Wednesday 6 October 2021

Nick v Boris

Please check out the discussion on the Open Thread about the BBC's recent interviewing of Boris Johnson.

I've posted already about the hostile Andrew Marr interview on Sunday

One bit I missed was taken up by others, including some newspapers - namely the bit where 'Andrew Marr called Boris Johnson a liar' over the question of rising wages.

"You’ve said something that isn’t true, you’ve said something that isn’t true about wages," said Mr Marr.

But I see that Full Fact - a 'fact-checking' organisation many of the Right are sceptical of - found Andrew Marr rather than Boris Johnson to have been wrong.

Ouch! Wonder if the next edition of The Andrew Marr Show will address that?


As for Nick Robinson's famous Today interview yesterday where he told the PM to 'Stop talking!', well, statistics can perhaps add a little extra to the story. 

I've been applying the old stopwatch and counting.

From the moment Nick Robinson began speaking at the very start of the interview to the moment when he told Boris Johnson to 'stop talking', 6m31s had passed and Nick Robinson had been talking for 2m37s of it - introducing, repeatedly interrupting, asking several long questions, heckling.

So, if you crunch the maths, the BBC interviewer had talked for slightly over 40% of the time and his guest - the UK Prime Minister - just under 60% of the time. 

If a BBC interviewer talks for over 40% of the first six-and-a-half minutes of an interview then I don't think that BBC interviewer has been particularly hard done by. 

In fact, that sort of balance makes me think that the interviewer was trying to dominate the interview, because interviewees are usually allowed to speak a lot more than interviewers during interviews.

Indeed, Nick had already tried interrupting twice in the first minute of Boris's opening answer. His first attempt came just 33 seconds in, and - after a further go at interrupting soon after - he'd 'fully' interrupted barely a minute after Boris began.  

Thereafter, the pace of Nick's incessant talking quickened, and eight more significant interruptions followed before the 'Stop talking!' moment.

Now Boris can certainly waffle and bluster, and he can dodge questions for England, but he wasn't dodging the questions here.

I'm guessing that Nick went in tooled up for a fight with a ready response, especially following [a] the Andrew Marr interview and [b] it having been two years since Boris Johnson agreed to be interviewed by Today

Part of the evidence is that he introduced the PM [very 'unhelpfully' for Boris] by framing it as 'Crisis? Which crisis?' and that, even before letting him speak, Nick said it was 'the first time he's agreed to talk to us...[dramatic pause] two years'. 

And, after his first two attempts to stop the PM, his third [successful] attempt - 1m 6s into Boris's first reply - was prefaced with the words, 'Just have to pause for a second, then I can put a question to you'.

Yet Boris repeatedly gave in when when Nick made attempts to intervene, giving way a second time shortly after. Another Nick interruption soon followed as Boris began his third answer and Boris tried to counter this next, very swift interruption [Nick pushing a pro-business, pro-immigration line] and the following exchange ensued:
Nick Robinson: No, no, no, Prime Minister. You've made that point. You've made it at length in a series of interviews in the run-up to this conference. 
Boris Johnson: [jovially] Hang on, I haven't had the chance to make this point on your show for two years, by your own account. 
Nick Robinson: [sourly] That was your choice not ours.

Nick and Boris then squabbled for a while, interruptions flying, before Boris got a while to speak for about half a minute before Nick made his famous intervention:

Nick Robinson: You have made that point very clearly and I'm going to make...Prime Minister, you are going to pause. Prime Minister...Stop talking! We are going to have questions and answers, not where you merely talk if you wouldn't mind.

Remember that Nick Robinson had been talking for getting on for half of the interview by that stage. 

And that shows [I think] what I strongly suspect, that Nick Robinson had his 'Stop talking!' interruption prepared in advance. My suspicion is that BBC editors encouraged him to deploy it.

After two years of avoiding the programme, Boris might now remember why he avoided appearing on the programme and might well begin avoiding it again.

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