Today programme listeners welcome government’s ‘boycott’, claims presenter

Boris Johnson with his ministers in the House of Commons. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/P

Boris Johnson with his ministers in the House of Commons. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Today programme listeners welcome the boycott by government ministers to not appear on the station, one of its presenters has claimed.

Nick Robinson said he was glad health secretary Matt Hancock had become the first minister to appear on Today since the general election, but that it was now time to look at how political interviews were structured.

Hancock appeared on the flagship BBC programme this week in a bid to reassure people that the government was well placed to deal with the coronavirus situation.

Writing in The Spectator, Robinson said: "There is one thing Covid-19 has changed for the better. It's persuaded No. 10 that Today's seven million listeners do deserve to hear from a Cabinet minister.

"The health secretary, Matt Hancock, was the first to appear since the election.

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"The ministerial boycott has actually been welcomed by many, who say it's made for a better listen.

"To be fair to politicians, I think that is a comment on us as much as them.

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"People had grown weary of tetchy and unproductive standoffs between presenters who felt their questions were being ignored and ministers who felt frustrated they weren't being given a chance to get their message across.

"It will always be a vital part of our role to hold to account those with power - in government, business or anywhere in public life.

"What the last few weeks have reminded us though, is that this is far from the only function of an interview.

"There is a role for conversation as well as confrontation; enquiry not just cross-examination; explanation instead of disputation.

"After three years of bitter political divisions, there is a need, indeed a yearning, for light as well as heat."

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