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Eddie Mair | 07:09 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2007

I remembered last night after work that I promised a "glass box" for your thoughts on the programme. And thanks to a glitch which meant I was unable to log in away from work, it all rather fell by the wayside. Apologies.

As I said in a previous posting, we chose not to do the programme from Westminster last night, and made an effort to get non-Budget stories in. But your feedback would be useful in shaping future Budget coverage. Not just whether it was too much or too little, but was it the right sort? Did you want less politics, or better coverage of the arguments? Was the economics of it clear? I don't want to be prescriptive, because you'll have your own view of the programme that maybe doesn't touch on any of the above.

Whatever you thought - all constructive thoughts are welcome.

(Oh and by the way the Blog passed 30,000 comments yesterday. Well done to us all. We must do something big and outrageous when we get to 50,000)


  1. At 08:26 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Gossipmistress wrote:

    Well I did have lots of comments lined up last night but I've forgottn half of them now! :-/

    It felt like mostly Budget with a few extra items thrown in, which was too much for me but I guess people do want to hear about it and it was the big news of the day.

    The economics were clearly presented, although there was some repetition. Enjoyed the persistance in getting the last 'Budget interviewee' (Sorry can't remember his name) to actually answer the question!

    I thought it was good the way the budget coverage was split into manageable chunks, interspersed with other items - it did make it slightly more palatable! :-)

  2. At 09:05 AM on 22 Mar 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    Agree with GM - budgeted out by the time I got home and knowing that theres coverage left, right and centre was hoping for a bit of a refuge. Did like the interview style of really pursuing that question and the wonderfully dismissive 'well if you're not going to answer I have no further need of you now' finish.
    Economics wise the detail was clear and the chap from Moneybox made me smile.

    I'd almost prefer an alternative take on the budget a few days later, a kind of Small Print Budget when all the details have been studied. And it may be naivety on my part (as never really followed the budget before) but I didn't realise that the points had to be voted on/approved by parliment. I think PM is well placed and suited to a explore different aspects of it (a bit like the Indian Onions; small detail of daily life but ultimately incredibly illiuminating).

    Ukraine - fab. But PLEASE don't repeat the Von Trapps from Today! :)

  3. At 09:06 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Gerepidox (U7747218) wrote:

    Does anyone else find Eddie Mair's presentation style on Radio 4’s PM programme a little tiresome?

    Deference to politicians, government statements, etc., has long gone (post Robin Day) but his odd, ironic introductions to news subjects and sniping questioning style are becoming wearing. He comes across to me as a smug, ‘know-better’ presenter, dismissive of anything announced from a remotely 'establishment' source, whilst relishing the opportunity to make an interviewee squirm on the end of his sarcastic inquisitorial skewer.

    I would prefer to hear someone presenting PM with a searching but less self-satisfied sounding manner.

  4. At 09:36 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    "Oh and by the way the Blog passed 30,000 comments yesterday. Well done to us all. We must do something big and outrageous when we get to 50,000"

    Eddie, aren't we ALWAYS outrageous? Or have we been wasting our time? ;o)

  5. At 09:52 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Gerepidox (U7747218):

    I think you're in the wrong place to express such views. Do you need the address for Feedback?

  6. At 09:55 AM on 22 Mar 2007, admin annie wrote:

    Gerepidox - well we're all entitled to our own opinions, but I do rather wonder if we're listening to the same program.

    Are you perhaps part American? - americans having a well known inability to recognise and/or appreciate irony.

    Smug is almost the last word I would use of mr mair's presenting style, and given the spinning record of our current government I would say distrust of establishment sources was a healthy starting perspective on anything.

    However if you want straightforward news why don't you just not switch on your radio until 6 o clock?

  7. At 09:57 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Gillian wrote:

    I think the balance was just right. Personally I'd already seen the bare bones of the budget on the link you gave on the Budget thread, and the amount of political comment on the programme did help me to see the whys and wherefores.
    If WOYW was anything to go by, a large number of listeners tune in to PM on their way home from work, so budget coverage would have been necessary for them, as I suppose it was their first opportunity to hear about it.
    Personally I feel that there is and will be so much coverage of the budget elsewhwere that it was unnecessary for you to do any more than you did. I would much rather hear from Hugh, and the item about the Shipping Forecast was delightful. Where else could you hear such a mix?!

