Rod Liddle Explained

Roderick E. L. Liddle (born April 1960) is an English print, radio, and television journalist.

He is an associate editor of The Spectator, and former editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he is the author of Too Beautiful for You (2003), Love Will Destroy Everything (2007), and co-author of The Best of Liddle Britain (2007). He has presented several television programmes, including The New Fundamentalists, The Trouble with Atheism, and Immigration Is A Time Bomb.

Liddle started his career at the South Wales Echo, then worked for the Labour Party, later joining the BBC. He become editor of Today in 1998, resigning in 2002. He has written for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, and several other publications.

His acrimonious divorce in 2004 with his ex-wife, Rachel Royce, was widely covered in the media. Some of his comments have caused controversy in the media. He was accused of racism for making remarks about the African-Caribbean community and for the content of his posts to an online forum.

Early life and education

Liddle was born in Abbey Wood, south London, the son of a train driver. From the age of eight, he was brought up in Nunthorpe, a suburb of Middlesbrough, in north east England.

He was educated at the comprehensive Laurence Jackson School in nearby Guisborough and the adjacent sixth form college, where he formed a punk band called Dangerbird.

He attended the London School of Economics (LSE) as a mature student, where he read Social Psychology.[1] [2]


His early career in journalism was with the South Wales Echo in Cardiff where he was a general news reporter and, for a time, the rock and pop writer. He was a member of the Socialist Workers Party in his early youth, but worked between 1983 and 1987 as a speechwriter and researcher for the Labour Party.[3]


He returned to journalism after graduating from the LSE, and was taken on as a trainee producer by the BBC.[1] Liddle was appointed editor of the Today programme in 1998.[4] The programme had an unrivalled reputation for its political interviews, but Liddle tried, with considerable success, to improve the programme's investigative journalism. To this end he hired journalists from outside the BBC. Among the most controversial was Andrew Gilligan, who joined from The Sunday Telegraph in 1999. Gilligan's 29 May 2003 report on Today - that the British government had "sexed up" the intelligence dossier on Iraq, a report broadcast after Liddle had left the programme - began a chain of events that included the death in July that year of David Kelly, the weapons inspector who was Gilligan's source, and the subsequent Hutton Inquiry, a public inquiry into the circumstances of Kelly's death. Liddle defended Gilligan throughout the controversy.[5] Under Liddle's editorship, Today won a number of awards: a Sony Silver in 2002 for reports by Barnie Choudhury and Mike Thomson into the causes of race riots in the north of England; a Sony Bronze in 2003 for an investigation by Angus Stickler into paedophile priests; and an Amnesty International Media Award in 2003 for Gilligan's investigation into the sale of illegal landmines, an investigation that attracted a lengthy legal action.

While working for Today, Liddle also wrote a column for The Guardian. On 25 September 2002, referring to a march organized by the Countryside Alliance in defence of fox hunting, Liddle wrote that readers may have forgotten why they voted Labour in 1997, but would remember once they saw the people campaigning to save hunting.[6] His column led The Daily Telegraph to accuse Liddle of bias and of endangering democracy.[7] The BBC concluded that Liddle's comments breached his commitment to impartiality as a BBC editor, and gave him an ultimatum to stop writing his column or resign from his position on Today. He resigned on 30 September 2002.[8] He said later that when he was editor he was ordered by BBC management to sack Frederick Forsyth from the show, and speculated that it was because of Forsyth's rightwing political views.[9] The BBC replied that the decision was made for editorial reasons.[10]

The Spectator

With Kate Silverton he presented the short-lived BBC2 political show Weekend - described by The Independent on Sunday as "The worst programme anywhere, ever, in the history of time" - and BBC4's The Talk Show. He continued to write for The Guardian, and became a team captain on Call My Bluff. He became an associate editor with The Spectator. He also writes for the men's magazines, GQ and Arena, and a weekly column for The Sunday Times.[1]


In August 2009, in his Spectator blog he wrote about Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, in unflattering terms. Liddle began the article by asking: "So — Harriet Harman, then. Would you? I mean after a few beers obviously, not while you were sober."[11] Liddle asserted two months later: "It was supposed to be a parody of guttural, base sexism", a joke he assumed readers would understand. Surprised by a negative response from a number of female journalists he continued: "And then I suppose I came to the conclusion - gradually - that I must have got it wrong."[12]

