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Mundane truth

Ceri Thomas | 14:40 UK time, Monday, 12 May 2008

Political blogs are running hot this morning with suggestions of a "stitch up" - a conspiracy between Today and the Labour backbencher Frank Field to distract attention from the launch of a government consultation on how we pay for social care. The accusation runs that we deliberately held back some comments from Mr Field in order to ambush a cabinet minister with them this morning.

The Today programme logoHere goes with the mundane truth: Frank Field gave an interview to the BBC World Service yesterday evening in which, among other things, he questioned whether Gordon Brown would lead his party into the next general election. (You can listen here.)

We on Today failed to spot it - and the BBC system which monitors our multitude of outlets for news stories didn't pick it up either (possibly not anticipating a domestic UK story breaking on the World Service). So it wasn't until someone involved with the original programme wondered why we weren't making more of the story that we were aware of it at all, and that was at precisely twelve minutes to eight this morning. At that point we listened to the interview and decided it was worth a place on Today - and at around eight o'clock we told the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, that as well as talking to him about social care we'd get a reaction to Frank Field's comments. (You can listen here.)

Small cock-up on our part for not picking up sooner on the World Service interview. No conspiracy at all.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ceri, denying a conspiracy is simply grist to the conspiracy theorist's mill, you can't win!

    It was a very interesting interview nonetheless, I listened as I drove to the station this morning. Evan is obviously very interested in the subjects he's covering and this comes across in his approach - it adds a fascinating new dynamic to the Today programme I think.

    Alan Johnson is always good value as well!

  • Comment number 2.

    It all sounds fair enough, and it really matters not whether it was cock up or conspiracy as there was no actual harm done to anyone as a result.

    Unless we count some political point scoring as harm.

    It makes for odd reading that you are saying 'honestly. we just inept at our jobs', but its good to see you holding your hands up to this fact.

    I guess you have to, you must know half the country doesn't trust a word you say anymore.

  • Comment number 3.

    With all the BBC integrated news services, should not someone responsible for the programme containing Frank Field's comments have got in touch with the main domestic newsgathering desks and tipped them off to listen out for Mr Field's remarks. Even better provided a summary! And the press office could have alerted the main newspaper political correspondents.What Frank Field had to say is as interesting as Lord Levy's remarks on yesterday's Andrew Marr programme. Even though he has an axe to grind. As does Lord L!

  • Comment number 4.

    Perhaps someone from the BBC Newswire team could use this as an opportunity to explain a bit about their work? And why this one slipped through the net?

  • Comment number 5.

    "No conspiracy at all" - just plain incompetence then, not really much to boast about is it?

  • Comment number 6.

    A perfect example of how not enough people actually doing the front line jobs resulted in poorer quality journalism. A lesson.
    Where was the Multi Media Editor?

  • Comment number 7.

    Human beings are fallible and so are human organisations. It was a good story, and well handled both by you and by Alan Johnson.

    But I hope you come back to the social services story, which is important and doesn't get enough coverage. Get Ivan Lewis on. He has the benefit of front line experience, which his boss hasn't.

  • Comment number 8.

    Personally, I'm all in favour of asking politicians those questions which haven't been trailblazed.

    It keeps them on their toes and can provide opportunity for hearing what they really think, before the telepaged on-party messages leap in to corrupt their thinking.

    Bring on the Conspiracies - Bring it On !

    Anyway the first part of the interview was far more interesting than the second part in which Johnson stated

    'the problem is huge and important and must be tackled'

    'so, have you got a policy on it then after 11 years'

    'no but we are going to have a meeting and a review about it'

    'that will be no action then after 11 years. A meeting and a doesn't sound like policy action'

    'sorry ... I can't hear headphones have slipped''

    (not quite verbatim but you get the message)


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