Following my exclusive of Jim Naughtie’s recent programme brief, I now have a copy of the debrief written by the Today progamme editor following his interviews on defence with James Arbuthnot Con MP and Keith Brown SNP MSP.
Producer’s Brief Today September 27
“Jim’s sequence with Arbuthnot, the Westminster defence MP and the Nat guy worked a treat… you’re developing a style with these Scottish interviews, James. First you’re nice cop with the Unionist and then – blam – you slap the Nat across the chops.
You were suitably deferential with plummy Arbuthnot (Eton and Cambridge) asking the easy open-door questions…nothing about the UK’s failure to meet NATO commitments, no mention of there being no naval defence presence or aerial surveillance off the Moray Firth which meant the Russian carrier fleet which turned up last December could have attacked and invaded before Britain knew what was happening and we had to send a destroyer up from Portsmouth. No Nimrods now, you see. No Kinloss air base. Happily you refrained from asking why we couldn’t defend the oil installations because of defence cuts.
But, wow, you barely let the Nat MSP – was it Brown, his name? – say a word without cutting in. Made it difficult for him to state his case which as far as I can see is that Scotland would have the same level of defence as other countries of a similar size.
He rather got away with pointing out that the budget is inaccurate and unfair, though. Pity. He managed to get out that the amount spent in Scotland was £1.6b while HMG claims its £4.5b. Presumably that higher sum is in the profit and loss books as actually being spent in Scotland? Oops!
You were on much stronger ground with Trident. It’s important to emphasise that we don’t want the blasted thing down here. (Arbuthnot represents Hampshire!) When he said the nuclear sub base was close to Scotland’s biggest centre of population, you could imagine the Home Counties remembering that is Glasgow and saying to themselves: hey ho. The SNP hypocrisy line on a nuclear NATO worked so long as we didn’t say that NATO is supposed to be getting rid of nukes and that Labour offered to negotiate them away but Murphy now says we need to renew. Talk about hypocrisy.
And of course it costs an arm and a leg and is really America’s weapons system to which they have the firing codes which they send to us. Still, you’re constant jumping in didn’t allow anyone to really get Brown’s point and left the impression of a Dad’s army with pikestaffs up against calm, plummy UK. Job done.
You’ve established a style and tone to make the most of your sojourn on GMS, Jim. Remember, you’re defending all that’s great about this country so don’t for God’s sake go native. You’ll never present Last Night of the Proms again, if you do.