  8. At 10:15 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Member of the Public wrote:

    Gordon Brown's 11th Budget – a modern-day record – made a promise to further strengthen the British economy.

    Yet I think, this was not a Budget which addressed the country's fiscal priorities. This was a Budget that was aimed at one very specific audience; Mr Brown's 352 colleagues, perched attentively on the Labour benches, and the party's membership.

    To this extent, the Chancellor achieved his objective. Given its wide-ranging nature, it was the speech of a Prime Minister-in-waiting. And it was significant that Mr Brown's 40-minute or so self-glorification ended with a final flourish on tax cuts.

    Nevertheless, the rapturous reception afforded by Labour backbenchers masked the Chancellor's glaring omissions; omissions that exposed the fragile state of the public finances, and the political difficulties that Mr Brown would encounter as Prime Minister.

    By making a series of vague promises backed by equally vague funding commitments, I think his Budget should be viewed as a spurned opportunity. It is a view that possibly Mr Brown may come to share if and when he finally moves into 10 Downing Street.

  9. At 10:43 AM on 22 Mar 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    Gerepidox -
    I believe you posted this on another BBC message board? Whilst you are entitled to your opinion must people who post on this blog do so because they appreciate not only the programmes style and content Mr Mair's presentation too.

  10. At 10:46 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Carl wrote:

    Budget? What... has there been a budget? when was this?

  11. At 10:53 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Belinda wrote:

    I must admit that my heart was in my mouth during the start of the Shipping Forecast segment, when you announced "The Shipping Forecast..." in the same tone as you announce a celebrity dying. I thought that Radio 4 had decided to axe it, which would have been the final straw for me and Radio 4. Thank god it was just an exhibition - although I am always amused by Radio 4's attempts to describe pieces of art verbally.

    The Budget was ok...slightly overdone and basted, but it didn't quite reach my annoyance threshold and it was presented very clearly. I did wonder whether a face-to-face discussion between the Tory and the Labour guy would have been a good idea in the beginning, rather than two separate interviews which repeated the same questions.
    Eddie, you are undoubtably excellent at moderating discussions and it surprises me to some extent that we do not hear more of this on PM.

  12. At 11:05 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Annasee wrote:

    Sadly I missed quite a bit of PM due to the urgent need to hold the vaccuum cleaner up in the air for SO to clean the top of lampshades. (The things you do when an estate agent is coming...)

    But what I got to hear I enjoyed (probably missed a lot of the budget coverage, but ho-hum, I can live without it). Am I the only person who doesn't take the budget terribly to heart, feeling that there's always the same amount of money in the pot, & it just gets shuffled around from year to year to make a good effect for the voters. Given with one hand & taken away with the other - rather like the tax cuts?

    As a footnote - just in case you were under the illusion that the whole of the UK was absorbed in the budget announcements yesterday- while the budget was going on I had a call from an orchestra manager offering me some work. When we were discussing the fee offered (which I thought was rather inadequate for the effort involved) I said "Well how about you go & talk with the powers that be & see if you can improve that offer. It is Budget day after all!" His reply: "Oh, is it? I had no idea" !!!

  13. At 11:10 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    I'm with Belinda on the two interview point - However, I imagine this arose out of the difficulty presented by people being available at the same time. Was that the case, Eddie? As it was, it didn't phase me unduly, as it was possible to concentrate on the different perspectives rather than untangling a discussion.

    I thought the Shipping Forecast piece was rather dull, though I can understand why PM decided to include it.

    Having, like others, somewhat lost track of the rest of yesterday's broadcast (Yes, Eddie, I DID hear it in real time! but am always doing things at the same time) I'm hoping to listen again some time during the day and will post anything else that occurs to me then.

  14. At 11:14 AM on 22 Mar 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    Ps....that should've been most not must; though as typos go it was quite good!

    And yes, the Shipping Forecast was a good piece - maybe pics on the blog next time? Its not the first time this has been done though. A book was produced a few years ago called Rain Later, Good; very popular (I was a bookseller at the time and it was a bit of hit in Chichester!) and maybe worth a look for those inspired!

  15. At 11:35 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Rachel wrote:

    I'm feeling a bit sorry for Gerepidox. Though I don't agree at all with his/her sentiments, I don't think this should be a critic-free blog. Indeed, if Eddie is using this thread to guage the audience response to the Budget coverage, it is surely useful to hear from people other than those (myself included) who think Chairman Mair walks on water.

