JAN MOIR is unimpressed as Laura Kuenssberg fronts new Sunday programme 


Well it could have been worse, but it is hard to imagine how. For one long, awkward hour Laura Kuenssberg’s debut Sunday morning show mirrored the trajectory of the Artemis spaceship it briefly featured – by completely failing to get off the ground.

Very little of this was Kuenssberg’s fault, but that can hardly be a comfort. Someone, somewhere deserves a rocket.

First in line is whoever thought it was a good idea to hire Leftie comedian Joe Lycett to be one of the panel guests, alongside shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry and Cleo Watson, a former No 10 aide.

Sitting behind a desk like a big yellow sponge, Lycett sucked up all the attention by facetiously announcing that he was Right wing, mocking the Tory Government (yawn) and generally lowering the tone to the kind of sarcastic wise-guy jabber that is popular with blowhards on Twitter

His inclusion in proceedings perfectly illustrated the crisis at the heart of this new show’s identity problem; is it going to continue as the BBC’s flagship political programme, or is it going for laughs? As yesterday’s broadcast proved, it cannot be both.

Well it could have been worse, but it is hard to imagine how. For one long, awkward hour Laura Kuenssberg’s debut Sunday morning show mirrored the trajectory of the Artemis spaceship it briefly featured – by completely failing to get off the ground. Left to right: Laura Kuenssberg, Cleo Watson, Joe Lycett, Emily Thornberry

Well it could have been worse, but it is hard to imagine how. For one long, awkward hour Laura Kuenssberg’s debut Sunday morning show mirrored the trajectory of the Artemis spaceship it briefly featured – by completely failing to get off the ground. Left to right: Laura Kuenssberg, Cleo Watson, Joe Lycett, Emily Thornberry

‘We will also try to have some fun,’ said Kuenssberg in her introduction, but segments on the aborted Nasa launch and the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins tribute concert at Wembley were pointless and fell flat. ‘It was a magical evening by all accounts,’ we were told. Good to know!

Previously presented by Andrew Marr, this celebrated Sunday slot was to be the start of a bright new personality-led career for Kuenssberg. Since 2015 she has been a formidable presence as the BBC’s political editor. But has she got the authority and the gravitas to pull off a show of her own?

‘We are going to try to have more conversations than arguments,’ she said in her mission statement as the show launched. This was very disappointing.

Viewers don’t want cosy chat. We want politicians held to account, their feet held to the fire and their kidneys grilled to a crisp as their pips squeak. We want a good old ding dong, not pat-a-cake, Peston-lite convos with professionally evasive troupers such as this week’s guests, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. ‘This is a yes or no question,’ Kuenssberg told them both at different times.

Both promptly failed to answer with a yes or a no. Brick walls abounded. Guards were up. ‘Are you just being coy?’ Laura asked Liz at one point, when Liz refused to talk about a mysterious ‘£1billion package’.

We want a good old ding dong, not pat-a-cake, Peston-lite convos with professionally evasive troupers such as this week's guests, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. Pictured: Liz Truss appears on BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg today

We want a good old ding dong, not pat-a-cake, Peston-lite convos with professionally evasive troupers such as this week’s guests, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. Pictured: Liz Truss appears on BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg today

‘I am not being coy,’ said Liz to Laura, putting some extra vibrato in her voice and waving her left arm around as if she were rescuing an invisible child from drowning. It is admirable that Kuenssberg wants to have a more civilised discourse with politicians, but it is not going to work unless they play ball, and they never will. Perhaps that is why, all of a sudden, this format just seems so hopeless and dated. 

Questions dodged. Tit for tat. Dragon lady Emily Thornberry in the traps, smoke pouring from her nostrils, just itching for the moment she could gallop free and launch a personal attack on Liz Truss instead of contributing to the debate. ‘She is very thick-skinned, she is not somebody who is into detail, she is quite lightweight and can be caught out,’ she panted.

I suppose Cleo Watson was there in a laughable BBC attempt at political balance and all that can be said about her contribution is that she wore a nice jumper. Elsewhere Kuenssberg’s interview with Mrs Zelensky had its moments, but the compressed editing made for a slightly uncomfortable juxtaposition, with the Ukrainian leader’s wife being asked about the dangers of war (‘You yourself are the number two target for the Russians, how do you live with that?’) and the delights of Eurovision in the space of a few moments.

Perhaps most unforgiveable of all is that the show looked so very cheap. In the London studio, the set, vibe and style were just awful – every expense had been spared. Of course the BBC, like everyone else, is under budget constraints, but that is no reason to make a fetish of it all. A scribbled backdrop of Westminster landmarks looked like a R*lf H*rris leftover, and was that coffee table nicked from Emma and Ian’s living room in Marriage?

Kuenssberg’s new look didn’t help, either. Wavy curls and a sparkly black cocktail dress? This is Sunday morning, not Saturday night. It was as if she quite fancied another mojito and a boogie rather than a serious discussion about energy bills.

Kuenssberg is one of the BBC’s biggest political talents, known for her energy, aggression and intelligence. Let’s see more of that. She deserves so much better.

The sarcasm and stunts of jeering Joe

Even before the cameras started rolling, Joe Lycett set the tone for his appearance on the BBC’s new flagship politics show, tweeting: ‘Really excited to be on this new version of Would I Lie To You.’

And the 34-year-old stand-up comic continued in this sarcastic vein, as he responded to Tory leadership favourite Liz Truss’s interview by loudly clapping, cheering and shouting ‘Fantastic, Liz’.

After Miss Truss’s grilling on Laura Kuenssberg’s new show yesterday, he mockingly told the presenter – deadpan – that he is ‘actually very Right-wing and I loved it’.

Lycett is known for his playful and sardonic brand of comedy, and is no stranger to a stunt. He once stormed off the set of Channel 4 magazine show Steph’s Packed Lunch during a segment on recycling. It was later revealed to be an act to highlight environmental issues.

And, in his role as presenter of consumer affairs show Got Your Back, Lycett legally changed his name to Hugo Boss to annoy the fashion house, which he accused of bullying smaller businesses.

The Brummie comedian, who hosted the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee, has been critical of the Government in the past. Introducing a group of athletes during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Birmingham in July, he said: ‘I’m going to do something now that the British Government doesn’t always do, and welcome some foreigners, this time from the region of Asia.’

 



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