Sir Trevor "grilling" Cameron?? He couldn't grill a frozen burger . . .

And don't forget the broadcaster's John Major interview.

The dumbing down of British politics continues apace. Hot on the heels of Piers Morgan's cringe-inducing "interview" with Gordon "Plonker" Brown comes ITV1's next headline-grabbing contribution to enlightening the non-voters of this nation: Trevor McDonald Meets David Cameron.

(Full disclaimer: I worked on ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme, which many would argue was the last genuine attempt by the broadcaster to give attention and airtime to domestic political coverage.)

The Cashcroft-owned PoliticsHome headline for this story is:

Cameron faces McDonald grilling

"Grilling"? Sir Trevor McDonald, knight of the realm and ex-anchor of News at Ten, couldn't grill a frozen beefburger that had been left to defrost on his kitchen counter for several hours. Ronald McDonald, of Golden Arches fame, could probably do a better job of examining the Tory leader's policies forensically.

In the original Telegraph story, it says Cameron was asked to appear on Morgan's show but declined, explaining that he preferred to do "something a bit more substantial".

"Bit more" are the key words.

Let me remind those of you with short memories (ie, much of the Westminster village) that in 1996 News at Ten was reprimanded by the ITC (the predecessor to Ofcom) over its seven-minute interview with the then Tory premier, John Major. The ITC chairman, Sir George Russell, described Sir Trevor's questions as "a little too friendly and relaxed", and even "inappropriate".

At one point, Sir Trev, whom critics accused of grovelling, said to Major:

I have been reading some of the interviews you have been giving to newspapers recently and what comes over is the extraordinary dedication you have for this job.

Bring on Dave!


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Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.