Rod Liddle

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Rod Liddle
Born April 1960 (age 54)
Abbey Wood, London, England
Nationality British
Education B.A. in social psychology
Alma mater London School of Economics
Occupation Journalist, Broadcaster
Known for Former editor of Today, BBC Radio 4
Political party
Labour Party[1]
Spouse(s) Rachel Royce (m. January 2004), Alicia Monckton (m. September 2008)
Children Tyler, Wilder, and Emmeline

Roderick E. L. Liddle (born April 1960) is an English journalist.

He is an associate editor of The Spectator, and former editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he is the author of Too Beautiful for You (2003), Love Will Destroy Everything (2007), and co-author of The Best of Liddle Britain (2007). He has presented several television programmes, including The New Fundamentalists, The Trouble with Atheism, and Immigration Is A Time Bomb.

Liddle began his career at the South Wales Echo, then worked for the Labour Party, and later joined the BBC. He become editor of Today in 1998, resigning in 2002 after his employers objected to one of his articles in The Guardian. He has also written for The Sunday Times and The Sun among other publications.

His comments regularly cause controversy in the media, and his acrimonious divorce in 2004 from Rachel Royce received much attention. He was accused of racism for making remarks about the African-Caribbean community and for the content of his posts to an online forum. A November 2011 article by Liddle in The Spectator about the trial of two individuals involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence led to a decision to prosecute the magazine for breaching reporting restrictions. A court hearing was held in June 2012, in which The Spectator pleaded guilty to contempt of court and accepted a fine of £5,000 plus costs.[2][3]

Early life and career[edit]

Liddle was born in Abbey Wood, south London, the son of a train driver. From the age of eight, he was brought up in Nunthorpe, a suburb of Middlesbrough, in north east England.

He was educated at the comprehensive Laurence Jackson School in nearby Guisborough and the adjacent sixth form college, where he formed a punk band called Dangerbird. At 16, he was a member of the Socialist Workers Party[4] remaining a member for about a year,[5] and a supporter of CND around the same time.[6]

He attended the London School of Economics (LSE) as a mature student, where he read Social Psychology.[7][8]

His early career in journalism was with the South Wales Echo in Cardiff where he was a general news reporter and, for a time, the rock and pop writer. He worked between 1983 and 1987 as a speechwriter and researcher for the Labour Party.[9]

BBC[edit]

He returned to journalism after graduating from the LSE, and was taken on as a trainee producer by the BBC.[7] Liddle was appointed editor of the Today programme in 1998.[10] The programme had an unrivalled reputation for its political interviews, but Liddle tried, with some success, to improve the programme's investigative journalism.[8] To this end he hired journalists from outside the BBC. Among the most controversial was Andrew Gilligan, who joined from The Sunday Telegraph in 1999. Gilligan's 29 May 2003 report on Today—that the British government had "sexed up" the intelligence dossier on Iraq, a report broadcast after Liddle had left the programme—began a chain of events that included the death in July that year of David Kelly, the weapons inspector who was Gilligan's source, and the subsequent Hutton Inquiry, a public inquiry into the circumstances of Kelly's death. Liddle defended Gilligan throughout the controversy.[6]

Under Liddle's editorship, Today won a number of awards: a Sony Silver in 2002 for reports by Barnie Choudhury and Mike Thomson into the causes of race riots in the north of England; a Sony Bronze in 2003 for an investigation by Angus Stickler into paedophile priests; and an Amnesty International Media Award in 2003 for Gilligan's investigation into the sale of illegal landmines, an investigation that attracted a lengthy legal action.

