Media training: The interview flops of the general election campaign

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The interview flops of the general election campaign

There’s now less than 24 hours to go until we finally get to have our say in the general election.

The campaign trail has seen the television and radio airwaves filled with politicians and it has produced a large number of interview flops.

From tripping over numbers, lacking preparation, forgetting crucial details and completely ignoring questions, this election has broken some golden rules of media training and produced some truly terrible interviews.

Here are our picks of the worst of them (it was hard to produce a shortlist).


Diane Abbott

Where else can you start? Diane Abbott’s interview with LBC at the start of the campaign was so bad that the term ‘doing a Diane Abbott’ was subsequently used to describe every other poor spokesperson performance.

This excruciating interview seemed to set the tone for a gaffe filled campaign for politicians of all sides.

Ms Abbott began to flounder when asked how much the commitment to new police officers she was announcing would cost – a question she surely should have anticipated and prepared for.

Instead of admitting she did not know the answer, she engaged in a strange guessing game with figures ranging from £300,000 to £80 million.

Ms Abbott went on to produce some other interviews which grabbed headlines for the wrong reasons, including one with Sky News just this weekend. Earlier today it was announced she is to temporarily step down from her role due to ill health - we wish her a speedy recovery.


Karen Bradley

If you look up ‘evasive’ in the dictionary I’m pretty sure you will find a picture of Karen Bradley staring back at you.

Her appearance on Good Morning Britain earlier this week took question avoidance to a new level, even by a politician’s standards.

The Culture Secretary, who was somewhat surprisingly put forward to face questions about the terrible events at London Bridge, repeatedly refused to answer whether there are less armed police officers on the streets.

The clearly exasperated host Piers Morgan ended up asking ‘why can’t you answer a simple question?’


Jeremy Corbyn

The worst moment of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign came when he stumbled over a simple question during a radio interview.

The Labour leader was appearing on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 when he was caught out by the very first question – the cost of the child care policy he was trying to promote.

We stress on our media training courses the importance of preparation and this was one question he really should have anticipated and had the answer ready. Yet instead he was reduced to desperately trying to find the answer on his iPad and in his party’s manifesto – all painfully captured on in the in-studio cameras.

After three and a half minutes he came up with a figure of £5.3 billion before adding, not particularly confidently ‘that does sound correct’.


Philip Hammond

Theresa May has based her campaign on the ‘strong and stable’ sound bite which has been used exhaustingly.

But if Mr Hammond’s interview on the Today Programme last month was anything to go by, her Chancellor is not too stable when it comes to figures.

Mr Hammond got himself in a complete muddle about the cost of HS2.

Asked about the cost of the major infrastructure project, Mr Hammond claimed the figure was £32 billion. When John Humphrys asked whether it was not £52 billion, a flustered Mr Hammond said: “Er it's...over...I mean...there's a huge amount of contingency built in to the budgeting for these projects."

To add to his embarrassment, the gaffe came as Mr Hammond accused the Labour Party of having figures which did 'not add up'.


Tim Farron

There is not one particular interview with the leader of the Liberal Democrats which has stood out, but instead it has been more of a case of one question which has not gone away.

His campaign has been dogged by questions about his personal views on homosexuality.

And his undoing has been his determination to avoid answering the question and provide a clear, unambiguous answer.

In one interview alone with LBC, which you can hear here, he dodged the question 11 times.


This round-up is clearly intended to be light-hearted. But it is important for other media spokespeople to realise all these gaffes could have been avoided. Basic interview preparation, knowing your facts, admitting when you don't know an answer and understanding that dodging and evading questions never ends well, would have prevented these interview mishaps.





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