As a media trained journalist I have some basic skills in being an interviewee. During my training I dutifully remembered my key messages, never looked into the camera and tried to avoid sudden movements. It’s tough but nothing an experienced politician can’t handle, right? Well, think again. Here’s five of my favourite clips of politicians failing spectacularly at other basic interview skills such as answering a simple question, remembering not to insult the interviewer and knowing what your policies are.
5. Jeffrey Archer – “You wait until I’m Mayor”
Blast from the past time time from 2000 as London Mayoral candidate Jeffrey Archer shows his true colours to interviewer Michael Crick. “You wait until I’m Mayor,” he sinisterly says to Crick, unaware that both the mic and camera are on. Sadly, for Archer he was never able to cast Crick as a fly in his evil political web. Instead he had to withdraw from the mayoral race as allegations emerged he had lied in a 1987 libel case. By 2001 Crick would be even further from harm, as Archer began a four year jail term for perjury. “You wait until I’m mopping out a prison toilet,” doesn’t have quite the same resonance.
4. Grant Shapps – Diversion fail
Using the interview equivalent of saying “ooh, look over there” and then running away, UK housing minister Grant Shapps decides to divert BBC Radio 4 Today interviewer John Humphrys away from questions about the poor state of UK house building by starting a petty argument over whether or not he had turned down a previous interview request. Humphrys steers him back after an excruciating two minutes of argument, by which point the only case Shapps could realistically put forward was for a reshuffle to the ministry of lost causes.
3. Bill Shorten – The politician with no opinion
Australian Labor Party politician Bill Shorten has a whole bunch of titles to his name. He’s minister for employment and workplace relations as well as minister for financial services and superannuation. He must be a pretty shrewd political heavyweight, right? Well, not exactly. When asked about a sexual harassment case involving the speaker of the Australian House of Representatives he thought it perfectly reasonable to say that whatever the PM’s view is he agrees with it, without even knowing what her view is. My favourite part is his claim that being asked for his opinion on this very specific subject “was too broad” a question.
2. Michael Howard – His notorious Paxman interview
In what has become one of the most notoriously bad interviews ever by a politician former Home Secretary Michael Howard fails to answer the same question (relating to a conversation with prison service head Derek Lewis) an embarrassing 12 times. It’s a painful joy to behold watching Howard desperately try to ignore the “threaten” part of BBC Newsnight interviewer Jeremy Paxman’s question “did you threaten to overrule him (Lewis)?
1. Chloe Smith – Hapless in excelsior.
Treasury minister Chloe Smith seems to have forgotten that she is a public representative and that the voters who elected her have a right to know about government policy and why decisions are made. Thinking that it is good enough to answer serious questions about fuel duty by simply describing her job was never going to get past BBC Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman. She ends up looking like someone who either doesn’t care or is simply not in the loop. Never has the word “hapless” been so accurate in describing a government minister’s performance on TV. Her humiliation begins at around the six minute mark in this clip.
compiled by Joe Lepper