Sunday, 21 August 2011

That interview

Okay, I wasted half an hour of my life listening to the Radio 5 Live interview [see a comment on the previous post for the link]. I agree with those who commented on it after my previous post.

Anita Anand was the right person to do the interview; Harrison has been on The Daily Politics twice so she knows what to ask. Anand was as sceptical as she could be without being downright hostile. The 19-year-old Tottenham man interviewing other young people was a good idea; most of them put the trouble down to the cuts rather than to "broken families". It was such a shame that, at the end of the piece, Harrison was allowed to interrupt and talk over the lad when he raised the point that, although she came across as having good intentions, her people didn't know how his communities lived, and again when he challenged her on "broken families" and being non-political.
Harrison insisted several times to Anand that she was "non-political". It was pointed out that she had dealt with politicians of both governments and she was asked if she had seen a difference. Yes, Brown's government was limited by what his people thought that they could do in practice. Now, she said, all ministers and advisers are going to take on a family. Who came up with the figure of 120,000 workless families? Government, she insisted, and then tried to bring it back to the personal. Anand queried why she was distancing herself from the politics of it. Again, Harrison said she was non-political and just improves people's lives around the world. How? The word "poking" was used three times. It's what happens to families when a lot of different agencies are working with them. Pushed by Anand on the how, Harrison told of the family she had spent an hour and a half with then suggested they go and help a charity down the road. This had been the start of an amazing transformation.

Anand was sceptical to the point of sarcasm, bringing it back to how exactly she, Anand, or someone like her, could get someone a job. There was a silly, but revealing, exchange in which Harrison wanted to show that there are jobs at the BBC (there aren't) and then suggested going into the shop down the road. It wasn't exactly convincing. anand turned to the money. Was harrison doing this for free. He company had made £200 million pounds. That was turnover, said Harrison, not profit, and local authorities were employing the family champions. Then we got the attempt by the young Tottenham man to question her, which she didn't allow. She said that she thought that people who had wrecked their communities should have to put it right.

Of the two text messages I heard quoted at the end of the piece (perhaps there were more at the end of the programme) one criticised Anand's negativity, the other said that Harrison was living in cloud-cuckoo land. I think this demonstrates the difficulty for TV and radio journalists. They are not allowed to go on the attack (unless they're called Andrew Neil) and so their subjects get away with it. Print journalists could do so much better, but don't bother.
The press coverage today is majoring on the fact that the scheme has been attacked as "gimmicky" and that "there appeared to be some confusion in Whitehall over the plan with employment minister Chris Grayling - who was also named among the volunteers - saying that he was not involved. 'I was rather surprised when I read this one. It was news to me that I was going to be in there,' he told Sky News." Still, Tim Loughton MP, a minister in the Department for Education, is signed up. And, gimmicky or not, it's great publicity.

PS: Anita Anand returned to the subject of family champions on The Westminster Hour, but the Tory MP wouldn't actually endorse the idea.

1 comment:

  1. Y’know, I have been on R5L three or four times. I have spoken to both Anita Anand and Victoria Derbyshire about W2W schemes administered by the likes of Ms Harrison’s A4e. Sadly, one only has a couple of minutes or less to make a point.

    Regular visitors to this blog may recall I even spoke to Tony McNulty, former Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform in the last government. Not surprisingly, I got nowhere with him as he coldly dismissed everything I put to him!

    Did the interview with Emma Harrison allow callers to ask questions? Sadly, I missed this one.

    One of these days, I hope I am going to get to speak to Ms Harrison and put my views to her. Well done to Anita Anand for getting that far with Ms Harrison. Far more interviewing of this kind is sorely needed not just for Ms Harrison, but also Chris Grayling, Ian D Smith and the entire W2W industry in general.


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