Thursday, February 19, 2009

Student Radio Interviewer Embarrasses Benn Over Torture


Joshua Chambers is a reporter for the University of York radio station. A few days ago he interviewed Hilary Benn on the subject of Benyam Mohammed and whether torture is ever right. The piece is about ten minutes long and he ties Benn up in knots. Benn struggles not to lose his temper as Chambers centres in on the inconsistencies of his arguments. As you listen, there's part of you wondering if Chambers is trying to be Ali G or Jeremy Paxman - Benn clearly isn't too sure.

The ending is wonderful.

Listen to it HERE.

I can imagine hundreds of media training courses running this interview to demonstrate the art of aggeessive, but infuriatingly polite, interviewing or how to react to constant interruptions.

30 comments:

James Manning said...
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Mirtha Tidville said...

Move over Paxo....very well done, he just would not let go would he...and seriously pissed off Benn..One of those moments to savour I think. As you say Iain the end was wonderful..

Jenkins @ No10 said...

Excellent. Bloody excellent. Not sure his Dad would have allowed himself to get into such a pickle!

stardancer69 said...

An excellent holding to account of a Government minister... but let down by him continually referring to Binyam Mohammed as a British citizen. He is NO such thing! He was resident here pending an asylum claim and he abused our hospitality by allegedly embarking upon a jihadist exepedition.

Nonetheless, superb interview technique.

Dennis said...

Fantastic, Iain! Thanks for the link.

I love the way Benn's odious and patronizing manner slowly gets shredded to reveal the illogicality and self-deception beneath.

It's enough to give a wretched hunchback a bit of hope.

Akheloios said...

It rather annoys me that you've not included information as to which Benn you're alluding to.

Tony Benn continues to be a most vociferous opponent to torture alongside David Davies and the multitude of progressives and libertarians in this country.

The current government's shame is obvious to everyone, just read the most recent Glenn Greenwald column in Salon.

Iain Dale said...

What part of "A few days ago he interviewed Hilary Benn" couldn't you understand?

jon dee said...

Well done Joshua Chambers.

A grilling Hilary Benn won't forget in a hurry.

"With respect" his waffle and evasions gave you the answers you were seeking.

Akheloios said...

I referred to the headline. I'm sorry I didn't make that clear. I think that most people still consider the most important Benn in this country to be Tony and any header with Benn in the title would probably refer to him.

You're right about the story though, I hope the truth will be uncovered and published by the subsequent government. As I can't see the current government lifting the lid on such a putrid mess.

Mostly Ordinary said...

Hilary obviously respects this guy.

And I didn't realise we have so many 'long standing' things going on.

Just proves principals aren't a genetic trait.

Mr Mr said...
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BigMart said...

Quality. "with respect" means anything but, and can roughly be translated as who do you think you are to be questioning me like this.

This boy will go far.

anonaLon said...

Was the interview conducted in a cave?

Mr Mr said...
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Paul Hurst said...

Didn't think it was all that great, here's why:

1. He interrupts far too much, you must give the interviewee a chance to answer your questions!

2. Aggressive styles means that guests become far too closed. Journo's can't afford to be too heavy on their guests or nobody will want to speak to them in the future. Its a fine line between interviewing and interrogation.

Anybody can browbeat/interrupt/anger an interviewee but the real skill is being able to get the same results in a calm, collected manner.

I think that this type of interviewing does nothing bar polarise peoples prejudices on any given topic while ironically leaving some crucial avenues of information, unexplored.

jailhouselawyer said...

I beg to differ with Paul Hurst, almost my namesake, and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Under the Convention, the ban on torture is absolute. Hilary Benn was tortured brilliantly by the radio journo. I have not enjoyed myself since my ex-Probation Officer, Phil Hurst, was grilled by my barrister in front of the Parole Board. He was sweating like a pig and squirming just like Hilary Benn during this interview. Trying to defend the indefensible is pointless. I trust that Tony Benn will now put his errant little boy over his knee and spank his bottom?

Dick the Prick said...

There may be another little Benn soon. Joy.

Thatsnews said...

Oh. As duplicitous and as slippery as his father!

Thatsnews said...

Just proves principals aren't a genetic trait

What, Mostly Ordinary? Tony Benn has principles, yes, but of an extraordinary flexible nature.

For example, Hilary went to two prep schools then -totally by luck,of course- Hilary was sent to Holland Park, a very special comprehensive school described as: The Socialist Eton."

And I can recall how, days after being pro-nuclear energy as minister responsible for energy, he had a miraculous conversion into a confirmed anti-nuclear power campaigner. He had a proto-Brownian method for dealing with questions on this- he blamed other people for his sudden change of mind!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I tend to agree with Paul Hirst and Stardancer.