While working for Today, Liddle also wrote a column for The Guardian. On 25 September 2002, referring to a march organised by the Countryside Alliance in defence of fox hunting, Liddle wrote that readers may have forgotten why they voted Labour in 1997, but would remember once they saw the people campaigning to save hunting.[11] His column led The Daily Telegraph to accuse Liddle of bias and of endangering democracy.[12] The BBC concluded that Liddle's comments breached his commitment to impartiality as a BBC programme editor, and gave him an ultimatum to stop writing his column or resign from his position on Today. He resigned on 30 September 2002.[13] He said later that when he was editor he was ordered by BBC management to sack Frederick Forsyth from the show, and speculated that it was because of Forsyth's rightwing political views.[14] The BBC replied that the decision was made for editorial reasons.[15] While the staff on Today found Liddle an "inspired editor", the rest of the BBC believed he was "a stroppy, trouble-making loose cannon".[16][8]

After Today[edit]

With Kate Silverton he presented the short-lived BBC2 political show Weekend—described by The Independent on Sunday as "The worst programme anywhere, ever, in the history of time",[17] and BBC4's The Talk Show. He continued to write for The Guardian, and became a team captain on Call My Bluff. He became an associate editor with The Spectator. He also writes for the men's magazines, GQ and Arena, and a weekly column for The Sunday Times.[7]

Television[edit]

The New Fundamentalists[edit]

In The New Fundamentalists, a programme in the Dispatches strand broadcast in March 2006, Liddle, a member of the Church of England, condemned the rise of evangelicalism and Christian fundamentalism in Britain, especially the anti-Darwinian influence of such beliefs in faith schools; and criticised the social teaching and cultural influence of this strand of Christianity. The documentary was criticised by David Hilborn of the Evangelical Alliance,[18] and by Rupert Kaye of the Association of Christian Teachers.[19]

The Trouble with Atheism[edit]

In The Trouble with Atheism, Liddle argued that atheists can be as dogmatic and intolerant as the adherents of religion. Liddle said, "History has shown us that it's not religion that's the problem, but any system of thought that insists that one group of people are inviolably in the right, whereas the others are in the wrong and must somehow be punished."[20] Liddle argues, for example, that eugenic policies are the logical consequence of dogmatic adherence to Darwinism.

Immigration Is A Time Bomb[edit]

Liddle's Immigration Is A Time Bomb was broadcast by Channel 4 in 2005. The complaints that followed it included that he should not have allowed British National Party leader Nick Griffin to speak unchallenged. Ofcom adjudicated that the programme was fair, and the complaints were dismissed. Liddle subsequently argued, after Griffin was acquitted in February 2006 of two charges of inciting racial hatred, that the charges were "too ephemeral, too dependent upon the mindset and political disposition of the juror, and upon what is happening outside of the courtroom, on the streets."[21]

Other work[edit]

In April 2007, Liddle presented a two-hour long theological documentary called The Bible Revolution where he looked back in history to William Tyndale's translation of the Bible in English and the effect this had upon the English language.[22] On 21 May 2007, he presented an hour long documentary, Battle for the Holy Land: Love Thy Neighbour, about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. He visited Bethlehem, Hebron and the Israeli settlement of Tekoa. Liddle sought to examine whether Israel was a true liberal democracy in light of its treatment of the Palestinians. He also appeared in Channel 4's alternative election night episode of Come Dine With Me along with Edwina Curry, Derek Hatton and Brian Paddick. He surprised his fellow guests by serving jerk chicken sourced from a halal butcher.

Later print journalism[edit]

Alleged misogyny and racism[edit]

In August 2009, in his Spectator blog he wrote about Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, in unflattering terms. Liddle began the article by asking: "So — Harriet Harman, then. Would you? I mean after a few beers obviously, not while you were sober."[23] Tanya Gold asserted in The Guardian that Liddle had delivered a "tissue-thin polemic." Pointing out that it was The Spectator '​s cover story that week, Gold wondered if, after 100 years of striving to improve women's rights, whether "we're back in the schoolyard – or is it the brothel?"[24] Rachel Cooke in The Observer nearly two months later recalled finding Liddle's piece "so disgusting I flushed violently all the way from my breastbone to my forehead when I first read it. I looked like I had German measles."[25]

Liddle asserted two months later that the Harman column "was supposed to be a parody of guttural, base sexism", a joke he assumed readers would understand. After the negative response from Gold (and then Cooke, among other female journalists) he continued: "And then I suppose I came to the conclusion – gradually – that I must have got it wrong."[26] In June 2014, he said that of those he had offended, Harman was the one person to whom he would apologise.[27]

