There goes Newton, there goes the neighbourhood, and there goes the show..

I really don’t know what to make of this. After deciding to make Newton Emerson the one piece of spectacular talent on the replacement for Hearts and Minds, the BBC have sacked their ‘official smart arse’ over something he said about the SDLP on Twitter [It was Facebook you a*, ah, better not – Ed].

Now, I don’t know whether to laugh or weep. The SDLP just put the in the complaint they say. They didn’t ask the BBC to sack him. Well, quite. But hey that’s what happens when you disband a production team that had experience, judgement and nerve.

Besides as Alex Kane has already said on Twitter, did they not know who they were getting when they booked him?

All political parties will try it on, with journalists, bloggers or bulletin board owners. This might as well be an advertisement in 12 foot letters, we’ll do whatever you ask, if only you put it writing and send to the complaints department.

It’s not the first time Newt’s been sacked for stepping on someone else’s tender toes. Depriving someone of (part of) their livelihood is a great way to keep the whole self censorship gig in motion.

But really BBC? Someone in Ormeau Avenue is mistaking current affairs for light entertainment. Sometimes BBC NI is just a little too eager to give the impression they actually serve politicians rather than the licence fee payers.

  • Robbie

    I think I remember this. Was it not on Malachi O’Doherty’s profile? I remember because I commented on it too. I did find it strange that the SDLP was singled out for blame on the issue of that commemoration because they apparently backed it. Why not allocate blame to those who actually shot the DUP representative?

    ‘Sometimes BBC NI is just a little too eager to give the impression they actually serve politicians rather than the licence fee payers.’

    Not really. Doesn’t this give the chance to another face or voice to speak on public affairs here? Or is an Irish News column, the detail, etc etc not enough? The wider point this item could, actually should have made, is how many of the same people are given all that goes here, same names, same faces, leading to same points of view. It’s a condition which characterizes many walks of life in Northern Ireland. More profound point missed; instead the very conservative line of this item is ‘the same person should have got it – stick with what we know’. Stale stuff.

  • Robbie, the SDLP behaviour in the council chamber has done serious damage to one of the party’s very laudable assertions:

    Truth, healing, justice and dealing with our past will be stalled if those who know the most and did the worst over the years of conflict in state organizations and illegal groups fail to step forward in openness and honesty.

    Instead of stepping forward in support of a victim it stepped back, apparently, in competition for the nationalist vote. Running to the BBC would seem to rule out the other option that failure to support the SF motion would have exposed its members to attack.

  • tacapall

    “To step forward in openness and honesty.”

    I think thats exactly what the SDLP did do, It supported the idea there cant be one law for one and another for everyone else. Brian Feeny asks that question below.

    “Why are there no prosecutions of those officers who colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in the murder of innocent people.

    http://www.u.tv/News/Loyalist-tension-over-UVF-probe/9fdc8cf4-9039-4cfc-ad58-676b0573938d

  • “I think thats exactly what the SDLP did do”

    tacapal, the SDLP was faced with a choice in the council chamber: it opted for the convicted attacker rather than the victim, a victim who continues to be the target of attacks. On that basis, they would be justified in supporting other attackers, irrespective of their background.

  • tacapall

    The SDLP condemned whats been happening to Sammy Brush and support him in that regard but they as a party cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the law is being pursued and applied in a cynical and impartial fashion. They’re making a statement and its about time,

  • tacapall, AFAIK the SDLP didn’t have to support a Republican dissident; it could have voted against the motion.

  • tacapall

    Dissident ! So anyone who disagrees with the political arrangements we have in place is a dissident, so is Jim Allister and the TUV loyalist dissidents ?

    This is about the fundamental principles of what democracy is, that the rule of law applies to all. If there’s going to be exceptions then “Not in the public interest” should apply to all historical cases.

  • tacapall, IIRC Martin McGuinness referred to the Republican dissidents as micro-groups. Perhaps SF faces a particular problem in that part of Tyrone from folks who failed to ‘flip’ post-1994.

