Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg review: Impressive start in tired Sunday format despite being upstaged by Joe Lycett
That was certainly the case for the BBC’s newly relaunched Sunday morning politics show, now presented by the often maligned Laura Kuenssberg following her departure as the corporation’s political editor.
It’s a tired old format of one-to-one interviews, followed by predictable commentary by three panellists who are needled ever so slightly by the host.
We’ve all seen this format before – the only surprising part was an incongruous spiral staircase, presumably leading to a special above-set lair from which Kuenssberg emerges before the start of show.
And the presenter was impressive in her interviews, with Liz Truss up first coming across as wooden and uninspiring as she has throughout the Tory leadership contest.
This is a journalist’s point of view, but any broadcaster is going to be happy if their first interview leads the day’s coverage and that is what Kuenssberg secured with Truss’s commitment to “immediate action” on energy bills.
Kuenssberg has a knack of getting politicians to agree to things that sound reasonable, but in truth trap them against potentially unsustainable political commitments.
She will have delighted the Labour party’s press office when she asked Truss whether handing £1,800 in tax cuts to the rich while only £7 going to the poorest was fair.
So used are we to politicians avoiding direct questions, it was a shock that Truss simply answered “yes”.
You could hear the cheers from the leader of the opposition’s office from Inverness.
That was before the Tory leadership frontrunner also committed to bringing down waiting times in the NHS, rowed back on her rhetoric around reforming the Bank of England, and responded to fears of high inflation by reassuring viewers inflation will, in fact, come down after it has peaked.
While Kuenssberg will have come away satisfied, the viewer was left wondering why there was no straight answer on energy bills from a politician seemingly willing to provide such clarity on other, more ideological points.
This was summed up by the Marmite-character on the panel, comedian Joe Lycett.
His appearance – one I am partially convinced will end up as a bit for his TV show ‘Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back’ – was a masterclass of meta-comedy, brutally mocking the genre of political TV.
Responding to questions with a dead-pan cynicism while pretending to simultaneously be extremely right-wing, with unserious but vociferous cheers for Truss, he stole the show.
Lycett will have infuriated some of those watching of a Tory persuasion, irritated others and kept plenty watching in want of a laugh.
His contributions are perfect Twitter fodder, and potentially the best free promotion the show could have hoped for.
Rishi Sunak was an easier assignment for Kuenssberg, which saw her interview a man who has become a caricature of the modern politician – someone who tends to answer questions in a slick, almost charming fashion, but who still ultimately says nothing.
The signs are positive. Kuenssberg is a slick and watchable host with an eye for a story and a submarine-style stealth in her questioning style.
But if you were hoping for a reinvention of a burned-out format, you’re out of luck.
All episodes of the brand new limited series podcast, How to be an independent country: Scotland’s Choices, are out now.
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