Prince Andrew looked the odds-on favourite to win the Most Disastrous TV Interview of 2019 Award, until Jeremy Corbyn dramatically snatched the trophy from his hands this week.
OK, Andrew Neil is the BBC’s most ferocious and well-briefed interviewer and the Labour leader isn’t the first politician, and won’t be the last, to disintegrate under his relentless forensic examination.
But this was a humdinger. I watched most of it through my fingers, ready to shut my eyes at the really scary bits, as though I was watching a gory horror movie. I’m no Corbyn fan, but by the end I began to feel sorry for the poor old dodderer.
It has been called a “car crash” interview, but that doesn’t begin to do it justice.
Most notable of all was Corbyn’s blank refusal – on at least four occasions – to apologise for the hurt and distress caused to the Jewish community by his party’s descent into the cesspit of anti-Semitism.
What would such an apology cost him?
Nothing, but he is so insufferably arrogant he believes he has done nothing wrong and all the fault lies with those courageous anti-racists trying to counter Labour’s poisonous message.
Then there was an excruciating passage when Neil repeatedly pressed Corbyn on where he was going to find the £58bn election bribe to the Waspi women who have missed out on the state pension.
After trying unsuccessfully to dodge the question, Corbyn was finally forced to admit it would be funded by yet further borrowing, thereby driving a coach and horses through Labour’s “unbreakable” fiscal rules made only days before.
Neil went on to shred Labour’s claim that only the rich would pay higher taxes and he then skewered Corbyn over his absurd Brexit stance, whereby Labour’s leader will negotiate a new exit deal but then remain neutral in a subsequent referendum.
As each of Labour’s manifesto pledges was taken apart and dismantled, Corbyn turned increasing tetchy and defensive.
The mask slipped and what was revealed was more a snarling Albert Steptoe than an avuncular Magic Grandpa.
You know things have gone badly for Labour when the Corbyn outriders are mobilised to flood social media with messages of support in the hope of drowning out coverage of the Neil interview. It didn’t work.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a day later another Labour strategy blew up in their faces.
Corbyn claimed to have uncovered a secret dossier that proved there was a sinister conspiracy to privatise the NHS.
The Labour leader claimed that patients would be charged a five-figure sum for cancer treatment and face charges for giving birth and seeing a GP for a check-up.
It was a game-changing bombshell if true – the only problem was it wasn’t. The dossier, which has been publicly available for some time, covers technical talks between the US and UK on a trade deal. The NHS is hardly mentioned at all and there is absolutely no evidence to support Corbyn’s scaremongering.
According to Channel 4’s respected Factcheck website: “There is nothing in the documents that proves there is a secret plot by the Government to privatise the NHS, sell parts of it off or dramatically increase the health services’ drug bill.”
To be fair, the Conservatives have also been found playing fast and loose with the facts this week. Last weekend Boris Johnson claimed a new Tory government would deliver 50,000 more nurses and provide grants for nursing students of between £5,000 and £8,000 a year.
It quickly emerged the pledge was not what it seemed. Around 19,000 of this figure would be “retained” – in other words nurses currently employed by the NHS who would otherwise have left but have been persuaded, by means unspecified, to stay.
So there you have it – porkies to the left, porkies to the right, and here we are stuck in the middle wondering whom to believe. And they question why public trust in politicians is so diminished.
It isn’t at all clear whether any of these controversies cut through to the majority of the public and will have any impact on the eventual election result.
We’ll find out soon enough. Less than two weeks to go.
Expect the opinion polls to tighten, with a few more twists and turns along the way.