I never agree that certain subjects are off-limits, says John Humphrys

Share
Related Topics

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.

React Now

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

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project