Harry Enfield: BBC didn’t stand up for itself under Mark Thompson

Comedian reopens the wounds over the so-called 'Queengate' affair and says that the BBC "didn’t stand up for itself"

Comedian Harry Enfield has criticised former BBC director general Mark Thompson, accusing him of failing to stand up to the Corporation’s enemies and putting it on a “bad footing”.


Enfield, who has a new comedy on BBC2 called Harry & Paul’s Story of the 2s, singled Thompson out for blame for his role in the so-called ‘Queengate’ affair of 2007 when the BBC apologised for wrongly claiming that the Queen walked out of a photoshoot on one of its programmes in a publicity promotion.

The controversy cost BBC1 controller Peter Fincham his job – and, for Enfield, the saga still rankles.

“The problem is under Mark Thompson, [the BBC] didn’t stand up for itself,” Enfield reveals in an exclusive interview with Radio Times published tomorrow.

“It would just sack someone if anyone criticised it. Like Peter Fincham when he was sacked, when he so-called resigned, Thompson should have come out and said, ‘OK, he said this thing that was slightly inaccurate about the Queen because he was briefed by a private company that’s come in because everything has to be private now. I’ll get him to resign once any of your [newspaper] editors who have written anything inaccurate about the royal family resign.’ You know, come out fighting instead of whingeing. He didn’t do that. It was a bad thing for the BBC and put it on a bad footing for the future…”

Thompson, who left the BBC in 2012 after an eventful eight years in the top job, was also too craven in the face of certain newspapers, according to Enfield.

“It’s fairly obvious that the Mail is a direct competitor with the BBC. It’s totally in its interest to smash the BBC at all times, ditto Murdoch. But the idea that the BBC listens to these people…”

The Story of the Twos, which airs on Sunday May 25 sees Enfield and comedy partner Paul Whitehouse deliver a humorous history of BBC2, with Enfield playing the narrator in the guise of presenter Simon Schama.

A whole host of legendary BBC2 shows are lampooned including Fawlty Towers, The Office and The Forsyte Saga.

However Enfield also reveals the future of the Harry & Paul sketch show is in doubt following an apparent disagreement between the pair and BBC2 over a sketch that was dropped. The Harry & Paul show has been airing on BBC2 for the past five years and has given us memorable creatures including the elderly surgeons and the Radio 4 producers. Enfield declined to elaborate on the reasons for the disagreement.

Radio Times including the full interview is on sale from Tuesday