GE2015 minus 39: erm… sorry, could you repeat the question?

Posted: 29 March 2015 in general election 2015, politics
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The past few entries in this countdown to the 2015 general election have been fairly heavy, so let’s make this one a bit lighter in tone. 

In fact it has to be lighter in tone because if I wrote this while letting my true feelings out, I think I’d have to go and lie down in a darkened room to calm down. What has brought me to this level of calm-calm-calm-forfuckssakestaycalm? An interview conducted by Andrew Neil with Lucy Powell, the vice-chair of Labour’s election campaign.

Some folks on social media have described it as a ‘car-crash’ interview; I don’t think it’s awfulness goes that far. It’s just a bad, bad interview, with Neil asking questions and wanting answers, and Powell trotting out a presumably agreed line, while at no point actually answering the questions asked. She continually objects to Neil’s not letting her answer the question, and then goes off into the wild blue yonder to.. well, I’m sure she’s answering a series of questions, but they’re certainly not the questions that Neil is asking.

Here, take a look.

And so, to prevent my blood pressure rising any further than it should do (there’s only so much Ramipril can do, you know) here’s a selection of political interviews which are definitely not the interviewees’ finest moments.

Let’s start with the infamous one: Jeremy Paxman and Michael Howard. In May 1997, after a report into a series of prison escapes had criticised the home office, Howard, then Home Secretary, blamed the Prison Service. Asking whether Howard had intervened when the head of that service sacked a prison governor,Howard repeatedly ducked the question asked. Watch Paxman’s face, throughout. (Later, Paxman admitted that he had to pad for time, but that Howard’s obvious reluctance gave him a way to do so.)  It took Howard some time to recover any personal authority. 

Coming closer to recent times, here’s Andrew Neil again, interviewing David Aaronovitch and teh American shock-jock, Alex Jones. Suffice to say, Neil is not impressed with the latter.

And finally, my personal favourite. Step forward, Chloe Smith. At the time this was recorded, June 2012, she was a treasury minister, the youngest minister in the government. There’d just been a U-turn on something announced in the 2012 Budget. Now, this budget held and holds the record for the most things announced upon which there were later u-turns. It destroyed George Osborne’s credibility for a couple of years, and anyone seeking to defend any part of it had a tough job. But this particular change? Well, everyone knew it had been made without any serious consideration, and there was no way it could be justifiably defended. And so it turned out to be…

See you tomorrow with something more a lot more serious… 

  1. I wouldn’t describe Alex Jones as a ‘shock jock’. His supporters say he is the only man in the media that tells the truth. He is a manifestation of the conspiracy theorist mixed up with highlighting the stories the mainstream ignore.

    Of course the mainstream media ignore stories not because of the massive world conspiracy that Alex has discovered but because they are mainstream. Mainstream by definition means a facile concern with the trivial, politics by personality, debate centred on ratings, news coverage approved by media corporations. This isn’t conspiracy just the filter we live through. If Orson Welles were directing Citizen Kane today then Rupert Murdoch would be the thinly disguised central character. If Kafka were writing today the benefit claimant would be the one accused of having an undeclared bedroom.

    In the field of chat shows is the show about the host or the guest. In the political interview is the interview designed to get the information to the potential voter or boost the reputation of the interviewer. In not particular order i make the following observations.

    1. BBC News

    Watching Nick Robinson report politics is for me about watching a man trying to say how clever he is. His reports often have closing lines that seem to be designed to sum up the report and say to the audience ‘aren’t I a clever wordsmith putting this altogether and dispensing my wisdom’. Whether intentional or not I feel he talks down to the audience from above.

    When I add this to James Landale (the Deputy Political editor) you know that the BBC is ‘posh’. This is conservative politics from the Westminster village. You could see these guys were in foreign territory when subjected to reporting from Scotland live during the referendum.

    2. Daily/Sunday Politics

    Andrew Neil is a tough interviewer but one of his more telling tweets was that he isn’t going to get a heavyweight interview with Cameron and Miliband. After a couple of years of doing the media agenda of Miliband being an unpopular nerd that Cameron will easily beat he has moved into a more neutral position in recent months.

    3. Paxman

    Paxman, who on his Newsnight retirement, said he was a ‘one nation Tory’ dismisses all politicians with a sneer and a sigh. While this style is entertaining are we really now being so cynical that an interviewee being sincere will be judged by Paxman’s reaction…

    My favourite interviewer. Eddie Mair from PM on Radio 4. Somehow he really gets the questions answered in a quiet non-confrontational style.

    • Wow. Ok, taking your points one at a time.

      To describe all mainstream media as facile is a bit like describing all politicians as corrupt, all bankers as immoral or all accountants as crooked. It’s an easy line with just the faintest whiff of truth. But you’re also confusing the medium with the message. I can name a few American journalists and reporters I like reading and a few British ones at that. To write them all off as not worth it is indeed facile.

      Nick Robinson : I dunno. Maybe because I’m a write I enjoy a well turned phrase. I think Robinson is superb at explaining complex issues in a straight-forward way, along with Peston. And he’s never backwards about coming forwards when he’s made an error, again something he shares with Peston. When I’ve seen him ask questions at a press conference he HAS asked the question is want to ask.
      And the BBC is ‘posh’? Oh, I’m sorry, Steve that’s just plain nonsense. You sound like you’re describing a BBC from the 1950s.

      Andrew Neil: again I’m sorry, but I can’t agree. You appear to be suggesting that it’s been impossible for anyone to hold or express a view unless it’s being fed to them. A tough interview is a tough interview and I haven’t detected any bias on his side other than – arguably – a pro-Union element to some of his indyref interviews. But even then, his documentary on the Indy referendum was just superb.

      Paxman: I wasn’t aware that all interviewers had to have the same view as every one of their viewers.

      My favourite interviewer. Mair’s excellent; so’s James O’Brien.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s