Robert Peston’s decision to jump ship to ITV is all but confirmed thanks to the apparent lure of his own Sunday morning politics show to add to the plum role of ITV political editor.
Peston – who has worked as the BBC’s economics editor since 2013 – would reportedly go head-to-head with The Andrew Marr Show in his new weekend slot, a clash that Marr says he welcomes.
“If it’s true that he’s going to do a Sunday morning nine o’clock show directly against mine then on one level I say that’s fantastic, bring it on,” he told RadioTimes.com. “Competition is good.”
But in light of recent questions raised by culture secretary John Whittingdale about whether it’s “sensible” for BBC1 to schedule their nightly news bulletin at 10 o’clock – in direct competition with ITV’s – Marr can’t help but query the commercial broadcaster’s decision to position their new political format in a rival time slot.
“I think it’ll be a bit of an odd thing at the very time ITV is protesting about there being two news programmes on at 10 o’clock on weekday nights to say, ‘But we’re going to put two political interview programmes head-to-head on Sunday morning.’ There’s a strange logic there – or illogic.”
As for tips for Peston in his new role, Marr advised that “the thing about a good interview programme – even if your name’s on the tin – is it’s not about Peston, it’s not about Marr. It’s about the interviewees and you have to absolutely subdue yourself and not think the programme’s about you because it never is. The Andrew Marr Show could be done by anybody if you get the right guests on it and you ask the right questions in the right order. There are skills in it but it’s not very difficult.”
One of the most recent guests to put himself in the BBC veteran’s firing line is Jeremy Corbyn; Marr thought the new Labour leader “did quite well” when he appeared on his show last month.
“It’s quite disconcerting for an interviewer to have a series of hard questions – what you think are hard questions – and to get straight polite answers very quickly so I was a bit discombobulated by that. I think I went through all the tough areas – about the IRA, the monarchy, Trotskyist infiltration, the unions, and so forth – and he took them on his bearded chin one after another and kept smiling, and – most of the time, not all of the time – was giving me more direct answers than most politicians, which I welcome hugely.”
On the back of Corbyn’s overwhelming majority in the Labour leadership contest, Marr says it’s an “exciting” time to be reporting on politics.
“If you put politics to one side, you go to the Labour party conference and it’s the first time since the early 1980s when you really didn’t know what the outcome of votes was going to be. When you asked a question of a leading Labour party politician, you didn’t know the answer in advance before you asked the question and you’d be surprised by stuff. The fact that there is unpredictability and a kind of unspun vibrancy around is entirely welcome.”