In November 2009, again for The Spectator website, he offered "a quick update on what the Muslim savages are up to," a brief article about the stoning to death of a 20-year-old woman in Somalia after she was accused of adultery, and the similar death of a 13-year-old the year before. He made remarks, considered sarcastic, that read: "Incidentally, many Somalis have come to Britain as immigrants recently, where they are widely admired for their strong work ethic, respect for the law and keen, piercing, intelligence."[28][29]

In December 2009, on his Spectator blog, Liddle referred to two black music producers, Brandon Jolie and Kingsley Ogundele, who had plotted to kill Jolie's 15-year-old pregnant girlfriend, as "human filth" and said the incident was not an anomaly. He continued:

The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community. Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks.[30]

When he was accused of racism, Liddle said he was instead engaging in a debate about multiculturalism.[31][32] In March 2010 the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) upheld a complaint against Liddle, who became the first journalist to be censured over the contents of a blog, because he had not been able to prove his claim about the crime statistics.[33] After the publication of London crime figures in June 2010, The Sunday Telegraph suggested Liddle was largely right on some of his claims, but that he was probably wrong on his claims about knife crimes and violent sex crimes.[34]

Independent editor rumour and Millwall supporters website[edit]

The Guardian reported on 8 January 2010 that the expected purchase of The Independent by Alexander Lebedev, a Russian billionaire, would be followed by the appointment of Liddle as editor.[35] Roy Greenslade wrote on 11 January that the reports were provoking a "major internal and external revolt" by The Independent's staff and readers.[36] The stories about Liddle's posts on Millwall Online apparently further reduced the likelihood of his being offered the job.[37] Finally, on 19 February, Stephen Brook of The Guardian reported that Liddle was no longer in the running for the post.[38] Tim Luckhurst, Professor of Journalism at the University of Kent, argued that Liddle's chance of editing The Independent was removed "by the people behind a viciously intolerant campaign of liberal bigotry".[39]

In January 2010, the Mail on Sunday and The Observer drew attention to allegedly racist and misogynist comments posted under the username "monkeymfc"—a name Liddle has used—on Millwall Online, a fan club web forum with no official connection to the Millwall Football Club. Liddle at first attributed some of the comments to opposition fans logging in under his name to embarrass him. He later admitted he had written some of the posts that were being criticised, including one in support of the BNP excluding Black and Asian people from the party.[40] Another post, in which he joked about not being able to smoke at Auschwitz, led to his being forced to explain what he meant in The Jewish Chronicle.[37] While he said in June 2014 that his comments were taken out of context, he does not regret making them. "No. Never. Absolutely not. I thought about my mates at Millwall Online, God I respect them so much more than these other people, these ghastly fucking people."[27]

Stephen Lawrence, Lee Rigby and the disabled[edit]

In November 2011, an article by Liddle for The Spectator suggested the trial of two men accused (and later convicted) of murdering Stephen Lawrence would not be fair.[41] It was referred to the Attorney General (Dominic Grieve) by the judge for possible contempt of court,[42] and he ordered the jurors not to read it. Having decided that it may have breached a court order, Grieve passed the case on to the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions.[43] The decision that The Spectator was to be prosecuted by the CPS for breaching reporting restrictions was announced on 9 May 2012, with a court hearing scheduled for 7 June, although Liddle as the author was not himself liable for prosecution.[2] Fraser Nelson, the magazine's editor, announced that the prosecution would not be contested,[44] and the magazine pleaded guilty at the hearing. The magazine's fine was £3,000, plus £2,000 compensation to Stephen Lawrence's parents and £625 costs.[45]

In January 2012, Liddle claimed that many people in the UK were "pretending to be disabled" in his column for The Sun,[46] an opinion defended by James Delingpole who thought "Rod's point is well made".[47] Frances Ryan in The Guardian accused him of "belittling something that on a daily basis affects real people" who can be "a huge benefit to society. Maybe for a month Liddle would like to try that."[48]

