Andrew Neil was on fine form as he returned to hosting the Daily Politics on BBC1 on Wednesday. After chewing up Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, he turned his attention to Steve Baker, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Wycombe.
Baker (SB) was immediately asked whether he thought Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, had ‘betrayed’ his country, a word the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, had used the previous day. Baker refused to be drawn on this issue initially but a good interviewer always follows up his first question with the same second question. Or in the case of Andrew Neil (AN), a third, fourth and maybe even a fifth. See lines 08 and 12 below:
01 AN: .. defence secretary says 02 mister Corbyn has quote 03 betrayed his country 04 in what way 05 SB: well the defence secretary’s chosen his own words 06 I mean the point for me about this debacle 07 [is that we believe 08 AN: [no has he betrayed his country 09 SB: well Jeremy Corbyn I think 10 is a grave danger to this country 11 but that’s because [the er 12 AN: [has he betrayed the country 13 SB: but that’s because of the 14 the ideas in which he believes
Neil shows his role as interviewer in this conversation and his rights to control the floor and the line of questioning. Note the overlap in lines 08 and 12 when he repeats his questions which signals his rights to the floor and the ability to self-select. These interruptions occur before the interviewee has had time to complete their turn. The third time Neil asks his question, he emphasizes the word ‘betrayed’ to maintain the focus of the question and to let the interviewee know that only a direct answer to the question will be acceptable (something that not all interviewers insist on).
Neil follows up these initial three attempts with further attempts (lines 17-25 & 36-59) to push the interviewee to directly answer the question but in these cases prefaces the question with some contextual background to give the question more weight. The ability to hold the floor here and provide this context for the question is typical of someone fulfilling the role of interviewer:
17 AN: CONTEXTUAL BACKGROUND 24 ... 25 in what way has he betrayed his country 26 SB: well that really is
36 AN: CONTEXTUAL BACKGROUND 56 ... 57 so I ask again 58 in what sense has mister Corbyn 59 betrayed this country 60 SB: well Andrew I-
See below for a full transcript.
BBC Daily Politics, 21st February, 2018
01 AN: .. defence secretary says 02 mister Corbyn has quote 03 betrayed his country 04 in what way 05 SB: well the defence secretary’s chosen his own words 06 I mean the point for me about this debacle 07 [is that we believe 08 AN: [no has he betrayed his country 09 SB: well Jeremy Corbyn I think 10 is a grave danger to this country 11 but that’s because [the er 12 AN: [has he betrayed the country 13 SB: but that’s because of the 14 the ideas in which he believes 15 and what that would mean 16 for our economy and our society 17 AN: but that but that that that 18 people have all sorts of ideas (2.0) 19 but your defence secretary 20 our defence secretary 21 the defence secretary of this government 22 of our government 23 has said the leader of her majesty’s opposition 24 has betrayed his country 25 in what way has he betrayed his country 26 SB: well that really is 27 a question for Gavin Williamson 28 that’s not [the xx 29 AN: [so you don’t agree with it 30 SB: well I’m not- erm I xx 31 commenting on the er 32 on the er 33 AN: well do you think he’s betrayed the country 34 SB: I think that Jeremy Corbyn 35 is a grave danger to our country 36 AN: but that’s a political point 37 that’s a a diff- 38 of course you do 39 everybody (.) in one party 40 thinks the other party’s a grave danger 41 betrayal is an entirely different matter 42 that’s a serious accusation 43 I just point out 44 that a senior figure of 45 the Czech Republic defence ministry 46 says Sarkocy 47 who is the former Czech spy 48 ‘s real name 49 is a liar 50 that the exact word 51 the director of the Czech archives on security 52 says no files showed mister Corbyn 53 cooperating with Czech intelligence 54 the German archivists say 55 there are no Stazi files 56 on Mister Corby at all 57 so I ask again 58 in what sense has mister Corbyn 59 betrayed this country 60 SB: well Andrew I- 61 I’m not gonna comment on that 62 as you’ve sug- suggested 63 this is er an area 64 where there’s lots of questions to answer 65 we’ve got a free press in this country 66 the free press is asking the questions 67 they should be answered 68 AN: yeah but you 69 it’s not just the free press 70 your fellow Tories are all 71 piling in as a result 72 your security minister 73 again the key word security minister 74 he’s compared mister Corbyn to Kim Philby 75 Kim Philby was a traitor 76 at the time if he’d been found guilty 77 he would have been hanged 78 that’s an outrageous smear 79 to say of the leader of the opposition 80 SB: well Andrew I’m not going to allow you 81 to draw me in to potentially libelling anybody 82 er and so I’m not gonna comment [on that 83 AN: [so you don’t agree with that either 84 so you don’t agree with the ...