Radio 4 journalist Eddie Mair provided a masterclass in how gentle persistence can pay off in a broadcast interview when he persuaded former government minister John Hutton to admit that he said Gordon Brown would be a ‘fucking disaster’ as Prime Minister.
Hutton resigned as defence secretary in June this year and was interviewed by Mair as part of a series of interviews the daily news programme is carrying out with politicians who are stepping down at the next election.
After repeating the question eight times in different ways, Mair eventually persuaded Hutton to admit that he was the anonymous minister who had been quoted in those terms at a time when Brown was jockeying for position to succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister.
Hutton said that was no longer his view now.
Here is the full transcript of the relevant section of the interview:
Mair: You are credited with saying previously that Gordon Brown would be a fucking [bleeped]disaster in the role of Prime Minister, did you say that?
Hutton: That’s not my view.
Mair: Did you say it?
Hutton: I’m not going to go into the who said what to whom here because I could say yes or no to that question.
Mair: You could tell me the truth.
Hutton: And it would still continue to be debated
Mair: You can tell me you thought it once and you don’t think it now.
Hutton: Gordon’s not been a disaster as Prime Minister, he’s put his heart and soul into the job, he’s doing everything can for the country at a time of intense difficulty.
Mair: Did you think he would be a disaster and did you express it in those terms?
Hutton: I wasn’t one of the Prime Minister’s cheerleaders in the run up to theâ€¦
Mair: That’s another way of putting it isn’t it?
Hutton: I wasn’t and I’m not going to pretend otherwise because that would be silly. I know whatever I say on that score some people will say yes he said that, no he didn’t…
Mair: But hang on you’re in a position to tell us whether you said it and then we can just get on with it.
Hutton: [Laughing] Well that’s certainly true.
Mair: My guess is you said it, you haven’t denied saying itâ€¦so come on, did you say it?
Hutton: Well there’s no point in my denying that I didn’t have very serious concerns about Gordon…
Mair: You said it, didn’t you?
Hutton: I did say it yes, let’s get that over with.