I have just come into ownership of a copy of the Radio 4 briefing given to Jim Naughtie for his interview with Alistair Darling on this morning’s Today programme.
I reproduce it here without the BBC’s permission because I believe it is in the national interest.
It reads: “Jim…remember at all times that AD is more important than Holyrood politicians because he worked down here in the big government and he might emerge as a minister in the next government so we want to keep him sweet…also he gave all those scoops to Robert Peston during the meltdown. We don’t want any more heat from upstairs for Paxman-style monstering of those working to save the Union. Tony has reminded editors that this is still the BRITISH Broadcasting Corp.
Start by asking what seems to be a tough question at the top…something like: Isn’t this the next stage in the devolution of powers started by YOUR Labour government…and when he doesn’t give a straight answer, ignore it and let him make all his negatives about losing trade, border guards and Ireland etc.
Try not to counter that with laughter and pointing out that there will be no trade barriers within the EU and don’t mention it will be in the UK’s interests to leave an open frontier. Move as swiftly as you can on to something easy and predictable like: You can’t go on being so negative, can you?
Remember the SNP does have a policy on currency – it is keeping the pound but don’t push him if he portrays that as confused. Our listeners in the M25 zone agree with him that the Scots can’t keep sterling if they go it alone.
Be wary. He will suggest that Scotland couldn’t have survived the banking crisis on its own. Don’t for God’s sake say that Scotland could have done exactly what London did to pay the 10 per cent of losses it was responsible for and borrow at historically low rates to buy shares in the banks and then charge them billions in a future insurance scheme.
And, Jim, there is a row about the lack of a televised debate being planned. In order to make it easy for AD ask a patsy question like: When will we see a debate between you and Salmond? That makes it sound like Salmond should be debating with Alistair when of course his real opponent is Cameron. If not Cameron then – don’t laugh – Michael Moore. AD’s real opponent is a guy called Canavan in the Yes campaign. So don’t put any pressure on AD. If you get this right, it will set the tone for your move to GMS where I have to remind you, the programme is so underfunded and understaffed, you won’t get any brief. Over to you.
Remember to say we’ll hear from the leader of the insurgents in an hour. “
Jim…great job on the Sturgeon interview. Sounded completely different. Really aggressive and challenging and talking over her better answers was v effective. That’s the tone our heartland listeners want to hear. You really rammed home the message about not debating with Darling. It sounded like your own personal opinion even though of course it’s completely wrong in terms of journalistic and political protocol. Remember the BBC wants a televised debate and while we won’t get Cameron we definitely don’t want Moore who is utterly dull and useless. As discussed at the management meeting, we want Salmond and Darling head to head. Well done for casting up Salmond’s earlier rubbishing of sterling. It’s not as if Alistair has ever changed his mind, now is it? All round a great morning. Got the tone about right. You sound like a true anglo Scot who has refined himself down south and knows much more than the bumpkins back home. Enjoy life in your but ‘n ben!”