Having 28 hours is a huge luxury. The nearest I have come to anything like Frost/Nixon is when Blair's departure was approaching and they gave me two half-hour interviews.
A good editor will determine your strategy but not the tone because the interviewer will respond to the interviewee. In the end, you might get cross and sometimes that will be justified. Your audience wants to feel a sense of danger, you've got to have a bit of theatre and Frost is a master of that. The interview process is one of elimination. I've never come out of an interview wishing I had covered more areas; it's always been exactly the opposite, "Why didn't I stay with an issue?"
What you can't do with a senior politician is negotiate. In the case of my Blair interviews, when we asked to do them they were a bit sniffy, saying "You'll just want to talk about Iraq, won't you?" That was why we ended up with two interviews because we agreed, I think reasonably, that we'd do one interview on foreign affairs, Iraq obviously, and another on domestic.
I have no compunction on the programme in the morning asking a cabinet minister anything. What I would not do is agree that certain subjects are off limits. Every politician is different. So Ken Clarke has had apparently no media training at all; he just does it and very effectively too. But there are plenty of front benchers, and they tend to be the younger ones, who you feel have just come out of a session with their briefing team and are simply parroting. With Thatcher, although of course she'd been trained and given voice coaching, you felt she was going to say what she wanted to say. You sometimes get the impression with modern politicians, that they have been trained within an inch of their lives and you spot it and I think the audience spots it. By and large, I think it's counterproductive.
Teaching politicians how to duck questions, or what formula to use in the event of x, y or z and how you must make three points during the interview is complete bullshit. If you have been over-trained you are not going to be able to think quickly enough.
If you are a senior politician running the country or aspiring to run the country and you cannot deal with people like me or Paxman or whoever in a studio then one wonders whether you are actually capable of running the country.Reuse content