Starmer tries to curry favour with electorate through Sunday Brunch tandoori

When Keir Starmer appeared on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch to cook his favourite tandoori salmon recipe, host Tim Lovejoy had a question: “What on earth are you doing here? You should be on the BBC with Laura Kuenssberg.”

“This is so much nicer!” replied the Labour leader.

A casually dressed Starmer repeatedly told viewers that he was a big Arsenal fan with a seat “in the stands” and that his wife worked for the NHS. He talked about how he liked to spend Saturday evenings cooking (with a vegetarian option for his teenage daughter) while listening to Craig Charles’s funk show on BBC 6 Music. His tandoori salmon – influenced by Mister Singh’s India restaurant in Glasgow – received positive reviews from the guests, including Dermot O’Leary.

Labour will hope that the party leader was humanised in the eyes of 400,000 regular Sunday Brunch viewers who might never voluntarily watch an interview with Starmer.

Instead of a fierce cross-examination, they saw Starmer sit on a sofa, explain how his friends wanted him to pledge to ban VAR in football, and face softball questions such as: “Under a Labour government, would we be able to have nice water and clean air to breathe?”

This sets the tone for a general election campaign where traditional news outlets are challenged by everything from Facebook’s algorithm deprioritising news content to television audiences drifting to streaming platforms. For Starmer and Rishi Sunak, the order of the day is increasingly podcast appearances, TikTok collaborations and chats on light entertainment shows.

Tom Hamilton, a former Labour adviser who now works for the agency Public First, said the days of a TV bulletin reaching tens of millions of people are long gone: “There is literally nothing you can do that nowadays will get you in front of the whole electorate saying what you want to say.”

This means politicians instead end up giving lots of interviews to niche outlets that reach small but specific “buckets” of voters, each appearance targeted at different demographics and interests. One Labour source suggested Starmer will have been on every football podcast in the country before the end of the election.

One problem with this approach is that it’s exhausting for politicians, who now have to talk to many more outlets in order to reach the same number of people. It can also backfire, as Sunak found when the prime minister appeared on Loose Women last week only to be harangued by Janet Street-Porter over the treatment of pensioners.

Hamilton said: “The risk is obvious: if you screw up, you screw up in front of more people. Sunak went on Loose Women because no one’s actually going to read an interview with him in the Telegraph. Then the big story was that someone else said something to him.”

skip past newsletter promotion

There’s nothing new about politicians seeking out different audiences. Margaret Thatcher sat down with Smash Hits, then in its imperial phase, and was asked if she would knight Cliff Richard. David Cameron struggled to maintain his composure when asked “How on earth do you sleep at night?” on The One Show, only to realise the question related to a feature on the show. Jeremy Corbyn’s time as Labour leader saw him try almost anything to get around hostile news outlets, including filming an arrival for Channel 4’s The Last Leg decked out in fur robes.

There’s also the benefit – for the politician – that presenters on these shows don’t subject them to the same level of scrutiny. On Sunday morning, Wes Streeting was being embarrassed on the BBC by Kuenssberg for not remembering all of Labour’s headline pledges. Meanwhile, on Channel 4, the follically challenged former Soccer AM host Tim Lovejoy was asking Starmer about Labour’s policies: “Have you got anything on discrimination against bald blokes?”


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.