This TV review first appeared in the Andersonstown News
On Thursday night last, I watched two current affairs programmes – Prime Time on RTÉ and Newsnight on BBC TWO. The news items they dealt with were different, as was their style of delivery.
Newsnight took near-sinful pleasure in showing Boris Johnson promising not to raise National Insurance contributions. He has recently made clear he’s going to do just that thing. Then the programmechecked out reactions in south Yorkshire which had been loyal to Labour for one hundred years and defected to the Tories last time out. A man in a local golf club explained that people were fed up with Labour ‘dilly-dallying on the fence’, in contrast with the Tories who said what they were going to do and did it. That was followed by a studio discussion.
Then there was an item on black youth unemployment – over 40% in some places. Their final item was an interview with Sir Anish Kapoor, an artist originally from Mumbai. They talked to him in his studio, with lots of brushes and open paint pots forming a gloriously colourful background.
Prime Time dealt with three items as well: the increase in border smuggling, the quarantining of children who’ve had close contact with the virus, and (for me the important section) an interview down the line with the DUP leader, Jeffrey Donaldson.
Borrowing Colum Eastwood’s phrase, Miriam O’Callaghan wanted to know if Jeffrey’s threats about pulling down Stormont were “more about the polls than the protocol”?
Beamed from Belfast, Jeffrey’s face looked a little wide, as if reflected in those magic mirrors you used get in Amusement parks. No, Jeffrey insisted, it was sheer coincidence that he’d announced his intention of ‘refreshing the mandate’ of his party on the same day as the EU commissioner was in town.
What’s more Jeffrey, his voice untypically edgy, objected to Miriam’s ‘pulling down’ talk: no one ever said the Dáil was pulled down when political parties in the south left to have an election, did they? Miriam reminded Jeffrey that the Protocol was the product of Brexit, which he and his party had worked hard to create. No, no, Jeffrey explained – he was just saying that if the Protocol wasn’t fixed by mid or late October, he’d turn to the electorate to get his mandate refreshed.
The interview, like many Prime Time interviews, was testy, and generated more heat than light. If you’d followed the news on Thursday, you’d have already known Jeffrey’s position. All that was added was Jeffrey’s October date for a Protocol showdown.
Newsnight showed a PM brazenly breaking his promise; Prime Time a leader claiming his party weren’t responsible for the Protocol, and his plans, Samson-like, to bring down the Stormont structures.
Maybe it’s to do with money, maybe something in the national psyche. But like English rural landscape, Newsnight was urbane and calm as it ignored Jeffrey; Prime Time more forceful and threatening, judging by Jeffrey’s response.
Hey, Jeffrey: you got off light enough . Miriam forgot to ask you when you’d last been to Confession.