fri 28/02/2020

The Brexit Storm Continues: Laura Kuenssberg's Inside Story, BBC Two review - rehashed political history fails to set pulses racing | reviews, news & interviews

The Brexit Storm Continues: Laura Kuenssberg's Inside Story, BBC Two review - rehashed political history fails to set pulses racing

The Brexit Storm Continues: Laura Kuenssberg's Inside Story, BBC Two review - rehashed political history fails to set pulses racing

Behind-the-scenes doc upstaged by general election

Laura Kuenssberg, dogged reporter

All the TV networks like to big up their news journalists as major players, but are they as important as they like to think? Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, is a dogged reporter who rarely seems to sleep, and here we watched as she tracked Boris Johnson from his election as Conservative leader through his struggle to “get Brexit done” by 31 October, in the teeth of countless Parliamentary obstacles. But despite plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, there were few dramatic revelations, just familiar stuff seen from a different angle with added commentary by Kuenssberg. After the high drama of the general election, it all felt a bit flat and out of date.

With her prominent BBC role, Kuenssberg naturally gets plenty of tip-offs and access to politicians, and there were lots of shots of her having terse phone conversations and rushing off to appointments as if this wanted to be a remake of All The President’s Men. To avoid looking like a mere publicist, she has to ask the politicians some tricky questions in the hope that they’ll let something embarrassing or disastrous slip out, but they’ve all grown exasperatingly adept at not playing along. There was a clip of Kuenssberg trying to take Boris to task for being too flippant about the prospects of a deal with the EU, but he didn’t take much notice. Next thing you knew, he emerged with an agreement, to the incredulity of Kuenssberg and her media colleagues (Kuenssberg & co on the BBC's Brexitcast, pictured below).

Footage of Kuenssberg hopping aboard Johnson’s plane to Brussels or intercepting the DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds in the street outside Parliament for an off-the-cuff chat lent an illusory air of documentary actualité to the film, and there was a droll sequence where she was received into Jacob Rees-Mogg’s agreeably appointed offices for a languid chat. The lack of real substance in the film was exposed again, though, when she tried to hold up Rees-Mogg’s use of the banal term “remoaners” as an example of hostile and abusive language in our current politics, which merely resulted in bathos.

Just because a political reporter’s schedule is hectic, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s accomplishing anything of world-changing importance. The scene where then-Tory MP David Gauke sat in his living room discussing Downing Street’s claims about an EU agreement on his mobile was too  convenient to be true, and a similar setup with Guto Bebb (Con, Aberconwy until last Friday) debating the so-called Letwin Amendment might as well have been scripted with an autocue.

The funniest and most revealing moment happened by accident. Kuenssberg and her TV crew had set up for an interview in Downing Street, when Johnson’s Machiavellian strategist Dominic Cummings inadvertently walked into the room. His horror at finding himself on camera was palpable, and he scuttled away like a scalded cat. It was a rare moment of genuine spontaneity.

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