    [Application of the rule of law to all is worthy of a thread on its own.]

  • BluesJazz

    So.
    The BBC (for decades) supported (and rewarded) a serial paedophile and covered up for him and others, pathetically squirming out under the door in anguish after 40 years of child abuse.

    A commentator makes a remark that a party (SDLP) group on a local council are pathetic for supporting the attempted murder of one of their local councillors – albeit from a different party-and is immediately firedby the BBC.

    Strange institution the Beeb.

  • The BBC is a strange beast – rolled over by the SDLP yet stands its ground against Donald Trump.

  • As usual in these circumstances, I declare an interest ..I am a member of SDLP.
    It is of course entirely reasonable for reasonable people to hold the view that Mr Emerson is a victim. It is also entirely reasonable for reasonable people to hold that he is NOT a victim.
    Reasonable people can have an honest difference of opinion on that.
    I hold the view that he is not a victim.

    Mr Samuel Brush, a councillor in Dungannon IS clearly a victim. He is a member of the DUP. His Party is in coalition (mostly) with Sinn Féin, many of whom have certainly been convicted of serious offences and others, many of whom have allegedly been involved in serious crime.
    DUP and Sinn Fein seem to have a cosy enough relationship.
    It seems odd therefore that a commentator would pour this much vitriol on SDLP.
    For some years the SDLP has been portrayed as chaotic by several commentators….not least by me on this very site prior to 2011.
    SDLP members (including myself since 2011), voters and potential voters have wanted the SDLP to find its voice (or as another Sluggerite noted in another thread its “backbone”).
    There has I suspect been a period of soul searching by SDLP and the past few months, members voters and potential voters might be re-assured.
    Its all part of a larger narrative which the public (at least) will see as Girdwood, Parades, Nelson McCausland………and prisoners such as Marion Price and Gerry McGeough.
    Martin McGuinness doesnt like it.
    Peter Robinson doesnt like it.
    Seemingly others dont.
    Its simply doing (as SDLP members would see it) the “right thing”.
    Whether it has any consequence is irrelevant.

  • john

    I think people are looking into this a bit too much. He got the boot simply because he used a word which is still a no no. He could have used pretty much any other word in the english language to describe the SDLP and it would have been acceptable. He deserved the boot for being unprofessional and extremely silly

  • “Its simply doing (as SDLP members would see it) the “right thing”.

    fjh, as one former SDLP politician has put it, the larger ‘narrative’ is one of the party being ‘too busy trying to outgreen SF’. To me, that is the road to nowhere. It’s most unlikely to attract nationalists away from the much more potent SF and it could easily reduce the flow of transfers from unionists.

    Conall McDevitt spoke out against SF’s appointment of Mary McArdle as a SpAd:

    “They have misjudged absolutely the mood, not only of the people of Northern Ireland but particularly the mood of Nationalism on this issue.”

    Did Conall misjudge the mood of the SDLP?

    The SDLP shot itself in the foot in the council affair; some of its supporters will have thought that the SDLP was better than this, that it wasn’t SF’s poodle.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Read an SDLP bloggers account of going to Maghaberry

    “We met Gerry (McGeough) first, as always in good spirits and friendly, despite the obvious hardship he has endured”.
    http://emmetdoyle.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/when-i-thought-i-couldnt-be-shocked.html

    I wonder has Emmet Doyle ever spoken to Sammy Bush to see what he endured???
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-12985935

  • “I really don’t know what to make of this.”

    With time for reflection, a widening of the lens and a little bit of digging, it would appear that the BBC and the SDLP have rather clumsily turned a story about a private indiscretion into one about a (misguided?) tactic by the SDLP to garner more of the nationalist vote.

  • Alias

    “He got the boot simply because he used a word which is still a no no.”