On 23 May 2013, Liddle wrote about the murder of soldier Lee Rigby near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, London. In the original version of a blog article for The Spectator, he referred to the perpetrators as "two black savages".[49] After many objections to his language use,[50] this phrase was modified.[51] Liddle apologised.[49][52]

BBC coverage of the death of Nelson Mandela[edit]

In December 2013 in a blog article for The Spectator website published shortly after Nelson Mandela died, Rod Liddle wrote of BBC coverage:

But for Christ’s sake BBC, give it a bloody break for five minutes, will you? It’s as if the poor bugger now has to bear your entire self-flagellating white post-colonial bien pensant guilt; look! Famous nice black man dies! Let’s re-run the entire history of South Africa. That’s better than watching the country we’re in being flattened by a storm.[53]

He also wrote:

Look; I’m sorry Nelson Mandela is dead. It happens quite often to people in their 90s who have been very ill, even famous people, but I’m sure that doesn’t lessen the sadness for many of us. I never met the man but, on balance, I came to the conclusion that he was a force for good rather than ill. I think I came to that rather banal and broad brush conclusion twenty years ago, or maybe fifteen. So, I’m sorry he’s dead, I wish it were otherwise.[53][54]

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, tweeted a "Rod Liddle decision tree" which described Liddle as a "wind-up merchant".[54][55]

Books[edit]

In 2003, Liddle wrote a collection of short stories, Too Beautiful For You.[56] He said he has always wanted to be a writer, and saw journalism as a cop-out.[6] He is also the author of Love Will Destroy Everything (2007) and the co-author of The Best of Liddle Britain (2007).

Selfish Whining Monkeys: How we Ended Up Greedy, Narcissistic and Unhappy, appeared in 2014. Admitting to having paid little attention to Liddle's journalism, Will Self, in his review for The Guardian wrote: "it's so much more authoritative to hear a man condemned out of his own mouth over 200-plus pages than it is to assay him on the basis of newspaper columns, which, by and large, favour polarised views tendentiously expressed." Despite his serious reservations about Liddle's writing, Self concludes: "The peculiar thing is that I can't find it in my heart of hearts to dislike the man, I think there's good in him and that he can change his bilious complexion."[57] Liddle responded to Self's review in an interview with Archie Bland of The Independent a few weeks later: "He reviewed what he thought I was, not what the book was about. Bizarre. I think it's slightly deranged."[58]

Personal life[edit]

Liddle met Rachel Royce, a television presenter, at the BBC in 1993, and the couple soon became romantically involved.[59] In January 2004 at a ceremony in Malaysia the couple married. They had been living in Heytesbury, Wiltshire, and had two sons together, Tyler and Wilder.[59] Six months later, Liddle moved in with Alicia Monckton, a 22-year-old receptionist at The Spectator. It transpired that he had cut his honeymoon with Royce short so that he could be with Monckton.[59] Following their divorce, Liddle and Royce exchanged attacks in the media. Liddle called her a "total slut and slattern",[60] and Royce wrote an article in the Daily Mail titled "My cheating husband Rod, 10 bags of manure and me the bunny boiler. As for The Slapper... she's welcome to him".[61]

On 5 May 2005, he was arrested for common assault against Monckton, who was 20 weeks pregnant at the time. He admitted the offence and accepted a police caution, but asserted later that he did so only because it was the quickest way for him to be released, and that he had not assaulted her.[62] The couple's daughter, Emmeline, named after the suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, was born in October 2005.[26] The couple married in September 2008.[63]

