It's interesting to see journalists admitting that there's nothing new about the kind of behaviour we've recently seen so bizarrely displayed in the viral Ed Miliband loop. Krishnan Guru-Murthy, on Channel 4's news blog, explains how common it is, and why it's so common: politicians expect their interviews to be drawn from for sample soundbites, so repeat their key message again and again so that TV stations have no option but to use it, and the Fourth Estate happily plays along.
Charlie Brooker had a great piece about this in yesterday's Observer, in which he says that the interview 'sounds like an interview with a satnav stuck on a roundabout. Or a novelty talking keyring with its most boring button held down. Or a character in a computer game with only one dialogue option. Or an Ed Miliband-shaped phone with an Ed Miliband-themed ringtone. Or George Osborne.'
Gideon, as Charlie points out, did exactly the same thing when interviewed last October, with the interview going as follows:
George: 'Well, I think we've got a double dose of good news today for Britain. We've got strong growth figures -- actually the strongest growth in this part of the year for a decade -- and at the same time we've just heard that the country's credit rating has been secured, and I think this underpins confidence in the economy, and I think it is a vote of confidence in the government's economic policies, and I think it gives us the confidence now to look to the future with some optimism.'
Interviewer: 'But even with these growth figures you have to admit that your cuts programme hasn't come in yet, VAT will rise next year, job losses haven't happened yet -- things could get worse.'
George: 'Well, I think what you see today is a double dose of good news today for the British economy. First of all, strong growth figures -- actually the strongest growth for this part of the year that we've seen in a decade -- and also we've just heard that the country's credit rating, which had been put at risk by the previous government, has been secured. Now both those things will underpin confidence in the economy, and I think they are also a vote of confidence in the new government's economic policies.'
Interviewer: 'Do you still worry about a double-dip recession?'
George: 'Well, I think what you see today, in an uncertain global economic environment, is Britain growing -- growing strongly -- the strongest growth we've seen in this part of the year for a decade -- and also our country's credit rating being secured. That's a big vote of confidence in the UK, and a vote of confidence in the coalition government's economic policies.'
Interviewer: 'The experts say that your cuts are unfair, and now in the first opinion poll they're showing also people think they're unfair. Do you have a problem with that?'
George: 'I think people know that this country had some serious economic problems and that the debt problem had to be dealt with. They see a new government has come in and dealt decisively with it, and now today we've got this double dose of good news. First of all strong growth figures, but also the country's credit rating reaffirmed and secured when it had been put at risk by the previous Labour government, and I think that will underpin confidence in the recovery going forward.'
It's well worth watching, actually, though Charlie's right to say that the clip should be accompanied by a message saying 'WARNING: WATCHING THIS MIGHT MAKE YOU FEEL A BIT MAD'. It does have that effect; indeed, he gets it spot on when saying that watching Osborne, or Miliband, or Alistair Darling in a clip he saw last year is a terrifying experience.
'First you think you're hearing things. Then you wonder whether time itself has developed hiccups. Finally you decide none of these people can possibly be human. Because they look absolutely, unequivocally insane.'
And if anything, it seems, it's worse if you're the person asking the questions.