I really don’t like how the UK media (especially radio and TV) do political interviews. The journalists are exceptionally and unnecessarily antagonistic, and seem much more intent on tripping up their interviewees than finding any facts or truth in the interaction. They’d consider the interview a success if they can corner the interviewee and get them to make a badly considered statement. In tiny doses, it can make for interesting viewing or listening, but it really gets wearisome quite quickly. There is space in British media for someone who will do a good job at interviewing with a wholesome outcome in mind – especially politicians.
But I’d also suggest that there is space for someone like Jon Stewart from The Daily Show. His stock in trade on his Comedy Central news show is to take archive clips of politicians and public figures and contrast these with something they’ve just recently said. For example, last night he reportedly incredulously on John McCain’s statement late last week that “I never considered myself a maverick.” As Stewart said, this is so obviously revisionist that he didn’t even need to show archive material to make the point. “Maverick” was almost the entire foundation of McCain’s presidential campaign.
Stewart does this every day to devastating effect, and provides real insight into the character of individuals and organisations. In fact, in a poll a year or so ago, Jon Stewart was voted as the most trustworthy news source in the United States (that says more about the US than Stewart!).
I think the UK could do with someone who does what Stewart does. I find it hard to believe, for instance, that Gordon Brown’s words as Chancellor are not shown over and over again in the media, or that opposition parties do not make more of them. For example, in Mr Brown’s first budget, in July 1997, as the new chancellor, he lambasted his predecessors who “deluded themselves into believing that growth, however unbalanced, was evidence of their success.” He vowed: “I will not ignore the warning signs.” Hr promised: “Public finances must be sustainable, [otherwise] the poor, the elderly and those on fixed incomes… will suffer most.” There were other now-ironic gems, such as “I will not allow house prices to get out of control” and “This is a government that keeps its promises on tax.” On occasions, he claimed to have abolished the cycle of boom and bust, and saved the world (this last one was an unfortunate “mis-speak”, but is still fun to watch. The others were all said in earnest).
The flip-flopping, spin doctor-managed politicians need to be held to account for their words. The UK media doesn’t do a good job at doing this. We need a Jon Stewart. Are any of UK’s comedians up for this?