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Unexpected challenge

Stephanie Flanders | 16:38 UK time, Monday, 3 August 2009

The wonders of live television. As some of you may have heard, I took a turn presenting the Andrew Marr show yesterday. I was hoping to create some news stories for the Monday papers, as Andrew often does. And I did. But not in quite the way I'd hoped.

With four wide-ranging interviews to prepare for, I had read up on everything from the UK-US extradition treaty to Maureen Lipman's stage career. Little did I realise that my greatest challenge would be General Sir Mike Jackson's mobile phone. You can watch what happened below.

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It is somewhat disconcerting that the former head of the British army doesn't know how to switch off his phone. But clearly, the moment had great comic potential. If only we hadn't been in the middle of discussing Afghanistan.


  • Comment number 1.

    "It is somewhat disconcerting that the former head of the British army doesn't know how to switch off his phone."

    That's why General Officers in the British Army used to have ADCs (aide-de-camps) - to do that sort of thing! Times are tough I guess.


  • Comment number 2.

    "It is somewhat disconcerting that the former head of the British army doesn't know how to switch off his phone."

    I recall a very similar situation at a relatively recent meeting of quiet an august professional society of experts. The presenter had the temerity to ask the (all male, in suits, in the City, mostly thinking themselves possessed of considerably gravitas) audience if they knew how to operate a domestic washing machine. The response was under half.

    The other aspect is that what the General was implicitly saying was the someone important might ring so he would not switch off his phone! Or alternatively he never gets any calls at all so didn't want to risk missing one - perhaps we should ask the News of the World how many calls he gets!

    PS Isn't this blog about economics? Not hurt pride and vanity! The only economic aspect I can think of is the relatively robust drugs market and how little influence on the street price (I understand) had resulted from the activities, and deaths, of our army in Afghanistan. Can we get back to economics please, see Robert Peston's blog? I.E Banking Cartels and how to limit the economic damage.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's a question of importance in which the possibility of seeking defence advice from an outgoing Head of the Army might be considered to be at a higher level than a TV Sunday morning interview.
    I am pleased the outgoing Head makes himself available as the subject concerns lives.

    Some politicians think that TV interviews are the top importance.
    Their disregard leads to the thinking that it is OK for the Cabinet to shut up shop and go on holiday for 3 months whilst leaving the troops to carry on as usual.

    And then the same Politicians think it is sufficient that they can pick it all up via a 10 minute briefing when they get back.

    Where is the Defence Secretary these days - why wasn't he interviewed ?

    In fairness Steph does recognise the gravity of the subject under discussion but it is best not to undermine the Army as a distraction from the Politicians blunders.

  • Comment number 4.

    Maureen Lipman is always worth watching and listening to: a truly lovely lady.

    I am afraid the interview with the general did not add much to public knowledge and so perhaps he should have answered the call rather than chuck the phone away as if it were a live grenade. He didn't even shout a warning either.

    But at least he knew there is a war on: pity the government doesn't.

  • Comment number 5.

    Yes, but Stephanie the mobile phone companies deliberately make the phones tricky to switch on, and they 'hibernate' a lot of the time to save power.

    Result - phone line is 'always on' so there are more opportunities for one to use them, more revenue for the phone line companies who [still] subsidise the manufacturers.

    A 'switched-off' phone is one not earning revenue...

  • Comment number 6.


    1) Thanks for presenting the programme in lieu of Andrew Marr...

    2)That scares me that he, is not able to switch off his phone....

    At least, you made some headlines

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 7.

    I wish you had dug a bit more into why he didn't rock the boat over inadequate equipment for the troops when he was in charge, but is full of it now when he won't be sacked. Like most of the high rankers in the army it's no surprse he didn't know how to turn off his phone, these armchair generals have never been noted for knowing very much except about fine dining.

  • Comment number 8.

    Apparently, the text answer he received for your question was not to his liking. Could have been purchased by the Army from the lowest bidder. Could have been his banker about his retirement account.

  • Comment number 9.

    Whilst he attained the rank he did I dont rate Gen Mike , there are far better soldiers who could have been in his position , as I said in a previous post, i did like your interview with the stand in leader of the Government, although we did get the usual and expected prepared answers from her. Next time you ask one of them who happens to be a lawyer , why do a lot of lawyers enter politics i wonder, she made herself look an idiot arguing for human rights on one hand and arguing to leave it up to the DPP in regards to Gary the man who is being handed on a plate to the yanks, when it is clearly not in the public interest to do so. Which begs the question why or what is the government hiding when the Americans can pick up the phone and ask for what they want ???? what hold do they have I wonder

  • Comment number 10.


    Don't forget...'it will all be about he economy...stoopid'

    Don't underestimate your role in the coming months!

    The Andrew Marr Show will just be a side show.

  • Comment number 11.

    'In my book' this second post charting your aspiration/plan to get into 'chat show hosting' is starting to suggest that you are far more interested in your own 'television career'/'fame'/pay-packet than the future of our economy (which as post 10 points out - is THE story of the future) ... and if this is the case IMHO we are getting to the point where we need a new economics editor - one who actually is interested/understands 21st century 'economics' and who is keen to make THAT the story.

  • Comment number 12.

    "It is somewhat disconcerting that the former head of the British army doesn't know how to switch off his phone."

