Watching Brief: While Jeremy Vine and Krishnan Guru-Murthy Shape Us as the Heavyweight New Stars of Political Broadcasting, Andrew Rawnsley Robs Polly Toynbee of an Award. (Columns)
Platell, Amanda, New Statesman (1996)
A week is a long time in political broadcasting. Two rising stars took centre stage-Jeremy Vine on BBC1's new flagship, The Politics Show, and Krishnan Guru-Murthy on the Channel 4 Political Awards.
In an attempt to capture a younger audience, The Politics Show decided to dress down and, in some instances, talk down to its audience. The conclusion of the Iraq package sounded like a passage from Desiderata: "The problem with doves is that sometimes, when you set them free, they don't come back. The Prime Minister should, perhaps, take note of that." Oh dear, that's hardly the stuff to keep Alastair up at night.
As for the film on asylum, it was little short of entrapment. Anyone interviewed who raised any fears over the issue was challenged with: "So you agree with Enoch Powell, then."
The problem with the no-tie policy, as the Tory modernisers discovered, is that unless the dress code is rigorously -- enforced, the person who is casually dressed always comes off worse. I mean, no one wants to be the guy who turns up in jeans to a white-tie event. An open-necked Vine interrogating a stiff-suited John Reid about our relentless march to war somehow put himself at a disadvantage, despite the rigorous interview. The jacket-no-tie look in this setting makes you look like one of Diana's former lovers - part privilege, part prat.
Nonetheless, there is a lot of freshness and potential in this show. Vine is a class act - an uncommonly good brain with a common touch. He should be allowed to use both more.
Another quiet success for the BBC's new political overhaul is Andrew Neil's late-night This Week. The show is unashamedly politics for grown-ups.
Over on Channel 4, Guru-Murthy put in a polished performance, replacing the willowy Jon Snow for its annual political awards. I am reliably assured that it was war duty and not friendly fire that resulted in the last-minute switch of presenters. Compared with Vine, Guru-Murthy had an easier task of it, good jokes (is it true that Vine is using Jim Davidson's services?) and he was allowed to keep his tie on.
Many present felt like hanging themselves with theirs when the award for Political Journalist of the Year was given to the Observer's Andrew Rawnsley. The prerequisite for such an honour is that a journalist has that "must read" quality. The last time Rawnsley was "must read" was with the publication of his book Servants of the People in 2000 - the one where all the boring bits were serialised in the Observer, the paper that pays his wages, and the good stories sold off to that paper most despised by the left, the Daily Mail. …