A week is a long time in politics, so they say. And in three weeks a lot can happen as well.
Assuming there are no more changes to the schedule, by the time this comes out, I will have been broadcast on the Alex Salmond Show on Russia Today. If you missed it this morning, the show is repeated at 6.30pm and 11.30pm.
My part started on around Monday 20th August, when I was forwarded a request from Russia Today about a programme on HS2 which they were producing. They wanted someone from Stop HS2 to give an interview on Wednesday 22nd August. These are usually done by Joe Rukin, but he was on holiday. As it is important to use any media opportunity to tell people what is wrong with HS2, on Tuesday I agreed to go up to London for an interview on Wednesday afternoon.
I’ve done a lot of radio interviews, live and recorded, national and local. I’d done some outside broadcast recordings for TV, usually recorded. But I had no experience of studio interviews on TV, certainly not in this format, so if nothing else, it would be good practise for me.
Wednesday morning, I was literally getting on the train when I had a phone call from the producer. She was very apologetic, but Alex had had a personal matter come up and couldn’t do the interview that day. We rearranged it for Tuesday 28th August – after the bank holiday. My feeling at the time was that probably Alex was doing something with someone more influential, and my moment of TV fame had passed by.
And then the news that Salmond was seeing the Scottish government broke on Friday, and I concluded that actually it probably had been a personal matter that led to the interview’s cancelation. But as a feminist should I refuse to do the interview?
I asked some friends, all women, and the agreement was unanimous: I should do it, and whatever Salmond was accused of, it was still merely accusations. There were no changes to the interview schedule either, so on Tuesday I went up to London.
As a pre-recorded interview, you get a chance to repeat answers, but also the editors of the programme can skip over bits they don’t like. It was ever thus. Many decades ago, I was on a magazine’s readers’ panel discussing an issue: when the magazine came out, my thoughts were unrecognisable. This is the risk you take, agreeing to anything that will be edited.
After the interview, Tasmin, Alex and I sat in an office, having a discussion about non-political stuff. This was unusual – most senior politicians don’t hang around talking about trivialities. I didn’t know at the time that Alex was about to (or possibly already had) resign from the SNP. The news came out later that evening.
Even more recently, there has been discussion of Russia Today as a news outlet, and praise for people who refuse to do it.
In particular Alex’s show came up in Prime Minister’s questions yesterday. Theresa May herself said “Decisions about appearing on Russia Today are a matter of judgment for each individual”.
I’ll go with her. It’s up to everyone to decide where they draw the line. If you are thinking ‘career in broadcasting’ then you might make one set of decisions, just as someone pondering left-wing politics might decide not to write for the Telegraph or the IEA. The criteria must surely be based on one’s long term aims.
For me, the Alex Salmond Show on Russia Today came into the same set of choices as doing Radio 4’s Moral Maze. Could I use it to talk about HS2? Am I good choice for the broadcast? Will I find it interesting? The answer to all of those was yes. So I did the Moral Maze. And I did the Alex Salmond Show.