In November 2009, again for The Spectator website, he offered "a quick update on what the Muslim savages are up to," a brief article about the stoning to death of a 20-year-old woman in Somalia after she was accused of adultery, and the similar death of a 13-year-old the year before. He made remarks, considered sarcastic, that read: "Incidentally, many Somalis have come to Britain as immigrants recently, where they are widely admired for their strong work ethic, respect for the law and keen, piercing, intelligence."[13] [14]

In December 2009, on his Spectator blog, Liddle referred to two black music producers, Brandon Jolie and Kingsley Ogundele, who had plotted to kill Jolie's 15-year-old pregnant girlfriend, as "human filth" and said the incident was not an anomaly. He continued:

The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community. Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks.[15]
When he was accused of racism, Liddle said he was instead engaging in a debate about multiculturalism.[16] [17] In March 2010 the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) upheld a complaint against Liddle, who became the first journalist to be censured over the contents of a blog, because he had not been able to prove his claim about the crime statistics.[18] After the publication of London crime figures in June 2010, The Sunday Telegraph suggested Liddle was largely right on some of his claims, but that he was probably wrong on his claims about knife crimes and violent sex crimes.[19]

In January 2010, the Mail on Sunday and The Observer drew attention to allegedly racist and misogynist comments posted under the username "monkeymfc" - a name Liddle has used - on Millwall Online, a fan club web forum with no official connection to the Millwall Football Club. Liddle at first attributed some of the comments to opposition fans logging in under his name to embarrass him. He later admitted he had written some of the posts that were being criticized, including one in support of the BNP excluding Black and Asian people from the party.[20] Another post, in which he joked about not being able to smoke at Auschwitz, led to his being forced to explain what he meant in The Jewish Chronicle.[21]

The Guardian reported on 8 January 2010 that the expected purchase of The Independent by Alexander Lebedev, a Russian billionaire, would be followed by the appointment of Liddle as editor.[22] Roy Greenslade wrote on 11 January that the reports were provoking a "major internal and external revolt" by The Independents staff and readers.[23] The stories about Liddle's posts on Millwall Online apparently further reduced the likelihood of him being offered the job.[21] Finally, on 19 February, Stephen Brook of The Guardian reported that Liddle was no longer in the running for the post.[24]

In November 2011 an article[25] Liddle wrote for The Spectator concerning the trial of two men accused of murdering Stephen Lawrence was referred to the Attorney General (Dominic Grieve) by the judge for possible contempt of court.[26] Having decided that it may have breached a court order, Grieve has passed the case on to the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions.[27]

In January 2012 Liddle caused further outrage by claiming that many people in the UK were 'pretending to be disabled' in 'The Sun.'

Political views

Liddle is a member of the Labour Party.[28] His political views are sometimes questioned by those on both left and right.[29] [30] He stated his beliefs on his Spectator blog:

I'm not sure why it puzzles people, although I assume it’s something to do with what the Labour Party has become. I am pretty much of the left, but loathe the censoriousness, arrogance, self-righteousness and political correctness of the left, or London faux-left, as I would describe it. I sign up to most of the stuff which used to be considered left – decent minimum wage, redistributive tax policy, social ownership of those things which as a society we need but which the market struggles to provide (trains, utilities, council housing and the like).

My worries about immigration, meanwhile, are twofold; that as a country we have become too crowded, and that the free movement of labour has made it harder for indigenous working class people to earn a decent wage, rent a decent house, get their kids educated in schools where the other kids speak the same language and so on and so on. My dislike of multiculturalism stems not simply from the belief that competing cultures undermine a sense of national identity and shared aspiration, but that some of the cultures we have encouraged, or made allowances for, are profoundly illiberal and penalize the most vulnerable sectors of society. And when that happens – either with the more rigorous strictures of Islam, or the low educational achievement and predilection towards crime of young African Caribbean men (© Diane Abbott), we should say so, and say so forcefully.

