SARAH VINE: Why does Gary Lineker get lionised after comparing this country’s elected government to the Nazis – while Fiona Bruce is hung out to dry just for doing her job?
A man compares this country’s democratically elected government to the Third Reich; a woman explains a slightly tricky legal point to an audience on BBC’s Question Time. Can you guess which one is lionised by the Left for being a free-speech hero and which one is condemned for making ‘insensitive and irresponsible’ comments?
Why, it’s the woman who’s condemned, of course. More specifically, Fiona Bruce, who yesterday — just about the same time Gary Lineker was being triumphantly reinstated on Match Of The Day — announced she was stepping back from her role as an ambassador for Refuge after she was accused of trivialising domestic abuse during a discussion about Stanley Johnson.
After panellist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown described him as a ‘wife-beater’, Bruce — who was chairing the show — interjected, explaining to the audience and viewers: ‘Just so everyone knows what this is referring to, Stanley Johnson’s [late ex] wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said that Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and that she’d ended up in hospital as a result.
‘Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that,’ she said, adding, ‘friends of his have said it did happen, it was a one-off.’
All she was doing was explaining the context of what Alibhai-Brown had just said. Which, given the legal implications of calling someone a ‘wife-beater’ and the BBC’s impartiality guidelines (remember those?), she was absolutely required to do.
Gary Lineker pictured leaving his house to take his dog for a walk on Monday following his suspension from and then reinstatement to the BBC
You might have thought she’d be admired for her calm professionalism in a sticky situation. But no. She was immediately attacked by the Left-wing Blob — including the charity Women’s Aid, who chose to misinterpret what she said as an expression of her own opinion — for ‘defending’ a Tory.
The issue, apparently, was the notion that Stanley Johnson’s actions could have been ‘a one-off’, something that according to Women’s Aid ‘is rarely, if ever’ the case. But Bruce was not suggesting that Johnson was innocent; she was simply stating the other view which, as any journalist knows, is the correct thing to do when the facts of a case are disputed. In other words, doing her job.
But the problem with Bruce is that she doesn’t belong to that powerful old boys’ club, led by Alastair Campbell and Piers Morgan, who rode in behind Lineker to launch a co-ordinated counterattack on anyone (including me) who dared question their man’s behaviour.
Nor is she perceived by the Twitter powers-that-be — i.e. the Left-wing keyboard warriors who now seem to think they run this country on the basis of the number of followers or the amount of Retweets they get — as sufficiently woke or virtue signalling.
The problem with Bruce is that she doesn’t belong to that powerful old boys’ club, led by Alastair Campbell and Piers Morgan, who rode in behind Lineker
She’s just a woman and, worst of all, an educated, opinionated, white, middle-aged woman. And we all know how the angry armies of the professionally offended feel about that sort. Our very existence on the face of this earth is an affront to their delicate sensibilities.
As the writer and critic Victoria Smith puts it in her new book, Hags: The Demonisation Of Middle Aged Women, this is a breed that is not only undervalued (both Lineker and Bruce work for the same organisation, and yet he is paid £1.35 million a year, whereas she gets less than a third of that, £410,000) but also increasingly treated with active disdain.
The issue is that like so many women of her and my generation, Bruce stubbornly refuses just to put up and shut up. Nor does she choose to cast herself as a victim or express herself in the strident tones of the permanently triggered. She just gets on with it.
But that’s not the worst of it. Despite being wise, experienced and rather good at what she does, she’s also modest, polite and a little self-deprecating. She lacks that stonking, cast-iron sense of entitlement that men like Lineker, Morgan and Campbell have, that inherent master-of-the-universe confidence that makes them, like generations of men before them, utterly convinced of their own righteousness.
That’s because ours is the first generation of women to be really allowed to do important, grown-up jobs like presenting Question Time — jobs traditionally reserved for men — as opposed to presenting cookery shows and children’s programmes. And if the men haven’t quite got used to it, neither have we. We’re still not quite sure we have a right to our success, even when — in the case of Bruce — we clearly do.
That’s why her reaction to being criticised for her actions was so different to Lineker’s. He rallied his powerful mates, doubled down, dug in — and won. She immediately apologised — even though she had done nothing wrong — and stepped down.
Bruce is a woman who — like so many — has worked incredibly hard in a male-dominated industry to prove her worth. And who, despite a career spanning years, still gets paid a fraction of her male counterparts.
Lineker is an arrogant, entitled ex-footballer who sits in his ivory tower, insulated by male privilege and issuing lofty pronouncements for his own benefit.
Why does he get to win — and she doesn’t?
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