On Radio 4‘s Today programme on 12 June, John Humphrys interviewed David Davis about the government’s Brexit plans. And this one interview provided a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with the BBC.
This was Davis’ first interview since the recent rumours of his threat to resign over the customs union. As such, we might have expected a hard-hitting interview exploring the details of what’s potentially the biggest change the UK has seen in a generation. But instead, we heard something that sounded more like two old blokes having a cosy chat.
Oh, it’s all a good laugh!
From the very first question, Davis was relaxed and jovial. Humphrys asked him how close he came to resigning. Davis replied:
You shouldn’t believe what you read in the newspapers, John.
And then he started laughing. This was then followed by a joking conversation about whose “friends” came up with the rumours and whether they were, indeed, friends.
This set the tone for the rest of the interview. Other ‘humorous’ incidents included Davis laughing over Humphrys’ age. And further ‘hilarity’ ensued when Davis called Humphrys “disgracefully cynical” and Humphrys apologised.
Listeners were far from impressed:
David Davis and John Humphrys interview is more like a couple of mates down the pub discussing football, rather than a serious political interview on the most crucial subject facing our country. #r4today
— Damon Evans (@damocrat) June 12, 2018
— Martin O'Lowery (@martin_lowe) June 12, 2018
Waffle, waffle and yet more waffle
The interview lasted ten minutes. But there was not one serious question. Instead, Davis was able to waffle phrases such as “these are really important issues” and simply provided a list of issues such as “counter-terrorism”, “data” and a “strong successful economy”. Humphrys made no attempt to challenge him on either what he meant or what he was doing about any of these issues:
This really is taking the piss. Humprhys – after 2 years – still doesn’t have the knowledge (or perhaps the desire) to challenge the BS coming from the Brexit camp. Davis has talked so much nonsense; any decent interviewer could have ripped him apart. #r4today
— Damon Evans (@damocrat) June 12, 2018
Absurd joshing interview between Humphrys and Davis, who's allowed to ramble on and on. Neither challenging nor serious. #r4today
— Carl Gardner (@carlgardner) June 12, 2018
Another Twitter user succinctly summed up the interview:
#r4today interview with David Davis
bluster bluster bluster, chummy question, bluster bluster lie lie bluster, chummy question unicorn chummy question bluster rainbow rainbow, lie, unicorn, chummy comment bluster bluster bluster waffle.
— Carolyn Hughes❄ 🇪🇺 (@cazzrhughes) June 12, 2018
Other people pointed out the serious side to the issues the pair joked about:
Next time someone in Ireland asks me why people in UK aren’t far more worried about Brexit and aren’t en masse demanding answers I’ll point them to this #r4today between David Davis and John Humphreys. Not only no light not even any heat.
— Peter Geoghegan (@PeterKGeoghegan) June 12, 2018
"We are a strong, successful economy" says David Davis on #r4today.
So why do we have food banks, homelessness and gang violence? And why is the NHS and education struggling?
— Richard Lawson (@DocRichard) June 12, 2018
We deserve better
Ultimately, people felt let down by the BBC:
I’m struggling to imagine a softer interview than the one that David Davis had on #r4today. Barely challenged on border technology, no deal casually mentioned as if it’s actually viable.
It’s the duty of the BBC to properly challenge DD. That interview was just not good enough.
— Jamie Jenkins (@JJenkinsSJB) June 12, 2018
And some proposed a simple solution:
John Humphreys and #r4today need to be taken off the air. That ‘interview’ with David Davis was not just risible, it was negligent and dangerous.
— Joe Evans (@JoeevansJoe) June 12, 2018
Humphrys’ interviewing style veers between unbounded aggression and outdated and offensive views, to what appears to be a chat with an old friend. The BBC is supposed [pdf, p5] to be impartial and it should hold the powerful to account. In this interview Humphrys wasn’t helping its cause. We deserve so much better from our public service broadcaster.
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