    As to the coverage itself, I thought it was well-judged. I'm a bit of a politico-economic junkie, so it may have been too much for normal people. I particulary enjoyed Eddie putting Osbourne on the spot and the political analysis.

  16. At 11:42 AM on 22 Mar 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Gerepidox (3):

    Does anyone else find Eddie Mair's presentation style on Radio 4’s PM programme a little tiresome?

    Very probably. But just as probably, few people here do.

    Most of us here share Eddie's outlook - as far as we know it - and enjoy his presentation style.

    I would prefer to hear someone presenting PM with a searching but less self-satisfied sounding manner.

    You aren't Paddy O'Connell are you? ;o)

  17. At 11:51 AM on 22 Mar 2007, Eddie Mair wrote:

    Rachel (15) you make a valid point. All constructive criticism is welcome - that really is the point. And when we start The Glass Box proper, it will be expected.

  18. At 12:02 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Karen wrote:

    Much as I love Evan Davis my head was starting to spin a little with all the "Budget speak" - I thought it was a really nicely structured programme with plenty of pit stops for those of us who struggle to keep the interest going.

    PM was the only programme I listened to right the way through and so the only source of info I used for the Budget yesterday. I found it a really helpful way of getting the information I needed.

  19. At 12:45 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Otter wrote:


    Last nights show was indeed dominated by the Budget, however I think it was necessary considering the significance of what the Chancellor announced.
    As Evan Davis pointed out, this budget signaled a significant reform of our tax system. Also, the Chancellors fancy footwork with relation to the taxes he cut, raised and rewired, needed to be scrutinised and explained, free of spin.

    In short; on this occasion I believe your Budget coverage was correct, certainly as it was balanced by the nice item you ran regarding the artwork inspired by the shipping forecast.

    Best wishes


  20. At 01:02 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Gerepidox (U7747218), You'll have gathered from the responses already posted that those who come to Eddie Mair's blog are generally fans of his. However, I certainly agree with those who have said that your opinion is equally valid here, and so will attempt to address your question.

    I disagree with your analysis of Eddie's style -- I have posted here many times about how I find the automatic belief that "X is in politics therefore X must be lying" abhorrent, and there are news and current affairs programmes that I avoid because they display far too much of that attitude. I wouldn't listen to PM if I felt that it was that kind of programme. In contrast, I find Eddie Mair's wit and irony refreshing and I do think he asks the diffcult questions without aggression.

    Perhaps humour is actually more dangerous than aggression, but it makes for a better listening experience to me. I remember, for example, just months ago he interviewed a well known TV presenter who couldn't go five seconds without mentioning her own website and slipping in the address. (I don't think I'm exaggerating -- it was really excessive). A lesser interviewer might have interrupted with something like "We've haerd your website address a few times now, could you please stick to answering the question?" which would have been perfectly understandable, but would have broken the flow of the conversation and may have altered the tone of the interview. Eddie just let her get on with it, she did answer the questions after every web reference, after all. After the interview he simply added "We have a website too", and gave PM's web address. I howled with laughter. And it wasn't the slightest bit rude.

    I think his talent lies in letting interviewees speak for themselves and gently highlighting their attitudes. Not everyone will enjoy that style but I most certainly do. I also find that, despite the fan club that has pretty much arisen here (and the deaclarations of undying love, lust and/or various forms of adortaion from some of us) he doesn't take it all too seriously and certainly hasn't let it go to his head. He mixes the serious with the light and almost always strikes the right balance. I'm sure he has made mistakes, as does everyone, but I can't cite a specific example at the moment.

    PM is my favourite new programme by far, for all of these reasons.

  21. At 01:10 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Oh, forgot to ask, Eric, do you want my bank details for direct payment or just my address so you can send it by cheque? ;-)

    A, x.

  22. At 01:14 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    I love today's strapline, but shouldn't it be "getting the news before the newsletter"?


  23. At 01:36 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Peter Rippon wrote:

    Thanks for the comments. I was in charge last night. Normally I have my best programme ideas on the way home after the show. Its really annoying. Last night I was pretty happy. I was pleased that we managed to find a quote showing that the justification GB used for dropping the 10p tax rate was almost word for word the same as the one he used introducing it in 1999. In the real Glassbox we were wondering what news we failed to cover because of all the budget stuff. Any thoughts?