    There might be a case for firing an employee for swearing in the workplace if it was classified as an aggressive and hostile act and the company had a consistent policy but there is no case whatsoever for dismissing somebody for action outside of the workplace that is unrelated to his work. If such arbitrary action was acceptable, an employer could fire you for eating chips on the pavement after the pub closes in your neighbourhood 10 miles from his premises…

    Newt could easily claim compensation and re-instatement if, in all likelihood, he wasn’t paid compensation when his contract was severed.

    He “got the boot” because the SDLP couldn’t handle criticism and his employers wouldn’t withstand improper political pressure in a region of the UK where the mainstream media is emasculated and servile to the muppet political class and the political class want to keep it that way.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, if, as its apologists now claim, the sour-faced c**nts in the SDLP didn’t want to get a journalist fired for expressing political criticism, then where are the statements and protests from that quarter demanding his re-instatement?

  • Dec

    ‘ but there is no case whatsoever for dismissing somebody for action outside of the workplace that is unrelated to his work. ‘

    Only the truly clueless would believe that statement. I would hazard a guess (not having seen his employment contact)that he was either sacked for gross misconduct or simply received his notice of termination (with salary in lieu of notice). This is what happens when you get pissed and decide to log on to your PC.

  • “This is what happens when you get pissed and decide to log on to your PC.”

    Oh, dear 🙁

  • I suppose Oscar Wilde really got to the heart of it when he said something about it being better to be talked about than not be talked about. And the SDLP seems to be being talked about.
    And people dont seem to like that.
    I have consistently said……for years…..that the SDLP is a nationalist, republican and socialist party which does better when it talks about civil rights.
    Alas even Gerry McGeough has civil rights. So has Samuel Brush. So has the Travers family.
    It is not simply a matter of picking and choosing. I wish life was that easy.
    On the scale of dodgy political parties, the SDLP doesnt seem to deserve the invective that SOME people are throwing at them. As always the words used and who is using it and supporting it says a lot.
    The SDLP arent “supposed” to be like this. They arent supposed to be listening to their own people or even objecting to this kind of vitriol.
    Is there a campaign to re-instate Newton Emerson? Does the NUJ have a position? Are BBC journos and others staging protests outside Ormeau Avenue? Will any journo be boycotting the SDLP Conference next month?
    Few will be standing up for Newt…..except rhetorically.
    “There goes the neighbourhood”……you just cant say what Newton Emerson said.

    Im not an expert on employment law. But if I ever heard a waiter/waitress make that kinda comment about my family, I would probably object. If the waiter got the push……I may or may not feel sorry.
    I wouldnt want the supporters of the waiter to talk about his freedom of speech and fair comment.
    At the BBC……”civil servants with microphones” I think there is a level of discourse. Emerson breached it. Simples.

  • Skinner

    Don’t think Newton was an employee but even if he was, that waiter bit is the worst analogy I’ve ever heard.

  • Youre right about the waiter analogy but I was putting it in the context of other folks here talking about employment law.
    But if it helps…..I dont think anyone would ever want to see a person lose his job or income (youd have to be pretty hard-hearted to be the kinda person who actually enjoyed that)……..and reference (perhaps in the original post or in the early part of this thread) is made to a mans livelihood …or part of his livelihood and there is therefore an obligation to be temperate.
    Where the “waiter analogy” might have relevance is that the first step to be me forgving a waiter who crossed the line would be an acknowledgement of the fault …rather than an insistence on “free speech”.
    There is an ethos to being a waiter. Which involves not spitting in the food. Cross that line and there really is one consequence. Its abusing the position.
    Id say that part of the ethos of journalism is avoidance of the kind of intemperate language used.
    I rarely read the Irish News but I understand that Mr Emerson has two weekly columns….one which is serious….the other flippant.
    He might think it a good career move to eat some humble pie……and wash it down with some bluster about free speech and Tinternet.

