Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Zac Goldsmith needs to handle the media better than this

The blogs and Twitter were ablaze last night with talk of Zac Goldsmith's interview with Jon Snow on Channel 4 News last night.

He had been invited on to discuss allegations about his election expenses in Richmond Park. However the encounter turned into a bit of a car crash for Goldsmith when he spent the first six and a half minutes of the interview repeatedly accusing Channel 4 of having lied about arrangements for previous interviews.

Here is the encounter:

I am not an expert on electoral law but having read a number of posts about this it looks like Goldsmith might have some questions to answer about expenditure on jackets, posters and use of vehicles.

But of course that is not what was so bad about the interview. It was the way he tried to focus it on the apparent behaviour of Channel 4.

I am sure that Goldsmith felt wronged by the channel. They deny his allegations but he clearly wanted to try and put his side of the story about when he was and wasn't available for interview. The mistake he made was in repeatedly pursuing this for several minutes. The viewer is not really interested in that, they want to know about the allegations regarding his election expenses. If he had spent 30 seconds or a minute on his gripe I expect most people would have thought it was fair enough. Instead he ended up spending well over half the interview on it and it is clear that Snow had to extend the time allotted to accommodate this as well.

The problem is that the performance makes Goldsmith look arrogant in my eyes and of many others who watched it. In the end I was cringing, willing him to move on to the substance and stop arguing about the minutiae of how an interview was or was not agreed previously. It allows his opponents to claim he was trying to obfuscate about the substantive allegations against him. It also looks like he is more concerned about a personal slight regarding the timing of an interview than his election expenses.

I know from personal experience that Zac Goldsmith can be very charming and a good communicator. It is a shame that on this occasion he misjudged the situation and has left himself open to these charges. Far from clearing things up it has made them even worse for him.

I suspect he will be mortified about this and will have to rethink how he handles the media in future.


The Line To Take said...

The whole thing reminded me of Roy Jenkins' comment on Leon Brittain's defence of his conduct over the Westland affairs: "The more he protests his innocence, the faster we feel the need to count our spoons".

Mark Wadsworth said...

Whingeing twat. Snowy was far too soft on him.

dazmando said...

As I tweeted after watching this on your blog 'oh dear oh dear oh dear PR disaster'

Anonymous said...

When he eventually came to defending himself, he did pretty well. Sounds like he's innocent and is being set up by some people who don't like him.

another party's agent said...

The yeas & nays of election expenses do get more complicated year on year. This year was particularly confusing with separates submissions for the long campaign from Jan 1 and the short campaugn from April 12. It was also clear listening to the Channel 4 reports on election overspending over several days that the reporter does not fully understand the electoral commission rules - or maybe chose to be very partial in interpretation. However, Zac does seem to have bent some of them outrageously. The sad thing about this is that his agent could end up in jail if they are proved to be illegal. Zac did himself no favours by his attitude. His protestations over the setting-up of the interview should have been made just once and then the issue addressed. He would have been much more believable. Unfortunately I suspect that he did not really understand the importance of the expenditure rules nor have any idea whether he had overspent or not - like his father he seems to have bulldozed on throwing money at a project without listening to his agent who had responsibility for submitting the accounts.