Sunday 30 November 2014

Miscellany for Advent Sunday

This week's Newswatch had Evan Davis on to answer questions about his interviewing technique following complaints from viewers about his interruption-strewn interview with Owen Paterson MP (and Emily Maitlis's just-as-interruption-strewn interview with Sir Malcolm Rifkind), which we discussed here on Thursday

Evan put in a larger-than-life performance, being himself, and Samira Ahmed was clearly charmed. 

He conceded that he'd interrupted a couple of times too often but stood by his performance overall, saying that Mr Paterson had been given a long time to give his first answer and, thus, been allowed to make his case. 

Samira, however, had read to him a viewer's comment that didn't just complain about all the interrupting. It also complained that Evan Davis had been over-keen to put his own point of view across. That's something also remarked on by us (the bit where he tried to get Mr Paterson to say that the EU isn't over-regulatory and undemocratic). Evan 'forgot' to answer that bit of the complaint.


Samira then literally brought down the curtain on the programme by reading out a few more of Newswatch viewers' least favourite cliches. 

People are literally sick to death of inappropriate uses of the word 'literally', among other things. 

Well, my bugbear (besides politicians accusing each other of rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic) is the way more and more people, especially scientists (for some reason), are beginning their answers to questions with the word 'so'. It's spreading like a plague of anchovies. So annoying. 

Well, at least they don't overuse the word 'well' at the start of sentences - unlike certain people I can mention. Namely me. 


Today's Andrew Marr Show balanced Tories and Labour people well. 

The main political interviews were George Osborne and Ed Balls. I laughed at Andy Marr telling Ed Balls that he would be unpopular if he became chancellor after the next election because of all the cuts/tax rises that would have to be brought in to tackle the deficit and adding, cheekily, "even more unpopular than you are now" [I'm quoting from memory there], and then taunting him about George Osborne having shot his fox over the NHS spending pledge. 

The other example of the show balancing Tories and Labour people well came during the press review. 

The Tory guest praised Mr Osborne's political skills over the NHS spending pledge but queried the move (given that both the deficit and national debt are still going up), stood up for an English parliament and denounced Labour's calls for English regionalism, defended a Tory MP and then stood up for an ex-Tory MP.

The Labour guest questioned the UK's economic recovery and raised the cost of living crisis, argued against an English parliament and echoed Labour's proposals for northern councils to have powers instead, flagged up a piece by Will Hutton, heaped more pressure on a Tory MP and then further undermined an ex-Tory MP.

The Tory guest was Iain Dale. The Labour guest, it wasn't a Labour guest after all, sorry. It was the former BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders. My mistake.

Actually, that's a little unfair on her. Her take on the UK economy was pretty balanced, in in all. Her take on matters constitutional much less so.


This morning's Sunday on Radio 4 talked about the visit of Pope Francis to Turkey. Caroline Wyatt did her BBC duty and (twice) compared his skills favourably to that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. As I knew she would in advance (it's de rigeur for Sunday) she mentioned that Benedict got into a spot of bother just before his visit to Turkey by appearing to connect Islam with violence. As we all know, the two things are in no way connected - as we can see in the news every day. I'd have preferred much more of a focus on some of the eye-poppingly nutty things the Turkish president Erdogan has been saying in recent weeks about women and the wickedness of the West. 

There was a focus on the churches' involvement in fighting HIV/Aids, especially in connection to "Black African men and women" (as the Sunday website puts it, curiously using a capital 'b' throughout for 'Black'), plus a bit about religion in The Simpsons. There was an interview with Bishop Larry Jones from St Louis about the Ferguson riots, where the underlying assumption that the grand jury got it wrong and that it's all about racism wasn't challenged. There was a football-related, WW1-related bit about a new version of Silent Night (presumably the programme's bit to mark Advent Sunday). There was something about Catholic-Orthodox relations in light of the Pope's meeting with the Patriarch of Constantinople (yes, as far as the Orthodox Church is concerned, it's Constantinople not Istanbul, it's Constantinople not Istanbul...)...

...and there was a discussion about the place of religion in public life with two people from a high-powered commission - namely a couple of Sunday regulars, humanist Andrew Copson and interfaith thinker Ed Kessler. Ed Kessler founded the Woolf Institute, the body behind the commission dedicated to the study of relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims". (Poor old Sikhs and Hindus!) The man heading the commission, Thought for the Day's Lord Harries (the former Bishop of Oxford), recently hit the headlines by saying that the Koran should be read at the coronation of Prince Charles - though that wasn't discussed here. Conservative religious voices were absent too. 

Ah, I feel all liberal and vaguely religious now for some reason...


Hmm, what's good old Hugh Sykes up to on Twitter, that "endless stream of drivel" (as Damian Lewis put it on Desert Island Discs)? Anything impartial? 

Oh, look! He's retweeted a Haaretz writter attacking UKIP and Mehdi Hasan attacking UKIP. He's clearly still not exactly warming to UKIP, is he?
Oh Hugh!


  1. Yes "So" at the start of every sentence, or "absolutely" annoy me intensely. I shout, but it does a fat lot of good.

  2. I noticed the "So" plague about three months is more infectious than Ebola! Virtually every interviewee uses it now.

    A rough translation is "I am going to ignore whatever it was you asked me and insert here my prepared soundbite" .

    So there.

    Dan Read


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