B-BBC favourite Andrew Marr gave his fellow BBC interviewers a masterclass this morning in how to be biased.
He interviewed both the chancellor George Osborne and the new shadow chancellor Alan Johnson. Compare the introductions to each each interview and you will get a very good idea of what the actual interviews were like:
“Well from one legendary rocker to another. No, not quite. But though the new shadow chancellor is a rock n’ roll enthusiast from his early days and he’s said from time to time that politics is just a sideline, he’s risen pretty fast. Alan Johnson came through the trades union movement, declined to go for the Labour leadership and he was Ed Miliband’s surprise choice for the top economics job. He said he was rushing off to get his economics primer. Anyway, he’s read the economics primer now and he’s with me now. Welcome!”
Osborne (following straight on from the Johnson interview):
“So that is the case for the prosecution – that the cuts are too drastic, that they’re irresponsible, they’ll damage the recovery, and that they’re unfair on the poorest I suppose as well, erm..driven by ideological zeal even. Well, there is another line of attack emerging which says that they’re simply too ambitious and in practise they won’t achieve the kind of money that they’re intended too, that all the tough talk from John..George Osborne is indeed just talk. Well, the chancellor of the exchequer is here to respond to all of those things now. Welcome!”
You won’t be surprised that Andrew Marr was laughing and Alan Johnson grinning broadly at the former and that George Osborne wore a very strained expression as he listened to the latter (though he didn’t protest about it).
How the interviews ended is similarly revealing:
Johnson: “All right, for now, Alan Johnson. Thank you very much.”
Osborne: “Politicians always talk about what they’re going to spend money on, not what they’re going to cut! But thank you very much indeed chancellor. Over to Louise for the news headlines.”
Yes, the Johnson interview ended with smiles all round but the Osborne interview ended with Marr telling Osborne off and giving him no chance to respond.
The Alan Johnson interview as a whole was very soft, with just 6 interruptions, passing quickly over his lack of economic expertise. The George Osborne interview, however, was a tough one with 28 interruptions.
When Alan Johnson talked of this seeming to be an L-shaped recession with the economy dragging along the bottom, adding that we could face a Japanese-style ‘lost decade’, Marr chipped in supportively, “That’s the danger!”
The main danger for the Conservatives is that that keep allowing partisan BBC hacks like Andrew Marr to keep skewing the news agenda against them.