The Daily Telegraph
A calm and competent successor to Andrew Marr – but please ditch the unfunny guests
Kuenssberg’s questions were intelligent and allowed us to sit back and observe the interviewees
Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg BBC One ★★★★★
‘You are about to become prime minister. Can you believe it?” Laura Kuenssberg asked Liz Truss. None of us can, Laura, but here we are. For the launch show of Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg (BBC One), Truss had been persuaded to sit down for a TV interview, having previously ducked out of an encounter with Nick Robinson.
Why had she agreed to this one? Well, Kuenssberg promised at the outset that this wouldn’t be a grilling. Taking over from Andrew Marr, she set out her stall in an opening address to viewers. “We are here to ask the important questions that you want answers to,” Kuenssberg said. “But we’re going to try and have more conversations than arguments.”
So the tone is chatty and nonconfrontational. When Truss assured us that she would deal with rising energy bills within one week of taking office, then doggedly failed to say how, Kuenssberg pressed her but didn’t get annoyed. When Rishi Sunak dodged a question about whether he would quit as an MP at the next election – telling us how fond he is of his Richmond constituents, when he’s clearly already mentally furnishing that Montecito mansion – she simply smiled.
It was the right approach, because what would be the point of doing a Jeremy Paxman at this point? The ballot has closed, the public has no say in which of them gets to be leader. Kuenssberg’s questions were intelligent and allowed us to sit back and observe the interviewees: Sunak the slick marketing man, astonished that consumers aren’t flocking to buy his product; Truss still looking like she struggles to operate her brain and arms at the same time.
There was nothing revolutionary here – the backdrop changed from photography of a skyline to drawings of it, the News at Ten studio repurposed for the occasion. But it felt crisp and well-produced, with Kuenssberg projecting an air of competence. One hopes, though, that the busy format can be slimmed down when the need arises, to allow for longer-form interviews and tougher interrogation. Kuenssberg did not, for example, have time to ask Truss about crime, immigration or education, because the programme also had to fit in an interview with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska (unfortunately, interviews conducted via a translator rarely make for riveting TV), fleeting discussions of Nasa’s Artemis launch and a Taylor Hawkins tribute concert, and some banter with the panel.
Ah yes, the panel. There is some mysterious law that states that political programmes must include light entertainment. Please, ditch comedians from these shows. Joe Lycett’s attempts at satire – pretending to be Right-wing, and whooping at the end of Truss’s interview – were toe-curling.
The panel also included a former No10 staffer, who brought absolutely nothing to the party except a resemblance to Donna Air. At least Emily Thornberry, the Alexis Carrington of the Labour Party, knows how to deliver a one-liner. What, Kuenssberg asked, was Liz Truss’s strongest characteristic? A beat. Thornberry: “She’s very thick-skinned.”