James Naughtie has long passed beyond merely being a bad joke over the sheer scale of his bias against the Conservative Party. This morning provided yet more evidence for that (not that any more evidence is needed). His interview with Conservative transport spokesman Theresa Villiers was, nonetheless, shockingly bad - so shockingly bad that I can't believe that the Conservative Party doesn't now realise it's going to be far, far better to throw caution to the wind and demand Naughtie's suspension (or sacking) from the programme than to meekly accept his shameless pro-Labour behaviour day in day out. (I'm glad I didn't hear it before going to work!)
This is worth outlining in some detail.
Having set up the Tories in his long, introductory comments, and having quoted from his favourite paper The Guardian, he interviewed "expert on all things rail" Christian Woolmer. As the Today programme website puts it, 'Mr Wolmar outlined that a return the Tories' plans to abolish the Planning Commission responsible for the project would "take us back to the days of 3-4 year public inquiries into every aspect of national infrastructure"'. He was prompted in that direction by Naughtie and his "and that's got a lot of support right across politics. I mean that's not just a Labour thing."
Then Theresa Villiers entered the Labour lion's den. It began gently enough but before long...
3.38 Naughtie: "Can we get one thing clear first? You, in your speech to the last party conference, made it clear that you linked your opposition to a third runway at Heathrow to a commitment to new high speed rail lines, one going up to Birmingham, eventually to Manchester and further north. Is that still your policy and your commitment?"
3.59 Theresa answers
4.22 Naughtie: "But it is reported this morning that the government has offered to let you see an advance copy of the rail white paper, which is going to be published next month, and that you've refused. Is that true?"
4.33 Theresa answers
4.41 Naughtie (interrupting): "Why would it close it down? You're getting to see it. I mean, the argument is that this takes it out of, you know, what David Cameron calls punch and judy politics and actually take serious issues of national planning on which principle the two big parties agree - and I think the Liberal Democrats too as a matter of fact - erm, and surely this is grown-up politics, which is what you're supposed to be arguing for."
5.01 Theresa answers
5.05 Naughtie (interrupting): "But why not look at the white paper?"
5.06 Theresa answers
5.25 Naughtie (interrupting, loudly): "Well, exactly!" (Laughing derisively), "Precisely! But that's the whole point! I mean if it is one of the most important things you've got to get right it's going to be a huge thing for twenty or thirty years. The government's saying, 'look, we're really trying to be grown up about this, which is what you say you want to be. Here's the white paper, a have a look at it. It's got the route.' And you say 'no', people are going to say 'what are you playing at!!'"
5.49 Theresa answers
5.51 Naughtie (interrupting): "Why not look at it?"
5.52 Theresa continues trying to answer
5.58 Naughtie (interrupting): "But you can see it now if you want!"
5.59 Theresa struggles on
6.03 Naughtie (interrupting): "Why is it closing down the options to look at it?"
6.06 Theresa tries to begin again
6.07 Naughtie (interrupting): "Because some constituents might be effected that you hope might would vote for you!"
6.10 Theresa struggles on
6.30 Naughtie: "But there's nothing in looking at the white paper that would close your options at all, and people will draw the conclusion, and 'The Guardian' quotes a Conservative source saying 'We don't want to lose ten seats backing a route blindly'. It makes it look as if it is you, the party committed not to punch and judy politics but to grown up politics, that it's playing politics with an issue on long-term national significance, and nobody (sic) else."
6.56 Theresa answers
7.10 Naughtie (abortively interrupting): "But you have no doubt you will..."
7.11 Theresa goes on
7.21 Naughtie (talking over the close of her answer): "Of course, but you were critical of the time it took to get Terminal 5 at Heathrow and you're proposing to abolish the commission which reduces the time that these public enquiries will take. Don't you accept that what this means is if you're going to fiddle with the route and go to the old system it's going to take much much longer to do what you say is a national priority, given that you see it as an alternative to the third run-way at Heathrow?
7.53 Theresa answers
8.03 Naughtie (interrupting, tartly): "When would that be?"
8.04 Theresa answers
8.29 Naughtie: "But you still don't want to see it even though it's been offered to you?"
8.32 Theresa answers
8.43 Naughtie: "Theresa Villiers, thank you."
7 interruptions in just over 5 minutes results in an I.C. of 1.6. Even this high interruption coefficient fails to do justice to the extent that Naughtie dominated the interview. That can be guaged by counting up exactly how long each participant got to speak. These are the remarkable results:
James Naughtie - 2 minutes 31 seconds
Theresa Villiers - 2 minutes 38 seconds
And this is supposed to be 'interviewing'???
It would have been better had the lady fought back of course.
This man is so beyond shameless he's surely now got to go.