Another car-crash interview – and this time it’s a Labour shadow minister

Another car-crash interview – and this time it’s a Labour shadow minister

So Labour has now had its Chloe Smith moment.

Back in 2012, I gave my verdict on Conservative minister Chloe Smith’s extraordinarily incompetent interview with Jeremy Paxman – so bad that, according to Paxman, it wrecked her ministerial career. Nothing could be quite as jaw-dropping as that, but this came close. Shadow City Minister, Richard Burgon, was left floundering as Channel 4 presenter Cathy Newman grilled him about his knowledge and expertise. The overall impression? This guy isn’t fit to hold office.

Like Chloe Smith, Burgon’s first job was to defend a U-turn – something that’s always a tough ask, and gets an interview off on entirely the wrong foot from the interviewee’s point of view. Essentially Burgon’s job was to defend the indefensible, and you can almost hear the cries of, “Oh, come off it!”, from viewers up and down the country.

But it’s just after the two-minute mark that the wheels really start to come off, and we see a politician who simply doesn’t know his brief. Asked what the deficit will be at the end of the year – something you might expect a shadow City minister to know – Burgon’s panic is palpable. He starts to say, “I’m not an economic expert”, before stopping himself mid-sentence, then cobbling together a stumbling, unconvincing substitute.

What this shows is that there is simply no substitute for being on top of your brief. However well-trained you are, you’re not going to be able to deal with a tough political interview unless you simply know your stuff.

Newman then asks a series of questions about whether Burgon has had meetings with City representatives. After all, he is Shadow City Minister. Clearly Burgon hasn’t done so, and he should therefore have simply admitted this fact – however embarrassing it might be – instead of offering up a succession of evasive answers. Who did he think he was kidding? The viewers of Channel 4 News are not fools.

Chloe Smith never recovered her credibility after her Paxo-crash. Burgon’s performance wasn’t quite so excruciating (it helped that it wasn’t live), so he may well avoid that fate and come bouncing back.

But on the evidence of this performance he has a lot of work to do.

Article date

October 21st, 2015

Robert Taylor

Media Trainer


My main passion is media training, and I’m proud to be one of the UK’s most experienced and successful trainers in this field.

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