  • “Alas even Gerry McGeough has civil rights. So has Samuel Brush. So has the Travers family. It is not simply a matter of picking and choosing.”

    fjh, the SDLP did have a choice in that council meeting; they could have shown some compassion for Brush. In the case of Newton’s private remark, the SDLP would have been better holding its tongue. Clyping “Miss, Miss, some one’s told me that X has used a naughty word” is hardly likely to improve SDLP ratings in the opinion polls.

  • An entirely reasonable point Nevin.
    The DUP also had a choice about going into coalition with Sinn Féin. Mr Brush seems remarkably at ease with this. And how exactly did SF vote at that council meeting?
    Arguably “liberal unionists” (wikipedia states Mr Emerson so describes himself) will have a lower opinion of SDLP. Thats something I regard as a positive.
    But yet again……who is actually calling for Emersons re-instatement?

  • Alias

    Fitz, you and Dec are confusing what a man does at his workplace with what a man says at his workplace with what he says outside of it. Contrary to misconception, you are not your employers’ property and therefore you may hold opinions that your employer does not approve of and even on occasion express them

    At least you can still do that until the statists create a utopia…

  • Alias

    Well, if you weren’t confused before that egregiously composed sentence…

  • And of course a freelance doesnt even have an employer.

    But part of a Journalists portfolio of skills has to be more than his ability to analyse and make a reasoned argument.
    The question must therefore be put…..did Emerson enhance or inhibit his “value” as a contributor to the BBCs local flagship programme.
    His supporters here seem to be confusing several issues.

    The vote at Dungannon Council seems to anger them as much as it does Emerson. But two parties voted the same way? Why single out the SDLP, which seems to have a rather better record on community cohesion…which liberal unionists tell us they want.
    Why that degree of vitriol?

    The SDLP raised it. Were they wrong?
    The BBC wont use him? Were they wrong?
    The answer yes and no seems to be based on whether Emerson is liked or unliked.
    And the anger would seem to be better directed at Emerson himself who screwed up.

    Is there any concerted by the NUJ to back him on this? They are usually quite good at supporting their own.
    Journalists read this weblog. Will they be wearing “I am backing Newt” stickers at SDLP Conference?
    Who in the liberal unionist fraternity is actually going to speak up for him?
    Support on message boards wont translate into real support.

  • andnowwhat

    The DUP are on very shakes ground if the are talking about sympathy fr fellows of the council. Was t even a year ago that they would not participate in a commemoration for a relative of a council employee within the last year.

    Frankly, civil rights are bigger than the sensitivities of Sammy Brush

  • “And how exactly did SF vote at that council meeting?”

    fjh, the motion was proposed by two SF councillors and carried 9-9 on the casting vote of the SF mayor. [News Letter] I’ve not seen a list of those who were absent from the 22-member council – [SF 8, SDLP 3, UUP 4, DUP 6, Ind (Rep) 1] – or how folks voted but, according to my research, two SDLP councillors were absent and one voted for the motion.

  • “The SDLP raised it. Were they wrong?
    The BBC wont use him? Were they wrong?”

    fjh, have you been able to uncover the sequence of events, in detail, between the private exchange on Facebook and the announcement, by the BBC, of the termination of Newton’s contract? Otherwise how can we answer such questions? Was the exchange as benign/banal as your comments would imply?

  • I have absolutely no idea.
    Nor do I care.
    He messed up. Hes paying the price. And he has few supporters. His fellow journalists seem saddened rather than angry.

  • “I have absolutely no idea.
    Nor do I care.”

    fjh, and there goes the neighbourhood … 😉

    Don’t you care about what a fellow journalist said about the behaviour of the SDLP in it’s failure to support a victim of paramilitarism when given a simple choice? Would the use of words such as ‘shocked’ and ‘scandalous’ surprise you? I’m not given to such emotional responses but I’m very disappointed in the SDLP.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Is BBC NI being even handed in its punishment for Newton over a national breakfast broadcaster???

    Why did BBC NI feel they needed to sack Newton for an indiscretion on line, when a female presenter made an on air indiscretion.

    Why did BBC NI not give Newton the same chance of making an on air apology???

