The Radio Times is running a competition in which people can vote for their favourite interviews. Amongst the shortlist you’ll find all the usual suspects. Parkinson with Emu or Muhammed Ali, Paxman with Michael Howard, Frost on Nixon; Bashir with Princess Diana, Robin Day and John Nott, Boulton and Alistair Campbell… they’re all there and more.
With most of the interviews, certainly those that may be deemed ‘political’ I suspect the viewer or listener’s judgement of a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ interview depends to a large extent on whether they are sympathetic or not to the person being interviewed. To an ardent Tory, Paxman asking the same question 14 times to an evasive Michael Howard, desperate not to answer, is likely to be considered typical lefty BBC bias and bullying. Whereas to a Labour supporter it may well be regarded as giving a pompous arse the thorough kebabing he deserved. Similarly, Bashir on Diana or Boulton and Campbell. Those sympathetic to Diana or Boulton would take out of it different perceptions to those favouring Charles or Campbell.
Anyway, although they are not on the Radio Times list, I would like to put in a few words for two ‘interviews’ by members of the public, Sharon Storer and Diana Gould. Unlike the Frost’s, Paxman’s, Parkinson’s and their like, Storer and Gould didn’t have a small army of researchers and prompters, and their interviewees didn’t have an equivalent body of advisors and researchers whispering in their ears telling them the best possible evasive answers to give in the circumstances. No… Sharon and Diana found themselves with a chance to put a few questions to the powerful and mighty… and took the chance with both hands duly ripped them to shreds on live television!
Diana Gould interviewed Margaret Thatcher on a live phone-in on the Nationwide TV show. Gould, who pressed her to explain why the Belgrano had been attacked during the Falklands War when it was outside of the exclusion zone, sailing away from the Zone, and it seemed there was a possibility of a peace deal being struck. Thatcher claimed that the Belgrano was not sailing away from the exclusion zone. Diana Gould promptly filleted her live on BBC1 and quoted map references to prove Thatcher was lying! Thatcher then put forward an embarrassed and feeble counter argument, insisting that most people would have seen the Belgrano as a threat. Mrs Gould undermined this argument, and accused a visibly shaken Thatcher of causing the grief of 323 mothers and spouses in order to promote her war aims. Thatcher was alleged to be so furious that she never forgave the BBC for allowing the question to be put to her!
Sharon Storer’s moment came as Tony Blair was on the stump in 2001 showing his caring nature by touring the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Storer’s partner was a cancer patient in the hospital suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he was housed in A & E because there was no bed on a Ward for him. For two minutes, in the full glare of the cameras, she set about grilling the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms about the lack of staff and facilities in the hospital, resisting all attempts by Blair and his aides to shuffle her inside and away from the cameras. In fairness, this probably doesn’t qualify so much as an ‘interview’ as a tirade, but I’d vote for it because of the sheer spontaneous and unrehearsed way she pierced and then exploded the smooth veneer of the unprepared professional political operator.