Sunday 26 April 2015

Andrew Marr v Ed Miliband

Even before the Spectator called The Andrew Marr Show out on that false fox-hunting quote, Andrew Marr had been on the end of a lot of charges of 'bias' for his inconsistent interviews with party politicians during this election - especially for his much tougher interviews with George Osborne and David Cameron, compared to the significantly softer ones with Harriet Harman, Nicola Sturgeon and Vince Cable. 

Even without the calls for a public apology, today's edition was always going to be heavily scrutinised for bias - especially as the 'big interview' today has been with Labour leader Ed Miliband. 

As I wrote last week:
Next week, Ed Miliband will be the main attraction. It will be very interesting to see what kind of interview he receives. To avoid charges of inconsistency and bias, Andrew Marr will have to go at him very hard indeed, questioning him closely on a wide range of policy issues and pursuing any evasive answers as tenaciously as he pursued George Osborne last week.
Well, frankly, I don't think he did go at him very hard indeed, question him closely on a wide range of policy issue or pursue any evasive answers as tenaciously as he pursued George Osborne a week earlier.

Having to be consistent myself, I have to say though that on a simple count of interruptions though, Ed was interrupted some 36 times - the same as my count for David Cameron. 

However, and this is where the main flaw in the interruption-counting method of bias detection come in. Today's interview was full of half-made, unassertive interruptions, including a few 'but, but, but, buts...' that went nowhere - unlike the sharply-pointed questions and criticisms in last week's 'big interview'. It's as if Andy knew that his interruptions were being counted (as he undoubtedly does) and was boosting his own total by making lots of phoney semi-interruptions (making a show of activity). It also made it very hard to count accurately. (It's usually quite easy).

Boris Johnson, sitting on the sofa with Ed Miliband at the end, also said he thought the Labour leader had actually been given a soft interview. Now, he would say that perhaps, but was he right?

Unfortunately, we are mostly back to 'tone' here (with all of its subjectivity). I felt the interviews with David Cameron and George Osborne (especially) were much more challenging in tone. Andrew Marr sounded really fired up, as if he was having a proper go at George Osborne. He sounded only a bit less fired-up in pursuit of Cameron. With Ed Miliband today he seemed much less intense, pursuing him over the SNP but not sounding anywhere near as frustrated that he was getting nowhere fast than he did with the Tory chancellor. He repeatedly told his Tory interviewees that they weren't answering his question. He made only one such comment today to Ed - and even them rather gently (making Ed smile).

I also thought it was quite surprising that, having Boris and Ed on the sofa together, that Andrew's questions (about non doms and the charges of 'backstabbing his brother') were put to Boris. I'd have expected him to pursue the potential next prime minister more at that point (if he was going to pursue anyone).

As for "questioning him closely on a wide range of topics", well, that didn't really happen either.

Last week,  David Cameron was asked about why his party won't be able to win a majority, why his party's campaign is stuttering, whether he'd step aside if his party didn't win a majority, whether he'd do a deal with UKIP, about his government's failings over housing, about whether the Tories are a party of the rich, about whether his favourite sport in fox-hunting, about whether welfare cuts are hurting poor and vulnerable people (with two personal cases being raised), on why food banks have massively increased on his watch, on whether foreign nationals are the ones getting the new jobs, on where that £8bn for the NHS is coming from ("I didn't get far with your chancellor"), and on whether the Lloyds shares policy has been announced many times before and is "another Conservative bribe".

This week, Ed Miliband was asked about a deal with the SNP and whether he'd be a legitimate PM if he lost the vote in England and Scotland, about borrowing, spending and what he'd cut, about where union-sponsored Labour MPs might revolt against any cuts, about why there's never been a proper apology for the over-spending during the last Labour government and, finally, on his rental policy when all economists agree "Just doesn't work" - i.e. essentially three subjects.

The IFS's criticisms of Labour were mentioned but when Ed dismissed them he wasn't doggedly pursued. Nor was his answer about the union-sponsored Labour MPs. He was pursued a bit, however, over his rental policy, and Andy certainly tried to get a concrete answer over what exactly a Labour government's relationship with Nicola Sturgeon would be. 

Obviously, there's stuff in there for The Andrew Marr Show to use to try to deny that this was a softer interview: Andrew Marr did interrupt a lot, and he did raise quite a lot of questions that anti-Labour voters on the right will have wanted put. But the 'softness' of tone and the lack of a comparable tenacity of questioning, makes me agree with Boris: This was a softer interview than the ones with David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

You, of course, are free (as ever) to watch it for yourselves and disagree.


Next week, it's Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage.

Oh yes, Nigel Farage! How on earth will Andrew Marr treat him?


  1. More importantly (much more to some in the production room), how good was the band?

    Will have a listen, but in following live on twitter (to stay legal), it was interesting there was no apparent reference to the rental goof being universally panned at that moment in the real world.

    Also a pity not to have the logistics of the Islamaphobia impositions fleshed out more, especially in light of how such a policy seems to have been the main cause of The Tower Hamlets situation.

    Of course, this latter a piece of news the BBC has consigned, as it is won't to do, to the memory hole.

    Maybe a researcher appalled by BBC shenanigans could release details of what they choose to suppress as much as what they are pursuing?

  2. I also wonder if it was/is worth a mention that Justine Roberts is 'one of the family' as it were, impartiality-wise.

    Maybe the BBC saved the cab fare if she came in with hubs.

  3. This was ridiculous. Marr helping and giving Miliband so many set-up questions. He did interrupt, and he did press, but it was obvious that he wanted to make specific points for Miliband to respond to. He wanted to hear specific defenses for specific challenges, and mostly got them. Curiously. They appeared to be tough questions, but Miliband had prepared answers for all of them.

    The worst part of the whole thing was when Marr asked him about apologizing for the economic mistakes of the previous Labour Government. Miliband said they apologized for getting regulation wrong, they apologized for the financial crisis. It wasn't mentioned, but Labour has also apologized for getting immigration wrong. Yet Miliband has the gall to say that the Tories can't run on their record, and Marr doesn't even see a problem.

    Although, Miliband said that failed regulation caused the financial crisis. So not the nasty casino banksters? It didn't all start in America? I bet that went in one BBC ear and out the other, and not a single Beeboid will have grasped it and they will all continue with the old narrative.

  4. If you had aggressively questioned the PM over fox hunting wouldn't you begin with Miliband by asking him about how he benefited from a tax avoidance scheme on his mother's house?

  5. On BBC News on the 24th April 2015, during a migration report their anchor Chris Rogers referred to the Labour leader as,'SIR' Ed Miliband. I was stunned and immediately went on-line to complain, asking how this mistake could occur from a seasoned, experienced News presenter. They replied:

    "Thank you for contacting us regarding the BBC News Channel on 24 April.
    We understand you believe that Chris Rodgers referred to Ed Miliband as ‘sir’ in his piece on the migrant crisis at 8:00pm.

    It does sound as though this was said however this is clearly a slip of the tongue and was certainly not an attempt to influence the British public in any way as you suggest.

    We appreciate you bringing this to our attention. All complaints are sent to senior management and programme makers every morning and we included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensure your complaint is seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future reporting"

    They are shameless.


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