One of the major problems with having politicians who seem to lie at will (as if that wasn’t enough to be going on with) is the inability of some of our foremost news journalists to confront them when they take a holiday from the facts or obfuscate and misdirect with waffle in the style of Sir Humphrey Appleby.
MP’s (especially minister’s) receive PR training – especially in the art of avoiding ever answering a difficult question -and these tactics are as old as the political interview itself, older in fact. So I think that the least we should expect is that when a perfectly reasonable and important question is put to a minister, the journalist concerned ought to have the competence to be able to identify if the question has not been answered and to have the journalistic cohunes to insist on receiving a sensible response.
Tonight Faisal Islam, Channel 4 News’ otherwise excellent economics editor, was led a merry dance by George Osborne throughout his (very) brief interview. I won’t bore you with the entire Q&A but the last question/answer exchange is instructive and is a perfect example of the limpest type of political interviewing.
FI: You spent the night shift here, some would argue that this recovery is built on people being paid less and people having lower real wages and that is the foundation of this recovery..
So Faisal has asked the Chancellor a fundamental question about what is underpinning this ‘recovery’ is it just that people are being paid less? Now read Osborne’s Yes Minister style answer:
GO: What I’d say is that I have met a lot of people working incredibly hard through the night, here in this depot in Daventry, in the bakery in the Birmingham area, on the M6 doing road repairs. What struck me about those people is that they are incredibly hard working people trying to provide for their family and everything I’m going to do as chancellor is to help those people. Those are the people I have in mind as we move from rescue to recovery as we try and build an economy that works for everyone.
FI: Thanks Chancellor
THANKS FOR WHAT? All you got from GO was a nice Tory PR statement where the Chancellor was able to repeat a few pre-prepared favourite Tory soundbites… “incredibly hard working families” (twice) “building an economy for everyone”. Not only did he not attempt to address the question he didn’t even do us the courtesy of staying on topic. It may as well have been a party political broadcast. He wasted your time and, frankly, more importantly your viewers time!
If this is the level of interrogation we can expect of our senior government ministers from our better TV journalists then I don’t think that we will discover many truths about what they really think from watching TV news interviews.
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