Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Political Interviewing; CSI Whale

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Political Interviewing; CSI Whale

Article excerpt

It's not surprising that politicians have such an on-off relationship with the broadcast media. One slip. One casual comment. One lapse of memory. Even the immaculate, armour-plated Nicola Sturgeon was caught out by Jane Garvey last Wednesday as the Woman's Hour presenter congratulated her on her latest elevation. It had just been announced that Scotland's First Minister was top of the Woman's Hour 'power list' of the top ten women for 2015 (beating Angelina Jolie and Caitlyn Jenner) and Sturgeon was doing a live telephone interview on the Radio 4 programme from her office in Edinburgh. Garvey then lobbed a question, oh so casually, but oh so deliberately, like a lioness waiting to pounce.

'The Big Game tonight?'

A long, embarrassingly long, pause.

'Isn't it, Nicola? The Big Game tonight?' (This was Wednesday, night of the World Cup match between England's women's soccer team and Japan's.)

'What are we talking about?' Sturgeon was forced to ask eventually, to break the yawning silence.

'England in the World Cup.'

'Obviously, yeah,' said Sturgeon, giggling nervously. 'Good luck!'

It's lucky for her there's no election just around the corner. For a woman who claims to be not your usual style of politician, who listens to her voters, she revealed a surprising lack of nous, of being out of touch with what 'ordinary' folk are interested in. How could she not have heard about the match? Had she not realised how big women's football has suddenly become, headlining the back pages and the news streams day after day in the past few weeks? The biggest women's story in months, and she was speaking to women on a programme designed for them. It was as if she had come to the microphone without thinking who her audience was going to be.

Sturgeon got away with it, unscathed. Afterwards, there was not a squeak anywhere about her gaffe, blown away by the team's painful defeat. But it's there in the archive.

The trouble with politicians (especially those now making decisions about the future of the BBC and its funding) is that it's hard to imagine them ever listening to anything on the radio, apart perhaps from Today or maybe some football on Radio Five Live, occasionally diving into Radio 2 or Classic FM to find out what music the nation is listening to. The soundtrack of their lives is other politicians talking. George Osborne may be happy to appear on Money Box Live but does he ever listen to it on a regular basis? You might also ask whether John Whittingdale, the culture minister, has ever bothered to tune in to Radio 4's programme on the arts, Front Row ? …

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