Andrew Neil’s splendid opening monologue for the This Week programme

I watched yesterday evening’s BBC’s This Week programme. I enjoy Andrew’s opening monologue and the take of the week by Michael Portillo and whomever sits on the sofa with him. The two things neatly encapsulate the happenings of the political week.

Andrew Neil’s opening monologue is truly worthy of setting down here. Punchy, caustic, and delivered with his usual elan. Stirring stuff.

Keith Palmer had been a copper for 15 years, a husband, a dad, brother, uncle, public servant. Before joining the police, he’d been in the army, defending our nation.

Yesterday he was murdered defending our democracy, defending the very heart of our democracy from a barbarian at the gate.

Just doing his duty, reminding us of something we badly needed reminding, that the most important people in this country are not the rich, the powerful, the famous but those who run to confront the enemies of our civilisation while the rest of us are running away. First responders like PC Palmer.

Brutally stabbed to death by a jumped-up jihadi, not fit to breathe the same air as the man he killed.

Now I know there are still some ‘Jihadi Johnnies’ out there who think they will eventually triumph because their love of death is greater than our love of life.

So let me say this to you. Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?

This is the country that stood up alone to the might of the Luftwaffe, air force of the greatest evil mankind has ever known.

If you think we’re going to be cowed by some pathetic, Poundland terrorist in an estate car with a knife, then you’re as delusional as you are malevolent.

Yes, you have the power to hurt us. Sometimes the hurt is more than we can bear – but you cannot defeat us.

Because for every brainwashed, brain dead Islamist you send to do us harm, we have thousands upon thousands of Keith Palmers. You find them in every walk of life and in every part of the land, they come in all shapes, all sizes, all colours, all faiths. They are the British people and against them you will never prevail.

Last night’s BBC Question Time – dire, Andrew Neil’s This Week – heroic

I hope I’m in the majority when I say that last night’s BBC flagship audience participation current affairs programme Question Time was absolutely dire. I frequently turned away to do more interesting stuff than listen to fractious arguments, and much spouting of platitudinous rubbish.

What a delight to be greeted by Andrew Neil’s magnificent verbal blast against the perpetrators of the Paris atrocities. In fact the whole of the This Week programme was splendid, gosh, even George Galloway was reasonable – memorably saying he’d be happy to shoot any of the Parisian jihadists. Here’s Andrew’s terrific verbal bashing of IS,

Andrew Neil makes political discussion fun

My objective in watching the last part of Question Time last week was so that I wouldn’t miss any of Andrew Neil’s This Week programme that followed it. I’m not the only person to consider Andrew Neil our foremost political interviewer.

From the start, the programme lightened my spirit, while Question Time is a trifle to portentous, This Week brings a smile to my face. Go on, see what I mean, look HERE.

In the last programme that smile remained, creasing my face from beginning to end, no doubt in part due to Terry Wogan’s contribution.

The format of one male and one female reviewer works well. The times when it’s been two male commenters has seemed rigid in comparison. Andrew Neil has tried a number of alternatives to Diane Abbott, now that Diane ‘s an opposition frontbencher, with Kate Hoey, Caroline Flint, and most recently Jacqui Smith.

All have been good value. But I’m surprisingly taken by Jacqui Smith. Insightful and bright, I think her background as Labour’s Home Secretary and as Chief Whip give her the gravitas to be a better foil to Michael Portillo than the others, and a big improvement on Diane Abbott, who was becoming tiresome in her answers about Obama, and the Labour leadership.

I’d like to see another outing of Jacqui Smith joining Michael Portillo on the This Week sofa, as the programme needs a settled team.

Energy, passion and renewal

Being a selective TV watcher, I made sure I watched Andrew Neil’s Tea Party America programme, and darn good it was too.

The thing that struck me, much as it did Andrew Neil, was the anger and passion of the Tea Party activists, many men of whom seemed to have no problem in crying floods of tears on camera. Neil’s prescient summary was,

 “This extraordinary eruption of anger is certainly changing the face of America.”

Well, that’s exactly what’s happened, with many Republican Tea Party candidates being elected in the mid-term elections.

I was lucky to work for an American software company, and to often get to go to the States. I learned then about the importance of the American dream – that you can rise from the lowest position in society to the highest through education, hard work and dedication.

I also learned about their ‘can do’ attitude, their love of freedom, and their love of breaking new ground – a frontier attitude. I always came home enlivened by such energy. But I also came away with a view of the inequalities in America, the headlong rush forward in everything, often left people and communities behind, and that was painful to see in such a wealthy society.

America is and remains a melting pot of races and attitudes, a democratic work in progress, if you will. And that, with all it’s faults, is enormously encouraging. Energy and renewal on view.

Andrew Neil’s interviews with Labour leadership contenders

Yep, it’s a slow news day. I’m going back to Andrew Neil’s interview of Ed Miliband in last week’s This Week programme on BBC. Sadly the last in the series until September 23rd.

Andrew’s interview with Ed Mili was the last of his interviews of the Labour leadership contenders. Neil is the sharpest political interviewer on TV, and again his dissection of Ed Mili’s policy positions and brotherly competition proved it.

I know that these interviews are short and don’t allow in-depth discussion. Never the less they’re valuable pointers. Ed Mili came across as having less gravitas than expected, with him responding to one of Neil’s questions about his newness as an MP. And that was it really. Insufficient depth of experience.

