'It's been a bonkers week in News, but all everyone's talking about is an ex-Footballer and crisps salesman', says Mark Dolan

'It's been a bonkers week in News, but all everyone's talking about is an ex-Footballer and crisps salesman', says Mark Dolan
Mark Dolan

By Mark Dolan

Published: 12/03/2023

- 21:50

Updated: 12/03/2023

- 22:26

What a bonkers week. As a major US bank collapses, provoking fears of another credit crunch, as Brits struggle with a cost of living crisis, with inflation through the roof, with a pivotal budget coming up this week, which will seal the fate of the economy for the next few years, and with a war continuing to rage in the east, having an ongoing impact on western energy supplies, we're talking about: Ex-footballer and crisp salesman, Gary Lineker.

At first glance, it's trivial, but in reality, it's anything but, because it's revealed how fractured the national conversation is on so many issues, and it’s a drama which has severely tested the reputation of our state broadcaster the BBC. Why? Well, for all its strengths and weaknesses – and I think there are plenty of great radio and TV programmes that it produces – the foundation of the BBC must be impartiality.

The Beeb - like Marks & Spencer, Costa Coffee and British Gas - must be a service for all. We can debate the rights and wrongs of Rishi Sunak's migrant policy, but for one of the organisations biggest stars to create this incredible political row has created a nightmare and an existential crisis for his employer. And I'm not sure that helps anyone, given the Beeb’s revered global footprint and its outstanding legacy of television, radio, online output and film production. A talented guy though he is, ratings for match of the day actually soared by half a million last night, and the brilliant Patrick Christies and myself nicked a good few thousand viewers off him as well. Patrick, the team and I, put the programme together in an afternoon, with a budget of 11p.

Let me put it to you straight. I think Gary Lineker is a preening narcissist, whose political pronouncements exist only to signal what a lovely guy he is. Except that his participation in the horrific world cup in Qatar, at stadia built by slaves – 6000 of whom died in the 40-degree heat – and his battle with HMRC, to get his tax bill down by millions, send quite a different message. And I don't think he gives two figs about the BBC, which is why he has - time and again - flouted their very important impartiality guidelines.

You just can't force people to pay a public tax, which is what the license fee is, for presenters on the public payroll to then wag their finger, take sides on a complex and divisive issue like migration and effectively demonise half the population who want something done, as a bunch of heartless racists.

It’s my view that we must accept people who need refuge – we always have – and we must have a healthy debate about how many. But in my view, the illegal crossings are a humanitarian, economic and national security disaster, which cost lives, impact local communities and enrich unscrupulous international criminals. A knee-jerk reaction, and an impulse to “do the right thing” and “be nice” in relation to the migrant crisis is really tipping your hat to the idea of an open borders policy, with no thought of the long term consequences. Particularly in relation to infrastructure – housing, school places, and an NHS already on its knees. In the end, democracy will save us, and this difficult issue will be settled at the next election. But be clear, I think Lineker and his multimillionaire supporters are out of touch with British public sentiment, which I believe will be reflected in the outcome when Sunak goes to the country. Now Gary Lineker has his supporters, but history is a harsh teacher, and the clamour to "do the right” and “be nice” during the pandemic saw the country locked down - on and off - for 2 1/2 years, as we paid perfectly healthy people to stay at home, wrecking the economy to the tune of half a billion pounds and cranking the national debt up to £2.1 trillion.

In my view, people were needlessly, masked, and subjected to vaccine tyranny, all in the name of “doing the right thing” and being “nice”. Wrecking the country doesn’t feel like the “right thing” now does it and a waiting list of 7 million people in the NHS isn’t very nice, is it?

On the national radio and television airwaves, I pushed back on what I considered a damaging and hysterical reaction to a potentially dangerous, but largely mild seasonal respiratory virus. We're seeing the same emotive clamour now, in relation to the migrant crisis. Virtue signalling media types and politicians, screaming their heads off for a policy that has serious implications for this country in the years ahead. Fair play to old Gary Lineker though - he has at least got us having this important national conversation. But it’s one that should be had on programmes like this, and on Question Time. Not match of the day.

What do you think? Many would argue that Gary Lineker has been consistent in his humanitarian views, and that he has taken in refugees and uses his platform to give a voice to those who have none. In the course of this tumultuous week, he has enjoyed a massive outpouring of public support, as well as from his colleagues, and there are plenty of top lawyers who argue the new migrant plan is cruel, illegal, unworkable and morally wrong. So what's your view? Mark@gbnews.uk

You may like