I had thought those televised Election interviews/debates were some way off, but – bingo! – having switched temporarily to Sky News yesterday in order to catch up on the latest on the tragedy of the Germanwings airliner crash, I was suddenly confronted by a ‘throw’ to some Sky TV studio complex and a piece with Kay Burley about the imminent (well, 9.00pm) ‘simulcast’ on Sky News and Channel Four of separate interviews with David Cameron and Ed Miliband. I stayed with it to discover that this was supposedly the opening salvo in the much-negotiated series of political ‘Meet Your Leaders’ media opportunities in advance of the General Election.
The format of this one was each principal interviewee having a one-to-one session with Jeremy Paxman and then submitting themselves to another – a bit like a one-man BBC Question Time – with an invited audience of members of the public, moderated by Kay Burley herself.
Although I was generally pre-occupied with other things, I remained tuned (even when going up to the gym for an hour) to Sky News and saw several further previews featuring Sky political editors Adam Bolton and Joey Jones reporting live from within the studio where it was all going to take place. For me, there was a distinct touch of self-indulgence in this small glimpse of apparent ‘how it works behind the scenes’ transparency on behalf of the broadcaster.
Me? I’m an early-to-bed man, so it was with a deal of planning that I prepared myself for the ordeal of staying up until 9.00pm, let alone the full duration of the programme.
On this occasion my attempt to get involved in the 2015 Election was a failure. I managed only to watch the David Cameron interview with Jeremy Paxman and about ten minutes of his ‘Question And Answer’ session with the audience before opting to go to bed.
As a television ‘moment’, part of the problem was its seriously underwhelming nature.
From Paxman’s sneering (without-preamble) first question “Do you know how many food banks there were when you became Prime Minister?”, Cameron performed poorly in my view.
Perhaps I should qualify or explain that.
His ‘Westminster bubble’ entourage might maintain this morning that their man performed pretty well, but – from an average member of the public’s view, and I considered myself one of those – his resolute failure to answer each direct question, but instead simply spew out yards and yards of verbiage that he had plainly learned by rote and/or practised earlier, was frustrating in the extreme. Ultimately – contrary to what I presume Cameron and the Tories had been hoping for and intending – this tactic was a major turn-off (for this viewer, if not others) and I very much doubt would have prompted the growth of empathy or support in the breast of the average uncommitted onlooker.
Rather, quite the opposite.
Becoming rapidly overcome by tiredness and ebbing concentration, I then bailed. This was nothing to do with being prepared to listen to Cameron, but not Miliband – I has set out intending to give both of them a fair go (as the Australians would say) and perhaps then decide for myself who ‘won’ the contest.
In the end, however, Cameron did for me on his own with his standard Westminster professional politician’s display. For me, the programme was rapidly losing its way in his ‘Question And Answer’ session and frankly I then decided I couldn’t face a similar 40 minutes or so from Miliband, irrespective of how good, bad or newsworthy that might be.
Anyway. Here’s a link to waspish post-match review by Stuart Heritage in THE GUARDIAN