You have to feel for Chloe Smith. The Government she’s part of performs the umpteenth u-turn and she is chosen to be the front person for this, and face not just Jon Snow but Jeremy Paxman. I saw bits and bobs of her interview with Paxman and never thought she was that bad. That hasn’t stopped people from claiming her moment as the biggest car-crash interview in some time, despite Danny Alexander (for example) performing even more badly any time i've seen him up against Paxman.
Paxman is the obvious king of the political interviews. Someone whose intimidating style cow’s politicians across the spectrum – someone I would have liked to have seen given “Question Time” before Dimbleby got the job. Yet there are times when he doesn’t get things right, for example his jibe comparing Salmond to Robert Mugabe. There are other people who rate “This Week’s” Andrew “Brillopad” Neill, while I am a fan of “PM’s” Eddie Mair – who did the multiple questioning of Michael Howard a couple of weeks before Paxman had his go.
With the ongoing debate about the future of Scotland, BBC Scotland doesn’t have either Mair or Neil to adequately take apart the Nationalist’s case or to spotlight the flaws in the Unionists argument. Instead, we have Glenn Campbell or Brian Taylor – ok broadcasters but not really of the calibre of those mentioned above. This is why I think that BBC Scotland needs to look hard at how they are going to cover the Referendum debate.
I think that they have one or two options. Either they can coax one of the above up here for the “Big Debate” specials they are clearly planning on doing… or they could try and sign one of the other big beasts. The one interviewer I reckon BBC Scotland should try and sign is STV’s Bernard Ponsonby.
Ponsonby used to do a post-pub “debate” show called “Trial by Night” – and hosted it with great aplomb. I saw him do STV’s leaders debate just before the Holyrood election last year, and saw that he had lost none of his sharpness or his incisiveness. Certainly he performed better than the distinctly wooden Campbell. BBC Scotland, if they want to seriously beef up their political unit in the run up to the Referendum vote, could possibly go for Ponsonby. To be fair to BBC Scotland though, all is not that bad. Isobel Fraser has emerged in the last year as an insightful interviewer, maybe in the mould of a Victoria Derbyshire. It’s just that at times she is rather criminally underused.
It’s telling that of the three interviewers mentioned above, two of them are Scots who have moved south – cashing in their Union dividend I suppose. At this crucial time in our history, we really need our main broadcaster to step up.