Tuesday 20 July 2010, 18:03

Adam Curtis Adam Curtis

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Last Friday Zac Goldsmith made a dramatic appearance on Channel 4 News.

The programme had accused him of not declaring some of his election expenses and he came into the studio live to answer the charges.

But Goldsmith seized the agenda and turned the interview around. He accused Jon Snow and his team of lying when they had said that he had previously refused to come on the programme. It is a fantastic scene which you can find HERE.

Goldsmith transformed the interview into an all out attack on truth and lies in journalism - at one point calling for "a new journalism".

What is fascinating is that his father, Sir James Goldsmith, did exactly the same thing 33 years ago on a BBC television programme at prime time.

It was an edition of The Money Programme in November 1977. James Goldsmith was a controversial businessman who had made a fortune taking over many old established British companies. One of them was Cavenham Foods which made Bovril.

The week before, the Money Programme had put out a film that accused Goldsmith of being an "asset stripper". He came on to defend himself - and what then happens is just wonderful.

Goldsmith takes over the programme. He accuses the two presenters of lying and starts interviewing them. He says their attack on him is part of "a malignant disease that is infecting this country"

One of the journalists bleats weakly: 'It's more conventional on these programmes for me to be asking you the questions"

I thought I would put up parts of the interview.

James Goldsmith is important because he used the power of the markets to break up the cosy patrician elite that ran Britain and its industries in the 1950s and 60s.

In the process Goldsmith helped transfer power in this country away from politics and towards the markets and the financial sector.

But 20 years later he decided that the giant market forces that he had helped re-awaken had become a threat to democracy. And in 1997 Goldsmith stood for parliament with his own party.

But he failed - and died two months later.

This year his son, Zac, stood for parliament and was elected. Zac has become an MP at a time when much of what his father feared seems to have happened. Our politicians are struggling to deal with a financial sector that seems no longer able to deliver the economic stability it once promised.

Maybe it would be better to interview Zac Goldsmith about what he - and his party - are going to do about the financial sector and their threat to economic stability and democracy rather than quibbling about the cost of circular stickers that say 'Zac'?

But it wouldn't be half as much fun.

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    Comment number 1.

    Have you seen Jon Stewart on CNN's Crossfire?

    "It's not so much that your show is bad, it's that it's hurting America."

    The presenter's frustration as Stewart turns their own audience against them is really, really entertaining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Wow, I'd forgotten how hostile the presenters become towards the end attempting to assert the format.

    Just to add, this happened in 2004 and Stewart was like a canary in the coal mine. Things have become progressively worse.

    And that Crossfire didn't last very much longer having been cancelled due in part to Stewart's appearance (according to the Wikipedia):

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    Comment number 3.

    Wonderful clip. I really wish the BBC would open up more of its archive. Even if they charged for viewing. Are there any online plans in the future?

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    Comment number 4.

    Extraordinary - the charisma a sheer force of personality behind both Goldsmith pere et fils is just gobsmacking. We all laughed in 1997 (and Private Eye still does occasionally) but James Goldsmith's final position - as shown by Adam in the final part of 'The Mayfair Set' - of supra-national elites, both financial and political (the EU), destroying national democracy, seems increasingly prescient.

    It's a shame Zac had nothing meatier to defend or attack. Stickers? The EU gained the ability to enter into relations with nationslast week; it hass essentially become a state under the Montevideo Convention's definition of such. Whether for or against, surely stickers is the last thing we should be talking about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I suppose a few hundred million quid and an elite education can give you a certain self assurance.

    Did James Goldsmith see communist plots everywhere? The 1970s were after all a period of trade union, anti war and civil rights activism. The current economic crisis cannot be laid at the door of any of those things, even Al-Qaeda make a shoddy stand-in for Reagan's Evil Empire. With no great ideological battle Zac can only be a feeble shadow of his father. The trivial nature of his spat with Channel 4 News only highlights this.


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