  24. At 01:39 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Lee Vitout wrote:

    Aperitif (20)

    Well said :-)

  25. At 02:06 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Just to add my budget-saved tuppence:

    I'm not a fan of Eddie per say, but I do like PM a lot. I am perfectly happy when Sequin or Nigel or even Orville the Duck presents, as long as the show adheres to the same format and intelligence to which I subscribe.

    That said, I do enjoy Eddie's presenting and he rarely irritates me in the way that so many other presenters do. I have criticised him on here before, I forget for what but I imagine it was due to an occasional slippage into the "By god, I'll interrupt you and say my piece, whatever you are saying!" style of interviewing which seems so popular on the airwaves and Newsnight. I don't find him smug, I enjoy the gentle humour that he threads throughout the show and I find him a genuinely excellent interviewer, and have not noticed any intention to make the recipient squirm particularly.

  26. At 02:18 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Well done Peter (23). I have wondered before -- are you any relation to Angela?

  27. At 02:39 PM on 22 Mar 2007, RJD wrote:

    Ap (20) – Hardly any point adding to what you have said.

    Although you refer to the "the fan club that has pretty much arisen here" a lot of members of that fan club are not afraid to comment when they feel that the programme and/or presenter have got things wrong or been unfair in some way. A number of weeks ago I commented on an interview where I thought Peter Hain was very unfairly mugged by Eddie. Others pitched in with their own opinions, pro and con. There have been other similar points of disagreement. No programme or presenter style is going to please everybody who might listen.

    I personally think that PM has been exceptional over the past number of weeks with the reports from China, Iraq and all the domestic coverage, always maintaining a balance between the serious and light-hearted.

    It is also a testimony to PM that they not only invite constructive comment in a forum like this but respond to the suggestions and input they receive.

  28. At 02:55 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    RJD (27) Hello there. Yep, as I said, mistakes are made but I couldn't cite an example there and then. The one you mention is a perfect though -- lots of pepole did respond -- including both you and me -- to say that the Peter Hain interview wasn't well handled. I did think that inviting someone on to talk about a particular subject then telling him he shouldn't be dwelling on that subject but getting on with other things was very silly, and lots of us said so. Quite right.

  29. At 02:55 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Rachel Pearce wrote:

    Please put me out of my misery. When _was_ the budget not the lead on budget day? I can't find the answer here and missed half the programme yesterday.

    What I heard of the programme on the economics side was as clear as you can be within a few hours of the speech when some of the fine detail is not yet available. I enjoy the politics more but feel the balance is right as the politics has to be informed by economic understanding.

    btw in reference to Gerepidox I moved to the US in 1996 and found the radio there to be pretty much a desert when it came to political debate. Reporting, yes, but actual interviews with politicians with the interviewer listening to the answers and posing further questions accordingly, never. Then in about 1998 a programme called "The World" appeared, hosted by one E. Mair. I don't think he still does it (I'm back in the UK now) (unclear how he could fit it in) but it certainly cheered up the remainder of my time there with something more along the lines of robust political discussion "But you just said..." "How can you square that with..." etc. etc.

    I like the style and feel that the more relaxed approach is right for PM where perhaps it would not suit, say, The World Tonight. I find it very often reflects the questions I am shouting at the radio.

  30. At 03:02 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Eddie Mair wrote:

    Rachel (28) it was 2003, and the fall of Saddam.
    And The World continues on public radio in the US. I did the programme (from London) for a couple of years in the mid 90s...doing my Five Live lunchtime programme each weekday before going to Bush House for The World. Great people - it's where I first worked with one Paddy O'Connell. They fired him.

  31. At 03:16 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Does everyone who works with you get "fired" evetually Eric?... :-)

  32. At 03:17 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Belinda wrote:

    They fired him

    Well, it's perfectly understandable.

  33. At 04:05 PM on 22 Mar 2007, John Cooper wrote:

    Eveing all, academic work dragging me under so not had time to comment on the blog...

    Anyway, I was thinking that the coverage was very good but I would have liked a follow up and reference to previous budgets. Just hearing how the big "green issues" were reminded me how the news agenda should reflect (eg Aid promises post 2005) past promises as well as current.

    One thing that was missed, I would have loved to hear EM ask the Labour minister if the freeze on Spirit prices was due to their being a scots parliament election this year.... whisky disillers happy!