    “Viewers of BBC Breakfast got a rather rude awakening yesterday after a foul-mouthed comment was broadcast by mistake.
    BBC One’s morning show took on a distinctly post-watershed air when business reporter Steph McGovern turned the air blue – not realising her microphone was switched on.
    During an item about musicals, host Susanna Reid welcomed conductor John Wilson to the studio, showing a clip of his orchestra before wishing him a ‘good beautiful morning’”.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2212243/Susanna-Reid-BBC-Breakfast-star-forced-apologise-reporter-blurts-profanity-air.html

  • Alias

    “And of course a freelance doesnt even have an employer.”

    On the contrary, UK employment law offers legal protection to freelancers so it isn’t the case that his employer (the BBC) can do whatever it likes on the assumption that he has no rights.

    However, would it make any difference to SDLP apologists if he was not a freelancer? No, they’d still be claiming that journalists should be sanctioned for telling the unwanted truth about them.

  • Alias…a BBC staffer would not have said that.

  • Nevin.
    I dont think its fair to call me and Newton Emerson “fellow journalists”. I am but a humble blogger.

    It is language which I find distasteful and hopefully not many defending its use in private conversation would actually use it publicly. Language does indicate an attitude.

    Whether or not it bothers me that a journalist says it……it seems to bother other journalists.
    What doesnt bother me in any way is people describing themselves as liberal unionists showing their attitude to SDLP.
    Maybe their disappointment doesnt bother me at all….there goes the 17th preference vote.
    Maybe liberal unionists invested far too much faith in SDLP.
    I know SDLP invested far too much faith in “liberal unionism”.

  • “I dont think its fair to call me and Newton Emerson “fellow journalists”

    That would be a misunderstanding, fjh, I was referring to a third party.

    The SDLP is a nationalist party so I don’t expect it to have faith in unionists of any hue. Unionists have voted tactically for the SDLP in mainly nationalist constituencies but its dalliance with the likes of McGeough IMO could cause a loss of transfers.

  • Perhaps.
    But essentially I dont believe in voting AGAINST things. I believe in voting FOR things.
    I live in a predominantly unionist constituency but have never voted for any kind of unionist, including transfers.
    On the other hand the SDLP finding a backbone, a voice or simply growing a pair might actually work to its advantage.
    Ive sat thru SDLP conferences and listened to Duncan Morrow, Rev Norman Hamilton, Davey Adams and possibly time to draw a line under “liberal unionists” being nice to SDLP.

  • tacapall

    Nevin does a prisoner not have rights, do you expect Nationalist politicians to act like Unionist politicians and turn a blind eye to the law being impartially applied. Is it not plain as day to everyone now that this can no longer go on without it being highlighted and challenged.

  • “On the other hand the SDLP finding a backbone, a voice or simply growing a pair might actually work to its advantage.”

    I can subscribe to that, fjh, and extend it to the UUP. Hence my criticism of the SDLP on the council vote.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    I see that nationalists/republicans are falling over each other to condemn this latest republican terrorist murder.

    No doubt given the passage of time and when they think theres a vote or two in it for them. They will be demanding a vote in some council somewhere (if the assassin is caught and imprisoned), demanding that the murder be released. As they were fighting the nasty British imperialists for Irish freedom.

    Well done Newton at standing up to nationalist/republican hypocrisy.

  • AU, I don’t suppose those who carry on the Republican struggle are too bothered about SF or SDLP flip-flopping.

  • Eileen Calder

    Its incredible considering what the BBC don’t sack people for. One daft word against a politician and your out.
    40 years raping children and your a “national treasure” and a hero. The SDLP need to get a grip and state they are opposed to it and the BBC need to apologise and reinstate him.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Delighted to see someone is maintaining standards. Obviously the BBC’s new zero tolerance policy on profanity even in private will have far reaching implications beyond this case, but assuming that the policy is imposed consistently and without fear or favour it will have an enormous positive effect on public discourse.