The BBC’s Emily Maitlis has delivered a scathing assessment of the country’s politicians, claiming they never answer questions, say the complete opposite of what they really think and reduce political debate down to three-word slogans.
The Newsnight presenter, who has worked as a journalist at the BBC for nearly 20 years, said she now “appreciated” those who are able to do the bare minimum required in an interview – answer a question.
Asked how she would prepare to interview the prime minister, Maitlis replied: “I’m not entirely sure it matters what question you ask Boris Johnson…
“Nevertheless, I think increasingly I have really come to appreciate the people or the politicians or the interviewees of any stripe and size who are able to answer a question and it seems such a small gentle thing to demand in 2019 but it has actually become the biggest ask we can make.”
Reflecting on what changes she has seen in her career, Maitlis said: “I think what I notice now is that a lot of the things that are said to us on camera on air are not particularly believed and quite often not true and its an extraordinary position to be in when you’ve had WhatsApp messages, text messages off record.
“The stuff we have been told off record tends to be the stuff that is true and the stuff we are told on record on camera tends to be the stuff that is not so true.”
Maitlis was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to promote her new book Airhead, which is a reflection on her career, PA Media reports.
She went on to highlight recent examples of interviews with cabinet ministers discussing Theresa May’s attempts to get her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement through parliament.
“It’s a really weird position to be in as a journalist because quite often you can be sitting there interviewing somebody and they say, ‘There’s absolutely no doubt we are going to get Theresa May’s deal through… stop being a pessimist and be an optimist… and we are going to get the numbers and it’s absolutely ridiculous to say we haven’t…’,” Maitlis said.