The Labour Party’s biggest beast fell victim to awkward interview syndrome yesterday, as Jeremy Corbyn crashed and burned live on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
It’s been something of a Labour trait to slip up on air in this election – Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler take your bows – but Mr Corbyn was left red faced after coming a cropper under questioning from radio host Emma Barnett regarding the leader’s costing on plans to expand free childcare.
An alarming aspect of the modern day radio station, for high profile interviewees, is the presence of cameras. Thus Mr Corbyn’s performance is even more toe curling due to our ability to observe his body language as the sorry saga unfolds.
At 68, Mr Corbyn rarely comes across like a doddery pensioner, but in the glare of the Radio 4 studio, he experiences a 24 carat senior moment. “It will cost um…” Awkward pause, looks at random bit of paper. “It will obviously cost a lot …” There is nervous jiggling of feet under the table – which unfortunately for him we can all see – while he flounders until an aide delivers a tactical glass of water and a copy of the trusted manifesto.
Clearly distracted, Mr Corbyn starts tapping on his i-Pad for the elusive costing, only to have his move called out by Emma Barnett before the poor man has even mis-keyed his password. As she closes in for the kill, Mr Corbyn displays his discomfort, touching items on the table top before him like a granddad looking for his glasses before discovering he had them on the whole time.
Flustered, we get some uncomfortable gulps and nose sighs accentuated through the sensitive studio miscrophone, followed by that old teacher’s trick of asking if we can “come back to that in a moment” when caught out by the class smarty pants. There is more excrutiating fondling of desktop items before Mr Corbyn’s internal spin defribrillator kicks in and he brings the conversation back on course with a stream of meaningless waffle.
Oh how the wags at Conservative HQ must’ve been chuckling – such a gaffe would never happen to Mrs May – who has an impeccable capacity for retaining stats and figures. However, just like watching granddad discover he’s been wearing his glasses all along, it was hard not to help feeling a bit sorry for JC. Empathy is a powerful tool. Mr Corbyn has shown that he has it in this campaign. Mrs May on the other hand does not (on the day Liar, Liar topped the iTune charts). For that reason, the HQ wags had better hope that she doesn’t make any such gaffes in the final furlong and end up like Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National.
Luan de Burgh
Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of The de Burgh Group – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.