In Depth

Boris Johnson and five more 'car-crash' political interviews

The Foreign Secretary isn't the only politician who has been struck by foot-in-mouth disease on camera

Boris Johnson has been widely mocked after stumbling through a torturous interview in which he sought to set out the government's agenda.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's PM programme following the Queen's Speech yesterday, the Foreign Secretary stammered and sighed in response to questions on everything from discrimination to Theresa May's job security.

At one point, "BoJo" could be heard leafing through papers while asking presenter Eddie Mair to "hang on a second".

After he ducked a mental health question to return to a previous topic, Mair told him: "It's not a Two Ronnies sketch – you can't answer the question before last."

However, Johnson can take solace in the fact he is far from the first politician to fall apart under interview pressure. Here are five of the worst

Diane Abbott vs Nick Ferrari

An election campaign interview on LBC to discuss police funding turned into a nightmare for shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who went blank on the key figures behind Labour's policies. Her series of embarrassing mathematical blunders included a claim that recruiting 10,000 new police officers would cost £300,000 - the equivalent, as presenter Nick Ferrari pointed out, of £30 per officer.

Abbott was excoriated for her apparently scant acquaintance with her brief, although some commentators said such criticism was motivated in part by sexism and racism.

Not long later, Abbott ducked out from the campaign altogether, suffering from an unspecified illness which she since said was diabetes. 

Michael Howard vs Jeremy Paxman

During an interview in 1997, Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman asked then home secretary Michael Howard the same question 12 times and each time, the politician refused to answer.

It was a "masterclass in persistence, even if it merely led to a very uncomfortable stalemate" between two stubborn men, says The Guardian.

Chloe Smith vs Jeremy Paxman

After that tie, the journalist came out top when interviewing Tory Treasury spokeswoman Chloe Smith in 2012, when she failed miserably to defend boss George Osborne's U-turn on fuel duty.

"The result was so cringe-inducing it can only be viewed through fingers," the Daily Mirror writes.

Many branded the then chancellor a coward for ducking out of the interview. Paxman agreed, saying Osborne "should have been the one held up for public ridicule".

Nigel Farage vs James O'Brien

Ukip's Nigel Farage faced tough questions from LBC presenter James O'Brien in 2014, when the MEP was quizzed on racism, expenses and his party's links to far-right European politicians.

Farage got such a grilling that the Ukip director of communications tried to intervene to bring the exchange to a halt, writes The Guardian.

Both men are now employed by the radio station, which could make for awkward moments in the staff canteen.

Natalie Bennett vs Nick Ferrari

Ferrari had practice ahead of his interview with Abbott. In the run-up to the 2015 general election, he was at the helm when Green Party leader Natalie Bennett made several awkward attempts to explain how her party's housing policy would be funded.

She later admitted it had been "absolutely excruciating", adding: "All I can say is occasionally one just has a mind blank. That happens."

The Daily Telegraph says it was "the interview that had the whole nation screaming: 'STOP! STOP! Fake your own DEATH if necessary. Make the horror END!' But it didn't."


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