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  Opinion   Columnists  19 Feb 2023  Kishwar Desai | BBC trouble may take Sharp turn; how Sajid plans to clean London air

Kishwar Desai | BBC trouble may take Sharp turn; how Sajid plans to clean London air

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : Feb 20, 2023, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Feb 20, 2023, 12:05 am IST

BBC Chairman Richard Sharp appointed by Boris Johnson, when he was PM, has now fallen foul of the rules of appropriate behaviour

An entrance to the headquarters of the publicly funded BBC in London. (Photo: AP)
 An entrance to the headquarters of the publicly funded BBC in London. (Photo: AP)

Do not for a moment think BBC has a problem only in India. It has a bigger problem at home. The chairman of BBC Richard Sharp appointed by Boris Johnson, when he was Prime Minister, has now fallen foul of the rules of appropriate behaviour for people holding public posts. He is a rich man (as many who are somehow associated with the Tory Party tend to be) and may have been part of a deal to lend the former Prime Minister money when he needed it. Mind you this was only a paltry £800,000, not serious money, because maybe Boris was feeling hard up what with approximately five alimonies to pay and countless children to support. Giving money to the PM is alright but Richard Sharp seems not to have declared his involvement in this transaction when he knew he was being considered for the BBC job. He says he has told someone but it is all being investigated. Considering all the problems the BBC has, he may breathe a sigh of relief if forced to resign.

As if one inquiry into Tory shenanigans was not enough, the newly appointed vicechairman of the Conservative Party Lee Andersen has openly come out in favour of capital punishment on the first day of his appointment being announced. I guess this is to capture the hard right, pro- Brexit vote. They all seem to be keen on hanging and flogging. He may last longer than the occasional Tory Prime Minister, but you never can tell.


London air used to be foul in the days of real-life Charles Dickens and the mythical Sherlock Holmes. There used to be thick “pea soup” fogs. Then 50 years ago they cleaned it up by banning coal or wood burning fires in homes.

They hadn’t realised that fumes from cars would create another issue. So 10 years ago, there was a charge imposed on every car entering into or driving within Inner London imposed by Ken Livingstone, the then mayor of London. This emission charge is hard to escape.

While the “emission” charge cleaned up Inner London air, there still remains Outer London, the suburbs where many families reside and from where office workers drive into town. They would usually opt for rail or underground transport if strikes were not so frequent. So now Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has decided to extend the emission charge to Outer London as well. Thus watch out for ULEZ — an acronym for Ultra Low Emissions Zone which will hit the car commuters and lorries. No one is happy about that but then if Londoners do not have clean air , they will only crowd up the National Health Service which is in enough trouble as it is. Oops! Actually… nurses and ambulance drivers are in a ferociously striking mood.


Climate change is very much a concern for all, including Indian origin filmmaker Asif Kapadia. The Oscar winning director has a new film coming out this weekend, Creature, but it will be very different from his previous documentaries on Maradona or Amy Winehouse. The film has been choreographed by the award winning Akram Khan — and depicts how experiments are carried out on a man at a polar research station in the arctic to try to make him resilient enough for a world being destroyed by climate change. So he would have to endure a variety of challenges — including extreme cold and loneliness. Oddly enough both Asif and Akram are South Asian, where environmental damage is rarely discussed. Though Akram does admit to have been influenced by The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh.

Asif’s family came to the UK, from India  post Partition —while Akram, who uses traditional Indian dance styles in his ballets, including Kathak, is of Bangladeshi descent. That may bring an interesting synergy to the film, with dance performed by the English National Ballet. This film is actually based on a show by the English National Ballet, performed around two years back. Even though the themes may appear to be remote from any typical theme emerging from South Asia —  it does also have a producer who is of Pakistani origin.

This is the great thing about working in the UK — genuine working partnerships are not influenced by the politics of the country you originally hail from!


Lastly some London politics. Jeremy Corbyn , the previous Labour Leader and MP for Islington North in North London for  over 45 years, has been disqualified from running again on Labour Party ticket. As traditional battles go, this one will be one of  the dirtiest as he and his supporters try to defy the ban. It will be a good spectator sport for the other political parties.

Let us hope it does not cause too many problems for Sir Kier Starmer, Labour Party Leader, whom many hope will the next Prime Minister.

Tags: bbc, boris johnson, tory party, richard sharp