It has been a long, thankless and quite brutal week in my world of interviewing. I hit a red light, next to a giant Stop sign in a cul de sac that ended with a 1,000ft sheer drop. I will spare you the details – for now – but I can speak from years of experience, not just the past few days, to deeply sympathise with John Humphrys this morning.
His much yearned-for and keenly plugged face-to-face with Prime Minister Tony Blair on Radio 4’s Today programme has just faded from the hi-fi in my office. To be honest, I nearly didn’t make it through, despite Humphrys sterling efforts. The reason: I found the entire talk annoying, frustrating, predictably fruitless. It wound me UP!
You need a fighting chance with any subject to get a decent interview, no matter your skill. Few are better at it than Humphrys. But if a subject is interminably dull, like the “superstar” who defeated me this week, or impossibly intransigent, like Blair, then you haven’t got a hope in hell. No amount of guile or charm will work. No killer question will provide an answer worth hearing. Either there ain’t nothin’ to get, or they ain’t got nothin’ to give.
So, let me put this to you, if I may, in the clearest of terms: What really is the fucking point in interviewing Tony Blair?