    Well, battlephones are *NEVER* switched off !! You'll never know when the enemy may attack or where, for that matter !! :-)

  • Comment number 13.

    #4 "He didn't even shout a warning either."

    One never warns an enemy when one "chucks a grenade" at them !! It's considered very counter-productive !! Not quite cricket, old chap !! :-)

  • Comment number 14.

    #8 "Could have been his banker about his retirement account."

    British Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals do *NOT* retire. They are kept on until they drop dead !! They may, however, be shuffled off to re-fight battles with lead or plastic models on beautifully-crafted table-top landscapes. :-)

  • Comment number 15.

    #11 OTOH, we can have an economics chat show where the guests are grilled in the manner of Paxton, i.e. mercilessly !!

  • Comment number 16.

    Actually I find it rather reassuring that he didn't know how to turn off his phone.....I've never liked the things and would rather not have one than have to broadcast all my business to the world when the thing requires answering. How on earth did we all manage before?

    On a rather more worrying but amusing note my son was a member of the signals corps in the TA and on exercises they would often resort to using their mobile phones as the army equipment didn't work! This was a couple of years ago so hopefully they've fixed it now....

  • Comment number 17.

    @ Leonomist, I think you should cut Stephanie some slack, we all have to start somewhere and no matter the medium, be it the blog , the news or a programme, if someone who is in the know, can ask the right questions then Id sooner that than some of the faux reporting that goes on from the other peeps in the Beeb, I dont want a female or indeed another male Paxman, Paxman is a sideshow, I want someone who knows the right questions to ask, and can ask them and get the right answers and going by the short programme she presented, I felt that a good start was made.

    Lets face it RP is a stooge of NWO ,as is Paul Mason, and Nick Robinson well he is a labour spokesman that asks the odd question that get the Nixon treatment.

    So Stephanie if you are reading this, ask the questions that are constantly being asked on here please, and dont slip into becoming a Bob P :)

  • Comment number 18.

    13 Ishkandar

    In the context if he had a live one then he should have shouted to warn his comrades so that they knew why and where he was chucking it.

    He was not in combat or even on the cricket field.

  • Comment number 19.

    Post 17 said "So, Stephanie if you are reading this, ask the questions that are constantly being asked on here please ..." - NB If Stephanie was doing that I wouldn't have made the point.

  • Comment number 20.


    It's all that army training - when soldiers are put under pressure they are trained to keep cool and improvise!

    The questions for Vince Cable were very good and very well put - he didn't look entirely comfortable - I think that he was/is also feeling the pressure!

  • Comment number 21.

    BBC site technical

    Post 20 was by nautonier - you have displayed 'you' as an incorrect user name.

  • Comment number 22.

    I reckon we should have whoever is responsible, eg: G.Brown, doing an interactive version of El Presidento (or whatever Chavez's show is called). The Queen should do one too: La Queeno. My first question for her would be "why don't you do something, like put a few bankers in your dungeon for example"

  • Comment number 23.

    Thank you for post 21 but can you please re-set my user name to nautonier?

  • Comment number 24.

    Thanks BEEB !

    I'm back!


  • Comment number 25.

    Still got a technical problem here - this is nautonier (username)

  • Comment number 26.

    Nautonier - when you're signed in to make comments the site knows who you are, and tells you that the comments are by you. Everyone else sees your name... Try signing out and looking at the blog - everything will become clear :)

  • Comment number 27.

    Perhaps he shouldn't have brought it into the interview in the first place.

    It was an important interview which you handled extremely well under the circumstances and I hope none of the production staff suffered any injury from that lethal flying object.

    I thought I heard an 'ouch' from behind the camera.

    I did enjoy the way you 'hosted' the programme. No nonsense and totally professional.

  • Comment number 28.

    Stephanie shouldn't be attacked for trying some TV face-time. Economics includes the selling of your labors and if she can make more money on TV that would be the right thing to do. Having overcome an Economics degree from Harvard, she is making her way in this world. Economist seem to always miss the point about systems not being bad, it is the people in them who are. The debate continues...are the bankers more evil than the politicans, or are the equally evil... She just reports that bankers tell lies and the government supports those lies..not her fault. Some of you may wish to turn off your TV, subliminal messages and all.

  • Comment number 29.

    IMHO poor moral values, self-interest & greed are part of the 'old economics' and a failed 'economics' (i.e. the toxic mixture of Poweromics and Ignoromics that prevails today) that is systematically destroying our nation - hence everyone needs to expose it (and do something about it) wherever it exists.

    Edmund Burke once said 'For evil to flourish, all it need is for good men to do nothing' ... and take a look at for instance.

    Hence I stand by my initial comments - as a BBC economics editor (whoever they are) needs to both understand 21st century economics and be able to question effectively what we have now and point out all the alternatives that exist ...

    Or is this too much to ask from the BBC, a corporation paid for by us via the license fee (with no choice given), and hence arguably with a civic duty to carry out [or are they just as bad as the politicians] ... and turning off your TV, but still having to pay for the BBC, is wrong in my personal opinion.

  • Comment number 30.

    Where the video clip gone - has it 'exploded', or has this 'whole episode' simply 'back-fired' now?

  • Comment number 31.

    Has Andrew Marr found another job yet?

  • Comment number 32.

    @ leanomist

    You can still see video of Stephanie interviewing Mike Jackson here on youtube.


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