Calling Binyam Mohamed a "British Citizen" is inaccurate. The interview falls at the first hurdle.


Binyam Mohamed was brought to this country from Ethiopia when he was 14. The reasons are not clear. While in this country he became a radicalised Muslim. He also became a drug addict and then traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, on the pretext, say his supporters, of kicking the habit.

The facts then get a little hazy, depending on whose account you believe, but his London lawyer does not deny he attended an Islamic/Taliban Camp.

He next appears in April 2002, attempting to board a plane in Karachi with a false passport.

Any information that Binyam gave after this was almost certainly obtained under torture, and is therefore worthless.

On the issue of British Government involvement and its implications for the sanctity of the rule of law is discussed here:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/ourkingdom-theme/john-jackson/2009/02/10/will-international-law-help-benyam-mohamed

It is written by John Jackson, the Chairman of leading law firm, Mishcon De Reya.

He argues that the main premise of the Governments suppression of the evidence is not only specious, but it has dangerous implications for the rule of law.


But pains me to see that mighty and noble principles are teetering on the precipice because of somebody who is clearly not innocent of some of the charges, and may, for all we know, be guilty of trying to blow us up.

H said...

I only listened to the first couple of minutes, but I would like to think that an MP of any party would be able to respond to the 'British Citizen' bit. Got a bit bored with the Paxo thing ie not listening to any response so I stopped listening (sorry my boredom threshold is pretty low!)

Maybe later in the interview young Hilary noticed the frequent comments about British Citizenship. As far as I know completely unfounded.

I'm not saying that only non-brits (sorry not pc to use abbreviations but hey!!!) deserve to be tortured - god forbid (sorry non-pc again!!!!), but factually the interviewer was wrong. And young Hils seemed to accept it!!!

I do not believe in torture, and am horrified that our glorious leadership condones it.

Chris Paul said...
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an ex-apprentice said...

Chris Paul said...
"Is he perchance a Tory?"

With such dogged refusal to accept the shower of lies, half-truths, evasion and deceit that we have come to expect as being the normal and inevitable consequence of a Labour Minister opening their mouth, possibly, just possibly.

One thing is certain, he has at least half a brain, so he can't be Labour.

Span Ows said...

I don't understand thos etaht said he interupted too much...Benn waffles incessantly about New president, Obama, New leadership, Close Guantanamo...all ground he was sure of and so repeats at leats 10 times...then claims he wasn't allowed to answer! Well done Josh for sticking it to him. I don't give a damn about whether the Mohammed is or is not a British citizen but I do so hate lying waffling, prevaricating and totally inept politicians...reminded me of gordon Brown but without the'outraged' tone.

Paul Pinfield said...

Superb interview. Lets hope Joshua Chambers finds his way onto the national stage without delay.

Jonathan Cook said...

Excellent interview - if only the main stream media had adopted a similar 'tough but polite' approach with our current government.

Jeremiah said...

This is actually brilliant. Gosh, I hope he goes on to a mainstream media job!

Paul Donnelley said...

I suppose Hilary Benn could not pick up on the point that Mohammed is not a British citizen because to do so would then invite the question, "Then why are we spending a fortune bringing him here?"

In fact, since he is NOT a British citizen, WHY are we spending a fortune bringing him here?

troymolloy said...

Haha you're right Iain, the ending was brilliant.

Kevin Barry said...

Thanks Iain for this informative and enjoyable link, and to your readers for several illuminating comments. Your post prompted me to read more into the background of the issue, and I feel I understand it a good deal better.

I confess to being agnostic on rendition and torture: It would take a lot to convince me that the UK should be complicit, and nothing I have heard has yet persuaded me that we need to compromise our commitment to treat people humanely in order to protect ourselves from attack.

I cannot, however, confess an unshakeable commitment to the human rights of actual terrorists, in possession of mission-critical intelligence that would save innocent lives. If - and it's unlikely the evidence could be presented in an open forum - I could be shown that methods of torture had a proven track-record of extracting such intelligence in a proportionate way (i.e. with extremely low yield of bad intelligence, extremely low (though not zero) incidence on torturing innocent people, and a strong track record of averting disaster) I must admit I would probably support it.

I find that admission troubling, and am fully aware of its implications, but hypothetically I'd rather live in a country where my government was willing to make that kind of morally difficult choice, than one in which they exposed us all to greater risk, in the face of clear evidence that they could keep us all safer by victimising a small number of guilty individuals who were intent on ending our lives and bringing down our society.