Blogs Culture House Daily

Was Mark Lawson bullied? Or was it just a matter of trying to improve Front Row?

6 March 2014

12:51 PM

6 March 2014

12:51 PM

I don’t really know Mark Lawson; I’ve bumped into him a couple of times and he once was the moderator or question master, I forget which, on some show I was on. What I mean is he is not in my circle of friends. As it happens I don’t really have a circle of friends. You can’t call ‘two’ a circle, can you? Anyway, Lawson has apparently been bumped off Radio Four’s pretty good arts programme, Front Row.  Or he has decided to leave, one of the two. Make your mind up here.

Bullying? I wonder. I wonder if it was simply a case of trying, maybe occasionally with some force or rigour, to make the programme better still. Almost any form of behaviour which involves forcefully making a point is considered bullying these days. The best editors I’ve had in 30 years of broadcasting and journalism would be sacked for being bullies today.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Tim Craig

    The progrmme not the same since he left no edge anodyne comes to mind now only listen on the odd occassion.

  • wageslave1

    I can’t be the only one amazed to hear Liddle has as many as two friends.

  • BaraccoBarner

    Lawson is bald. End of.

  • DougS

    Mark Who?

    Front what?

    Now ‘Radio 4’ – I’ve heard of that – tune-in regularly.

  • mikewaller

    Puts me in mind of the appalling episode when some young employee of the Prince of Wales, having only been in the job for a couple of weeks, put in an unrequested report suggesting how the entire operation could usefully reorganised. His understandable response to the effect that it would be a good idea if staff first got on top of their own jobs before suggesting major reorganisations earned him deeply unfavourable treatment by the press.

    I am further minded of a young women car driver who I followed (in my car!) as she turned of an A road into the lane which leads to my home. To my horror, she almost immediately hit the brakes leaving me stuck broadside across one lane of the A road. By liberal use of the horn, I got her to give me enough space to get clear. The explanation she gave – to her own total satisfaction – was that she was lost. Moral? Something awful has happen to these young peoples egos.

    One final point: I think Mark Lawson outstanding.

    • dicty2 .

      How bad can it be that he’s “off sick” then taking a “voluntary” break? (The latter sounds suspiciously like the bully being bullied.) If he’s been acting heavy tell him to dial it down and then get on with it. The Beeb can ill afford to lose a presenter of his talent.

  • FrankieThompson

    Wark didn’t get the job did she ? She is rank.

  • David Prentice

    As we know, white males are not allowed to speak their minds or make forceful points to self-entitled white/black/muslim women. It’s automatically bullying, harrassment and intimidation.

  • Margaret Jervis

    Since my contribution to the DTel bun fight scarcely registers in the support stakes I’ll repeat it here
    “Would think that somebody with a mature insightful intellect such as
    Mark Lawson would find it suffocating working in the maximum security
    kindergarten that the BBC has become. His radio plays were always
    gripping and thought provoking – particularly Suspicion for 10 Voices –
    about music in a climate of fear (Elizabethan witchhunts against closet

  • Muggy Dog

    I’ll be your friend Rodders. Then we can form a square.Circles are for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

    • gerontius

      We are all Rod’s friends Muggy.
      Perhaps one day he will learn to appreciate us.

  • Gwangi

    Bullying? It’s all the rage, you know. Everyone these days claims to have been a victim of it, and indeed craves the trauma of it.
    No doubt that the BBC – and esp radio 4 – is run by a clique. There are circles who control drama and basically give all commissions to their friends (whilst being careful to have quotas for women and ethnic minorities, and focus on the sort of trite social issue propaganda most of us grew out of at sixth form). So many shows are presenters are there because they are in the ‘diversity clique’ too.
    It needs a shake-up, for sure. But this isn’t it. This is just a man with an enormous sense of entitlement being told he has to share his tricycle with the other boys and girls in the nursery school playground.

  • Fiona

    Having worked at the corporation for a decade I know only too well that the bullying culture is rife. No member of staff should ever feel threatened, brow beaten or unhappy in their work. It is about time that the old school editors who are still employed at the corporation are told that their bullying behaviour – which was once celebrated within the industry – is no longer acceptable.

    • Alexandrovich

      And yet you come across as a bit of a bully yourself, Ms. Bruce.

      • Margaret Jervis

        Tend to think this ‘bully’ thing is becoming yet another below the belt weapon of choice in the Orwellian drama of our times.

