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:
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