My radio comes on every morning with Radio 4’s Today programme. For me, it used to be essential breakfast time listening. Now, more often than not, if I hear John Humphrys’ voice, I have an urge to either turn the radio off, or throw it out the window.
Think of him as Paxman’s mini-me.
There is a time and a place for combative interviewing. When a politian is repeatedly avoiding a important question, then it is the interviewer’s job to focus on what is not being said, and either get an answer, or make it clear to the listeners that the interviewee is being evasive.
However, when the question is inane or ill-conceived, it becomes tiresome, especially if the interviewer is actually giving information that is of interest to the listener.
The case in point today was Humprys interviewing the new Conservative Home Secretary, Theresa May. about the Tory election pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act. As the LibDem coalition partners support the act, this is now looking doubtful, or in Theresa May’s words: “We’re talking about it at the moment. That’s part of the process. That’s what the new politics is about, it’s about actually talking together and agreeing an approach that is right and in the national interest.”
He kept coming back to the point that if the Torys had made such a commitment in their manifesto, then they were betraying the people that voted for them by dropping that commitment. “Have you sold out your supporters?” he asked.
May commented that the nature of a coalition is that they have to compromise, which means that they have to pick their fights – she even gave examples of policies that *had* made it through to the Tory/LibDem policy. Still Humphrys persisted, insisting that “if you have an area <...> where they say ‘we want *this* to be done’ and you say ‘we want *that* to be done’, in the end <...> you have to say ‘sorry, we are the major party here <...> we, in the end, will do what we want to do, and if you don’t like it, sorry you’ll have to lump it'”.
While I was shouting at the radio, “No, because they don’t have a bloody mandate, you tosspot!”, she calmly suggested that he didn’t understand the nature of a coalition.
Outside of politics, I don’t think such techniques are at all appropriate when dealing with other types of news stories, but John Humprys has his one style, and he sticks to it. Often you will have two interviewees on a story who Humphrys thinks should be at odds with each other (hence why they are both invited on the show). When they turn out to have more ideas in agreement than not, you can hear Humphreys get more and more agitated, and he will prod and poke them both trying to start a fight between them.
The man is a dinosaur, and should retire. Given that my natural inclination in politics leans towards Labour, when Humphrys annoys me for being rude to a Tory who I really don’t care that much for, I *know* he has lost it, big-time.
Either that, or I have. Form your own decision: