Listen up, BBC – stop interrupting the PM when he’s talking tripe, by Rab McNeil

WE need to talk about talking. The country was rocked and shocked this week when a BBC interviewer told the Prime Minister of England and the Other Bits to “stop talking”.

As ever, I have over-egged this because while absolutely everyone has tiresome political views nowadays, nobody listens to such interviews.

This is despite BBC interviewers being the most important people in the country. It’s their job to berate and belittle our elected superheroes for 20 minutes then hand over the tape to technicians who select out of context a 10-second damning soundbite for feeding to the masses.

Only this time the soundbite came back to bite the biter as it featured Nick Robinson on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme repeatedly interrupting Boris McJohnson, if that’s the name, before telling him: “Prime Minister, you are going to pause … Stop. Talking.”

The PM said he was “happy to stop talking”, allowing Robinson to frame an interminable question, prompting McJohnson to observe in turn: “You seem to have abandoned the injunction you’ve just given me.”

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To be fair, Boris does witter on and rarely addresses the question. At Prime Minister’s Questions, he trots out the same formulaic guff every week. With the SNP, it’s something like: “You complain about wages but what about an independence referendum, eh? You never stop going on about it.” And SNP MPs look at each other in bafflement, as no one has mentioned a referendum for months.

As for Robinson, it’s clear his nose was out of joint from the start when he pointed out sniffily that it was the first time in two years that the PM had spoken to the extremely important radio programme.

As you would expect in Britain, O’Robinson and McJohnson were in the same class at yonder Oxford. O’Robinson is also widely held to be a Tory, but journalists are often harder on their “own side”, as it were, to show they’re not biased.

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At any rate, the exchange led to rioting in many parts of the Home Counties, with one Tory minister ululating: “I wouldn’t talk to my three-year-old like that.” No, you’d smack them with a rolled up Financial Times and tell them to stop whimpering as that was nothing compared to what they’d be getting at boarding school in a couple of years’ time.

Former Today programme interviewer John Humphrys, himself famous for arguing instead of interviewing but busy now ear-brushing his own history, asked plaintively: “Why interview someone if you don’t want them to answer?” Good question for once.

Interviewer: What exactly is your goal, Prime Minister?

PM: To get to the end of a …

Interviewer: Oh, do be quiet.

There’s a saying: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” But we can’t even tell if they’re making a mistake because they never get to finish a sentence

For pity’s sake, interviewers, let our politicians speak. The trick is, readers, never to listen.

A shirt tale

BORIS Johnson is a man of many failings. I’m not speaking politically. I never take that nonsense seriously, and would advise readers just to vote where your heart is – next to your wallet.

Nor have I gathered you here today to discuss the Tory Prime Minister’s favourite mode of transport. Obviously, as a self-righteous, blustering, inconsiderate, elbows-out individual, he’s a keen cyclist, but we don’t want to comment on that nutter-haunted debate (I was amused recently to find a woman who usually engaged in trans issues saying she didn’t know what a pile-on was till she made critical remarks about cyclists).

However, my comments do involve a related form of dissipation – jogging. Not the peculiar activity itself; true, its adherents are just as grim and self-centred as bicyclists, and similarly expect you to make way for them on once-uncrowded country paths – you should never, ever do that unless a friendly, polite request is made – but they’re generally less demented and sometimes eschew debauched costumery.

That said, it’s the PM’s jogging attire that needs discussing urgently. In Manchester, where his party was incongruously holding its annual conference, he was spotted running in what investigative reporters described as “a crisp, white suit shirt tucked into shorts”. The spectacle was breathtaking, particularly when pictures showed him also wearing ankle socks with dress shoes.

The Daily Star, journal of the British Establishment, noted sniffily that this was “not normal behaviour”. Correct. But, in some ways, you must admire it. Clearly, this is a public figure who cares little about his appearance. He’s so posh he’s above the rules even of Debrett’s.

On the other hand, surely he must consider the effect on onlookers. What if you were walking along, innocently masticating a poke of chips, when Boris came forth, swiftly waddling in inappropriate attire? You might vomit or gag. Your Sunday dinner would be ruined.

True, I’d prefer joggers to wear long trousers but, failing that, at least a polo shirt or even polo neck should adorn the torso. As for the feet, running in wellingtons would provide a proper workout to shift the pounds and ounces that weigh so heavily on his mind.

A tall story

HEIGHT news, and it doesn’t get any lower than allegations that Boris Johnson, a prime minister, appoints tall people to the Treasury to make Chancellor Rishi Sunak look small. At 5ft 6in, “Dishy” Rishi doesn’t have a head start, right enough, and it’s thought that Boris, seeing him as a rival, plays on his insecurities about the matter.

Accordingly, the PM’s appointments have included 6ft 5in Simon Clarke as Chief Secretary and John Glen (over 6ft), as Economic Secretary. Boris himself is a once respectable – small these days – 5ft 10in.

He forgets that his hero, Winston Churchill, was just 5ft 5in. Also, all the world’s best footballers, such as Lionel Messi and the likes of that Marco Verratti, are small. Tall players are particularly valued in Scotland for shovin’ folk aboot – a central tactic of the Scottish game – but when the ball is at their feet, it’s further away from their brains, making efficacious blootering of it more difficult.

Back at Westminster, meanwhile, the scuttlebutt is that Rishi shortens his trouser hems to give a greater impression of height. But that’s probably just a tall tale.

Prayer is rare

I CONFESS I’m not really your man for prayer. Obviously, it can’t come easily to someone who deplores the deity, but at least acknowledges that there is one. Unfortunately, I believe He is wicked.

Still, I’ve been known to give prayer a go in the event of news reports that a child or female has gone missing, and things ain’t looking good. It’s maybe just focused hope, but what harm can it do?

I witter in the wake of news that almost a third of younger “Britons” prayed for Boris Johnson and the Tory Government during the pandemic. And you thought they were all Communists. Still, you might prefer to interpret it as two-thirds not praying for our leaders.

Funny thing all that mumbo-jumbo. Here’s a distantly related tale. Once, several decades ago, when I was down on my uppers, so to say, and at my wit’s end, I found a £5 note wedged inside the hardboard covers of my copy of The Lord of the Rings. Though I hadn’t prayed for this, nothing will dissuade me from the view that it was put there by elves.

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The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992