One of the more interesting media stories to emerge this week concerned an ill advised late night social media post by Andrew Neil. It seems that Neil, who presents a number of political programmes for the BBC, sent a tweet at 3.15am which described Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr as a “mad cat woman” and referred to her as “Karol Codswallop”.
To my mind this raises two important questions. The first concerns how much longer Andrew Neil can get away with continually ignoring the convention of political neutrality which BBC journalists are supposed to uphold? The second is why do middle aged men keep making fools of themselves by posting embarrassingly inappropriate material on line in the wee small hours?
Carole Cadwalladr is an award-winning journalist who has broken a number of important stories, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Neil’s criticism of her has been widely criticised for being both sexist and politically motivated. It’s certainly difficult to imagine him making similar comments about a male journalist from a right of centre newspaper.
Unlike most political broadcasters, Neil does little to hide his right wing views. Last year I read Craig Oliver’s Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit. In the book Oliver, who was David Cameron’s Director of Communications at No10, records Andrew Neil visiting Conservative Party offices to conduct media training for Tory ministers.
The BBC continues to have faith in Neil, even though this latest tweet surely damages his credibility. We can only imagine the furore in the Daily Mail if the BBC’s flagship political shows were fronted by a Guardian leftie such as Owen Jones!
Of course, Andrew Neil is not the only right of centre middle-aged male to regret late night twitter posts. Earlier this year Toby Young was forced to resign from a post at the Office for Students after public disquiet over a number of allegedly homophobic and sexist tweets.
While I was working in Local Government I was frequently asked for advice on social media use by Councillors. The one thing I always stressed to them was not to post online anything late at night, especially if they were in a tired and emotional state. I stand by that advice.