It is sometimes easy to take for granted the skill of the most effective television interviewers, but it is not an easy task, and a poor interviewer can be reduced to simply reacting to his or her guest rather than controlling the process. Nowhere was this clearer than in the terrible interview Andrew Marr subjected himself to with Peter Mandelson this morning (the link takes you to a 2 minute extract - try and watch the whole thing on iplayer when it's up). Marr may be a fine commentator, but he is streets behind a Paxman or a Humphreys when it comes to political interviews. Mandelson - at his unlovely creepiest - ran rings round the man, virtually taking charge of the interview, telling Marr what he could ask and when. It was an embarrassing spectacle, with Marr blustering away petulantly and utterly unable to regain control from Mandelson throughout the entire piece. It was almost a relief when it had finished.
Compare this with Jeremy Paxman last week, in his masterly disection of William Hague's Euro policies. Hague is an undoubted professional, and a highly intelligent man, but he was unable to effectively counter Paxman's clear, relentless line of attack about what the Tories would do about the Lisbon Treaty. Two interviewers, two completely different classes. Not long ago the BBC were given the chance to interview Dimitri Medvedev, Russia's puppet president. Unsurprisingly, one of the Kremlin's conditions for allowing the interview to go ahead was that they should choose the interviewer. They chose Marr.