Here's how the Today website introduced this morning's remarkable bout between Phillip Hammond and James Naughtie (with Chris Huhne of the Lib Dems acting throughout as Naughtie's second.)
All MPs and peers would have to pay taxes*
in the UK under legislation that would be rushed through if he became prime
minister, David Cameron has said. Shadow chief secretary to the treasury Philip
Hammond discusses the proposal with Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman
The statistics tell a lot of the story. Phillip Hammond was interrupted 16 times by Naughtie (an extremely high I.C of 3.5), Chris Huhne only once (I.C. of only 0.4) - and even that interruption was not aimed at Huhne but made so that the over-excited Naughtie could have yet another go at Mr Hammond. Hammond was subjected to an inquisition, especially over the Left's bête noire Lord Ashcroft, while Huhne was only asked just one question in over 8 minutes. If that isn't proof of bias I don't know what is.
Here's how the interview went:
0.34 Question 1 (to Phillip Hammond): "Let's try and be as clear as we can about this Mr Hammond because it's a confusing matter to many people. (Is it really Jim?) Is this proposal one which will mean that if you sit in the Lords and the Commons you cannot be a so-called non-dom?"
00.49 A1 (PH)
1.o3 Q2 (to PH): "Does that mean that you couldn't have a fortune elsewhere on which you paid taxes outside this country?"
1.08 A2 (PH)
2.02 Q3 (to Chris Huhne): "Right Chris Huhne, is that clear?" (That was the only question Huhne was asked!! A toughie, eh?!)
2.03 A3 (CH, speaking uninterrupted for a minute)
3.04 PH answers CH
3.25 CH interrupts and takes over again (again speaking uninterrupted for a minute)
4.24 Q4 (to PH): "Is that your view Phillip Hammond?"
4.26 A4 (PH)
4.29 Interruption 1 (after just 3 seconds of Hammond's answer!!)/Q5: "Because the problem you've got here with Lord Ashcroft, a deputy chairman of your party, is, I quote him from his website, "If home is where the heart is then Belize is my home." (Should Naughtie have asserted this this is a problem?)
4.41 A5 (PH)
4.43 Interruption 2 (this time just 2 seconds of Hammond's answer!!!): "It's not sentimental, it's a business statement." (The end of Naughtie's hostile interruption is unintelligible because Chris Huhne chips in to agree with Naughtie and Phillip Hammond struggles on.)
4.52 a quiet "OK" from Naughtie (signalling that Huhne can interrupt again? Whatever, Huhne begins to interrupt here)
4.55 a louder "OK" from Naughtie (Huhne's interruption becomes stronger)
5.00 Naughie helps Huhne take over. Huhne alone.
5.12 Hammond begins to interrupt back (with Naughtie's backing, "Phillip Hammond, quickly!" )
5.21 PH takes over fully after Huhne has finished his point
5.35 Abortive interruption, "Let me.."
5.41 Interruption 3/Q6 (to PH): "Let me ask you one question. Mr Hammond, let me ask you a question about Lord Ashcroft (you've already one Jim!!), because he is a deputy chairman of your party (as you've already mentioned Jim!!) and one of it's big backers. Is he a non-dom?"
5.50 A6 (PH)
5.54 Interruption 4 (after only 4 seconds of Hammond's answer)/Q7 to PH: "You don't know? Do you know?"
5.55 A7 (PH)
5.56 Interruption 5 (after only 1 second of Hammond's answer)/Q8 to PH (with an over-emphatic tone of voice): "You don't know whether the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, who sits in the House of Lords, is a non-dom or not?"
6.01 A8 (PH)
6.11 Interruption 6 (after 10 seconds)/Q9 (sternly) to PH: "And what exactly were those commitments, just remind us?"
6.14 PH struggles on gamely
6.16 Interruption 7 (after 2 seconds)/Q10 (loudly) to PH: "Have been, have been met, aren't going to be met, have been met, you're saying?"
6.20 A9 (PH)
6.24 Interruption 8 (after 4 seconds)/Q11 to PH: "What were the commitments that were made?"
6.26 PH struggles on gamely
6.31 Interruption 9 (after 5 seconds)/Q12 to PH: "And what were they?"
6.32 PH gives up
6.34 Q13 to PH: "So when you and others say, in a phrase that Mr Hague and others have used, is (sic) fulfills the obligations that were imposed on him at the time he became a peer, (emphatically:) you don't know what those obligations were. (Brusquely:) Is that correct?"
6.46 A10 (PH)
6.47 Interruption 10 (after 1 second)/Q13 to PH: "Does Mr Cameron know?"
6.48 PH struggles on gamely
6.54 Interruption 11 (after 6 seconds)/Q14 to PH: "So Mr Hague will know whether he's a non-dom or not?"
6.56 PH struggles on gamely
7.01 Interruption 12 (after 5 seconds)/Q15 to PH: "But hang on, you see, you...the problem is David Cameron's saying he wants..."
7.06 PH struggles on gamely
7.12 Interruption 13 (after 5 seconds)/Q16 to PH: "But not before the election?"
7.13 PH struggles on gamely
7.21 Interruption 14 (after 8 seconds. What took him so long??!!)/Q17 to PH: "But to be clear since you can't legislate from in opposition..."
7.24 PH struggles on gamely
7.26 Interruption 15 (after 2 seconds), "No, well.." (at which Chris Huhne interrupts and takes over).
7.27 Chris Huhne alone
7.42 Interruption 16 (against Chris Huhne!!!!!)/Q18 to PH:"What you're saying..hang on, Mr Hammond, just to be finally clear about one thing, we won't know what Lord Ashcroft's tax position is until after the election, is that correct, because you can't legislate?"
7.54 A11 (PH)
8.11 Interruption 17: "Phillip Hammond, Chris Huhne, thank you both." (There was no need, other than sheer rudeness, to cut Mr Hammond off here so abruptly.)
This belligerent questioning of a Conservative contrasted not only with Naughtie's treatment of the Liberal Democrat in this same interview (including two long, uninterrupted answers) but with another Liberal Democrat David Laws in an earlier interview. This lasted nearly 3 1/2 minutes but contained only 2 questions and no interruptions (I.C. of 0). Law's first uninterrupted answer lasted 54 seconds, his second uninterrupted answer no less than 1 min and 40 seconds! Naughtie's tone was as thoughtful and gentle as could be.
A Labour councillor, David Sparkes, was also interviewed by Biased Jim - 3 questions, no interruptions (I.C. of 0).
Naughtie should be ashamed of himself. A complaint will be sent, with full details of Naughtie's many previous crimes against impartiality.*
Afterthought (as of 9.15 pm): Will Michael Crick be able to resist talking about this on tonight's Newsnight? I bet he's begging the programme's producer to ditch some important story or other & let him present a (biased) report on the issue. Will he get his way? Or will the British Airways strike, Copenhagen and a host of other bigger stories put a dampener on Crick's Tory-bashing aspirations? We'll see.
Update: The answer was 'no'. So much for my powers of prediction!