Israel. Never touch the subject. That’s what one producer told me when I started presenting on LBC. I didn’t listen. It’s one of those issues which will fill the phone switchboard within minutes. It attracts zealots on both sides of the debate, but it can also attract some damn good calls too. The secret of handling the subject is to lay down the ground rules right from the start and make clear that you won’t tolerate anyone who wishes to take advantage of your good nature. It’s also impossible to satisfy both sides. Even when you think you have been as even handed as you can possibly be, there will always be those who think you have been unfair.
Earlier this evening I decided to cover George Galloway’s decision to walk out of a student debate in Oxford just because the other speaker was Israeli. I invited the other speaker on to the programme to explain what happened, and we also put out an invitation to George Galloway. He was busy, but he has agreed to come on my Sunday show soon and take questions from callers. In his absence I asked Yvonne Ridley. She couldn’t do it either but recommended someone called Roshan Salih (pictured). The interview turned out to be quite a memorable one with him taking a very aggressive stance right from the get-go. He clearly regarded himself as Galloway’s representative on earth and had learned a lot from George in how to shout down an interviewer, make spurious claims and when you can’t back them up, be downright belligerent.
I think it is a mistake for an interviewer to be downright rude to a guest and even when provoked descend to their level. I try my best to stay cool,but Mr Salih really tested my patience. I very nearly ended the interview at one point, but I am glad I didn’t, as I think that would have been a victory for him. I hope I challenged him in a reasonably polite way and exposed him for what he was. A clueless, anti-Israel bigot. As usual with all potential demagogues, he spent most of the time trying to put words in my mouth an attribute to me views I do not hold. I’d like to think he dug his own grave, but what an interviewer must accept is that what one listener will hear is very different from what another hears. I saw on Twitter that one regular listener felt I had been “monstered” by him, whereas the general consensus seemed to be that I had remained calm under fire and had dealt with him quite well. I haven’t yet listened back to it because I think I would need a cold shower afterwards, but if you’d like to judge for yourself you can listen HERE. The first section is an interview with Eylon Aslan-Levy, the student George Galloway was supposed to be debating with. The confrontation with Roshan Salih starts after 6 mins 45 secs.
Mr Salih is a former News Editor at Press TV. Who’d have thought. My producer told me afterwards he was very keen that I didn’t mention the fact. Can’t think why.