Saturday 22 June 2019

Getting the last word

Charles Moore's latest Spectator Notes focus on the BBC's Our Next Prime Minister TV debate. He thinks Boris Johnson should have refused to appear:
Behind Boris’s decision to appear was a mistaken cringe to the ‘mainstream media’ (MSM). The success of Donald Trump shows that the insurgent, anti-establishment candidate (which Boris is) must not defer in any way to the MSM. He must appear on their programmes only if he can ensure clear advantage, and he must never accept the agenda behind their programmes. He must communicate by other means, building sympathy with the ever-growing electorate which dislikes the MSM. By deploying silence, he seems bigger and deeper than if he talks too much. If he does speak, he flatters his electorate by addressing them narrowcast rather than broadcast.
As Boris’s team should have predicted, the BBC, via Emily Maitlis, attacked Boris throughout. So did its coverage the following morning. ‘Words are actions,’ said Nick Robinson on Today, sententiously editorialising. ‘Again and again Boris Johnson gets his words wrong.’ Up duly pop Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Heathrow airport expansion and the precise wording of the promise to leave on 31 October — all licensed to do so by the weak decision to let Boris go on.
I was intrigued there by the bit about Nick Robinson "sententiously editorialising" on Today. Did he? Well, looking it up, this is the relevant bit:
Nadhim Zahawi: Judge a man by his actions, not just by his...a sentence taken out of context in an article in the Daily Telegraph.
Nick Robinson: Mr Zahawi, words are actions when you're the leader of a nation, and again and again Boris Johnson gets his words wrong. Now let's go to the issue that you're saying is why you switched to him...
So, yes, Nick did that annoying thing of popping in his own opinion and getting the last word on the point and then changing the subject so that his interviewee cannot respond to it.


  1. Have to agree with the cringe to the media thing. That's what Cameron did, what May did - willingly going on Marr to be mauled by the 'outraged' host about immigration, and always going first to the BBC - 'Laura' - at press conferences.
    Why do they do it? The power of the privileged, biased media to destroy them? Because no one holds the privileged biased media to account. Well, nobody much - I know there's OFCOM and Sir at the BBC. Bah. So they go and prostrate themselves with the feeling that they must show willing, go along and jolly well play the game. And there's that special reverence, or at any rate ritual genuflection, towards the BBC, which is like the State itself or the Electorate or Parliament in that one must bend the knee before it. Johnson wasn't prepared to rebel against the ordained order and duly conformed. He is a pleaser, really.

  2. So right about Robinson "popping in his own opinion...and then changing the subject" in a throwaway manner. This is a technique oft-used at the end of a combative interview so that the final impression left in the listener's mind is the approved BBC view. Evan Davis used to do these slanted sum-ups a lot when on Today, and probably still does.


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