Where comedy meets sharks: The 10 O'Clock Show

I can't tell whether the 10 O'clock Show is going to be any good in the long run, but I can spot a piece of new Labour bullshitting from a mile away - and David Mitchell's interview with Alistair Campbell contained a particular gem.

Submitted by Rob Ray on January 30, 2011

The problem with comedians doing live news telly, particularly with interviews, is that they sometimes don't know a great deal on their subject. Even with the aid of aides their lack of background in news and politics can trip them up, such as with Lauren Laverne's monologue on misery-mongers Serco, which was disappointingly evidence-free despite the company's huge back catalogue of nasty stories around immigration and prisons in particular (just look up Yarl's Wood).

Hell even her opening line about it being "the biggest company you've never heard of" was lifted straight from the Guardian (whoever the researcher was on that you could at least re-nose it you lazy bastard).

This becomes even more pronounced when they bag savvy operators like Alistair Campbell, as Mitchell did, for their big interview of the day.

To give the comedian credit, despite looking like a scared rabbit whenever Campbell was replying he made a reasonable attempt to pull the former Blair spin doctor up on his more ludicrous claims. Which is more than most "top" news presenters well-trained in the requirements of timekeeping, advertisers, ruling class ideology and the need to keep their interviewees sweet for future sit-downs can manage.

However there was a howler Campbell came out with that any politico, NGO worker or journalist should have picked up on and which Mitchell spectacularly missed - his claim on child mortality in Iraq.

When asked about whether he believed the war was just, the ex spin doctor came out with the kind of outrageously misleading guff that was a hallmark when he was at the top of his game, stating that post-invasion Iraq had seen the number of child deaths fall significantly since the ending of Saddam Hussein's regime.

According to the World Bank's research, every word of this is absolutely true - pre invasion the child death rate was something like one in ten, while in 2009 it hovered at around the 4% mark.

But Campbell, as a man who was at the heart of world politics for most of the 1990s, would also have known the corollary of this bold statistic - that before sanctions were imposed on Iraq by the West in 1990 (sanctions which were subsequently enthusiastically supported by Labour) the rate was hovering at... the 4% mark.

The sanctions were at the time hugely controversial and even today there's a big wikipedia page listing the total number of possible directly-related deaths from them ranging from around 500,000 to 1.5 million - in every case singling out children as the primary victims. They came during and after the first Gulf War, which saw most of Iraq's infrastructure totalled by Allied bombs.

Campbell then, was claiming that one of the biggest success stories of the Iraq war, victim count 600,000-1 million, was to achieve something which could have been done equally as well if the West had simply stopped deliberately starving children to death. It could have been achieved by doing nothing. Literally nothing, just by not bothering to bar imports.

Mitchell, live on air and perhaps without the background, let that one slide through, another silky-smooth turd from a stamping media bull.

So clearly, the newest newshounds on the block have a long way to go. As they learn, I'd urge them to listen to fellow presenter Charlie Brooker's eloquent take on news values in the mainstream media (or better still Chomsky, but I'm being realistic here) and for god's sake don't take the rest of the industry as a model.