Tag Archives: europe

Was Ken Clarke’s gaffe an accident?

The standard advice in media training sessions is to ensure that the microphone is switched off. We all remember prime minister Gordon Brown calling that woman a bigot. The older readers among you probably recall prime minister John Major suggesting a lot of his cabinet were “bastards”. Then yesterday this happened:

Ken Clarke, former chancellor of the Exchequer and home secretary, accidentally had the cameras on when he comprehensively trashed everybody standing for leadership of his own party, the Conservatives.

There’s an easy media training lesson in here. Make sure you take the microphone off, make sure the camera isn’t zeroing in on you, if you’re going to have a full and frank discussion about your colleagues.

Accident? The media training view

Except, of course, I don’t believe that’s what happened for a moment. Sky News, which put the clip out there, has been criticised by people on Twitter, says The Drum. The article to which I’ve linked accuses Sky of being dirty, nasty, underhand and even breaking the law.

So let’s have another look at the clip. Go ahead, play it again.

Clarke, you’ll notice, is directly centred in shot. The sound balance on the microphone is what we call in the trade “perfect”.

Is this all coincidence? I’ve been told there’s a “robot camera” at Sky so the focus would always be perfect when you’re on a particular stool. But a seasoned pro would know this.

Personally I think it’s a media veteran knowing exactly what he’s doing and having a little bit of a laugh. Don’t expect him to admit this anytime soon, he’s made sure it’s deniable, but his statements are too fluid to be otherwise, in my judgement. I could be wrong of course.

So, should you do the same? “Accidentally” leak your view to the press by “unintentionally” enunciating perfectly in the dead centre of a screen so that nobody, repeat nobody, can misunderstand you?

If I’m coaching you, the answer is “no”. You have to be as good as Ken Clarke, as skilled at amusing people so they get over the clumsiness and focus instead on whatever charm they perceive you have. If you’re less experienced, forget it. It can backfire and therefore it will.

Mind you, it made me laugh, lots.

Image: Flickr: Policy Exchange

Do you need help when faced with a microphone? Drop me an email by clicking here and we’ll talk.