Sunday, March 24, 2013

Boris on the back foot

Credit: Wikipedia/Creative commons
Boris Johnson appeared on the Andrew Marr  show this morning to face a grilling from stand-in presenter Eddie Mair. It was not a pretty sight, and I don't mean Boris' hairstyle. The questioning from Eddie Mair was direct and blunt, and the response from Boris Johnson was evasive and unconvincing. He looked far from being a Prime Minister in waiting (though he also denied any strong political ambition).

When a leading politician is interviewed on a national politics show, they should expect some tough questions. In the majority of cases, they have anticipated the questions and prepared a response. That's simply good planning for a media interview. Perhaps Boris thought that his natural charm would see him through, but he was completely mistaken.

Here are some examples from the exchange:

Eddie Mair: "The Times let you go after you made up a quote. Why did you make up a quote?"

Boris Johnson; "Well..er...these are big terms for...er...what happened was...I can tell you the whole thing....er...are you sure our viewers wouldn't want to hear more about..er..."

He then gave a defence of his actions, but hardly a convincing one. Here's another:

Eddie Mair: "Let me ask you about a bare-faced lie. When you were in Michael Howard's team, you denied to him you were having an affair. It turned out you were, and he sacked you for that. Why did you lie to your party leader?"

Boris Johnson: "Well....I mean again...er...on that... never had any conversation with Michael Howard about that matter. I do not propose to go into all that again. Why should I? I've been through it a lot. Watch the documentary. Why don't we talk about something else?"

He was also quizzed about agreeing to supply the address of a journalist to Darius Guppy, an old friend, who said that he wanted to have the journalist "beaten up". Mr Johnson's  reply included the comment "I think if any of us had our phone conversations bugged, people say all sorts of fantastical things whilst talking to their friends."

Eddie Mair then summed the dialogue up with the damning phrase "You're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?". The response from the Mayor of London was far from convincing; "All three things I would dispute … if we had a longer time I could explain that I think all three interpretations you are putting on these things are not wholly fair".

There were then a few totally expected questions about his alleged ambition to lead his party, which elicited the phrase "an increasingly hysterical conversation", but no real answer.

And that was it. Overall, it was a right grilling. Boris Johnson undoubtedly suffered reputational damage from the exchange. Should he have done it? Absolutely, in my opinion. Should he have been better prepared? Absolutely. Will he fail to prepare in future? Possibly.

The lesson for anyone faced with a tough interview is to prepare well. If you have to admit something, admit it early and say sorry. If you want to be a leader, you have to go into the  lion's den properly armed.

1 comment:

Graham said...

Excellent summary. My money is on Gove to be the next leader. He has made sure that he has access to a coach who is almost as illustrious as yourself.