Politicians view face-to-face interviews as ‘all risk’, says Nick Robinson

BBC journalist says ‘broadcast interviews matter for the health of our democracy’ after Liz Truss cancels one-on-one encounter

Politicians feel television and radio grillings are “all risk” with almost “no opportunity”, Nick Robinson has said after Liz Truss cancelled an interview with him at the last minute.

The Conservative leadership frontrunner was to be interrogated by the senior BBC journalist in a face-to-face interview due to be broadcast at 7pm on Tuesday on BBC One. However, she pulled out on Monday because she could “no longer spare the time”.

Asked what events she was taking part in on Tuesday, her campaign said there was “nothing to flag today”.

A source from the foreign secretary’s campaign said she was not taking part in the interview, which she had agreed to, as she was focusing on winning as many votes as possible ahead of the leadership result on Monday and preparing for government.

Writing for the BBC, Robinson said he suspected that Truss had “yet to finalise her plans” on the cost-of-living crisis and was “reluctant to have that demonstrated on TV in front of an audience of millions”.

The BBC Radio 4 Today programme presenter added: “The BBC doesn’t believe it is entitled to interview those who govern or want to govern us. I’m all too aware of the huge pressure politicians, and their often very small teams, face.

“However, I do want to say why broadcast interviews matter for the health of our democracy. In this contest, tens of millions of people have had no say in the choice of their own leader. They want to see and hear their leaders questioned, challenged and tested.”

A source in Sunak’s campaign said their tally showed Truss had done just two broadcast interviews of any form during the campaign, whereas the former chancellor had undertaken nine, which included three spots on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and an appearance on ITV’s This Morning.

Robinson said politicians and advisers claimed interviews were no longer about “engaging in a grown-up conversation” and that instead of watching the interviews live, many “view short excerpts on social media, which are usually gaffes or grandstanding questions by preening interviewers”.

The BBC journalist insisted this was “up to a point”, as “about 2 million people watched my BBC One interview with Rishi Sunak” broadcast last month and “some 7 million listen to the big interviews on the Today programme”.

The broadcaster Andrew Neil said Truss refused an interview with him on Channel 4 during the leadership contest. Sunak agreed to be interviewed by the veteran journalist.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, also pulled out of an interview with Neil on the BBC before the December 2019 general election despite all other leaders from the major parties agreeing to do so.

Robinson concluded: “The in-depth political interview is dead, say some. Boris Johnson hated them.

“Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn weren’t much keener. I hope and believe they are wrong.

“That’s why I look forward to an in-depth interview with our next prime minister, whether it’s Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak.”


Nadeem Badshah

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sunak accuses Truss of major U-turn after she says she will do ‘all I can to help struggling households’ with fuel bills – as it happened
Tory leadership contender says rival had previously dismissed direct support as ‘handouts’

Nadeem Badshah (now) and Andrew Sparrow (earlier)

10, Aug, 2022 @7:27 PM

Article image
Tory leadership: Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak clash in heated BBC debate – as it happened
Latest updates: final two candidates exchange blows over plans for cost of living, levelling up and China

Martin Belam (now) and Andrew Sparrow (earlier)

25, Jul, 2022 @10:17 PM

Article image
New PM’s spending plans must face scrutiny, says Treasury committee chair
Mel Stride says OBR must provide fiscal forecasts as Liz Truss urged to ‘come clean’ on promised tax cuts

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

23, Aug, 2022 @11:59 AM

Article image
Truss tax plans could put millions at risk of ‘real destitution’, says Sunak
Candidates to be next prime minister clash over how to tackle energy crisis at hustings in Cheltenham

Peter Walker Political correspondent

11, Aug, 2022 @9:03 PM

Article image
How to tackle the UK cost of living crisis – the main economic ideas
Our writers assess and cost the key ideas floated so far, from targeted help to the most vulnerable to a new windfall tax

Jessica Elgot and Richard Partington

21, Aug, 2022 @1:44 PM

Article image
Why Sunak may have to change his brand to Rishi the risk taker
Analysis: Poor strategy in Tory leadership race has allowed former chancellor to be painted as timid, fear supporters

Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

26, Jul, 2022 @1:04 PM

Article image
Press attacks take toll as Penny Mordaunt misses out in PM race
Mordaunt was subjected to relentless criticism by rightwing outlets while rival Liz Truss got favourable treatment

Jim Waterson and Jessica Elgot

20, Jul, 2022 @5:50 PM

Article image
Daily Mail out to stop ‘traitor’ Sunak as Tory rivals vie for press backing
Analysis: newspapers still hold great power, and pro-Johnson Mail has set out its ‘anyone but Rishi’ stall

Jim Waterson Media editor

13, Jul, 2022 @4:16 PM

Article image
Truss and Sunak face Sky grilling as Bank warns of long recession – as it happened
Tory hopefuls face questions from party members and are interviewed by Kay Burley as interest rates go up sharply

Jane Clinton (now) and Léonie Chao-Fong (earlier)

04, Aug, 2022 @9:43 PM

Article image
Tory leadership contests should be run faster, minister says
James Cleverly ‘happy if process was over more quickly’, as poll shows Liz Truss has big lead over Rishi Sunak

Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

18, Aug, 2022 @8:40 AM