the point in that.

  2. Lynne says:

    Mark, I do believe you missed the point of my market forces comment completely. The BBC should be cast adrift to either sink or swim. I don’t see why I, or anyone one else should be forced to fund a broadcasting company that does not present an unbiased view of the world, particularly a BBC that wipes it bum with its own charter.

  3. john in cheshire says:

    The Orbit, is that what it’s called. For me it’s on a par with that monument to awfulness the socalled Angel of the North. Just because something’s big doesn’t of itself make it great or even good.
    As for the bbc, the sooner it is sold off and left to sink in its own socialist slime, together with the guardian, the better for all of us.

  4. Simon Jester says:

    “how largely subsidised by private sponsorship is very largely subsidised?”

    According to this: , “ArcelorMittal will fund up to £19.6m of the £22.7m project, with £3.1m provided by the London Development Agency.”

  5. Thornavis says:

    Hey mark if you want a discussion about bus design I’m just the man for that, should be a suitably neutral subject with no risk of hostilities breaking out.

  6. Sam Duncan says:

    “post normal Toryism”

    Heh. I might use that.

    As far as I’m concerned, all public statuary stuff should be paid for by public subscription, like it used to be. The libertarian principle that taxation is theft by force is never clearer than when people find they can’t raise the money for their pet projects: “Argh! Nobody’s put up any money for my giant macrame wallhanging of Huckleberry Hound! Hey, you! Gimme that! Or else!”

    And Simon, you have to wonder, if the taxpayer contribution really did constitute such a small proportion, why they didn’t just make the thing a bit shorter…

  7. Simon Jester says:

    Nolo contendere, Sam.

    As far as I’m concerned, the damn thing is a hideous eyesore.

    I just wish that the rest of the Olympics was funded on the same (alleged) basis as the “Orbit”.

    Better still, not at all.

  8. RAB says:

    Looks like a perfect weapons platform for terrorists to me.

    To be fair to Boris, he is saying all the right things about the BBC, but the chances of him or anyone else making it pay its way and not stealing our money via the Licence fee, is nil isn’t it?

    Rancid Rupert is deemed unfit to head News International, but nobody has announced that Chris Patten isn’t fit to run a chip shop, let alone the BBC have they? And the leftie BBC is the biggest most powerful broadcasting organisation on the planet.

    But try telling people that and they look at you funny. “But RAB, the BBC is a national institution, think of all the lovely comedies and period dramas…”

    Yeah, but look at all the lies and leftie propaganda. But most people genuinely don’t see it.

  9. Philip Scott Thomas says:


    To be fair to Boris, he is saying all the right things about the BBC, but the chances of him or anyone else making it pay its way and not stealing our money via the Licence fee, is nil isn’t it?

    Well, that depends on how the hand is played.

    Over at Samizdata there are regular calls for the BBC to be abolished, its buildings torn down, the earth salted and so on. Let’s face it, no party is going to be elected on that platform for precisely the reasons you state – the BBC is the source of all those lovely comedies and period dramas. As a policy it’s just never going to fly.

    But if Jeremy Hunt were to announce, say, the end of the license fee, well, that one might actually fly. I, for one, can think of three alternative ways in which the Beeb could be funded.

    It could a political masterstroke. Any criticism the Government might face from Aunty could be met with a Mandy Rice Davies moment comment. Job done.

  10. Ornithorhynchus says:

    Not being British, I hadn’t even heard of this Orbit thing until now. I went and looked it up, and I have to agree, it is an eyesore (although I’ve seen much worse).

    The closest equivalent to the Beeb in my country is PBS, and it’s funded mostly by private donations. It seems to work out pretty well.
    And I suspect the best comedies and period dramas from the BBC make back all their costs through DVDs and foreign sales.

  11. RAB says:

    And I suspect the best comedies and period dramas from the BBC make back all their costs through DVDs and foreign sales.

    But that’s one of the pissers with the BBC Orni… We have ALREADY paid the costs via the Licence Fee, the foreign sales and DVDs are on top. I can watch BBC stuff on iPlayer while in this country, but the buggers block me from that access when abroad, which I am at least twice a year, despite having paid the bloody tax! They are taking the piss and they know it, and will continue to get away with it. They are planning to extend their remit and open the archives (which we have also bleedin paid for!) and charge us £2 a pop per programme. Dismember it NOW! Dream on RAB…Rant over.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: