Sunday 12 April 2015

Back to Andy...

Just a few more thoughts on this week's Andrew Marr Show...

I don't think there can be too much complaint about the spread of guests, politics-wise (except from ungenerous political partisans). It spread from left to right, going from Natalie Bennett through Harriet Harman and Lesley Riddoch to George Osborne and Peter Hitchens. (And, for any Scots Nats, Lesley was there to put the nationalist point of view too.)

If we were to draw a scale of hostility between Andrew Marr's all-guns-blazing interview with George Osborne and his less intense interview with Harriet Harman, where would Andy's first political interview today, with Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, come?

I've read some comments saying that it was a soft interview. I disagree, and I'd place it somewhere between the Harriet Harman and the George Osborne interviews - and much nearer the George Osborne end of the scale.

Andrew Marr really went to town on her party's policy to ban the Grand National, the nation's favourite horse race (as he called it) - especially as she repeatedly avoided confirming or denying that the Greens do want to ban it. He also pushed her on the deficit ("...we are paying huge amounts of money – 30 billion pounds in debt interest, 1.9 trillion pound black hole at the moment – that does need to be dealt with. Which is why all party leaders, including you, are being asked okay how would you deal with it?"), dismissed her 60p tax rate proposal and rather mocked her party's wealth tax proposal too.

So I'd say the Green Party representative didn't get an easy ride there. (Typically, she floundered somewhat as a result).

In fact, were I still using my old measure, the interruption coefficient, which tried to achieve a context-free (and, therefore, as-objective-as-possible measure) way of monitoring bias...

....[It was very simple to calculate. You simply divide the number of interruptions (made by the interviewer) by the length of the interview (or the time the interviewee gets to be questioned during a joint interview). The higher the interruption coefficient (I.C.) the tougher the interview]...

...the Natalie Bennett interview actually came out as the toughest, with an I.C. of 2.6 (extremely high). The George Osborne interview stood at 2.4 (also extremely high). The Harriet Harman interview stood at 1.5 (fairly high).

As the BBC was the first to tell me though, interruptions aren't everything. Still, they remain suggestive, don't they?

The George Osborne interview was especially tough because it focused relentlessly on detail - economic detail - and on the Tories' failure to be specific about the details. And Andrew Marr made his frustration at GO's reticence on the subject crystal clear:
No you keep saying sensible and balanced, balanced and sensible. That’s not, with respect, exactly what I’m asking.
Similarly, the focus on the 'great backstabbing controversy' was, well, very focused - so focused that it made GO repeat Michael Fallon's 'controversial' criticism of Ed Miliband - despite GO's very obvious initial reluctance to do so.

Yes, George came up with a fine joke at the end (on the sofa) at Hattie's expense (about them going to the same school), but the leftist Twitterati weren't entirely wrong (I think) about this being something of a car-crash interview for George Osborne.

What though of the Harriet Harman interview?

Well, there were quite a lot of interruptions and quite a bit of pressing, but on what subjects?

Well, on these subjects: (1) on whether the SNP are posing a problem for Labour in Scotland; (2) on whether Labour and the Lib Dems should team up after the election; (3) on whether the Tories are lying over their NHS spending promises; (4) on whether Ed Miliband was a bit dodgy over his own inheritance matters, and (5) over whether she's being sidelined in the campaign.

From that list, item (4) is clearly the one that will wind up Labour most. However, frankly, that was the only one, wasn't it?

And the third one of that list (on whether the Tories are lying over their NHS spending promises), on which Andrew pressed particularly strongly, struck me as especially weird. Andrew seemed to be getting frustrated with her that she wouldn't openly denounce the Tories as outright liars on the matter.

Now, I very much like Andrew Marr, but that's not exactly challenging subject matter, is it? So, his performances in the coming weeks deserve watching as closely as they were watched last time.


Incidentally, the programme, rather splendidly, posts its own transcripts of the main interviews.

It also gives some of them its own 'headlines'. 

Please compare the headlines they provide for today's George Osborne and Harriet Harman interviews and see if you can spot any bias:
Harriet Harman
 She says Labour is not talking to the Liberal Democrats behind the scenes about a
partnership after the election
 She says Tory NHS funding pledge is ‘illusory’
 She claims the Conservatives' negative campaigning is undermining the economy
and “it just turns people off”. 
George Osborne
 Chancellor denies the Conservatives are making unfunded promises to
increase NHS spending.
 He said money would come from the Conservatives ‘balanced plan’ for
the economy, but declined to go into further detail.
I'd say that Hattie gets the best out of that too: Harriet says things and denounces the Tories; George is on the defensive though, having to deny things and declining to go into further details.


  1. Bennett may have gotten slightly more interruptions (I didn't count, but I sure got the impression that Osborne was interrupted more) because she kept dodging m more questions than the other two, and because even Marr understands that the Greens are a threat to be the 2000US election Ralph Nader to Labour's Al Gore. So the gotcha moment for Bennett here was the banning of the Grand National. That hits way too close to home for even the most Progressive establishment upper echelon Beeboid, so that policy seems extreme even to Marr. Although he wouldn't say that, because he knows a lot of Beeboids wouldn't see it that way.

    "I don't want to say 'red' line, but, I guess, 'deep 'green' line...." What a giveaway.

    Having said that, Osborne was slippery as hell, and deserved to be interrupted and pushed on the issues of savings and funding. Contrary to how he addressed the inheritance task, Marr didn't deliver any diatribe about either Labour or Watermelon policies asking, "doesn't that say a lot about your values?" Which he easily could have done to Bennett on any of her extremist policies. There wasn't an opportunity to do that to Harman because her segment was soft and friendly.

    1. I agree, David. George Osborne did deserve what he got and the Harriet Harman interview was too soft, prompting memories of the old claims at B-BBC - which I believe were actually true - that the Marrs and the Dromeys shared dinner parties.

      You were right about Osborne being interrupted more that Natalie Bennett. My old measure, the interruption coefficient, however, measured interruptions against the length of the interview - and the GO interview was much longer than the NB one. So relative to the time she got she was (just) interrupted more.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.