Saturday, October 09, 2010

Chris Huhne's Telegraph interview: Nothing to see here

There has been a disproportionate amount of coverage this morning for Chris Huhne's remark, in the course of an interview with the Daily Telegraph, that when it comes to reducing the public sector deficit, the government is not “lashed to the mast with a particular set of numbers”.

In view of that coverage, it is worth quoting his words to the Telegraph in full:
Asked if the cuts might be scaled back if economic indicators worsen, he indicates that he is not “lashed to the mast with a particular set of numbers.
“I’ve never known one Treasury Red Book to be exactly like the last one.
“There is always a change. It is a bit like setting sail. If the wind changes, you have to tack about to get to [your destination]. Global growth could be either higher or lower. We just don’t know, and it’s not sensible, outside the Budget period, for governments to make speculations about what is going to happen.
“The right time to look at that Budget judgment is when we come up to the Budget in the spring. The key thing then is to look at things in the round and remember the overall objective is to stabilise and begin to reduce the public debt to GDP ratio.”
Personally, I would have found it worrying if Huhne had said much else. "We are committed to our plans no matter how much the situation around us changes" would not have been an encouraging to hear.

I don't blame the Telegraph for making a lot of Huhne's remarks - it is, after all, their own exclusive interview. But I do wonder why it led all the BBC Radio 4 news bulletins this morning.

In fact, I have two answers to that question, The first is that the BBC is wedded to the idea that politics must be reported in terms of "splits" and "gaffes". It is therefore unable to cope with the sort of discussion you get under healthy cabinet government.

The second is that there is rarely enough news on a Saturday morning to justify a three-hour Today programme. Last week the BBC desperately oversold a study claiming that 'ADHD' has a genetic basis. (Ben Goldacre has a column on this in today's Guardian.) Today it did the same with Chris Huhne's interview.

Time to rethink Radio 4's weekend schedule?


NoetiCat said...

He also made the exact same remarks in the Q&A of the guardian fringe and it was reported at the time (ca 58 mins in)

Frank Little said...

You're right. One would have thought that the proposal to close passport facilities round the country was an issue which affected more people.

dreamingspire said...

Actually Toady runs only 2 hours on a Saturday. But your observation is still correct.

dreamingspire said...

They may have to look a little earlier than next Spring. NY Times reports about the USA (Sat 9/10): "In the one-two punch long feared by many economists, hiring by businesses has slowed while government jobs are disappearing at a record pace." and "over all, the economy lost 95,000 nonfarm jobs in September, the result of a 159,000 decline in government jobs at all levels. Local governments in particular cut workers at the fastest rate in almost 30 years."