Let’s face it, Sir Trevor McDonald – like Peter Snow, David Dimbleby and John Humphrys – is a national treasure. He’s clever, concise, thoughtful, and an all-round warm hearted and nice guy.
Trouble is, being a warm-hearted and nice guy has meant he’s produced a documentary that was justifiably sneered at last night by anyone who dislikes the Conservative Party. And, like many, I watched his interview with David Cameron with some disbelief. Sir Trevor treated Cameron as if he were a member, or close relative of the Royal Family – which, considering he in fact is a descendant of one of William IV’s illegitimate offspring is possibly not too far from the truth.
The thing is, in spite of a sensitivity in some areas, such as with regard to the Cameron family, and with regard to his son Ivan in particular – an area where for obvious reasons I hold Cameron and his wife with high respect (and do not doubt his commitment to the NHS, unlike many in his party) and as well presented and thoughtful as it was, is this not the sort of documentary we need to see about our politicians. Most of it seemed like an extended Party Political Broadcast for the Conservative Party. In fact, it was worse, hardly any policies were mentioned!
“But”, I hear the Tories and sympathisers amongst you say, “how would you have felt if ITV broadcast such a documentary on Gordon Brown. Is that not the same?”
Well, of course, it did, with Piers Morgan, and there are several answers to that.
1) I grudgingly admit that I am biased and that I might not have felt so irritated had Gordon Brown spent days and weeks with Trevor McDonald, but that does not make such documentaries helpful
2) The Piers Morgan one was a bit more in-depth, not least because harder questions about the PM’s character and leadership skills were asked. Was Cameron asked about “Punch and Judy“? (If pressed on that, his total blame of Gordon Brown would have been seen for the pathetic comment that it frequently is); or his views on Labour activists and whether he thought we are not patriotic? When George Osborne was present, did McDonald ask about why there are strong rumours that he is not respected in the City?
I could go on, but all in all I am wondering whether there ought to be more care about how political leaders are handled on Lite Television. I wouldn’t ask for them to be given a Paxman-style grilling, but perhaps some strong alternative comments from opponents during such documentaries might balance things out and be fairer to all.
What do you think? Surely more balance overall would be preferable to activists on both sides not impressing the electorate by jumping up and down shouting “bias!” whenever such programmes are shown.