Life Stories of Piers Morgan, ITV
The Political Party Podcast with Matt Forde
“You should get Keir to do more of these non-political, more personal interviews,” I told his press officer after he spent ten minutes talking to me and Jacqui Smith about his memories of 2020. We saw a very different side of him. political that many feel is somehow charismatically challenged. He was fun, witty, and entertaining, far from the slightly monochromatic character that we had previously seen in the normal political interviews that politicians conduct every day. I had seen him in an hour-long interview and over the phone I did with him in March last year during the Labor leadership contest. I was more impressed than I might want.
When I saw that the Labor leader had agreed to do a ‘Life Stories’ interview with Piers Morgan, I understood why. He had had a good first nine months as a Labor leader, but since Christmas something went wrong. Not only did Labor fail to advance in the polls, but Starmer’s personal ratings have lagged far behind those of the prime minister. Leading the opposition during a pandemic is not an easy task, and it is not easy to impress when it has been impossible to go out and meet the public or speak to live audiences. Starmer is criticized not only for not producing many (if any) new policies and for failing to explain what the Labor Party stands for in 2021. He is still partly haunted by his stance on Brexit in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. The people who occupy red-walled seats have a long memory judging by the results of the May elections.
A new strategy was needed. Deborah Mattinson, the dean of the focus group, has yet to start her new job as Starmer’s chief strategy officer, but I imagine that she, along with Ben Nunn, his head of communications, have been instrumental in getting him out for more personal interviews. First it was the Matt Forde Political Party podcast recorded live at the Garrick Theater in front of an audience, and then it was Piers Morgan’s turn. They were both very personal interviews and both quite different. The first was full of humor and jokes and the second will be remembered for its intensely emotional insights. They were both very enjoyable and both could turn out to be seminal moments in Keir Starmer’s Labor Party leadership, especially since they proved to his handlers that he is pretty good in this kind of environment and can be trusted not to drop silly or seem like fake. .
Piers Morgan is a brilliant interviewer in these kinds of situations. Contrary to popular opinion, he does not enter these interviews wanting his subject to cry or leave. If you believe that, you misunderstand it. What he’s very good at is making people feel comfortable and getting into their heads. Understand that there is a reason why your ‘victim’ has agreed to do the interview and it is important that they be given time to explain themselves. On Good Morning Britain I was very happy to be a bull in a china shop. Here, he is fatherly, empathetic and understanding, and that makes television very good. I see all of your ‘Life Stories’ unless your guest is someone I particularly detest. Even when it comes to someone I can take or leave, I usually find interviews enjoyable and discover things I never knew before.
Matt Forde is also a brilliant interviewer, but very different from Piers Morgan. When he interviewed me on his podcast last year, he got me to reveal things that I hadn’t told any other interviewer before. It’s probably the best interview I’ve ever given, and that was due in large part to Matt. He is an enthusiast for politics and his guests that makes them trust him. It really is like you are having a heart to heart. The fact that tens of thousands of people will soon hear his words is far from his mind as he explains his latest personal misstep or controversial point of view. In his talk with Starmer, he gets him to open up in a very different way to Piers Morgan. Starmer gets a little rude and tells some hilariously funny anecdotes. The audience clearly loved him, and while in this case the live audience would surely be well disposed towards him, the podcast listener will have done so too, even if their own policies are vastly different.
Tony Blair won the election because he was able to build a broad electoral coalition. He did not scare off moderate conservatives, who raved about him. He knew he could communicate to divert voters over all political shows and interviewers. He had the ability to connect that few politicians before him had. Keir Starmer and his advisers would do well to take the same approach. It worked with Piers Morgan and Matt Forde and I suspect you’ll see a lot more of Keir in places you never expected to see him.