Wednesday, June 27, 2012
The sudden cancellation of the rise in fuel duty was defended on Channel 4 News and Newsnight by junior treasury minister Chloe Smith MP.
Personally, I don't think I have ever seen a better example of what might be termed the blocking interview technique, in which the aim is to stick resolutely to one's own ground and at all costs to avoid answering questions or confirming the interviewer's assertions, however innocent-seeming. And in this specialised skill I have to acknowledge Chloe Smith to be something of an expert. You can judge for yourself here:
http://tinyurl.com/cgs7bh3 (the fun starts 6 minutes in)
Anyway, it led me to speculate on behind the scenes conversations at the treasury:
It's Tuesday, 26th June and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander summons rising star, Chloe Smith MP for a briefing:
DA: So Chloe, we have to put someone up against Paxman tonight. I'd do it myself but I have a parent's evening. It's a nuisance but I really can't get out of it. Anyway, I've been discussing it with George and we both think you're totally capable of handling this one.
CS: Oh thank you boss. If you think I can help then I'll give it all I've got.
DA: Brilliant! I felt sure we could rely on you. Now as you know, Paxman is a vicious bruiser. It's not going to be easy.
CS: Don't worry boss - I know what to do. I came top of my group in the training and I'm ready to put it to work.
DA: Good girl. Show him what you're made of.
DA (Later on the phone to George): Well she's plucky - that's for sure. I just hope she's up to it.
At the Newsnight studios, later that evening - Chloe Smith MP is interviewed by the formidable Jeremy Paxman.
JP: So Mrs Smith, what time did you get up this morning?
CS: I slept very well thankyou (as I always do) and found it very refreshing.
JP: I am sure we are all very pleased to hear that but that wasn't my question. My question was what time did you get out of bed this morning?
CS: My bed is very comfortable. It is a kingsize bed with a Hungarian goose down duvet.
JP: So it is clear that you did sleep last night and now here you are in the studio, so at some point in between you must have got up. Or is there some flaw in my reasoning?
CS: I am not here to comment on your reasoning; I am here to report on the fact that I had a deep and refreshing sleep.
JP: So if we can take it that you are no longer asleep right now then at some point since last night you must have woken up. When exactly was that Mrs Smith?
CS: What your viewers are more concerned with is the fact that, after a good night's sleep, I am here - awake, alert and working on their behalf.
JP: So you're not going to tell us what time you got up then?
CS: As I have said, I slept extremely well.
JP: Chloe Smith, thankyou.
DA (on the phone to George Osborne after the show): Isn't she a little cracker? Wow! Told you George. What a performance! Might be an idea for you to give her a call and thank her personally George. You know - she's hungry and ambitious and up for anything I reckon.
GO: You're right Danny. We're going to need her again.