Ed Miliband lands on a snake

The Snakes & Ladders theory of political communication strikes again
Eighteen months ago, I asked the question 'do interviews ever deliver anything but bad news for politicians?' as a prelude to summarising the Snakes and Ladders theory of political communication, first aired in a joint paper by John Heritage and me at a conference on the 1987 general election.

The general argument was that speeches work like 'ladders' that can move politicians up towards a winning position on the board, whereas interviews work like 'snakes' that can only move them downwards (for more on which see links below).

Miliband lands on a snake
Twitter and the blogosphere have been so alive with negative comments about this interview with Ed Miliband on yesterday's public sector strikes (see samples below) that it must surely count as a classic case of a politician suffering from landing on a snake - and it will certainly be included among my specimens if I ever have the chance of giving an updated version of the original paper.

It is also one of the reasons why I continue to be baffled by the willingness of British politicians to go along with the decision of the British media to banish oratory to the sidelines and put interviews in pole position.

What neither the media nor politicians seem to understand is that most interviews are utterly tedious for audiences and can be extremely risky for interviewees - as Mr Miliband and his supporters have been finding out the hard way.

Tweets on the interview from Labour supporters
"Repetition is a key rhetorical device, but this is bonkers! It's the WEIRDEST political interview I've ever seen!" - @MartinShovel

"Ed shoot the adviser who told you to stick to the message & keep repeating it - I think they might be a plant from Tory HQ. What a disaster!" - @MartinShovel

"This video has been viewed a frankly embarrassing number of times on LabourList and God knows how many times on the bbc" - @Markfergusonuk

"We're not arguing that it went viral for a good reason" - @Markfergusonuk

Blogs on the interview worth a read
Was Milliband set up by BBC? - Alex Folkes (LibDem supporter)
Ed Miliband's media fail - Shane Greer (Tory supporter)


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