Denise Robertson: BBC needs to rebuild public trust

Righteous self-worship exists in all organs of power, including the BBC, who need to rebuild public trust according to Tory Chairman Grant Shapps

Dave Thompson/PA Wire Tory party chairman Grant Shapps
Tory party chairman Grant Shapps

Tory Chairman Grant Shapps is becoming so adept at putting his foot in it he should be employed by Jimmy Choo but his comments about the BBC needing to rebuild public trust bear consideration, especially in the light of a survey last week which found 70% of voters want the licence fee abolished or reduced.

A BBC spokesman said transparency and freedom from political pressure were key to the BBC’s future.

That’s media speak for ‘You can’t lay a glove on us. We’re too important.’ Some of their programmes and some of their presenters are biased, their system of pay-offs is a scandal, their tolerance of Saville obscene but their total self-satisfaction will stop them seeing it let alone correcting it. Which is a shame because so much of what they do is magnificent.

The same climate of righteous self-worship exists in all the organs of power. It was the belief of senior officers that the police force was above reproach that allowed a handful of dishonest officers to blacken the force’s name.

The myth that all nurses are saints allowed Stafford and Winterbourne to happen.

Most nurses, male and female, ARE angelic but it’s not automatic. The impression that MPs were incorruptible allowed the expenses scandal.

Last week I attended a meeting of journalists in London. The self-satisfaction in the room was almost palpable. Only one speaker, a distinguished writer, hinted at the possibility that there might be room for improvement and he was smartly slapped down.

The professions wield enormous power in this country but with power comes responsibility. Occasional Self-doubt is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of someone in touch with reality.

For weeks Labour has been telling us Britain was full of desperate people who, through no fault of their own, couldn’t afford their fuel bills.

Why then, in their party political broadcast, did they present us with Beresford Casey, millionaire owner of a posh burger chain where you can pay £10.95 for a cheeseburger and the champagne which accompanies it will set you back £54.95 a bottle? Do they expect us to believe that Mr. Casey will have to choose between heating and eating in his £1.5million home?

Another ‘breadline-interviewee’ was Jack Monroe, a single mum who gave up a £27,000 salary in 2011 because she wanted to be a full-time mother, living on benefits. She has since found a lucrative sideline as a food blogger for The Guardian, writing about her experience of living on benefits.

In the broadcast, she says: ‘You know in your head it’s not normal to put your child in a fleecy babygro and a jumper to go to bed, or to go to bed at 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening because you’ve got nothing else to do, nothing to entertain yourself with and the flat is cold and dark’. So why did she give up a salary most people would envy?

Do Labour think we’re too thick to spot a phoney? Couldn’t they be bothered to find the many people who are in real, desperate fuel poverty?

This slapdash approach is frightening because we have never been in more need of being able to trust what major political parties say. How else can we decide where our allegiance lies?

:: If Sharon Shoesmith had displayed one shred of compassion over the savage death of Baby P, she might still be in post today.

A baby had died in terrible circumstances but she declared that ‘all the action taken was correct’.

She was being paid £133,000-a-year to keep children safe but at the time of his death, after more than 60 official visits, there were over 50 injuries on Baby P’s tiny body, one of them a broken back.

Shoesmith maintained it wasn’t the fault of her department, despite serious concerns raised by a whistleblower.

Later still, on Womens’ Hour, she stubbornly refused to show contrition. The public needed to hear her say ‘sorry’ but instead she said ‘I’m not in the blame game. I don’t do blame.’

At the time I was appearing on television with the Minister for Children, Ed Balls. I saw his very real distress over the death.

Asked about dismissing Ms. Shoesmith, he said he was taking advice.

Anyone who thinks her dismissal was simply a gesture to gain points from the public outcry misjudges the man.

My guess is that few things in his career have scarred him more than the death of Baby P.

The judge who decided her dismissal was unfair, emphasised that he did not consider Shoesmith ‘blameless’, and suggested that she might be entitled to three months’ pay, plus some pensions contributions.

Now, it seems her settlement could be worth as much as £700,000. She has declared herself ‘absolutely thrilled’ at her victory.

I wonder if she will enjoy spending her money.

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