There are several ways to look at the remarkable levels of bias in this morning's Today programme.
The first is to compare the respective lengths of each interview with a party politician. Given how many parties were interviewed, this comparison becomes especially telling. Here are the results in descending order::
1. Peter Mandelson (Labour) - 11m 12s
2. Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) - 4m 29s
3. Caroline Lucas (Green) - 4m 16s
4. Vince Cable (Lib Dem) - 4m 5s
5. William Hague (Con) - 4m 0s
6. Nigel Farage (UKIP) - 3m 44s
Why was Mandy given getting on for three times more air-time than anyone else? Why was Nigel Farage granted the least time? Why did William Hague get less time than either Nicola Sturgeon or Caroline Lucas?
Note also that Mandy got the prize spot at 8.10, the spot all politicians want.
The second way is to compare the interruption coefficients (the number of interruptions/the length of the interview.) Again these make dramatic reading, particularly for one party, and will be given in descending order:
1. Nigel Farage (Evan Davis) - 2.3
2. Vince Cable (Evan Davis) - 1.2
3. Nicola Sturgeon (James Naughtie) - 0.9
4. William Hague (Evan Davis) - 0. 5
4. Peter Mandelson - (Evan Davis) - 0.5
5. Caroline Lucas (Evan Davis) - 0.2
If that suggests that Nigel Farage got a HUGELY rougher ride from Evan Davis than either Peter Mandelson or William Hague, or anyone else for that matter, well the suggestion is borne out by the facts. (The William Hague interview might have contained a lot more interruptions but it was conducted down a phone with a very audible one-second delay, which always makes interrupting tricky). Nigel Farage was interrupted 8 times, Caroline Lucas just once.
A third way is to compare the interviews schematically. I haven't the time to do schemes for them all, so I'll just compare the two most extreme interviews - Evan's interviews with Nigel Farage (go Nigel!) and Caroline Lucas:
0.29 A1 (24s)
1.05 A2 (4s)
1.09 Interruption 1/Q3
1.16 A3 (1s)
1.17 Interruption 2/Q4
1.19 A4 (6s)
1.25 Interruption 3/Q5
1.28 A5 (17s)
1.45 Interruption 4
2.05 A6 (2s)
2.07 Interruption 5/Q7
2.20 A7 (19s)
2.48 A8 (7s)
2.55 Interruption 6/Q9
3.17 A9 (8s)
3.25 Interruption 7/Q10
3.28 A10 (16s)
3.44 Interruption 8/Q11
3.47 A11 (4s)
3.51 Interview ends
0.28 A1 (45s)
1.34 A2 (41s)
2.45 A3 (46s)
3.31 Interruption 1/Q4
3.55 A4 (37s)
4.32 Interview ends
The contrast could hardly be sharper. Caroline Lucas was allowed to be expansive in her answers and to put across her vision at the end (before she ran out of time). Nigel Farage was barely allowed to string a couple of sentences together without being disrupted by interruptions. Indeed he spoke for 51.5% of the interview, while Evan Davis spoke for 48.5%. Call that interviewing? Debating - or arguing - more like!
A fourth way, and just sticking with these two interviews, is to compare the substance of the questions (or points) put by the interview. Are they hostile, contradictory, neutral or supportive?
Here are Evan's contributions:
1. Have you been disappointed by the intensity with which environment issues have been debated during this campaign?
2. Right, so it is clear you are different to the other parties. One of the key things about the Green Party, as I understand it, are ultimately you think we ought to put less emphasis on material consumption. We have, if you like, to reconfigure the culture of consumption. Am I right in that?
3. Well give me a scale of how big an impact a Green vision or a Green government would be if we had one. Let's take the example of flights. You know, what sort of number of flights, what sort of change in the number of flights would you expect in say after ten years of a Green government? Are we talking a 100% reduction in the number of flights, a 5o% reduction, a 10% reduction, a lower growth rate in the number..? Just give me some sense of the scale of impact you want to have.
4. But you're sounding a little less ambitious than I might have thought. I mean if it is just a matter of saying no more flights, we replace the domestic flights with trains and some of the near-continental flights with fast trains, that's not going to do it, is it? That's not going to give us human beings kind of an extra twenty minutes on this planet in terms of the scale at which we're burning the resources and putting them into the atmosphere.
1. Do you think there's been enough honesty from the other parties about their plans about taxation and spending in this election campaign?
2. Well, 50 billion pounds in Year One plus honesty means you will be able to tell us in an amount of detail what we are going to lose in Year One of our UKIP government.
3. No the 45 million, no the 45 million...is it 45 million? Isn't that a gross figure not a net figure?
4. Right, so that's a bogus figure then, isn't it? The net figure is the relevant figure.
5. OK, so the first thing that goes is everything we've spent on...
6. But Mr Farage you were the one who said we need honesty, you're the one who said we need to cut 50 billion out of public spending straight away and then citing you're example you come up with something like the Equality and Human Rights Commission! It's not going to be 50 billion! We don't spend 50 billion of quangos like the Equality and Human Rights Commission...
7. We also...we spend tens of millions of pounds on the quangos but some of them are ones that are actually providing very substantive services, they're not just ones that are providing equality and human rights and things like that.
8. Do you think it's really that easy (laughing) to draw a line between front line services and back office services? I mean you're probably counting a teacher as a front line service presumably....
9. Yes, but a lot of those MOD people are kind of engineers and others who are repairing vehicles or testing things, scientists. I mean, these are not people who are useless. They are people who are doing a very important job. Of course there probably are some bureaucrats, aren't there. You don't really have any idea do you how many are doing useless activity and how many are doing useful activity because you haven't...
10. And how much does that take you towards your 50 billion in the first year?
11. You haven't told us either. You haven't given us the detail either, any more than the others have!
With the Green leader Evan Davis was thoughtful and spoke quietly and slowly. With the UKIP legend he was excitable, aggressive and loud. He spent almost all of his interview with Nigel F contradicting his every statement. His tone with Caroline was friendly, with Nigel it was full of scorn and felt at times more like a dressing down than an interview.
There are doubtless several other ways of recording such extraordinary bias but that's enough for now. I can't listen to that interview again, lest my temples explode!!
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