    As for presenting style, it is very much like The Guardian in that it can seem rather clubbish but that is why it works so well. Whereas teh rest of the news programmes have identities this programme feels much more collective, and EM has a comedic style that has a very serious undercurrent. Ulitmatly he is witty which aides the programme, rather than full out one liners which dominate the programme.


  34. At 04:08 PM on 22 Mar 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Belinda (25):

    I've noticed Eddie doing the agressive thing very rarely, and been more disappointed than annoyed, knowing that he can do much better.

    However, I do get annoyed sometimes when he's not agreesive enough. Occasionally the laid back, witty style just has to be put aside for a more Paxman-like dogged approach (terrierism?). e.g with certain members of the cabinet who I think it would be better never to invite back because they avoid questions entirely to get their soundbites out (not pointing the finger at any particular Secretaries of State for Defence in particular of course...)

    On the whole, the balance of PM is about right, I would just say that some of the items are a bit predictable.

    Obviously, last night had to be mostly budget, but sometimes, I've already heard an item on Today, tWaO and various news bulletins throughout the day. Fine if PM adds new info or a new slant, but it doesn't always.

  35. At 04:28 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Gossipmistress wrote:

    Apy (20) beautifully put. I wouldn't consider myself part of any fan club, but other than that am in complete agreement.

    Re Gerepidox (U7747218) (Where did you get that name?) 's original comment, I'd also like to add that constructive criticism has been encouraged here and the impression is that it's listened-to. If it's just Eddie's style & delivery that puts you off, there are plenty of alternatives to listen to.

  36. At 04:48 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Belinda wrote:

    SSc (34): I agree that occasionally more indepth questioning is called for with certain parties, however I would like to see a cleverer way of getting down to the truth than a purely agressive cutting-off. I find it MORE frustrating when the interviewee is not allowed to finish a sentence so that the Presenters (who shall rename nameless) can try to catch the interviewee out on something that they haven't had the opportunity to say.

    That is what Nick Clarke, god bless his soul, did excellently and Eddie is in the same gold-class mould (mold? Pedants, help!), however I do fear that frustration can get the better of him sometimes, understandably of course, particularly with politicians who can barely answer to their own name without evasion.

    As to whichever thread was talking about Eddie when he spoke to the non-publicity seeking public, yes I completely agree. There is a humanity and sensitivity there which is very rare in the media.

  37. At 08:09 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Gossipmistress, thanks.

    Looking back at what I said I feel the need to add that I wasn't trying to suggest that this is a fan club or that it should be seen that way -- just that it can seem like one sometimes.

  38. At 08:45 PM on 22 Mar 2007, nikki noodle wrote:

    Radio is a medium for listeners.

    Eddie Mair (as was Nick Clarke) is a listener, he knows how to hear what people are saying AND what they are deliberately not saying.

    This is one of the reasons why I enjoy his interviews so much - he cares that his listeners hear the interviewee; he steers rather than gets in the way.

    Belatedly, as far as Budget on budget day, it is too difficult to do anything other than 'broad strokes' - counter balancing the budget with a visual artist was an inspired piece of programming.


    Belinda (36) gold-class mould - because he's such a fungi?!

  39. At 11:05 PM on 22 Mar 2007, Val P wrote:

    Appy @ 21 - :o)

  40. At 09:50 AM on 23 Mar 2007, Fiona wrote:

    Good grief, I miss the blog for one day and it seems have missed rather a lot. Just to stick my tuppence in can I just add my whole hearted agreement to Aperitif (20) - and I for one would consider myself a fan of Eddie's and have been for many years - his wit and style are what makes the programme for me, long may he continue.

    That said of course it would be a dull old world if we all agreed with each other so fair play to anyone who as alternative view point - all contributions (provided they are not rude, insulting or personal) should be freely welcomed here

  41. At 09:51 AM on 23 Mar 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Nikki (38): I haven't a clue which way it was spelled, so put both to cover myself. I could have said

    "The Michaelangelo's David of Radio Broadcasters"

    but that would have put inappropriate thoughts into froggers' heads.

    Eddie seems to be a fungi though, but until now, there hasn't been mushroom here to say things like that.

  42. At 02:10 PM on 23 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Belinda (41), Inappropriate? Perhaps -- but very pleasant! (I do realise I will never get another hug if I go on like this...)

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