So now we know. We know that Robert Kilroy-Silk has “probably done more to improve race relations in this country than any other single institution”.
We know because he told Sir Trevor McDonald so.
He told McDonald so because the BBC has suspended his television show after he made ridiculous comments about Arabs in a regular Sunday Express column.
Based on that race relations comment alone, it is surely safe to disregard anything that comes out of his mouth.
But there are those who would set up the oily former Labour MP as some sort of martyr to liberal forces. Because what he also told Sir Trev is that his predicament is all about freedom of speech – our right to say, as he put it, “what we like”.
Indeed, he believes the laws governing such things should be changed.
This is nothing to do with freedom of speech and everything to do with an overpaid TV presenter desperately clinging to the gravy train on which he has been riding for so long.
Kilroy-Silk is not a journalist. He is an egodriven personality who is given the space to peddle his ill-conceived polemics in a Sunday newspaper almost entirely on the grounds that he appears on a television show.
Take away the TV show and his ridiculous rants would soon lose their appeal even for the Sunday Express. As well he knows.
This is not about freedom of speech. It is about the right – no, the duty – of the BBC to employ impartial presenters for its topical programmes.
Even those as lightweight as Kilroy.
The corporation got it right when it got rid of Radio 4’s Today programme editor Rod Liddle after views he expressed in a Guardian column undermined his own impartiality. Likewise, Andrew Marr and John Humphrys cannot cry too loudly over losing their newspaper columns once they began to compromise their image as fair and objective reporters for the national broadcaster.
After Kilroy-Silk has finally been axed – as surely he must be – his speech can continue to be as free as the law allows. If a newspaper wants to continue publishing his offensive and illinformed views, that’s between it and its readers.