One of the worst things you can do in a media interview is to be rude or insult the person asking the questions.
It doesn’t matter who they are and what line they take, you should always be polite and treat them with respect.
Failure to do so can have painful consequences, especially when you’re a guest on a high-profile TV programme. Just ask Shadow Attorney General, Shami Chakrabarti.
A highly-respected human rights campaigner and now a leading member of the Labour Opposition, she has given numerous interviews over the years and can normally be relied on to successfully deliver her key messages.
Not so on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning. She made the big mistake of patronising the BBC presenter when he challenged her on growing pressure for a second Brexit referendum.
He wanted to know how she squared being a Remainer with a statement in Labour’s manifesto that it accepts the result of the people’s vote two years ago,
“I don’t understand why you want to leave the EU,” said Marr.
Chakrabarti replied: “I don’t want to leave the EU, I campaigned to remain. I’m a democrat.”
Marr: “But you’re going to go through a general election campaign as a member of a party whose manifesto says, ‘we are leaving the EU’.”
Chakrabarti: “I’m a democrat, I don’t know about you Andrew, but I’m a democrat.”
Marr: “Don’t try and patronise me, I’m as much a democrat as you are.”
A visibly shaken Chakrabarti apologised but it failed to appease Marr and the pair clashed again over Theresa May’s draft Brexit deal.
Chakrabarti described it as the “worst kind of bureaucratic fudge” but struggled to say what Labour’s would do if it was in power.
This prompted Marr to ask if she had read the draft agreement.
Chakrabarti: “Yes, I have actually, I’m sure you have, too.”
Marr: “I’ve read an awful lot of it.”
Chakrabarti: “I’ve read it all.”
Not exactly a diplomatic response and certainly not one that would earn much sympathy, to put it mildly.
The inescapable conclusion is that Chakrabarti had a chance to capitalise on the Brexit chaos but blew it because of her attitude and unfortunate responses.
Instead of setting out Labour’s store and winning support for its alternative proposals, she instead became the subject of a flurry of damaging stories about a “bruising” TV interview.
Doubtless it was not what she or her party had in mind when they accepted the invitation to appear on one of the country’s most influential political shows.
Job definitely not done.
Rough House has years of experience advising clients on interview etiquette and how to deal with tricky questions from journalists. Contact us to find out more.