Boris Johnson, Nick Clegg and phone-in politics

The London Mayor and the Lib-Dem leader are paving the way in unmediated, unfiltered public broadcasting

Share
Related Topics

Boris Johnson was in characteristically coruscating form the other night, addressing a crowd of the great and good (plus politicians and journalists) at a party to celebrate the 40th birthday of LBC, London's news radio station.

Up on the 29th floor of Millbank Tower, Boris was able to survey the glories of the city over which he presides. The substance of his message was incontrovertible. How our capital has changed over these past 40 years. Back then, he said, the city was grey and uninspiring, the nation was in the grip of unions, inflation was rampant, at any time the lights could be switched off, and we were a people in search of direction.

Boris is a classicist rather than a historian, and he's always been a little shaky on detail. As somebody helpfully pointed out - I think it might have been Ken Livingstone - 40 years ago we had a Conservative government. It takes more than a tiny historical inaccuracy to stop the Mayor in his tracks, and Boris was merely warming to his theme.

He hosts his own phone-in show on the station, as does Nick Clegg. (The Deputy PM wasn't there, but sent a message by video. “It's a tough job,” he said. “Every week, I have to listen to people banging on about immigration, Europe and law and order. And then I leave the Cabinet table and go to do my show.”)

Anyway, amid the japery, the joshing and the Latin sobriquets, Boris posited a very interesting theory. In the future, he said, we will get rid of Parliament, and the business of government will take place on the airwaves. “Every politician will be a phone-in host,” he said, “and every phone-in host will be a politician.” He may not have been entirely serious, but there is little question that this approach works for Boris and Nick Clegg, who are able to get their message across unmediated, uncorrupted and unfiltered. It is the authentic sound of a politician talking to the public.

“Cut out the middle man!” exhorted Boris to an audience replete with journalistic middle men. And, for sure, the virtual constituency that Mr Clegg addresses every week on his radio show is in some ways every bit as important as his real one. It won't ever replace the business of the Palace of Westminster, but an exchange with Roy from Bermondsey does have a raw quality that is more likely to engage the wider public than the Punch-and-Judy to-and-fro across the green benches.

Thus far, both Mr Clegg and the Mayor have avoided the bear traps inherent in a live phone-in programme, and the screening process for callers is more stringent than it once was. In the glorious history of LBC remains one inglorious moment. Back in the 1970s, Sir Robert Mark, then the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police Force, went on the station to invite questions from callers. “And now we go to Barry from Eltham.” “Hello, Barry,” said Sir Robert. “Hello, Sir Robert,” said Barry. “And what's your question for Britain's top policeman?” said the presenter. It was Barry's big moment.“Could Sir Robert please tell me what the time is...”

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Creative Director / Head of Creative

£65K - £75K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Director...

Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful IT reseller bas...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Engineer / Technical Sales Representative - OTE £35k

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the Country's leading di...

Recruitment Genius: Logistics Coordinator - Part-Time

£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

'You’re just jealous', and other common misconceptions about the Protein World advert

Hannah Atkinson
David Cameron has said he is not going to “roll over” and let Labour leader Ed Miliband and the SNP’s Alex Salmond wreck the achievements of the last five years  

After five years of completely flaccid leadership, I'm glad something 'pumps up' David Cameron

Joe Sandler Clarke
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence