Steve remembers World In Action

So after the six one-offs for Union Power, I was brought onto World in Action. The Labour Party was in the process of introducing selection and deselection of members of parliament. Prior to this, if you were a member of parliament for a constituency, you were there forever. So even if the party fell out with you, they couldn’t shift you. You were there. The only people who could shift you was the electorate. And the Labour Party had this discussion about introducing selection and deselection. And it was a major political issue. I mean, quite bizarrely, even the Tories have introduced it now, and nobody thinks anything about it. But at the time, it was a huge issue. So the idea was, to do a World in Action where we get into a constituency meeting where the discussion takes place about selection, and the candidate is nominated. I thought that would be great TV, but it was difficult. They didn’t want to know. I think I did find one constituency party somewhere in Liverpool, but they were they were never really going to go down that line. So that never happened. So no film was made, but that was the kind of thing they wanted me on, those kind of domestic political programmes. Because all the World in Action people wanted to do was go to Argentina and Africa, Vietnam or wherever. They wanted to do sexy stuff. Unfortunately, in my Granada career, I never did any of that. I always got the, “Let’s drive the car up to Warrington or Hartlepool.” So, yes, that didn’t really come off. One of the problems I encountered with domestic politics was… well, it’s changing all the time. It’s fast moving. And it was difficult to do fast moving films with Granada because of the process of filmmaking, which meant that if the programme was going out on a Monday night, you would be editing on a Saturday and Sunday, dubbing, etc. on the Monday, with the programme being transmitted Monday evening – so you had to finish the filming, in order to get your film processed, on the Thursday. You might be able to get a little bit in on the Friday morning, by which time, after the weekend, the story might have changed, totally. And it’s not like it is now – I mean, it’s very easy now – but because you were using film, it was difficult. So making films about British politics was really, really tricky. So I worked on a couple of studio-based World in Actions. Now, World in Action is not good at doing studio. It rarely does it, it didn’t have a particularly good set, and it didn’t really have a presenter. Gus MacDonald used to do it, but Gus would be coming out of the blue from somewhere and would suddenly present the programme. As we never had that that history of doing studio programmes, because it was a story-based programme. It wasn’t really about those kinds of issues. So although we did a number of studio programmes – we did one about who was going to be elected leader of the Labour Party after Callaghan, and a couple of others – but they weren’t very successful at all. Panorama was much better at doing that kind of thing.

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