On GB’s tears with Piers, and my emotional moment with Marr
Posted on 7 February 2010 | 4:02pm
Some commentators are already suggesting GB must have gone into his interview with Piers Morgan with his express purpose of crying over the loss of his daughter.
I have not seen the interview but I have seen Gordon in the past get very emotional indeed about losing his first child, and about the fact that one of his two sons has a disease which means he and Sarah may face the tragedy of losing a child for a second time. Who wouldn’t for heaven’s sake?
He is, for a public figure, an intensely private man, who finds much of the stuff of modern politics and the modern media sometimes difficult to deal with.
But he knows that some who live outside the political bubble are as much interested in who he is as what policies he has for the country, with some unlikely to listen on the second unless they know a bit more about the first.
When TB did a Des O’Connor interview on ITV in Opposition, many of the papers and broadcasters attacked him, saying it was a way of avoiding tougher questioning. But given he was forever taking on the supposedly tougher interviews, that was always self-serving rubbish from a political media elite which thinks it should have a monopoly on setting the agenda.
The reason I was always keen for TB to do programmes like that, and why I support GB doing one with Piers, is that it is important for top flight politicians to reach as wide an audience as possible, on as wide a canvas as possible.
When TB ever did Newsnight or the Today programme, people inside the Westminster bubble would have it as a point of reference for a few hours, maximum a day. We had people mentioning, and writing to us, about Des O’Connor, for weeks and weeks.
GB will not have enjoyed opening himself up in the way it sounds like he did. But there is no harm at all in people seeing that when all is said and done, he is flesh and blood the same as everyone else.
I had a bit of an unplanned ‘moment’ myself this morning, which judging by the volume of traffic online seems to have been noticed. I thought hardly anyone watched those Sunday politcal shows any more.
With a new novel out – Maya, which I may have mentioned here a few times already – I had agreed to do Andrew Marr on the BBC and Adam Boulton on Sky, and I knew of course I could not expect them to restrict the interviews to me talking about what a rollicking good read my novel was (even if the reviews are saying exactly that).
So of course I had expected the kind of questions Marr put on Iraq. I had also been telling myself that given the history between me and the Beeb over Iraq – and Marr was central as he was their political editor at the time of the war, and a key player in the agenda they sought to set – I must not lose my temper, or reopen old wounds.
Fair to say I just about managed it, but it was a struggle. I could certainly have done without his glib introduction, in which he sought to link the September 2002 WMD dossier with the novel, ie my ‘latest piece of fiction’.
But the reality is there is no question on Iraq I have not been asked many many times, and I guess it does get frustrating to be asked them again and again, knowing that most people have made up their minds one way or another. For years, we have been accused of lying when we know we didn’t. For inquiry after inquiry, we’ve faced perfectly legitimate questions which we have answered as best we can. I have been at four inquiries now, and though the first three cleared me of the serious allegations of wrongdoing I faced, it is never good enough for those who opposed what we did.
Marr claimed he had no opinion or agenda, but it was exposed in the way he casually threw in a highly disputed figure about casualties – four to five times higher than the Iraq body count accepted by most organisations as the most reliable. As to his claim that his figure was backed by the UN, that was news to me and I suspect to them.
Journalism is supposed to be about seeking after truth. But I really do believe now that on this issue, every aspect of which has been gone into for so long and in such detail, most of the media are no longer interested in the truth at all. They are interested in those parts that fit their analysis – that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake and the consequences have been disastrous.
There is another point of view but what I felt once more this morning is that whereas I can see how people reached the decision that we should not have taken military action, the critics refuse point blank to see how the other point of view could possibly have been adopted. And they cannot even merely accept that a ‘wrong’ decision was taken – they have to believe there was duplicity or conspiracy behind it too.
So if I appeared lost for words, it was perhaps because there is nothing more to say, and if I had said what I was really thinking about the way the media has been covering the inquiry, and the way they cover public life more generally, I might have regretted it. So I let my mind race for a while, controlled the emotions surging around, then carried on.
I was glad to have the chance to explain why I got emotional by going straight to Adam Boulton’s show. As I said, I do sometimes feel that people in public life are now treated by the media as though somehow they are devoid of humanity, do not have feelings, do not really care about anything.
To be fair a lot of the comments doing the rounds online seem fair and reasonable, and the reactions on social networking sites mainly friendly and supportive.
But we now live in an age where people can pass instant comment on events as they happen. So before seeing the interview with GB, they can make judgements that suggest venality in his crying over his daughter’s death. Or imagine that I went onto a programme this morning to show a touchy feely emotional side to emphasise I am now as much a novelist as political operative.
In fact what happened was that Marr asked a question, and I was struck by the insight that he had precious little interest in the answer, and the exasperation button was duly pressed.
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