This article first appeared on Reaction.


The Comey Rule, Sky Atlantic

Jim Comey was Director of the FBI when Donald Trump came to power. Indeed, some say that without Comey, Trump might never have won the election. It was he who ordered that the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s private emails be reopened shortly before the election, and then after the election exonerated her. Clinton herself certainly blames Comey for her defeat. But there are few people in this world less grateful than Donald Trump and it didn’t take long for him to dispense with Comey’s services. Comey was told he was sacked while on a trip to Los Angeles.

This Sky Atlantic drama is certainly entertaining. Fictional scenes, presumably based on reality, are interspersed with genuine news footage, but the weakness in this sort of film is that the viewer is often left wondering what is true and what isn’t – which conversations actually took place, and which have been added for ‘dramatic effect’.  Given that The Comey Rule is based on Comey’s book ‘A Higher Loyalty’, you’d think the drama followed the book’s narrative quite closely. But the longer I watched it, the less sure I was that I could believe most of it.

Unlike most of his predecessors, Comey was not hesitant in embracing the limelight. His close colleagues were uncomfortable with this and there a many scenes in the first episode where many FBI staff were in a constant state of tutting. Jeff Daniels, best known to UK viewers for his starring role in The Newsroom, captures Comey’s undoubted narcissistic and ego-driven nature very well. He portrays a man trying to do the right thing, but constantly in touch with his own sometimes denied sense of self-publicity.

One scene, which I would lay bets never took place was when senior intelligence figures explain to the then president Barack Obama (played by an actor who was totally unbelievable as America’s 45th president) that Russia wanted Donald Trump to win in order to undermine Nato, for the US to end the Iran nuclear deal, set a path for Turkey to start a war with the Kurds, allow drilling in the Arctic and start a trade war with China. Either these people were modern day Nostradamuses or it only happened in hindsight.

I’ll admit to being a complete addict to these kinds of programmes, even if I recognise their inherent weaknesses. The trouble is that many people take the dramatic version of history as gospel. One can only hope that they use the show as an inspiration to read more widely on the issue at hand. As I say, one can but hope…


Political Thinking podcast, with Nick Robinson, BBC Sounds

This is yet another podcast which proves the value of long form interviews. In fact, it’s only weakness is that it is still too short. Most episodes run for around minutes, and while it’s often a good thing to leave the listener wanting more, it would surely be easy to let them run to an hour. But like the Fortunately podcast, Radio 4 is now playing shortened versions of the interviews in a daytime slot on air. I understand why they do this, because they’re very good, and maybe it’s just to encourage more people to go to BBC Sounds and listen to the full interview.

Nick Robinson not only gets the big names, he knows how to have a conversation – a chinwag. This is not an interrogation, like the ones he often does on the Today Programme. This format allows him to tease things out of his guests, and he does it brilliantly. He clearly enjoys the freedom the format gives him, and I suspect his guests enjoy the experience too. Scrolling down the episode list you are left with the impression that there’s no one left for him to interview. And then up pops another corker. In the last few weeks he’s interviewed Sian Berry, Simon Covenay, George Eustice, Anneliese Dodds and Douglas Ross. You see a side of the politicians that is often hidden in the more traditional on air interview format. Long may this podcast thrive.