Except at weekends and when I'm on holiday (like last week) this blog is squeezed in before and after work, so there's sometimes a big time-lag between the programme being discussed and my reaction to it!! So, I've only just watched last night's Newsnight and some naughty interviewing by Jeremy Paxman. I rather like Paxo, but his behaviour here was far from fair.
There was another ding-dong debate between treasury spokesmen Philip Hammond (Conservative) and Liam Byrne (Labour). The issue was Labour's dossier on the Conservatives 'pledges' (an attack document typical of the New Nasty Party). Both MPs were challenged and repeatedly interrupted by Paxo but Mr Hammond came off significantly worse (an I.C. of 3.1 compared to 2.1 for Liam Byrne), being relentlessly harried - especially at the beginning of the interview.
What was naughty here was that Jeremy Paxman shamelessly took sides. When Philip Hammond began an attempt to say why Labour's attack was misguided he was stopped immediately and firmly (not to say rudely) told: "No, I'm not interested in what the Labour...I'm asking you what you are going to do." Mr Hammond tried again, but straight away was stopped again: "I'm not interested. I didn't ask you that. I'm asking you about your...Do they make your policy for you? No they don't." (In fact that is exactly what Labour were doing in their dossier!) Philip Hammond got to make his point a few minutes later and it wasn't an attack on Labour that he'd been trying to make, it was a defence of the Conservative position from Labour's attack. And even if it hadn't been just a defence, why shouldn't Hammond have made an attack on Labour when the starting point of the whole debate was a Labour attack on the Tories - and especially when Mr Byrne then went on to make repeated attacks on the Conservatives, without being immediately stopped in his tracks by Jeremy Paxman??!! If Paxman had stopped Liam Byrne on any occasion from attacking the Tories, his earlier actions would have been justified. He didn't and they weren't.
What followed was even worse, as Jeremy Paxman not only failed to stop one such attack but actually abetted Liam Byrne in making it!! Byrne was challenging Hammond, "But you tell me then what (is) the difference between a pledge, a commitment, a promise, a number one priority.." when Jeremy added "Or something that is to be in the queue!", which Byrne gratefully took up and continued "Or indeed something that is in the queue!". Liam Byrne was so grateful, indeed, that he repeated the 'something that is in the queue' gibe later on in the interview! (I hope he sent Paxman a bottle of port afterwards as a 'thankyou'!)
As so often in these encounters, Mr Hammond looked cowed and unhappy at the end of the debate. You would think that he'd be furious about it (as it keeps on happening) and kick up a massive fuss that would echo like thunder through Broadcasting House. It seems not. And the next time round, you can bet that Philip Hammond will be sat there again, taking it up wherever politicians take it, never complaining, and ending up yet again looking cowed and unhappy. Why won't he act, before it's too late?
I will ask him that myself (by e-mail).
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