Last night at 7.30pm I tuned to BBC1 to see another of Andrew Neil’s interviews with the protagonists in the EU Referendum campaign – this time with Remain’s George Osborne.
Now inside the last fortnight before 23rd June Mr Neil has taken upon himself the unenviable task of challenge the assumptions and claims behind some of the facts, figures and assertions that have been put out by the propagandists on both sides. So far we – or at least your reporter – have been privileged to witness the spectacle of seeing only the Remainers brought to account – albeit that I believe from the trailer at the end of last night’s show that Mr Neil’s next assignments will be with Brexiteers Nigel Farage and then Iain Duncan Smith.
Mr Osborne, who has ambitions to become Tory leader and thence British Prime Minister, has a fundamental problem in the image and presentation department.
He invariably comes across as an archetypal privileged toff who operates in life as if he is a sixth form prefect taking part in a school debate. In this guise he is convinced, not only that his grasp of the facts and conclusions are 100% right, but that the views of anyone who disagrees with him are piffling and irrelevant because (obviously) they are either deluded and/or stupid … and quite probably both. Furthermore, he has not been well-served by whomever it was who, about three years ago, gave him an image make-over via which he lost a stack of weight and was given a new ‘Julius Caesar’-style hair cut.
In short, in any campaign in which the votes of the British electorate are being sought – General Election or now this Referendum – the sight of Mr Osborne upon our television screens is what the Tories themselves like to term as ‘toxic’, i.e. guaranteed to add another 20,000 votes per minute to whatever cause he is opposing, in this case that of Vote Leave.
Ultimately this programme proved to be an unsatisfactory waste of broadcast time.
On the one hand, Andrew Neil rarely shirks his ‘impartial’ interviewing responsibility of putting the tough contradictions, arguments, challenges and questions to his ‘victim of the moment’ and then highlighting for the viewer the occasions when the interviewee is clearly waffling, blustering, or being evasive.
On the other, Mr Osborne is meanwhile well-trained and highly adept at steering around large obstacles and/or appearing to answer (rationally, fully and openly) a quite different question to that which has actually been put to him.
As a result – of the six or seven topics that came up for discussion during the 27 or so minutes of the programme – at least four of them seemed to come to a premature (unresolved) end with Messrs Neil and Osborne simultaneously and resolutely trying to talk over each other in a vain attempt to prove that the other was not listening – or responding properly – to what they were saying.
Any Rust readers with masochistic tendencies who missed the programme and would like to see it unfold for themselves, please follow this link to – YOUTUBE