A failed job interview inspires a few election thoughts…

I HAD a job interview two weeks ago and yesterday learned that it had come to naught, something guessed at long before then.

Being interviewed for a job was strange on three counts: one, it’s been a while; two, in my old job I sometimes interviewed candidates (one of whom still has a job on the paper where I no longer work); three, I have spent many hours interviewing people for stories and features, and consequently feel more comfortable asking questions than answering them.

As I sat in the sunshine earlier wondering what to write, a thought occurred to me, and when those things arise you have to grab hold of them. Here it is: in what way is a job interview like a political election? Well, the candidate in both instances has to make a good impression in the hope of being the chosen one.

It then struck me that for the parallel to work, the candidate for a job would have to prepare by slagging off all the other candidates, casting them in poor light by spreading rumour, innuendo and half-truths – or even fully grown whoppers.

So it was cheering this morning to learn that Sadiq Khan had won the London mayoral election. The capital is quite a distance from where I live, but this was still good news, partly because it gave Labour a lift after a local election night that was at best a case of hanging on (as Jeremy Corbyn put it).

But the main reason for being cheered by Khan’s success is that Zac Goldsmith fought what is generally regarded as a dirty and nasty campaign that was washed in racism and shamelessly exploited anti-Muslim prejudices. Writing in the Daily Mail, Goldsmith said that Khan had “repeatedly legitimised those with extremist views”. Thankfully, multiracial, mixed-up London turned against such views and instead chosen the Labour MP and human rights lawyer, a Muslim who grew up on a council estate.

The odd thing about this is that Goldsmith had always seemed a reasonable sort of billionaire wealthy twerp of Tory – properly tinged with green long before David Cameron traipsed through a green mist and hugged a husky, and generally considered as decent. But he deserved to lose – and his defeat should cheer us up, whatever our politics or wherever we live.

Defence secretary Michael Fallon was hauled on to the BBC Today programme this morning to defend Goldsmith’s shoddy and nasty campaign. Fallon always has been the go-to guy for a spot of nastiness, and he it was who helped sink Ed Miliband at the last election, with an astonishing assault on the then Labour leader for stabbing his own brother in the back.

Today Fallon tried to say that Goldsmith’s campaign was all part of the rough and tumble of a political campaign, but we shouldn’t listen to him. Tory politics has become nastier in recent years, and the party’s campaigns too often call on the vicious strategies espoused by Linton Crosby. Oh, apologies – it’s Sir Linton Crosby now, as the Australian election strategist has just been knighted for services to politics. Disserves to politics, more like.

His fingerprints were all over Goldsmith’s unpleasant, and thankfully unsuccessful, campaign. Perhaps now we will see a shift away from nasty and negative campaigning.

Incidentally, and in the interests of balance, those taking to Facebook and elsewhere to insist that the BBC is biased against the Labour Party have such a furious bee in their bonnet they cannot see a thing. For Labour to come third in the Scottish elections, pushed back by the once-hated Tories, is a remarkable turnaround – and a good political story.

Various examples of senior BBC staff being closet Tories are always trundled out at such moments. As a long-time bit of an old lefty, I’d say there are examples on the other side, too: such as Ian Katz, a former deputy editor of the Guardian who is now editor of Newsnight.

Nothing wrong with that at all, but to pick and choose while seeking evidence of bias is in itself biased – as too are some of the generally left-wing websites that expend much energy berating the BBC.

I’d say the BBC does an okay job, especially on the radio, with the biggest danger being not Tory ‘insiders’ but the threat to the BBC from the Tories hanging around outside. Many Conservatives really don’t like the BBC at all, and those on the left who join in the name-calling only risk further weakening what remains in general a good and important part of British life.

Well, there we go – that’s where an hour in the sunshine gets you.

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