Alastair Stewart, Andrew Neil, Guto Harri … will long-haired historian Neil Oliver be the next to leave GB News?

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Following the not-too-surprising revelation that some shows on GB News did not have viewers, presenter Alastair Stewart, the former ITN presenter, decided that instead of broadcasting he would stay home and turn on, making sure that at least someone is watching.

Stewart posted that he had broken his hip. He is only the last “star” to emerge from the disaster. The first was creator and president Andrew Neil, who could only endure it for a fortnight, before decamping home in the south of France – he was a committed Brexiter but we let the irony pass – promising to return at one point. It was a month ago.

Another who appears to have gone to increase audiences is former Boris Johnson spin doctor Guto Harri, although not on his own. During the week he got on his knees, embarrassingly enough, in the studio and in support of black English footballers. It was “an unacceptable violation” of the standards, the station said, although it was surprising to find that they have standards. He’s suspended, but don’t expect to see him again. Then there are the people off camera and the management. They are coming down like a Covid pandemic.

The channel has been plagued by technological glitches, in large part due to “fully automated” software designed to reduce the number of people in the gallery and save money.

They even misspelled Stewart’s first name on the online schedule.

The real problem is, it’s not a news channel at all, just back-to-back shows with people on sofas talking to each other. It is, to quote presenter Neil Oliver’s previous daytime TV shot, “an annoying drivel.”

He is also relentlessly on the right. Ofcom, the broadcasting nanny, insists on balance between releases, but has so far not issued a message. Maybe they think he’ll be out of air soon anyway, so what’s the point?

Fly me to the moon

This week, in 1969, men first landed and then walked on the moon. Glasgow is currently disguised as Manhattan to commemorate the triumphant return of the three astronauts to New York City, which will feature in the upcoming Indiana Jones film.

Fascinating things (or not) you didn’t know about the mission. Buzz Aldrin took Holy Communion before coming out to the surface. I don’t know how he managed to secrete the wine on the way. The three did not have a toilet on the module, so they had plastic bags stuck to their lower regions. When Neil Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the Moon, they were actually wearing diapers. I hoped they recycled responsibly and didn’t leave it all there.

Playtex, renowned for “cross your heart” bras, designed the spacesuits. Not sure if there was a lift and padding included. The astronauts had to sign customs forms on their return, declaring samples of moon rock and dust. And Aldrin submitted $ 33.31 in travel expenses from Houston to the Moon and back, which is roughly 500,000 miles.

Down in the farm

I watched with guilt at Clarkson’s Farm on Prime in which the tanker reveals he knows as much about farming as I do about astrophysics. It’s totally engaging and Jezza seems almost sympathetic. But by the way, he was obviously grossly overpaid during his career to be able to afford a 1,000 acre farm in the Cotswolds, prudently worth £ 12.5million.

The farm is not doing very well, in large part because he insisted on raising sheep, and at the end of the year the books show he made just over a hundred pounds in profit. Be careful, they don’t tell you on the show how much government subsidy he received. Or if the £ 40,000 Lamborghini tractor he bought, too big for the barn, is factored into the costs.

It also reveals the thicket of rules and laws that farmers must negotiate. Everything is monitored. With one exception. There is no judgment on taste. Which is evident when you eat a tasteless supermarket carrot or a bland, soft tomato. What we need is a font of taste, with highly trained palates, with each package of vegetables or fruits with a symbol that it has stuck out a long tongue.

The most difficult sport

The Tour de France ends today in Paris in a quiet cycle in the capital where 22-year-old Tadej Pogacar will be presented as the winner not only of the yellow jersey but of all other categories. Only the sprinters, and the eminent Mark Cavendish, will compete for the stage.

The Tour and Giro d’Italia are the toughest sporting events in the world, with 21 brutal stages over mountains, hills and thousands of kilometers, with only a few days of rest.

Spanish cyclist Pell Bilbao hasn’t done both this year, which is unheard of, he did the same last year. Due to the pandemic, delays and reshuffles, that meant he had made four major tours in 12 months. And was in the top 20 overall. He’s a sort of walking masochist.

Another runner, Australian Simon Clarke, completed 18 stages with a fractured vertebra in his back. “Why would I throw in the towel like that?” Why not go to Paris? he said casually.

They are not even paid that well. The entire prize pool is just € 2.5 million, with the winner receiving € 500,000, which is usually shared with the other seven riders on the team. In contrast, the winner of the Open at Royal St George’s in Sandwich will receive £ 2.5million.

The greatest Scottish cyclist of all time is Shawlands Academy graduate Robert Millar – I mention him because I’ve been there – who won the Tour’s King of the Mountains award in 1984, finishing fourth overall.

He also won three stages in his career. Millar finished second, twice, in the Vuelta a España and was robbed of a dirty tricks victory by the Spanish teams, as well as a second in the 1987 Giro.

After his retirement, Millar coached the British national team and the Scottish team in the 1998 Tour of Britain. And then he disappeared, as Richard Moore covered in his excellent biography, In Search Of Robert Millar. In fact, he was beginning the process of transitioning to a woman, Philippa York, until she revealed it more than two decades later in 2017. A truly remarkable man and woman.


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