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A tale of two interviews

Honesty is wonderful, says Electric Aiwaves' Andrew Caesar-Gordon. Just don't take it to an extreme.

I was tempted to dissect Ed Miliband's dire interview with Martha Kearney on BBC Radio 4's World At One programme. Too easy. But another maligned interview in the Financial Times with Hastings Conservative MP Amber Rudd puts me in Carrie Bradshaw mode. What makes political interviews so different from non-political interviews?

Rudd - yes, sister of our beloved Roland - was taking the FT Magazine around her constituency. She was what observers might term refreshingly candid.

She admitted that she had looked for a seat in 2010 'within two hours of London ... that we were going to win', and dismissed residents' ridicule of the notion of Hastings applying to be 2017 City of Culture: 'Yes, I'm afraid they did. But I think it's a brilliant idea.'

On her constituents living on benefits, they 'prefer to be on benefits by the seaside'; on gay marriage, 'I don't think (voters) will still be thinking about anal sex on polling day'; on agreeing (rather than as most politicians would, denying) that she might lose her seat: 'If the worst comes to the worst it's been a great five years.'

Rudd's candour was almost endearing given our expectations of politicians. But you can be sure that her Labour opponent in 2015 will use that interview against her.

This is just what the Conservatives are doing following Miliband's lack of candour about his tax and borrowing plans.

In 15 minutes, Kearney took him apart. His pre-planned presentation attacking government economic failures was not what Kearney or the audience wanted to hear. She wanted to talk about his policies. But he ploughed on with his attacks, ignored her questions and became shrill, patronising and argumentative when cornered.

Rudd will probably lose her seat. For Miliband, the interview contributed to the public's emerging view that he is a callow leader. And it hit a key vulnerability that it was a Labour government's reckless spending and borrowing, compounded by bankers whom it failed to supervise properly, that got us into this mess.

One honest. One evasive. Both lost.


Takewaway Tips

 

  • Senior businesspeople tend to do a few, usually pre-planned, interviews a year. Politicians undertake hundreds. Not commenting isn't an option for a representative of the people. But they can't have a considered opinion on every issue. Thus they often default to 'lines to take' that they have learned.
  • Politicians believe it is bad politics to admit weakness, criticise voters or fail to be optimistic about success. And they're right. But that doesn't mean they should not develop a coherent narrative to contextualise their comment or address a question before bridging to the point they want to make.

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