‘I regret telling Boris to stop talking’: Nick Robinson admits he ‘lost his temper’ in controversial Radio 4 Today interview with then-PM Johnson
BBC stalwart Nick Robinson has admitted that he lost his temper in a bombshell interview with Boris Johnson in which he ordered the then Prime Minister to ‘Stop. Talking.’
The October 2021 interview, which was the first time Mr Johnson had appeared on the BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme for two years, caused national furor.
The clash came amid growing tensions between the BBC and the government over impartiality, especially over Brexit negotiations and the licence fee.
MPs slammed the interview as ‘downright rude’ and slapstick, while Oliver Dowden said politicians deserved the ‘right to finish a sentence’.
Mr Robinson, speaking on an episode of POLITICO’s Westminster Insider podcast, confessed the he had ‘lost his temper’.
Nick Robinson (pictured in 2021) admitted that he realised his response was a ‘shock’ to some of the programme’s listeners
The October 2021 interview was the first time Mr Johnson (pictured in 2021) had appeared on the BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme for two years
The former BBC political editor described how he became frustrated during the course of the interview and began to wave his hands around in the studio.
He added that the former Prime Minister had broken eye contact during the interview and started to stare at the wall, at which point Mr Robinson lost his temper.
‘I, frankly, lost my temper. I just thought: “You’re not playing the game at all.”‘
Mr Robinson admitted that he realised his response was a ‘shock’ to some of the programme’s listeners but that others had said they had ‘cheered’ his interjection.
‘I suppose the only reason I’m not happy about it [is that] I like to be in control. I didn’t like it, because I don’t want people to say that I don’t respect people in high office — because I do.
‘I regret saying it because it looked discourteous. It wasn’t planned. It looked like I lost my temper.’
During the controversial interview as the Prime Minister spoke at length about the shortage of lorry drivers, Mr Robinson attempted to interject but his interviewee persisted.
He said: ‘Prime Minister you are going to pause. Prime Minister, stop talking. We are going to have questions and answers, not where you merely talk, if you wouldn’t mind.’
At the end of the interview, Mr Johnson told the presenter: ‘It’s very kind of you to let me talk… I thought that was the point of inviting me on your show.’
At the time, one unnamed senior minister described the interventions as ‘unforgivably disrespectful’ adding: ‘I wouldn’t talk to my three-year-old like that.’
Giles Watling, who sits on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said the Prime Minister should not be subjected to ‘gameshow politics’.
Tory MP Andrew Murrison tweeted: ‘Trademark BBC rudeness coarsens political debate. Rarely gets ‘gotcha moment’ its overpaid pundits are after. Reckon it’ll be another two years Nick!’
Shortly after the interview, Mr Robinson acknowledged some listeners ‘may have just been slightly offended by me telling the Prime Minister to stop talking… the truth is he’s a great communicator [but] he’s not a man who loves the cut and thrust of a question and answer’.
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