Can we trust “the news”? Only with care
During lunch with a lawyer friend just before Christmas, the conversation…
By Robert Taylor on the January 4th, 2018
The word is that Labour MPs want Ed Miliband to get some media training. I agree with them – he should be trained. But not because he’s bad at doing media interviews. In fact, he just needs a few tweaks to be an effective performer.
Take his BBC interview with Andrew Marr last week. He was, generally, excellent, striking the right tone and communicating a good clear message. But he let himself down in the first 30 seconds, and a bit of training would help make sure it doesn’t happen again.
In high-pressure situations it’s difficult to conceal what you are really feeling [see my blog on Chris Huhne of Feb 6th]. Watch Ed as Marr finishes his rather cutting introduction and starts speaking to him directly. Ed knows that it’s important to smile at the start of an interview, even if your smile isn’t all that attractive. But he’s a bit nervous (who wouldn’t be?), stung by Marr’s criticism and annoyed by such a negative introduction. So he’s in a quandary. Does he smile or not? Unfortunately, he chooses the worst option. He smiles, but not with his eyes. His eyes betray his real feelings. He then compounds his error by his very first answer – an unconvincing attempt to gloss over an awful by-election loss in Bradford.
I’m being picky, of course. But the viewing public pick up on these things, especially right at the start of an interview. First impressions count, and Miliband gave the impression of being uncomfortable and callow. Even slightly deceitful. The rest of the interview went very well, but by that time it was too late.
Imagine Tony Blair in that situation. He would have flashed that self-deprecating smile (with his eyes too!) and would have immediately come back at Marr, without waiting for the first question to be asked, telling him – briefly and diplomatically – that his introduction was rather unfair, then giving the reasons why. Asked about Bradford, there would be no waffle. He would have taken it on the chin, admitted it was a bad result for Labour and then bridged to how it was a one-off result of the sort that you sometimes get in mid-term.
With more experience, Ed Miliband will, I’m sure, develop his own techniques for this sort of situation. The only question is whether his party and the voters will give him enough time.
April 23rd, 2012