BBC Complaints: The link you need!

Saturday, 15 August 2009


Gavin Esler's double-interview with Labour health secretary Andy Burnham and his Conservative shadow, Andrew Lansley, is well worth studying.

Question 1 (to Lansley): "I began by asking Mr Lansley how David Cameron could describe Daniel Hannan as 'eccentric' or a 'maverick' when he's a well-known mainstream activist."

Answer 1 (Lansley)

(interrupting) Question 2 (to Lansley): "But Mr Hannan has actually, as you know, got star billing at your spring conference, was described by David Cameron as 'brilliant' in his response to Gordon Brown in the European parliament, he was very influential in pulling your party out of the EPP in Europe, that grouping in Europe."

(By now Mr Burnham could be seen smirking with pleasure)

"You know, he's quite an important figure, so when he says things it's not just some sort of off-the-wall loony, this is something which many people in your party regard as significant."

Answer 2 (Lansley)

Question 3 (to Burnham): "Mr Burnham, it is surely healthy to have some kind of dissent in all political parties and, as Mr Lansley said, this fellow is out on a limb on this policy, on this issue."

Answer 3 (Burnham)

In his answer Burnham said "..then, lo and behold, at tea-time today, yet another Tory MP comes out of the woodwork and says something very similar" (to Mr Hannan). I picked up on this straight away as a mistake. The man in question was Roger Helmer (speaking on PM), and not 'yet another Tory MP' , but yet another Tory MEP. Wouldn't you have hoped that a sharp-eared - and very well paid - interviewer like Esler might have picked that up too, and pointed it out? Not a bit of it.

Question 4 (to Burnham): "But Mr Cameron is the one who makes policy. He couldn't be clearer. We are the party of the NHS. We back it. We are going to expand it. We've ring-fenced it. And we've just heard Andrew Lansley say basically the same thing."

Answer 4 (Burnham)

Question 5 (to Lansley): "That is the problem for you presentationally, isn't it? Because you are trying to say something and Mr Cameron is saying it very articulately and some people, including Mr Burnham, have a suspicion that behind it all there is a feeling that the NHS is a relic of the 1940s, which is what Mr Hannan said."

Ah, it's those mysterious "some people" again! I wonder if 'they' include Gavin Esler by any chance?

Answer 5 (Lansley)

Question 6 (to Burnham): "Mr Burnham?"

Answer 6 (Burnham)

Question 7 (to Lansley): "I want to bring in Mr Lansley on that. Why not open up this debate about the health service going back to the 1940s, changing it, more privatisation, go the route that Daniel Hannan wants. I mean, some people you want to shut him up (sic), don't you?"

Ah, Esler is one of those "some people", it seems!!

Answer 7 (Lansley)

(interrupting) Question 8 (to Lansley): "Well, are you helped by Mr Hannan?"

Answer 8 (Lansley)

At the end of this answer Lansley said "..which is why people in the NHS are going to vote Conservative in the next election. Why? because...."

(interrupting) "Let Mr Burnham respond to that." Question 9 (to Burnham): "OK, 1.4 million NHS voters will vote Conservative because you made a mess of it, Mr Burnham?"

This was a sarcastic twisting of Lansley's words. Did Lansley say "all people in the NHS?" Of course, he didn't - yet Esler pretended that he did. No wonder Burnham grinned and replied...

Answer 9 (Burnham): "Well, I mean, well, we'll wait and see, won't we?"

As you can see the Conservative spokesman was interrupted 3 times (I.C. of 0.8), whereas the Labour spokesman was not interrupted at all (I.C., obviously, of 0).

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