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.

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.

Choices, choices: Newsnight, or Question Time, + This Week

I like my news and analysis raw, not reheated, as it were, by watching a later recording of it. I know that’s not always possible, but it’s how I like it. If there’s shock and surprise I like to get it first hand.

Thursday night tonight, so it must be a political talk-fest. However, I’ve a small problem. I’m keen to watch Newsnight, and their analysis and possible discussion of William Hague’s recasting of UK foreign policy, so this will take precedence over Question Time. Then, deciding whether to watch This Week will depend who’s on the sofa with Michael Portillo.

Analysis of William Hague’s speech is my top priority. It’s the  effectiveness of our foreign policy and diplomatic priorities that can help make a huge difference to our economic well-being. We’ve got to be as outward looking a mercantile nation as were our Victorian forefathers.

Did you know, I imagine you do, that there are cities in China whose entire existence is centered around factories making socks, or ones making ties. I know this isn’t high up in foreign policy terms, but we need to understand global markets, and global manufacturing trends. Having diplomats and trade consulates overseas is the way to understand geo-political and geo-trade developments.

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.