Liddle has supported Millwall Football Club since the age of seven. He frequently attends home and away games. He has written several articles lamenting the demise of football as the people's game.[64]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Liddle, Rod. "So some people actually voted for Abbott?", The Spectator, 26 September 2010
  2. ^ a b Owen Boycott "Spectator magazine to face charge over article on Stephen Lawrence trial",The Guardian, 9 May 2012
  3. ^ Halliday, Josh (7 June 2012). "Spectator to pay out £5,625 over Rod Liddle's Stephen Lawrence article". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Rod Liddle "Britain's great divide: London versus the rest", The Guardian, 5 June 2002
  5. ^ Rod Liddle "Let's not forget the weirdos and halfwits", The Spectator, 16 December 2005.
  6. ^ a b c Barber, Lynn. "Liddle at large", The Observer, 5 October 2003
  7. ^ a b c "Profile: Rod Liddle: How to sex up – and mess up – your life", The Times, 11 July 2004.
  8. ^ a b c Leapman, Michael "The New Statesman Interview – Rod Liddle", New Statesman, 30 July 2001
  9. ^ "Rod Liddle", BBC News, 29 September 2005
  10. ^ "This week's panel", BBC News, 2 April 2008
  11. ^ Liddle, Rod. "Marching back to Labour", The Guardian, 25 September 2002
  12. ^ Day, Julia. "Telegraph accuses Liddle of political bias", The Guardian, 26 September 2002.
  13. ^ "BBC editor steps down", BBC News, 30 September 2002.
  14. ^ Wilson, Jamie. "Liddle 'ordered to sack Forsyth'", The Guardian, 3 February 2003
  15. ^ "BBC rejects Liddle comments", BBC News, 3 February 2003
  16. ^ Tom Leonard and Matt Born "Surprising? Engaging? Then apply to be tomorrow's editor for Today", telegraph.co.uk, 4 October 2002
  17. ^ Stephen Brook "Rod Liddle: outspoken figure whose views may clash with Indy values", theguardian.co, 8 January 2010
  18. ^ 'Dispatches: The New Fundamentalists', Evangelical Alliance, 9 March 2006.
  19. ^ Kaye, Rupert. "The New Fundamentalists", Association of Christian Teachers, 7 March 2006.
  20. ^ Busfield, Steve. "The pronouncements of Rod Liddle", The Guardian, 8 January 2010.
  21. ^ Liddle, Rod. "Alas, I must defend the BNP", The Times, 5 February 2006.
  22. ^ "The Bible Revolution", Channel 4. Archived by the Internet Archive on 13 February 2007.
  23. ^ Rod Liddle "Harriet Harman is either thick or criminally disingenuous", The Spectator, 5 August 2009
  24. ^ Tanya Gold "Swoop, apply lipstick, swoop again", The Guardian, 8 August 2009
  25. ^ Rachel Cooke "Harriet Harman: 'Nobody believes me, but I am not ambitious'", The Observer, 27 September 2009
  26. ^ a b Viv Groskop "Rod Liddle: Maybe I was wrong to say I wouldn't sleep with Harriet Harman", Evening Standard (This is London website), 2 October 2009
  27. ^ a b Simon Hattenstone "Rod Liddle interview: 'I'm not a bigot'", The Guardian, 13 June 2014
  28. ^ Hughes, Mark. "Liddle under fire over 'racist' blog", The Independent, 7 December 2009
  29. ^ Liddle, Rod. "Muslim savages update", The Spectator, 19 November 2009
  30. ^ Liddle, Rod. "Benefits of a multi-cultural Britain", The Spectator, 5 December 2009.
  31. ^ Irvine, Chris. "Rod Liddle accused of racism for blog", The Daily Telegraph, 7 December 2009
  32. ^ West, Ed. By talking frankly about black crime, Rod Liddle is combatting racism, not causing it, The Daily Telegraph, 7 December 2009
  33. ^ Plunkett, John. "Rod Liddle censured by the PCC", The Guardian, 29 March 2010
  34. ^ Alderson, Andrew. "Violent inner-city crime, the figures, and a question of race", The Daily Telegraph, 26 June 2010
  35. ^ Sweney, Mark and Brook, Stephen. "Rod Liddle lined up to edit Independent", The Guardian, 8 January 2010.
