Match report: Clegg v Marr

Match report: Clegg v Marr

Back in September, I wrote a highly critical blog about Nick Clegg’s performance when interviewed by Andrew Marr. A couple of readers complained I was being too harsh on the Deputy PM, so this week I’m taking another look at him, based on his set-piece interview with Marr last Sunday.

In short, Clegg has improved. There were none of the theatricals we had last September, none of that smugness, and he successfully tiptoed his way through the minefield of issues that Marr laid out for him – every one a potentially negative headline in the following morning’s press.  He also navigated a sensible course of loyalty to his Conservative coalition partners, while promoting the Liberal Democrats’ distinctive political approach – no mean feat when it comes to delicate subjects such as a benefits cap. For these reasons, I give him a score of 6 out of 10 (back in September he was lucky to get a 3).

Why no higher? He still isn’t nearly concise enough. One of the key attributes of a good interviewee is the ability to boil down complex arguments to the bare essentials. Less is more. But Clegg always has far more to say than he can possibly communicate in a 20-minute interview, so gives the impression of gabbling, rushing and talking over the interviewer – almost as though he’s playing for time and avoiding the next difficult question. As an interviewee you can always tell when you’re being too long-winded, because your interviewer will constantly have to interrupt you – which is exactly what Marr had to do. This isn’t just annoying for the viewer, but makes it far more difficult for the interviewee to communicate a key message.

There’s more I’m afraid. Clegg gives the impression of relishing the intellectual tussle more than he really cares about the impact of a particular issue on ordinary people. Take youth unemployment. If he really cares about a million youngsters on the dole, he needs to show it by introducing a few of what I call “sympathy words or phrases”. Cameron would have done exactly that, and so would Blair. Clegg doesn’t appear to have it in him.

But I’ll give credit where it’s due. Overall, this was a vastly better performance from Clegg, and one that shows he’s prepared to learn. Good job.

Article date

January 30th, 2012

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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