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Home BBC Watch Less of your cheek: What harrumphing Humphrys should have told Jo Swinson

Less of your cheek: What harrumphing Humphrys should have told Jo Swinson

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Radio 4, Today, 8 February 2018 

Jo Swinson MP to presenter John Humphrys: . . . and just while I have you here, John, have you apologised to Carrie Gracie for the remarks you made about her courageous stance on equal pay?

Humphrys, clearly caught on the hop, but recovering quickly: I wrote an email to Carrie Gracie immediately after that exchange, yes I did, as a matter of fact I did. And she replied. Quite what this has to do with what we’re discussing here I fail to see but there we are. That has answered your question.

What Humphrys should have said: Ms Swinson, whether or not I have apologised to Carrie Gracie is none of your business. I am not sure that someone who has in the past arrogantly charged the taxpayer the cost of cutting a key for her cleaner should now sanctimoniously be demanding public apologies from others. Nevertheless, since you ask, no, I have not apologised to Carrie, for the very simple reason that I have nothing for which to apologise.

I realise that for you any light-hearted private conversation between two men, in which one or both make jokes that do not conform to your world view, is anathema. Fortunately, holding a contrary view or expressing an irreverent opinion not pre-approved by a sub-committee of female MPs has not yet been outlawed, much as you and your fellow grievance-mongers might wish it to be.

Equal pay for equal work, you say? Don’t make me laugh. Should Jon Sopel, whose reports from Washington are far more frequent than any by his Beijing counterpart, and which are on matters of much more interest and importance to most viewers and listeners, be paid significantly more than the China Editor, whether that be a man or woman? Of course he should. Do I believe a broadcaster of my ability, experience and familiarity to the public ought to earn substantially more than Carrie Gracie, whose name and face were, until her stunt over pay, virtually unrecognised? Damn right, I do. And if you and Carrie do not like those opinions, that’s tough.

Carrie Gracie knew the pay when she agreed to the job. So why, when she subsequently judged £135,000 per year to be an insult, management felt inclined to offer a further £45,000, God only knows. Away from the BBC, in environments where employers must earn their money rather than extort it from the public, any employee offered a pay increase of one-third would at least show some gratitude rather than throw a tantrum.

Tell me, Ms Swinson: in what other job, or for which other organisation, can an employee quit their role abroad and unilaterally return to work in London, surrender their seniority, relinquish their responsibility, publicly excoriate their employer and yet seemingly preserve their existing pay? It’s been a neat trick by Carrie, yet you have the temerity to describe such risk-free posturing as a ‘courageous stance’. Perhaps look instead at those women in Tehran currently casting off the hijab in protest at theocratic oppression, a matter upon which you and other professed feminists have been conspicuously silent. That, Ms Swinson, is a genuinely ‘courageous stance’ – it emphatically is not a description that applies to a hissy fit by a privileged member of the middle-class sisterhood.

And just while I have you here, Ms Swinson, I note that you have personally been in the news this past week, being hailed for your ‘bravery’ in joining the #MeToo club. I read that your newly published book Equal Power includes the claim that as a 19-year-old student at LSE you fended off an attempted rape by someone previously thought to be a ‘nice young man’.

Can I ask to why you have chosen to go public with this now? Two decades later?

Oh, I’m terribly sorry, we are right out of time for you to reply. Jo Swinson, another time maybe, thank you.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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