Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Paxman vs Blair

Continuing on the analysis of Paxman's "Big Interviews", it was Tony Blair's turn in the hot seat last night. But in this case, the only warmth on the seat may have been left over from Charles Kennedy's trembling rectum as Paxman delivered pounding blows to it on Monday.

Paxman had a go at Blair. It was remarkable that the first 10 minutes of the interview were taken up by Iraq. I'm pleased Paxman chose to do that, as the electorate perhaps do need a small reminder of all the lies and spin that took us to war, but Blair pulled off all the usual stops that we've heard before, meaning the whole conversation turned into little more than an exercise in futility. But it was remarkable because it has now been two years since the war, and only now is Tony Blair being put in a position to answer these questions. If anyone else asks him, you normally get accused of being a Saddam-loyalist. This time, at least we got to see him doing a small wriggle about the exaggeration of intelligence.

But what Blair did demonstrate in this interview was exactly what Charles Kennedy didn't. Within seconds of the grilling starting, Paxman asked whether Blair felt people had lost trust in him. Blair acknowledged there was a problem, but he immediately redirected the question to discuss the strengths of Labour's policies and the economic success they have brought since 1997. He didn't allow Paxman to bog him down over broken promises in both manifestoes. He pushed relentlessly all the way through for the New Labour line: opportunity and prosperity for all; forward not back.

This grand vision is what the Lib Dems lack. New Labour at least tell us where we're heading. It doesn't matter what happens along the way. I'm sure in 2009/2010, we'll be being told by Labour that "just one more win" is needed to further safeguard and secure New Labour policies so they go on "for ever". But that's what we were told in 2001 and have been told this time.

No one really knows what the big theme of the Lib Dems is. They are starting to click onto this with this "fairer society" thing. But with it only being a recent innovation, I feel it's probably too late to make the electorate remember it.

Paxman then spent a short while on tax - nothing new there but the usual evasion of the imminent rise in NI contributions - but then proceeded with what he probably thought to be a harsh attack on Blair's immigration policy, but in fact turned to be rather a tedious affair. We can't expect politicians to have all numbers at their fingertips, and Blair had a reasonable excuse for not knowing exactly how many failed asylum seekers are still in the country. In any case, the civil service does not have exact fingers for every single issue. Some things require research, and maybe a little more of that damned bureaucracy that apparently is such a disaster to the nation will be created to generate such new figures.

Blair had his excuse and rode it out. Paxman tried to score points, but Blair deftly dodged the issue by talking about the benefits of economic migration and our obligation to take asylum seekers. No votes lost there, since no mainstream party is against economic migration. Once again, nothing of any interest added to the debate.

It was a very narrow discussion. It's probably the nature of half hour interviews, but we still didn't get a chance to discuss education - which is still shockingly absent from this campaign. The NHS barely got a mention, but Blair alluded to both on occasion. You wouldn't think that these two issues still rank on the public's agenda as the most important. But no! Immigration is far more important!

Paxman vs Howard might be interesting on Friday.

No. Who am I kidding...


At 10:44 am, April 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What this round of interviews is proving is that Paxman is essentially a lazy interviewer. He goes for easy targets and is therefore on the same scale (albeit a different order) to the Sun and other red-tops.


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