Ex-BBC presenter John Humphrys has a new job. It’s surprised no one.

John Humphrys in a radio studio
Tracy Keeling

John Humphrys left the BBC in September 2019 after 32 years of presenting Radio 4‘s Today programme. Now, he has a new job. And his choice of employer is surprising, well, no one.

True to form

Humphrys’s performance at the BBC left a lot to be desired. From sycophantic interviews of Tory ministers to asking imbecilic questions on the climate crisis, he faced a lot of criticism through the years.

Given the controversial figure he proved to be at the public broadcaster, the next stop he’s chosen in his career hasn’t come as a shock. In fact, it feels quite fitting. Humphrys has taken a job as a columnist at the Daily Mail.

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Towing the approved line

Speaking about his new role, Humphrys said:

The Mail is a paper that knows what it believes in, and proudly says so, but it does not demand that its columnists toe an approved line

That’s the big test of a paper’s integrity.

The idea that the Mail has ‘integrity’ isn’t the only amusing part of Humphrys’s gushing assessment of the tabloid. The notion that it invites in a variety of columnists who veer from its general stance is pretty tickling too. And even if it did, Humphrys clearly doesn’t fit that bill. Because the ex-BBC presenter’s first article as a weekly columnist for the Daily Mail toes exactly the sort of line the tabloid is known for.

Headlined Why has Britain lost its sense of humour?, Humphrys’s article railed against ‘wokeness’. He argued that Britain is “entering an era of joke prohibition” because so many potential objects of humour are now off limits, in a politically correct sense. Humphrys gave a number of examples of how the ‘woke’ police have ruined humour. Most of them involved women. He decried the inability to make jokes around situations that involved domestic violence and sexual assault, for example.

Peas in a pod

This isn’t new territory for Humphrys. A lot of the controversy he courted at the BBC involved his handling of such matters. But the idea that the ex-BBC presenter has something different to offer the Mail from the standard ‘approved line’ of the tabloid – which is defined by its white, male approach to the world – is laughable.

Featured image via BBC Newsnight/YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. It will suit the BBC down to the ground to have a former employee denouncing them as ”left-wing” and “politically correct”. That way they can continue to be a right-wing establishment mouthpiece without the public noticing. And thus too the ‘acceptable’ debate (between the ‘left-wing’ BBC and right-wing press) is constantly being shifted rightwards.
      Humphrys has long been a particular favourite of the Mail and I remember the newspaper years ago lauding his interview technique over that of his colleague (at the time) Jim Naughtie – something I scratched my head over for a long time in those innocent, pre-internet days, hearing repeated open goals missed by Humphrys on Today.

    2. Not quite sure what this snide Canary aside at John Humphrys wants so achieve other than endeavour to garner suspicion, even hate, on Aunty’s erstwhile old BBC morning news entertainer and by inference stick the knife into the BBC again. There’s nothing in the least extraordinary about BBC people showing up in rags with their quaint jottings or turning up on commercial radio stations after falling out with the BBC. Mr Humphrys is now also presenting sweet music on Classic FM a channel owned by Global as it also owns LBC Radio, the tabloid of radio outlets, where numerous former BBC mouthpieces have since more sourly popped up to present their politics more rudely than they were allowed to do on the BBC. One supposes old codgers such as John Humphrys, retired from the BBC, is able to casually follow additional lucrative freelance opportunities that will have wafted his way. Not having heard his choice of classic musical composition or ditty on Classic FM one wonders whether it’ll be of an ilk that suits his character such as John Williams ‘Jaws’, Saint-Saëns’s ‘Danse Macabre’ or Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Psycho’. Then, of course, there’s for a lot of us grumps Gustav Holst’s ‘Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age’.

    3. Uniquely for a British daily newspaper, The Mail has a majority female readership, with women making up 52–55% of its readers. No mention of ethnicity but one assumes the majority female readership is comfortable with white males?
      John Humphrys gave all politicians a hard time, many feared him so wouldn’t allow him to interview them notable exceptions being Tony Blair and David Cameron.

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