Gary Lineker today refused to apologise and used his reinstatement by the BBC to hammer home his views on migrants, saying those crossing the channel were fleeing persecution – even though they are coming from France. The Mail has the story.
The footballer turned broadcaster, 62, was taken off air for a tweet comparing the language used to launch a new Government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.
But after he was begged to return, his first assignment back on the BBC will be to present live coverage of the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and Burnley on Saturday.
Mr. Lineker said today: “However difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you. We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people. Thank you.”
BBC Director-General Tim Davie said in a statement the corporation would now commission an independent review of its social media guidelines, particularly for freelancers. …
In a follow-up tweet, Gary Lineker said he wanted “to thank Tim Davie for his understanding during this difficult period”.
He added: “He has an almost impossible job keeping everybody happy, particularly in the area of impartiality. I am delighted that we’ll continue to fight the good fight, together.”
Confirming Lineker would return to Match of the Day on Saturday, Mr. Davie said the presenter “will abide by the editorial guidelines” until a review of the BBC’s social media policy is complete.
In his statement issued on Monday, the Director-General said: “Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences. I apologise for this.
“The potential confusion caused by the grey areas of the BBC’s social media guidance that was introduced in 2020 is recognised. I want to get matters resolved and our sport content back on air.”
Mr. Davie told the BBC he did “the right thing” in asking Lineker to step back from presenting duties, but said he “respects the views” of the presenters and pundits who walked out in solidarity with the former England striker.
The BBC Board said it welcomed the agreement between Lineker and the broadcaster, saying it was “the right time” to review its social media guidelines.
It’s a humiliating climbdown for Davie, who has had to commit to revising the guidelines again – having last changed them only in 2020 – instead of enforce them. Why he begged Lineker to return when Match of the Day viewing figures soared by half a million on Saturday – it was shorter and had no presenters – is unclear. Could be onto something there.
Tory MPs are apoplectic about the BBC’s “pathetic capitulation” to Lineker, with Philip Davies calling it a “watershed moment” that will hasten the “end of the road” for the £159-a-year licence fee owing to it causing catastrophic damage to the corporation’s claims of impartiality.
“The BBC can no longer credibly claim that it believes in political impartiality and – more importantly – it has proved that it doesn’t have the stomach to enforce it. It is now a free for all at the BBC,” he added.
There’s no doubt that BBC stars and pundits overwhelmingly spout Left-wing talking points and clichés (in public at least) and that allowing them an online free for all will not do the corporation’s fragile veneer of impartiality any favours. When there’s the ever-present threat of an unhappy Tory Government reforming the anachronistic funding model this is also a major risk to the bottom line.
Nevertheless, the Free Speech Union, in line with its principled opposition to employers placing excessive limits on their employees’ speech outside of work, has said that “if Gary Lineker is punished for ‘bringing the BBC into disrepute’, without the ‘tangible harm’ test being met, we will offer him every assistance. A good outcome will be if the BBC decides to extend more latitude to all its employees when it comes to speech outside the workplace.”
That would certainly seem the principled free speech position, even if it grates to apply it to the wokerati who you know would cancel a heretic in a flash if they thought it would allow them to signal their virtue for a passing moment. Whether such a free-speech policy is consistent with the BBC’s special commitment, as the licence-fee funded national broadcaster, to be (and appear to be) impartial is another matter.
In any case though, Lineker’s smug victory statement was a classic of the virtue-signalling genre in failing to recognise or engage with the issues that most concern people. Saying the last few days don’t compare with “having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away” is just bizarre because it makes precisely the strange comparison that it claims can’t be made and so sounds ridiculous. Of course, a millionaire getting in trouble with his employer for partisan tweeting he’s been warned about numerous times before doesn’t compare with being persecuted and a refugee. Why even bring it up?
As for fleeing persecution and war, Lineker seems once again to be ignoring the fact that the boats are all coming from France. Last time I checked, France was not persecuting anybody or at war. Everyone has sympathy with families fleeing conflict zones of course, and the U.K. is rightly generous towards them. But from May to September of last year, 42% of the people illegally crossing the Channel on small boats were Albanians and Albania is a democracy that hasn’t been at war since 1997. Stopping the boats is about ending human trafficking, preventing unnecessary loss of life and securing the borders. But this has been explained so many times, you can be sure Lineker and friends know it very well, they just don’t care.
Lineker adds: “It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you. We remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people.” But polls consistently show a majority of the U.K. population are concerned about illegal immigration and support measures to stop it. Lineker and his Twitter followers are a vocal but small minority who seem not to care about securing borders, closing high-risk routes and stopping human trafficking. We do indeed “remain a country of predominantly tolerant, welcoming and generous people” – but one that also, rightly, wants to close the illegal and dangerous channel-crossing entry route. Lineker falsely equates support for illegal channel crossings with being “tolerant, welcoming and generous” and wrongly assumes people who support that weird view are in the majority.
Unfortunately, with the BBC now set to revise its guidelines, this means we can look forward to even more insufferable woke grandstanding from Lineker and his fellow luvvies. Free speech it may be; pleasant it ain’t.