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Theresa May’s excruciating performance on LBC showed exactly why she’s petrified of debating real people

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With an admittedly-jaundiced attitude to the mainstream media, I tuned in to hear LBC’s Nick Ferrari grill Prime Minister Theresa May. I was hoping for Ferrari to probe her firmly, asking tough questions while demanding honest, direct, specific answers. ‘Hoping’ being very much the operative word, as I was expecting nothing of the kind.

I needn’t have bothered.

There was no grilling. Not so much as a little light frying. If May had been a steak ordered rare, she’d still have been returned to the kitchen to be cooked properly. Seldom has a sitting Prime Minister been given so easy a time yet still managed to come off so badly.

May was, as usual, woolly, evasive and stumbling. She evaded almost every direct question, trying to gloss over her near-total lack of specific answers even when faced with straightforward questions. About the only thing I expected and didn’t get was endless variations on her pet theme of ‘strong and stable.’

There was also a great deal of irrelevant guff about her personal life, seemingly almost purpose-built to limit the time spent actually talking to callers and answering questions. When confronted with the dreaded ‘real people’ she’s avoided so assiduously for so long, she stuttered, stumbled and seemed almost permanently flustered.

‘Winging it’ is the phrase that comes to mind. On the other hand, if this was yet another heavily-controlled appearance with a couple of slightly challenging callers added for appearance’s sake, ‘bodging it’ would be more appropriate.

True to form, she seemed comfortable only on the very safest of ground. Outside a narrowly-defined comfort zone of pre-screened questioners and pre-selected questions, May foundered like a confused sardine in a bathtub.

 [You can watch the full interview from the LBC Facebook page below – begins at 05:15]

The irony of her remarks on mental health (some of the worst cuts in the Tories’ slash-and-burn assault on the NHS have fallen on mental health services) was risible. Long regarded as the ‘Cinderella service’ of the NHS, first to be slashed and last to be boosted, May’s promises to improve services and expand funding simply don’t square with what her own government has already done. But, according to May, Jeremy Hunt is doing a superb job of running the NHS. So that’s OK, then.


Ferrari, far from his usual familiar blustering, tough-talking persona, gave her as easy a ride as he could. He did a little light probing here and there, mainly on the armed forces and the NHS and a little more on Brexit, admittedly. That said, it was hardly Jeremy Paxman territory. In fact, the callers gave May a far tougher time than the host and it was dealing with them that gave her the most trouble.

Even with Ferrari in unusually compliant mode May stuttered, stopped and started, talking quickly and sometimes at length without actually saying very much. The interview was over in less than half-an-hour and it’s hard to say who came off looking worse, May or Ferrari. Neither seemed to be playing their given roles (easy interviewer and professional politician) very well.

There are more ‘Leader Live’ broadcasts scheduled for LBC during this election campaign. It will be interesting to see whether Farrari adopts such an amenable tone with Jeremy Corbyn. If it’s more comic relief you’re looking for, I’d suggest tuning in when UKIP’s Paul Nuttall makes an appearance.

This was all filler, no killer. Exactly what it was intended to be. Despite this, Ferrari thinks May’s appearance was a success. Like the outcome of the election itself, that’s  very much a matter of individual opinion.

Even LBC listeners are far from agreeing with him.

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