The main question from a viewer’s perspective on any new TV show is this: Is it better than what went before? On the basis of the first ever Sunday Politics I would say the answer is a cautious yes. Andrew Neil is now without a doubt the best political interviewer on British TV, and this programme brings out the best in him. In the show he conducted one studio interview (with Michael Gove), a double header on Scottish independence, and a shorter interview with Alistair Darling, also down the line. The viewer learnt something from each. There were no histrionics and no attempt by Andrew Neil to dominate. He’s a class act. He’s a multi approach interviewer, by which I mean that unlike some, he hasn’t got a default mode. If he needs to turn up the aggression he will, but only if necessary.
There was also a film report from Giles Dilnot, a political reporter who is carving out his own niche. I love his sardonic style and he has a great ability to explain a complicated subject in an accessible way. Ah, there’s that word – accessibility, so beloved of today’s BBC. To must of us it means dumbing down. But I am delighted to say that the Sunday Politics is not a dumbed down programme. If anything it has ‘dumbed’ up, if you see what I mean.It respects its viewers and doesn’t feel the need to go for the lowest common denominator.
The regional opt out concentrates more on discussions with two MPs, which is probably more reflective of the need to cut costs, and in my area, the South East, there was a slightly dated discussion on rail fares and a film about a new grammar school being opened.
The programme concludes with a panel discussion with three “new generation” political commentators. Except, that’s not quite true. If Rowenna Davis is a political commentator, I am a Dutchman. She’s a Labour councillor and totally signed up to the Miliband project. That doesn’t mean that what she said wasn’t interesting, but she’s not a commentator in the sense that Ann McElvoy or Peter Oborne are. Most people who comment on politics have their own viewpoint, but I’d suggest that if you are an elected representative for a political party, you don’t quite qualify, no matter how interesting your writing might be. I thought Isabel Oakshott was the most interesting of the three (declaration of interest: she’s a Biteback author – but then again, so is Janan Ganesh – he’s writing a biography of George Osborne) and made some prescient points. Janan Ganesh was calm and reflective and I suspect will become the star of the panel. He just needs to let himself go a bit.
Is it a good idea to have the same three people on a panel each week? Well, it worked for Newsnight, with Danny Finkelstein, Olly Grender and Peter Hyman, but those three gelled personally and all had worked for political parties. I wonder whether these three will gel in the same way or bring the same level of experience and insight. Time will tell.
So overall I liked it, and I also like the revamped Daily Politics. The only think to carp about? The awful title music. Yuk.