      • Fiona

        Firstly do you think the real Fiona Bruce would be silly enough to use her real name to comment publicly on her employers? Secondly, do you not think there’s a good chance that there’s more than one person called Fiona who works at the BBC?

        • John Lea

          Please name names! Would love to hear that Stephen Fry is – behind the genial persona – something of a tyrant.

        • Daniel Maris

          Yes, but if Fiona had been silly enough to do that, then she would say what you said wouldn’t she?

        • Tom Allalone

          Yes, but there was more than one Sarah Connor in ‘The Terminator’ I’d keep an eye on the obituaries in ‘Ariel’. Mr Hall doesn’t like grasses.

    • FrankS2

      Why is it a “culture”?

      • Fiona

        John Lea sadly any of the names I could produce would mean nothing to you.

        FrankS2 – I have referred to it as a culture because it is a way of describing the “ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society”. A direct quote from the Oxford Dictionary.

        • FrankS2

          Ah yes, everyone has a culture these days!

          • Tom Allalone

            A bullying culture has the right to the same respect as any other culture. Check your privilege.

            • FrankS2

              Yes, anyone can have culture nowadays – and to think, it used to be just for highbrows.
              Or germs, of course.

    • Tom Allalone

      I worked for the BBC as a freelance on and off for almost twenty years. And bullying really was a problem. There’s no excuse for it, good managers don’t need to bully. It’s an abuse of power by people who are often over promoted and take out their inadequacies on their staff. I was OK because I was a techie, had outside work and could tell the management to f*** off any time I wanted, but I witnessed some very nasty stuff.

      I would take issue about the old school editors line. Yes, some were total bast*rds – mean, vicious, petty, lecherous and incompetent – but some were very decent human beings who knew how to get good results without shouting. The worst manager I ever saw in action was a thirty year old woman – and her victims were other women.

      • Gwangi

        The worst thing I ever saw at the BBC was the way a script sent in by a mop (member of the public) as a spec submission was used by a well-know writer to write their own script – basically theft of ideas. The member of the public’s script was then rejected, while the new drama went on into production.

        Many (tired, desperate, dried up) established writers nick other people’s ideas, and have access to loads too, as readers for the BBC. All utterly legal: you can’t copyright an idea.

        Advertising agencies do the same when the raid the end of year art school shows for ideas to pilfer.

  • James Todd

    That’s all very well, Rod, but apparently they pulled off his glasses and pushed his head down the toilet. And Sandi Toksvig has been threatening to break his pencil for weeks, and frequently steals his sandwiches. What else can we call it?

  • FrankS2

    I find Front Row a bit of a yawnfest with Lawson the yawnmeister in chief, but you’re right about “bullying” – make a sarcy remark to some idle, sulky junior, and straight away you’re guilty of an offense only a degree or two less hateful than waycism.

    • john lyttle

      There were 15 individual complaints, all evenly spread across the staff structure. What do you say now?

  • Guest

    I remember on Newsnight Review he called the bank robbery shootout scene in “Heat” one of the silliest scenes in cinema history. A year or so later, two bank robbers in North Hollywood kept three hundred LAPD officers at bay for 44 minutes, in a scene reminiscent of the movie.

  • Sam Martini

    Two sounds like an exaggeration.


  • Cornelius Bonkers

    Indeed. Call me old fashioned but I thought bullying was sometimes just “getting things done”. I often “bullied” my students so they would pass their exams; I could have been nicer to them if I thought self-esteem was more important than exam results…

  • GUBU

    Having two mates might allow you to claim a ‘line’ of friends – albeit a short one.

  • gerontius

    I feel I ought to care, but…..

  • MC73

    Sound like a bunch of pathetic whining bastards complaining about being asked to do a spot of work by a – possibly grumpy – professional. Getting live stuff right is stressful and if people screw up they need to be told.

    Anyway isn’t 15 people ganging up on someone and then shopping him to the bosses basically bullying?

    • john lyttle

      Might I have caught your mind reading act anywhere else?

  • post_x_it

    Did he upset Botney perhaps?

  • Mr Grumpy

    On the one hand I detest bullying. On the other hand I rather suspect some of these browbeaten juniors may come with a senior-sized sense of entitlement. On the third hand if he’s ended up peeing off one person too many he’s probably only got himself to blame. Make my mind up for me, Rod!

  • Noa

    His departure created a space in the unbroken line of liberal thought which generates the BBC’s output.
    However the rapid deployment of Kirsty Squak into the gap ensures that listeners will be spared any relief from its interminable, bien pensant threnody.