The slew of hiring announcements coming out of GB News towers continues at a rapid pace. The most recent to be announced for the front of house team is Alexandra Phillips, one time Euro-Parliamentarian. Before that there were names such as Michelle Dewbury, commentator and former winner of The Apprentice, and Inaya Folerin Iman, Director of the Equiano Project, as well as Dan Wootton from The Sun and TalkRadio.
This team, with Tom Harwood from Guido Fawkes, Colin Brazier from Sky, and, as political editor, Ulsterman Darren MacCaffrey who returns to the UK where he was a ground-breaking political reporter at Sky for 10 years after a stint in Brussels at Euronews. All these are gathering under the venerable, experienced, and congenial eye of Andrew Neil.
The real joy of GB News is the sheer panic it is causing among established media in the UK
On the production side we can see a professional outfit shaping up. Christian Mitchell, a senior producer from LBC, with Rebecca Hutson who was formerly head of digital at Reach PLC (the owners of both The Daily Mirror and The Daily Express), Lucy O’Brian, who until now was running ITN’s field operations, and the Australian Lucinda Duckett who ran Sky Australia’s Freedom of Speech campaign. Alongside them in the engine room will be Gill Pennington from CNN, Alex Farrell from TalkRadio and Amanda Hall another from the Sky stable.
This side of the team will be working under John MacAndrew who, as Head of News and Programs at GB News, brings with him an almost unparalleled portfolio of experience with the BBC, ITV and latterly as Director of Content at Sky and at NBC.
Suffice to say that this is quite an operation that is being built with money from Discovery Inc, Legatum and mega hedgie, Sir Paul Marshall. Discovery is in a UK sense politically neutral, whereas Legatum, through the Legatum Institute has been a retirement home for wonkish Brexiteers; Marshall is an Orange Book liberal who was a financial supporter of Brexit and latterly of Michael Gove.
For an observer, the real joy of GB News is the sheer panic it is causing amongst the settled, comfortable, and established media in the UK. The sight of the #dontfundgbnews campaign trying to scare off advertisers is one thing that warms, and the whiffling of Guardian columnists another. They all bring a certain amount of joy to the heart. It would take a heart of stone.
The media consensus is right to be worried; the commentariat even more so
In my previous life, working as the Director of Communications with UKIP and the Brexit Party, I have worked with many of these journalists, and those I haven’t worked with directly I know by their reputation. Frankly, the media consensus is right to be worried. The commentariat even more so. With the financial backing of Legatum and Marshall we have people who are unlikely to be bullied into the cosy, “what was in The Guardian?” approach to newsgathering, so visible elsewhere.
But what struck me when I saw the GB News twitter feed yesterday was a picture that they put out. Twelve photos of twelve people involved. Three of them Phillips, Dewbury and Folerin have one thing in common, not including their gender. They all stood for the Brexit Party as candidates.
Though the roster is high quality across the board, excepting Andrew Neil himself, none are household names. There is of course one option open to them.
Nigel Farage, following his cancelling by LBC for refusing to take the knee during the hot summer of Black Lives Matter, is exactly that. A seasoned old professional in front of the camera and someone who knows the pressures of a daily, prime-time show, he has spent the long year of lockdown testing the patience of the authorities and breaking news stories, particularly about the cross-channel migrant boats. Fiercely independent and currently massively underemployed. Christian Mitchell was his producer at LBC and he gets on well with Neil and MacCaffrey.
It would be a contentious signing, and would set off mass protests in NW1, macchiatos would be spilled from trembling hands. But if GB news wants to really start up with a bang, they could do worse.
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