Did Grant Shapps pull out of the Today programme yesterday or didn't he? That was certainly the impression Radio 4 listeners were left with on Thursday, but the minister took to the airwaves today to defend himself. He spent three minutes of a ten minute interview arguing with John Humprhys about the matter, asserting "there was never a booking in place, John". Humphrys stood his ground, insisting "there was a bookiing with your staff". Take a look at the extraordinary transcript below. And no, we don't know when "late-mid evening" is either.
Shapps: "Can I just give you the opportunity to correct an impression left by the programme yesterday that I pulled out of interview that had been booked late the night before. That wasn't the case, I'd never been booked the night before."
Humphrys "Well we spoke to you, we took copious notes, as it is our practice, don't want to make a big deal out of it because it will puzzle people, no doubt."
Shappes:"I think it is important"
Humphrys: "Of course it's important which is why we keep notes."
Shapps: "I was due up in Stoke which is where I went to announce funding for housing renewal, an important programme to end the disastrous pathfinder programme and it was never going to be possible although I did try to see if I could leave for the train later or whatever. It was never possible. I was never booked in. But the programme clearly left the impression that I pulled out."
Humphrys: "Indeed we did because we spoke to your staff. We did, as is our practice on these things, we have strict rules about it, we took careful notes during that conversation with your people and that was the understanding that we were given."
Shapps: "All I can tell you was I tried to bend over backwards to try to make it happen because I think I have never ever not accepted a Today Ppogramme interview, I would never not want to on this occasion either.. It couldn't be done any other way, I'm afraid."
Humphrys: "Maybe there was some misunderstanding with your staff but I do you assure, we said that, [Shapps interjects saying: "I think the programme, actually, misled"] in perfectly good faith we made it clear that we'd had an undertaking from your staff. Which is the way we function, you wouldn't expect us to ring every secretary, every minister, would you?"
Shapps: "Let's just be absolutely clear. Because the first I heard of this was late mid-evening, and I said 'well, that looks difficult because I'm on the train to Stoke. However, let me see if I can move the diary around. I can't.
Humprhys: "That's what you said to your staff but no one said that to us. Let's just agree to disagree on it. shall we?"
Shapps: "But let's agree on this. There was never a booking in place, John."
Humphrys: "There was a booking with your staff.."
Shapps: "No, there was a request, which is different from having a booking."
Humprhys: "Well, alright, we could talk about this for half an hour"
Shapps: "And it gave the wrong impression to your listeners to say that I had pulled out of an interview when there was an interview booked..."
Humprhys: "Well, the listeners know what's happened, what we tried to do, what we did, the notes we took.. Obviously there was some miscommunication along the chain and we'll just have to leave it there."
Humprhys: "Because we've wasted the entire interview talking about it. Now, let's get back to the figures.."