|Interviewing Mr Brown
||[Jun. 23rd, 2007|09:38 am]
There's got to be a better way of interviewing politicians.|
Last night's Newsnight lined up three BBC heavy hitters against the Chancellor-soon-to-be-prime-minister and had them take their best shots at him one by one. It was painful. Smiles on both sides and a succession of hostile questions that, if answered honestly, would have laid waste not only the British Government but the whole Western Alliance. Does Mr Brown find George Bush impressive? Of course he doesn't, but equally obviously he can't say so. Brown wriggled, squirmed and deflected. The only thing we learned- and maybe it's something- is that he finds it harder to give the lie direct than Blair ever did.
But it's hard to see the point of these slugfests. They've become ritualised. The aim is to shock the politician into making an ass of himself and sometimes- in a more innocent past- that was achieved. But these days the politician is in on the secret and comes well-practised and well-briefed- and the chance of him taking real damage is astronomically remote.
So how about another approach? Something more relaxed, less confrontational. I'm thinking Frost-Nixon. Two persons in armchairs- maybe with whisky to hand- just chatting away. It's not an approach that's going to bring down a govenment but then again neither is the present one. And maybe, with the journalist less determined to prove his macho credentials and the politician less on the defensive, we'd learn a bit more about policy and personality and the things that ought to matter to an electorate.
I didn't see it, but you make it sound like any of the array of Pop Idol / The Apprentice-style programmes we've got at the moment. The thing with politicians is that they go into an interview with things they want said as well, regardless of the questions they are asked. Unfortunately, people don't generally like being told the truth, so there are few votes in airing it. Elder statesmen often give more reasoned interviews because they no longer hold career aspirations.
Blair was rather good at the game. He had this ability to project sincerity and blokeishness. In the end, of course, we sussed him out and got sick of his tricks and manners. Brown is much less comfortable being interviewed- and less skilled at camoflauging his evasions.
The most honest politician interviews used to be on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. They assumed he was simply a comedian, and they'd come on and make jokes. Suddenly he'd sneak up behind them and hit them with a really thoughtful question, and they'd have to scramble for the answer. Now of course they either decline to come on The Daily Show or they come prepared as they would for a news interview.
Currently the Colbert Report is doing the sneaky questions thing. Stephen Colbert posing as a rabidly far right wing TV host, inviting unwitting pols on the show, and throwing questions at them that are so far to the right that they find themselves having to actually resort to honesty. Either that, or they agree with him, so that lets us know how nuts they really are. Point being is that I think it would take an interview with a particularly wise and snotty comedian for these politicians to come up with any truth, on either side of the pond.
We have plenty of satirists, but no-one who is doing the Stewart/Colbert thing.
We have this guy called Paxman who approaches his interviewees like they were something nasty he's just avoided treading in. That approach used to work but- like I said- the pols are wise to it now.
devilish creatures that they are, politicians always adapt. Like roaches.
Like roaches- yes, I like it.
Never going to happen though, is it?