Overall, the clear winner for me from Neil’s interviews was David Miliband. With better skills than any of the others in handling sharp political questioning and debate.

However, David Miliband isn’t in my estimation the sort of politician who can connect with the electorate. Labour would have been better served by appointing a stop-gap leader, such as Alastair Darling. It would have been better to begin the process of choosing a new leader at the Labour Party Conference. All the candidates, except Diane Abbott, are damaged by their recency in office, and have had insufficient time to develop a policy portfolio away from electoral hustings. But hey, it’s not my party, so my view doesn’t count a heap.

MILI-UPDATE: Paul Waugh has lots on the Mili-D and Mili-E sibling battle.

Andrew Neil uncovers Labour’s prospective leaders delusions

For two weeks running now Andrew Neil, on his This Week late night political commentary show, has successfully uncovered the delusional mindset of two prospective leader’s of the Labour Party.

On This Week on 8th July Andrew interviewed David Miliband and used his skilful forensic questioning to attempt to uncover Miliband’s delusions on our tacit agreement to torture. David Miliband would have considered that Andrew Neil failed to make the charge stick. That maybe so. That Neil persisted so long in questioning on this topic ensured he was the winner of the exchange. Miliband’s high-minded and dismissive replies exhibited the lack of moral seriousness for which he’s known.

Last night it was Ed Balls’ turn to face Andrew Neil. Yet again the unbridled delusions of a prospective Labour leader were cruelly uncovered. Quizzed by Andrew on being Gordon Brown’s henchman and cause of much of the bile in New Labour, drawing on quotations from books by Andrew Rawnsley, Peter Mandelson, Anthony Seldon, and Alastair Campbell, Ed Balls could only say it was all “balderdash and rubbish”. But, the telling point was Neil’s when he said “are all these people making it up?” Iain Martin isn’t convinced of Balls’ innocence.

The winner to date from Andrew’s interviews with leadership candidates, Diane Abbott, Andy Burnham, David Miliband, and Ed Balls, has to be David Miliband. He was the most skilful and lucid in his answers. Just one more to go, it’s Ed Miliband’s turn next week.

Review: This Week of two weeks ago and political honeymoons

Reviewing old news, what use is that? Well, there are a few useful conclusions from Andrew Neil’s This Week programmes that I’m not sure have been fully commented on.

Two week’s ago one of Andrew’s guests was lead singer with Scouting for Girls, Roy Stride. He was revealing on the thoughts of youngish and keen LibDem supporters. His view was that the coalition is positive development in British politics, and that it should be given a chance to succeed. Roy felt that the coalition has rid the country of the overly tribal nature of British political discourse and reporting.

Know what, I think he’s right. For years the internecine warfare among the Labour hierarchy, and the twisting of the truth by Labour spin doctors, has poisoned the well of goodwill towards politicians of all parties. The other notable thing in the interview with Roy Stride was the strength of his optimism about the coalition. This was said in face of strong political negativity from others on the programme.  

A small point on political honeymoons. I believe this one to be different, in that there’s a separation of honeymoons for individuals in government, from the hopes of what a coalition might be able to achieve that a single party could not. That’s why this honeymoon will be longer than might be normally expected.

Andrew Neil has invited all the Labour leadership candidates onto the sofa with Michael Portillo, and then grills them hard on their political vision. He despatched Diane Abbott’s ambitions with cruel efficiency the week before. In this show it was the turn of Andy Burnham, who fared little better than Diane. Pressed hard about why he should be Labour leader, Burnham’s replies were insipid. Again Neil was a clear and easy winner in the exchanges, leading to the conclusion that another contender had bitten the dust of political disappointment.

Giving This week a miss this week

Thursday evening is normally my politics fix. Catching a snippet of Newsnight before Question Time begins. Then after Question Time its Andrew Neil and This Week, which means retiring to bed after 12.30, more often than not well after 1.0pm if I’m motivated to compose a blog post or two.

However this Thursday evening, after the disappointment of Question Time, I watched and enjoyed Andrew Neil’s introduction and Diane and Michael’s moments of the week. But, then when he announced the guest line-up of Will Hutton, Sally Bercow, and Nick Watt my heart sank. The mere thought of listening to a Will Hutton negative diatribe, followed by a political lightweight in Sally Bercow, only to be rounded off by a Guardian political commentator, in total, I considered this would suck out my very lifeblood.

I had Donald Sutherland’s words [as Sgt Oddball] flood in from my memory in the film Kelly’s Heroes, “Always with the negative waves Moriarty, always with the negative waves.” 

However, it seems I missed a peach of a conversation between Diane Abbott and Andrew Neil, which Guido has thoughtfully captured. Perhaps, as Guido suggests, Andrew Neil has tired of Diane Abbott. I just get the feeling that Andrew Neil feels his show has been used as a political platform by Diane Abbott.

Of all the alternatives on the sofa with Michael Portillo I particularly liked Caroline Flint. Sensible and intelligent comment. Methinks, like Guido, that Diane has overplayed her hand. Bring on the change, I’m backing Flint for the sofa. I have history with Caroline, HERE.

UPDATE: James Forsyth in the Spectator is commenting on Diane’s disaster too.

Andrew Neil analyses the ‘Clegg effect’

Perhaps your struggling to understand the sudden upturn in the fortunes of the Lib Dems, resulting from Nick Clegg strong performance in the first Leaders’ TV Debate, and how it will affect our political scene.

If you are, can I recommend Andrew Neil’s blog post on the topic.