Monday, January 19, 2015

Chuka Umunna's Walk-Out



Chuka Umunna is one of Labour's Great Hopes for the future, so his actions as a mere Shadow Business Secretary are subject to just a little bit more scrutiny than others.  Mind you, even a low profile shadow minister would probably make waves by walking out of a live television interview, and that's what Chuka has done today.  Annoyed at Sky News' Dermot Murnaghan questioning about a letter Eric Pickles has sent to British mosques, Umunna said he hadn't read the letter and wouldn't comment.  Murnaghan pushed the issue, certainly seeming to have some disbelief about whether Umunna had indeed read the letter or not, and as the interview wrapped up, with an admittedly snarky comment from Murnaghan, Mr. Umunna upped and offed.  Angrily.

I guess one of the qualities of a front-line politician is to deal with such fire with equanimity, and humour if possible. Watch the interview and judge for yourselves, but I thought while Murnaghan was edging beyond the merely persistent to the openly contemptuous, it was probably still within Mr. Umunna's grasp to rescue something from the exchange while sticking to his line about not commenting on a letter he hadn't read.  Neither of them looked good by the unhappy end, but Dermot Murnaghan doesn't have to present himself to the British public as a political leader who can cope with some narky questions effectively.  So Umunna has lost overall.

The fair-minded Iain Dale thinks he was right to walk out.  The Spectator's Isabel Hardman understands his situation but notes that he made a mistake in apparently losing his temper.

Ms. Hardman in her post made a great comment about the fact that part of Murnaghan's own frustration may have been due to the fact that the "I haven't read it" line is now so often used by politicians to avoid commenting on contentious issues.  Taking David Cameron as an example, she notes:

David Cameron has a phalanx of media advisers but manages to give the impression he never comes across awkward comments made by members of his own party.

Selective reading - not just something done by A-level students!

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