Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Neil was so bad it redefined the genre

The nice guy narrative is now officially dead

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Tuesday 26 November 2019 22:57 GMT
Jeremy Corbyn refuses in a TV interview with Andrew Neil to apologise for his handling of antisemitism

To wonder whether Neil/Corbyn was as bad as Frost/Nixon or Maitlis/York is to ask the wrong question, really. Because the sheer agony of it could not be contained within the parameters of the simple TV interview format.

Anyone idly flicking through the channels and alighting on BBC One at 7pm might have imagined themselves to have stumbled upon one of those old Japanese humiliation endurance game shows as featured on Tarrant on TV, but with the really cruel twist that there was absolutely no prize at the end. Quite the opposite, in fact.

For the sheer range and volume of horrors, it can only really be compared to a montage that has now been quite rightly taken off YouTube, featuring all the horrific injuries suffered by various contestants on Channel 4’s ill-considered extreme sports celebrity show The Jump.

They were all there, the full house. Antisemitism (Beth Tweddle, broken back); Brexit (Bradley Wiggins, broken leg); shoot-to-kill (Tina Hobley, broken arm); Waspi women (Rebecca Adlington, dislocated shoulder); nationalisation (Linford Christie, ruptured hamstring); Sarah Harding, billionaires, slipped disc, broken pelvis, Joe Pasquale, Linda Lusardi, Ebola, decapitation, euthanasia, Mick Hucknall – after a while you just can’t keep up.

Where it differs slightly is that all parts of it were horrendous in equal measure. No one moment leaps out. The entire 30 minutes was just one, long moment, which, in this, the viral clip era, might just work in Corbyn’s favour.

We would learn that everybody who’s ever done anything antisemitic has been kicked out of the Labour Party, apart from everybody who hadn’t been but that isn’t Jeremy Corbyn’s fault because can I finish can I finish can I finish I’ve been an anti-racist all my life can I finish and OK yes the woman who denied the Holocaust did only get a letter but can I finish I oppose racism in all its forms can I finish can I finish if you’d just let me finish?

We would learn that Jeremy Corbyn’s going to find fully £60bn to repay the Waspi women that’s not in his manifesto costings but it’s a moral debt Andrew Andrew it’s a moral debt can I finish but where’s the money can I finish we have to pay them can I finish with what there’s the reserves but the reserves haven’t got £60bn in them no they haven’t can I finish we will have to borrow it so you will be raising borrowing no I won’t yes I will can I finish can I finish?

We would learn that he would stay neutral on Brexit and during his own second referendum he would just “get on with running the government”, which means there wouldn’t actually be anyone to lead the campaign to vote for his own deal that he had negotiated – which might seem rather odd, but, as you might have guessed, there was no time to finish the answer to that particular question as once the now-obligatory five minutes of saying “can I finish” were done, we were on to the next topic.

There was, indeed, only one area in which Jeremy Corbyn explicitly did not demand the right to finish, and that was regarding the hypothetical leader of Isis, who Jeremy Corbyn absolutely does not want to finish because why can’t we just arrest him? Because he’s in a cave with a suicide vest on! Can I finish? Yes you can finish! You’ve been given the all-clear! Finish! Finish! But according to international law no international law doesn’t say that can I finish according to international law JEREMY HE’S GETTING AWAY can I finish? Yes! Finish now! Finish! Can I finish oh god somebody make it stop please just finish it finish it finish it all.

It did finish, in the end, and as the credits rolled, Corbyn looked at Andrew Neil with such base revulsion it was as if he was gobbing out of his eyeballs.

At 10pm on 8 June 2017, when that exit poll came out, what became suddenly and embarrassingly clear is that precious few pundits had attached enough importance to how spectacularly a cool, cheerful and avuncular Jeremy Corbyn had aced the election campaign and how unprecedentedly badly Theresa May had ballsed it up.

History never quite repeats itself. The outcome of this election may well surprise us too. But that particular narrative – the Corbyn-the-nice-guy one – is now officially dead.

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