Not two days into this contest and already we have an early front runner for the Most Excruciating Interview of the 2017 General Election! Take a bow MP Dawn Butler (Labour) who delivered a toe-curling performance on Radio 4’s PM programme.
Asked by host Eddie Mair what Labour would do about the ‘The City’ she broke the golden rule of erring on the side of caution if one’s grasp of the facts is less than solid, especially if one is beaming live to a national audience. Yes, a High Street coffee chain did get pilloried for non-payment of corporate taxes… but it wasn’t Costa Coffee.
We all muddle facts at times, but a politician is under the constant glare of the magnifying glass and especially at election time. I cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared for all eventualities when going live (note how experienced politicians will quickly default to a neutral line of non-committal if the questioning gets tricky).
Ms Butler should not be too disheartened. There’s time for plenty more entries to eclipse her coffee-gate moment. If we are looking for a low tide line, think back to 2015 when then Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, suffered what she explained was a brain fade in a live interview on LBC culminating in her trying to distract from her spectacularly poor performance with a feigned cough.
On the day the Greens launched their election campaign, a major muddling of pledges and figures was blamed on ‘mind blank’ and ‘mental brain fade’. While ex (and current joint) leader Caroline Lucas called it ‘a bad day for Natalie’, it was in fact a disastrous day for the Greens and they never really recovered their credibility.
Dawn Butler has helped election bingo night though – just listen to the number of times the phrases ‘rig democracy’ and ‘rigged system’ are used. Got to be a contender for the top ten surely?
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.