25 March 2013

Boris Johnson's Sunday morning meeting with Eddie Mair

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On several occasions, I've asked whether interviews are ever capable of delivering good news for politicians and wondered why our political leaders appear content with the deal that appears to have been done with the media - in which news interviews have more or less taken over from speeches as the main means of political communication in Britain (see links below).

Vivid evidence of the damage a politician can do to himself was provided yesterday morning on a TV show in which interviews play a major part, and where the producers' best hope is that an interviewee will say something - or, better still, say some things - that will attract much wider media attention than the show normally enjoys.

This time, the interviewee was Mayor of London Boris Johnson, for whom at least three of Eddie Mair's questions caused problems (from about 7 minutes 20 seconds into the above): was he fired from The Times for inventing a story, had he told former leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard a 'bare-faced lie' and had he talked to a friend on the phone about having someone beaten up?

Not news on the BBC?
A curious feature of this story was the way in which it didn't become a story on the BBC, whose news broadcasts later in the day carried on as if the Mair-Johnson interview wasn't news at all, even though other media outlets thought differently:
ITN
Daily Mirror
The Guardian
Daily Mail
Huffington Post

Short-term irritant or longer term damage?
The interesting question now is whether these few moments from a Sunday morning TV show will have any more lasting impact on Mr Johnson's reputation and political career.

If nothing else, I suspect that I won't be alone in watching tonight's Michael Cockerell documentary that  prompted Eddie Mair's quetions (at 9.00 p.m. on BBC2).


Related posts on televised interviews
Related posts on media coverage of speeches

14 March 2013

Did the cardinals have a hidden agenda in electing another old man to the to the papacy?



Now that Benedict XVI has shown the world that a pope can retire when he feels a bit past it, the cardinals must have felt liberated to hand the top job to another old man.

And how very polite commentators have become. There was a time when the advanced age of the new Pope would have been a major focus for comment and complaint. But there doesn't seem to have been much of either (yet).

Since qualifying for bus and rail passes, I don't feel at all inhibited about saying that I think there's something vaguely barmy about cardinals electing a 76 year old to take charge of an organisation as big and complex as the Roman Catholic church.

Unless, of course, their hidden and hush-hush agenda was to accept the implicit change in job specification decreed by Benedict - i.e. that popes can now retire whenever they feel like it.

By opening the papacy up to anyone below the age of 80 (males only, of course) the cardinals are giving more of them a chance to become infallible. And, if old fogeys are now to become the norm rather than the exception, the Roman Catholic church won't have to suffer for too long from any mistakes the 'electorate' happens to make (as, for example, the pope emeritus?).


9 March 2013

Ashdown can still rouse the party faithful



It's good to see an old dog who hasn't forgotten what were new tricks to him when he first gave a leader's speech to his party conference 25 years ago.

Speaking to the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in Brighton, chairman of the party's next general election campaign and former party leader Paddy Ashdown made the most of his chance to rally the troops again in what Patrick Sawyer of the Daily Telegraph referred to as 'a rousing speech'.

And what was the line that caught the media's attention?

Surprise, surprise - it was a simple contrast: “I don’t want being in government, to be a blip for the Liberal Democrats. I want it to become a habit."

4 March 2013

What do Nigel Farage MEP and Gordon Brown MP have in common?



I'm grateful to @HadleighRoberts for tweeting a link to this clip of Guy Verhofstadt MEP pointing out that Nigel Farage's participation in the European parliament fisheries committee rivals that of Gordon Brown's participation in the House of Commons since the last general election.

I was also interested to see that this attack on Mr Farage prompted three bursts of applause in less than two minutes, and has now been seen by nearly 100,000 YouTube viewers.

Some of the comments posted under the YouTube clip, and especially that by 'britboy4321', are well worth a read by anyone who might be thinking that Mr Farage and UKIP are worthy of so much attention (e.g. Westminster Village media reporters, editors of BBC Question Time, BBC Any Questions, etc.)...

1 March 2013

Was the Conservative candidate gagged after losing Eastleigh?



Maria Hutchings, defeated Conservative Party candidate in yesterday's Eastleigh by-election, has provided another remarkable video-clip for my collection.

What's so peculiar about it is the 'interviewees' determined refusal to say anything at all, accompanied by an unchangingly static facial expression.

Opening questions fishing for her view on what had gone wrong,  such as "Why did you do so badly?" and "You came third in a two-horse race - what went wrong?" quickly gave way to her silence as the main focus of reporters' attention: "Why won't you say anything?"; "Have you been gagged?" and "This is unbelievable."

And there was indeed something very 'unbelievable' about it, as it's so rare for a politician to refrain from  speaking to the media, even in the face of such difficult questions, that I too was left wondering whether Ms Hutchings had been 'gagged' by her party machine...