Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
The UK election is down to the wire so this train wreck of an interview could decide the fate of a nation.
Shadow Health Minister Jamie Reed, a PR man turned politician, should have known better. This interview got so dire that one of his team literally pulled the plug – the Video Conference equivalent of storming off set.
It's nine minutes of exquisite agony, and you can watch it all here. But if you're short of time feel free to cut to the chase. It starts to go off the rails at 4:30, and becomes positively Pythonesque at 8:00 before exploding into the record books at 8:20 or so.
But rather than just enjoy the sideshow, lets deconstruct the interview crimes.
The first thing that gets up my nose is Mr Reed’s arrogant drive to his key message. Investing a few words connecting his response to the question would be time well spent. Instead he rides roughshod over respected interviewer Andrew Neil – the BBC’s answer to Leigh Sales or Alan Kohler.
Avoiding questions and parroting your spin gets the audience off side and makes you look weak.
But what made this a truly epic fail, as opposed to a bad interview, was Mr Reed’s refusal to answer reasonable questions on the Mansion Tax – a key platform. He digs himself in deeper by resorting to filibuster and bluff until one of his PR flacks literally pulls the plug.
The intricacies of a proposed new tax have sunk many an aspiring politician (John Hewson stumbling over the GST on a birthday cake springs to mind). But in this case it's clear Mr Reed is completely and unforgivably clueless about his party’s signature tax policy and its impact on his health portfolio (another key platform).
Delivering a major interview without adequate preparation is political suicide. Resorting to arrogance and bluster only makes it worse. And when your PR minder has to pull the plug to save your bacon it shows you are not up to the job.
Whether you’re a wannabe pollie or captain of industry, it’s easy to avoid death by filibuster.
Here are some simple tips:
Show respect: Demonstrate you’ve heard the question and explain why this is your response;
Don’t talk over the journo: They have the kill button and will always win, you can’t outshout them. If you are really stumped try a bit of honesty;
Make sure your brief includes examples: You need to be across the basics, but if you get mired in detail give a simple example that illustrates your key point. It won't come to you on the spot, so prepare it in advance.