When Nigel “Thirsty” Farage turned up at New Broadcasting House for his set-piece interview on The Andy Marr Show™ this morning, it is fair to say that this particular campaign developed not necessarily to his advantage. Farage quickly became irritable, ratty even, unwilling to answer the most basic of questions. Perhaps he was unsettled by not being last guest before the end of the show. This was not his finest hour.
Squeaky crap performance reimagined later finger up the bum time
The Beeb’s editor for live political programmes Rob Burley was more upbeat than he has been on occasion recently, batting away Andy Wigmore’s tiresome whinge about bias: “I thought it was an excellent interview. The fact you didn’t like it suggests it was full of difficult questions. That’s the point whoever we interview”.
He added “On the Nigel Farage interview: we asked about WTO and his record re: Norway and 2nd ref. Also because from the start he has said this is not just about Brexit but a party to reshape politics, we asked him whether it would adhere to his known positions on non-Brexit issues”. Questions on those issues had proved particularly testing for Nige.
But as both he and Marr must know, it is not just about the interview: there soon comes the spin, the re-framing of the encounter. And the re-framing aspect came very quickly: after Farage had moaned that the questions put to him were somehow not relevant, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines waddled into action. “#Marr hasn't asked @Nigel_Farage a single relevant question about the Euro elections. Bizarre interview”. Echo!
That Tweet was soon Retweeted by self-promotion artiste Julia Hartley Dooda, a hypocrite of such magnitude that she will still come running when the BBC offers her another opportunity to occupy the Marr Show paper review sofa. And Staines wasn’t done spinning: after the Guardian’s John Crace mused that Farage believing he should not be questioned on anything before this campaign made it “like Year Zero”, back he came.
“Not sure what viewers gained from reprising things from years ago. That was then, this is now”. This is hypocrisy on a colossal scale from someone whose business is dredging up anything politicians, and others, said many years ago in order to discredit them. It was also a reliable pointer to the right-wing press’ spinning of the interview.
To no surprise, the Murdoch Sun ran its account under the headline “Nigel Farage blasts BBC for being in denial about the Brexit Party and slams Andrew Marr’s questions as ‘ludicrous’ in heated TV interview”. The Mail was on the same page. “'You're in denial, the BBC is in denial': Furious Nigel Farage blasts Andrew Marr for asking 'ludicrous' questions about his views on the NHS while ignoring 'sea-change' in British politics since Brexit”.
Farage shouting down Marr’s questions - politely yet firmly pitched, and highly relevant in view of the Brexit Party leader’s ambitions - is what is being used to frame the pushback. The idea that those questions were somehow not relevant was also being echoed by thousands of Twitter feeds, some perhaps bots, others real people.
The Beeb has set out to be uniformly tough on all comers; it has instead given Farage another platform to shout down anything he does not like, while his spinners - including, it seems, many in our free and fearless press - frame it as a victory in the retelling. Even the best efforts to hold Farage to account founder when overwhelmed by spin.
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