Andrew Neil interviewed the Prime Minister, Theresa May, on Monday. Neil held back from his typical ‘bull-dog’ style attack that is a regular feature of his Daily and Sunday Politics programmes. Politicians often leave with visible ‘bite marks’ from these programmes after a mauling from Neil who is known for his adversarial style of interviewing on single issues with frequent interruptions.
Neil and the BBC may have decided that the series of leader interviews will take a more conversational approach in which politicians are given more time and interrupted less. This is perfectly acceptable approach but will only be credible if the other leaders are interviewed with the same respect.
May was probably at her most vulnerable on Monday due to the fact that she had just that day announced a U-turn in her manifesto promise on elderly care; an unprecedented action during an election campaign. She arguably received a much more difficult interrogation from news reporters at the Welsh manifesto launch that morning. In contrast, Neil held back from a ‘full-frontal attack’ despite the close nature, face-to-face seating arrangement for the interview.
The degree to which an interview is adversarial can be measured by the number of interruptions, the timing of these and the degree of overlapping speech between the two interlocutors. The length of time that a politician is given for each turn can also be revealing. While Neil did ask probing, conflictual questions, May was easily able to side-step the face threatening nature of these questions with relative ease.
It will be interesting to see whether Neil gives Jeremy Corbyn the same room for manoeuvre when he interviews him later in the week.
The interview can be watched in full on the BBC iPlayer.