Debate: Was Eddie Mair right to call Boris Johnson a ‘nasty piece of work’?


Independent Voices
Monday 25 March 2013 16:38
Boris Johnson (right) has lauded Eddie Mair (left) for the tough TV grilling he gave him on Sunday
Boris Johnson (right) has lauded Eddie Mair (left) for the tough TV grilling he gave him on Sunday

What's going on?

Boris Johnson was made to squirm in a Sunday morning interview with Eddie Mair in which the stand-in Andrew Marr Show host subjected the Mayor of London to a grilling on matters of personal integrity.

Mair, whose rise has been profiled by our Media Editor Ian Burrell, challenged Boris on three controversial episodes from his past, including a made-up quote, a denied affair and his decision to hand over the address of a journalist so a friend could have him assaulted.

Summing up, Mair said: "Aren't you in fact making up quotes, lying to your party leader, wanting to be part of someone being physically're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?"

Boris said he would challenge all three allegations.

But was Mair's abrasive interview justifiable broadcasting?

Case for: Incisive

At last, a journalist was incisive enough in their dealings with the Mayor to break through Johnson's blond force-field of buffoonery. The kind of questions Mair asked are exactly those to which answers must be given if the public is to have a true appreciation of a politician's character. Mair will have reminded the electorate that Johnson, for all his ahming and erring, is no mild-mannered eccentric; he's a ruthless sort willing to lie and fight his way to the top. His interview has set a new bar to which all broadcasters (except the esteemed Paxman) should aspire. Deference is out the window, holding MPs to account back in.

Case against: Trivial

The sight of a Conservative getting pummelled has distracted the majority from what was, in essence, a small-minded ambush on live television. Who expects politicians to have gone through a career without making a few personal mistakes? (And two of the three questions Mair asked were undeniably personal). What bearing does a phone conversation with an irate friend have on Johnson's record in power? Less than zero. Mair puffed out his chest and acted cock-of-the-roost, but he debased himself by pursuing such a trivial line of questioning. Our politics is weaker, not stronger, for his intervention.

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