  36. ^ Greenslade, Roy. "Independent faces revolt from staff and readers if Liddle becomes editor", The Guardian, 11 January 2010
  37. ^ a b James Robinson "Rod Liddle defends quip about Auschwitz on Millwall fans' forum", The Guardian, 22 January 2010
  38. ^ Brook, Stephen. "Rod Liddle no longer in running for Independent editor", The Guardian, 19 February 2010
  39. ^ Tim Luckhurst "How the 'liberal' mob did Rod Liddle in", The Guardian, 19 February 2012
  40. ^ Owen, Glen. "Former Today editor Rod Liddle under fire over 'racist' posts on football supporters' website", Mail on Sunday, 17 January 2010; Preston, Peter. "Liddle plus Lebedev hardly adds up to Independent thinking", The Observer, 17 January 2010.
  41. ^ Dominic Ponsford "The Rod Liddle article which threatened Stephen Lawrence trial as it had barely begun", Press Gazette (blog), 4 January 2012
  42. ^ "Spectator referred for 'contempt'", BBC News, 17 November 2011
  43. ^ Jason Deans "Spectator article on Stephen Lawrence trial referred to DPP", The Guardian, 29 November 2011
  44. ^ "Spectator charged over Stephen Lawrence article", BBC News, 9 May 2012
  45. ^ Josh Halliday "Spectator to pay out £5,625 over Rod Liddle's Stephen Lawrence article", The Guardian, 7 June 2012
  46. ^ 'Monkey' "A Liddle more controversy as Rod's Sun column angers the disabled", The Guardian (Media Monkey blog), 26 January 2012
  47. ^ James Delingpole "The fake disabled are crippling our economy", Telegraph (blog), 26 January 2012
  48. ^ Frances Ryan "Rod Liddle's attack on disability cannot be ignored", theguardian.com (blog), 30 January 2012
  49. ^ a b The revised version refers to "two savages". See Rod Liddle "The words ‘terrorist attack’ only dignify the barbarism", The Spectator (blog), 23 May 2013
  50. ^ "Rod Liddle's 'Two Black Savages' Spectator Blog Draws Accusations Of Racism", The Huffington Post, 28 May 2013
  51. ^ Musa Okwonga "Rod Liddle, 'black savages', and Louise Mensch", The Independent, 31 May 2013
  52. ^ William Turvill "Spectator's Rod Liddle apologises for describing Woolwich attackers as 'black savages'", Press Gazette, 28 May 2013
  53. ^ a b Rod Liddle "Nelson Mandela dies, aged 95", The Spectator (blog), 5 December 2013
  54. ^ a b Plunkett, John (6 December 2013). "Rod Liddle criticises BBC for too much coverage of Nelson Mandela death". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  55. ^ Tomas Javinda "Rod Liddle criticised for describing death of Nelson Mandela as ‘famous nice black man dies’", The Independent, 6 December 2013
  56. ^ Jeffreys, Susan. "Too Beautiful For You By Rod Liddle", The Independent, 3 October 2003.
  57. ^ Will Self "Selfish, Whining Monkeys by Rod Liddle review – why is he so angry?", The Guardian, 22 May 2014
  58. ^ Archie Bland "Rod Liddle gives his critics plenty of reasons to dislike him - but why does he seem to loathe himself so much?", The Independent, 12 June 2014
  59. ^ a b c Burleigh, James. "The cheating, the rows, the revenge: Liddle and Royce spill their vitriol (and manure) in public", The Independent, 12 July 2004.
  60. ^ Cassandra Jardine "'Men always want other women'", Daily Telegraph, 13 July 2004
  61. ^ Smith, David. "The bitter fallout from a media divorce", The Observer, 11 July 2004.
  62. ^ Bloomfield, Steve. "Oh dear, the telephone puts poor Rod on the hook again", The Independent, 8 May 2005.
  63. ^ Todd, Ben. "'Why I love marriage' by serial philanderer Rod Liddle", Daily Mail, 13 July 2011.
  64. ^ Liddle, Rod. "We love you, Millwall, we do", The Guardian, 29 January 2003

External links[edit]