I suppose on these latter points it has largely been the right-wing doing most of the running – but I do not see why it is right wing per se to object to the authoritarianism of Islam, or a culture which leads black kids towards crime. Quite the reverse, I would have thought. But there we are. I hope this has helped.[31]

He said in 2009: "I got a reputation three or four years ago for being very right wing. This was always bollocks, I've never been right wing", and that "The truth is I'm a fundamentalist liberal, I'm probably worse than all those other people." He is a critic of Islam, and sees the religion as oppressive. However, he says it is the Christians who are more offended by his views: "When I write things about Islam I get letters and emails from Muslims, which with great politeness and erudition explain why they think I'm wrong and wish me the best. When I write about evangelical Christianity I get death threats, I get told that I'm going to burn in hell for all eternity and so are all my children."[32]

Personal life

Liddle married his longtime partner, Rachel Royce, a television presenter, in January 2004 at a ceremony in Malaysia. They had been living in Heytesbury, Wiltshire, and had two sons together, Tyler and Wilder.[33] Six months later, Liddle moved in with Alicia Monckton, a 22-year-old receptionist at The Spectator. It transpired that he had cut his honeymoon with Royce short so that he could be with Monckton. Following their divorce, Liddle and Royce exchanged attacks in the media. Liddle called her a "total slut and slattern", and Royce wrote an article in the Daily Mail titled "My cheating husband Rod, 10 bags of manure and me the bunny boiler. As for The Slapper... she's welcome to him".[34] As of 2011 Royce was still writing about her ex-husband in the Mail.[35] On 5 May 2005, he was arrested for common assault against Monckton, who was 20 weeks pregnant at the time. He admitted the offence and accepted a police caution, but said later that he only did so because it was the quickest way for him to be released, and that he had not assaulted her.[36] The couple's daughter, Emmeline, named after the suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, was born in October 2005.[12] The couple married in September 2008.[37]

Liddle has supported Millwall Football Club since the age of seven. He frequently attends home and away games. He has written several articles lamenting the demise of football as the people's game.[38]


The New Fundamentalists

In The New Fundamentalists, a programme in the Dispatches strand broadcast in March 2006, Liddle, a member of the Church of England, condemned the rise of evangelicalism and Christian fundamentalism in Britain, especially the anti-Darwinian influence of such beliefs in faith schools; and criticised the social teaching and cultural influence of this strand of Christianity. The documentary was criticised by David Hilborn of the Evangelical Alliance,[39] and by Rupert Kaye of the Association of Christian Teachers.[40]

The Trouble with Atheism

In The Trouble with Atheism, Liddle argued that atheists can be as dogmatic and intolerant as the adherents of religion. Liddle said, "History has shown us that it's not religion that's the problem, but any system of thought that insists that one group of people are inviolably in the right, whereas the others are in the wrong and must somehow be punished."[41] Liddle argues, for example, that eugenic policies are the logical consequence of dogmatic adherence to Darwinism.

Immigration Is A Time Bomb

Liddle's Immigration Is A Time Bomb was broadcast by Channel 4 in 2005. The complaints that followed it included that he should not have allowed British National Party leader Nick Griffin to speak unchallenged. Ofcom adjudicated that the programme was fair, and the complaints were dismissed. Liddle subsequently argued, after Griffin was acquitted in February 2006 of two charges of inciting racial hatred, that the charges were "too ephemeral, too dependent upon the mindset and political disposition of the juror, and upon what is happening outside of the courtroom, on the streets."[42]

Other work

In April 2007, Liddle presented a two-hour long theological documentary called The Bible Revolution where he looked back in history to William Tyndale's translation of the Bible in English and the effect this had upon the English language.[43] On 21 May 2007, he presented an hour long documentary, Battle for the Holy Land: Love Thy Neighbour, about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. He visited Bethlehem, Hebron and the Israeli settlement of Tekoa. Liddle sought to examine whether Israel was a true liberal democracy in light of its treatment of the Palestinians. He also appeared in Channel 4's alternative election night episode of Come Dine With Me along with Edwina Curry, Derek Hatton and Brian Paddick. He surprised his fellow guests by serving jerk chicken sourced from a halal butcher.


In 2003 Liddle wrote a collection of short stories, Too Beautiful For You.[44] He said he has always wanted to be a writer, and saw journalism as a cop-out.[5] He is also the author of Love Will Destroy Everything (2007) and the co-author of The Best of Liddle Britain (2007).

