Has the art of the TV political interview been lost?

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1. The devil's advocate?

Raised voices, repeated questions, angry denials, a tone of exasperation, and maybe, on rare occasions, someone losing it and storming off. The political interview can be a riveting piece of TV theatre with the interviewer cutting and jabbing at a seasoned political operator, hoping to get under their skin, while said politician draws on their slick media training to bob and weave. So, what's it all about, really?

The political interviewer is the viewer’s representative. They articulate the questions they believe need answering in order to aid voters' thinking on the effectiveness, suitability and competence of elected representatives or those seeking office. Put simply: they may be aggressive, unrelenting and dogged, posing as devil's advocate, but in reality they are doing all this for one person only. And that's you, the voter.

2. From deference to attack...

There was a time in the early days of TV when broadcasters knew their place around politicians, or that's how it seemed. But this was only a fleeting moment...

Kirsty Wark considers the history and development of the TV political interview.

Today's politicians expect a good grilling, and have developed their own strategies for dealing with this. The phrase "spin doctor", which actually originated in America in the 1980s, came to loom large over the UK media in the 1990s. The influence of these media advisers on party politics has been marked. Politicians became skilled at dealing with aggressive questioning to the degree that some have argued that the purpose of the interview – to inform potential voters – has been lost.

3. How to interview a politician

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Think you could give political interviewing a go? Click on the labels and discover the secrets of the art from the professionals.

4. The "citizen interview"

What happens when we cut out the "middle man"?

When the public take centre stage, anything can happen.

Members of the public have proved over the years that they can handle politicians as well as seasoned media pros. The politician, on their best behaviour in front of a voter, is restricted in terms of the different parrying techniques they can deploy. So, should we make more space in media political coverage for what has become known as the "citizen interview"?

5. Less heat, more light?

How can the TV political interview evolve to make it more relevant in a busy media age?

Kirsty Wark assesses how the political interview might develop in future.

The effectiveness of the TV political interview as currently practised is under scrutiny. Recently, Newsnight editor Ian Katz wrote that a new contract needs to be drawn up between broadcasters and politicians to allow for a more open and informative format. The public were, he argued, being short-changed by what is perceived as a stalemate between both sides. What do you think?

6. What would your style be?

If you were in the interviewer hot seat, which style would you use to get results?

Jeremy Paxman

Jeremy Paxman interviewing Chloe Smith.

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Paxman

You favour a robust, some might say, aggressive approach. Chloe Smith was given no quarter as she struggled to explain herself.

Diana Gould

Diana Gould puts questions to then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

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Gould

You favour the quiet but dogged approach. Diana Gould got under the Iron Lady's skin in a way that few others could.

Andrew Neil

Andrew Neil interviewing Chuka Ummuna.

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Neil

You favour careful probing armed with facts. Chuka Ummuna revealed that he wasn't fully aware of who did what in his own party.

Emily Maitlis

Emily Maitlis interviewing Ed Balls.

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Maitlis

It's the "flirtation, seduction, betrayal" technique for you. Ed Balls was talking about Labour donors when he was suddenly challenged to name one. He couldn't.