External links

Notes and References

  1. "Profile: Rod Liddle: How to sex up – and mess up – your life"
  2. Leapman, Michael. "The New Statesman Interview – Rod Liddle", New Statesman, 30 July 2001.
  3. "Rod Liddle"
  4. "This week's panel"
  5. Barber, Lynn. "Liddle at large", The Observer, 5 October 2003.
  6. Liddle, Rod. "Marching back to Labour", The Guardian, 25 September 2002
  7. Day, Julia. "Telegraph accuses Liddle of political bias", The Guardian, 26 September 2002.
  8. "BBC editor steps down"
  9. Wilson, Jamie. "Liddle 'ordered to sack Forsyth'", The Guardian, 3 February 2003.
  10. "BBC rejects Liddle comments"
  11. Rod Liddle "Harriet Harman is either thick or criminally disingenuous", The Spectator, 19 November 2009
  12. Viv Groskop "Rod Liddle: Maybe I was wrong to say I wouldn't sleep with Harriet Harman", Evening Standard (This is London website), 2 October 2009
  13. Hughes, Mark. "Liddle under fire over 'racist' blog", The Independent, 7 December 2009.
  14. Liddle, Rod. "Muslim savages update", The Spectator, 19 November 2009.
  15. Liddle, Rod. "Benefits of a multi-cultural Britain", The Spectator, 5 December 2009.
  16. Irvine, Chris. "Rod Liddle accused of racism for blog", The Daily Telegraph, 7 December 2009.
  17. West, Ed. By talking frankly about black crime, Rod Liddle is combatting racism, not causing it, The Daily Telegraph, 7 December 2009.
  18. Plunkett, John. "Rod Liddle censured by the PCC", The Guardian, 29 March 2010.
  19. Alderson, Andrew. "Violent inner-city crime, the figures, and a question of race", The Daily Telegraph, 26 June 2010.
  20. Owen, Glen. "Former Today editor Rod Liddle under fire over 'racist' posts on football supporters' website", Mail on Sunday, 17 January 2010; Preston, Peter. "Liddle plus Lebedev hardly adds up to Independent thinking", The Observer, 17 January 2010.
  21. Robinson, James. "Rod Liddle defends quip about Auschwitz on Millwall fans' forum", The Guardian, 22 January 2010.
  22. Sweney, Mark and Brook, Stephen. "Rod Liddle lined up to edit Independent", The Guardian, 8 January 2010.
  23. Greenslade, Roy. "Independent faces revolt from staff and readers if Liddle becomes editor", The Guardian, 11 January 2010
  24. Brook, Stephen. "Rod Liddle no longer in running for Independent editor", The Guardian, 19 February 2010.
  25. Dominic Ponsford "The Rod Liddle article which threatened Stephen Lawrence trial as it had barely begun", Press Gazette (blog), 4 January 2012
  26. "Spectator referred for 'contempt'"
  27. Jason Deans "Spectator article on Stephen Lawrence trial referred to DPP", The Guardian, 29 November 2011
  28. Liddle, Rod. "So some people actually voted for Abbott?", The Spectator, 26 September 2010.
  29. Hundal, Sunny. "Campaign on Rod Liddle moves into final stage", Liberal Conspiracy, 16 February 2010.
  30. Hannan, Daniel. "Has the time come to emigrate?", The Daily Telegraph, 19 June 2010.
  31. Liddle, Rod. "Hope this helps, Dan", The Spectator, 7 July 2010.
  32. "Rod Liddle: 'I've never had a go at Muslims, only Islam'"
  33. Burleigh, James. "The cheating, the rows, the revenge: Liddle and Royce spill their vitriol (and manure) in public", The Independent, 12 July 2004.
  34. Smith, David. "The bitter fallout from a media divorce", The Observer, 11 July 2004.
  35. Royce, Rachel. "How can the swine Rod Liddle, who cheated on me within days of our wedding, set himself up as a champion of marriage?", Daily Mail, 14 July 2011.
  36. Bloomfield, Steve. "Oh dear, the telephone puts poor Rod on the hook again", The Independent, 8 May 2005.
  37. Todd, Ben. "'Why I love marriage' by serial philanderer Rod Liddle", Daily Mail, 13 July 2011.
  38. Liddle, Rod. "We love you, Millwall, we do", The Guardian, 29 January 2003.
  39. 'Dispatches: The New Fundamentalists'
  40. Kaye, Rupert. "The New Fundamentalists", Association of Christian Teachers, 7 March 2006.
  41. Busfield, Steve. "The pronouncements of Rod Liddle", The Guardian, 8 January 2010.
  42. Liddle, Rod. "Alas, I must defend the BNP", The Times, February 5, 2006.
  43. "The Bible Revolution"
  44. Jeffreys, Susan. "Too Beautiful For You By Rod Liddle", The Independent, 3 October 2003.