political commentator * author * publisher * bookseller * radio presenter * blogger * Conservative candidate * former lobbyist * Jack Russell owner * West Ham United fanatic * Email iain AT iaindale DOT com
Monday, May 19, 2008
How to Make People Suspicious
Anyone who listened to Jean Pierre Garnier, Chief Executive of Glaxo Smithkline, on the Today Programme, will have come away wondering what on earth he has got to hide. Jim Naughtie asked some perfectly reasonable questions, was polite and didn't hector him at all, yet Garnier became increasingly tetchy and in the end refused to continue with the interview. Hopefully his Press Officer will have had the guts to tell him how much had damaged his company's reputation and embarrassed himself.
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Ha ha! Funny how two people can hear the same thing and come to opposite conclusions.
My thought was that Naughtie was out of his depth and poorly briefed.
I thought Garnier was right to highlight the game Naughtie was playing (which seemed to amount to little more than repeatedly stating the same thing in the hope that it might become true).
However, I take delight in seeing Today presenters brought down a peg or two so perhaps I am guilty of only hearing what I want to hear :-)
It was, indeed, a most odd interview which will have many wondering how such a dysfunctional individual has risen to the top of a major corporation.
On the other hand it did provide an insight into how some politicians would like to be able to treat Naughtie, Humphrys et al.
The BBC has been perpetrating one of its canards this morning: pronouncing at every turn that The Head of the European Central Bank, M. Trichet, is the most important central banker in the world.
Since many people would still consider the head of the US Federal Reserve to be primus inter pares, is not this assertion of fact by the BBC yet another example of its blatant partiality, particularly in its unquestioning support for all aspects of the EU.
I have to agree with Richard. I thought that Garnier was pretty badly treated by Naughtie and was quite reasonable in ending it. It was reasonable to ask some questions about Seroxat but Naughtie went over the top.
Neither came out well from that interview.
Naughtie came out with his usual wordy waffle and even got Garnier's first name wrong.
Garnier overdid the attacks on Naughtie but seemed to me sharper than Naughtie.
What part of 'The regulator has access to all our millions and millions of documents and dozens of their people have spent several months on our premises going through them' did Numptie not understand? He was way out of his depth. Delightful hearing an interviewee decline to go on with his windy nonsense. He really should stick to opera. You need a lot of wind for opera.
I'm with you on this one Iain.
It wasn't great, and I think an inevitable clash of styles. Garnier is after all a 60 year old Frenchman with pots of money and an autocratic management style, therefore used to being treated with deference of the "Is there anything you would like to say this evening, Minister" kind, and Naughtie who has been supping a little too generously from the Humphries wellspring of cynical and loaded questioning. The last question, the one to which he objected, was carefully loaded to push him into defending his basic honesty. I agree that one hopes a more media-savvy CEO would be able to turn that around with a bit more style and charm but the BBC is pushing its luck a bit to expect people to be happy to stand still for such treatment when they have no need to do so (unlike politicians).
I thought you listened to Radio 5 live in the morning ...
I can't get Radio 5 in my bathroom!
Good spot, Iain !! It is crazy that they were giving seroxat to kids..
It was a typical nauseating load of cobblers from a management-speak wallah uninterested in anything but how his name is pronounced correctly. The secretive and profit-only-driven behaviour of the big drug companies are good evidence of why something as important as health should be managed in public and by accountable people, not privatised.
It was a very prickly interview. Did you notice that M Garnier asked Naughtie to call him Jean Paul but Naughtie continued to address him as Jean Paul Garnier which itself was a bit strange.
I am not a great admirer of Naughtie but even I felt a bit sorry for him. It was like a nervous and rather hapless middle manager being given a dressing down by the company chairman. Quite cringemaking.
What a strange Huntsman you are, Huntsman.
Clearly the ECB is of fundamental importance and it is right that the BBC give airtime to it when its views contrast with our own Governments. It is not pandering to the EU but highlighting an important issue. And with the strength of the Euro at the moment I think the ECB is an actor worth listening to.
I disagree with your story about GSK. JP came on the programme to talk about a good news story; a pandemic vaccine for bird flu.
He was badgered over a story the BBC have been dragging up for 3 years now. Seroxat is old news.
I'm with Richard Brown and others.
Naughtie was out of his depth, and used the pretext of getting Garnier to discuss the possibility of, and the treatment of, a notional bird flu pandemic as a way to go on the attack about a different drug.
This deliberate unsettling ["while I have you here, could I also ask you about...'] is so habitual and shabby a tactic on the part of the 'Today' crew that it is almost beyond parody.
Usual BBC left/liberal problem with a successful corporation,completely unable to offer GSK any plaudits for a potentally millions of lives saving vaccine, but also unwilling/unable to recognise complexity of seroxat issues.i loved the JP point that you can't just dump all these files in the street...
I thought the Glaxo Smithkline man won hands down. Naughtie, like his colleagues, thinks its brilliant incisive journalism to repeat the same question over and over again ad infinitum. It isn't and I was pleased to hear the Glazo man treating Naughtie with the contempt he deserved.
Sorry Iain, I thought that Numptie came over as badly briefed and even more wordy than usual. Rude and hectoring as well as anti-business (as usual).
It was great to hear someone telling a Today interviewer where to get off.
'Why don't you ask me a specific question?'
'Sir, I think we should move on'
'I think we are done with this topic'
'I cant answer such a vague question'
'We have dealt with this question'
Didn't hear this interview but generally speaking poor questions encourage obfuscating answers. Plenty of both on "Today".
You sound like people being more suspicious of drug companies is a bad thing.
Is that exactly what you meant?
Jeremy Paxman should have done this interview then it would have been "Paxo v Glaxo"
I thought M Garnier whupped Mr Naughtie's ass!
I'm with Richard Brown et al - Numptie tried the shabby Today trick of trying to force the interview onto his own agenda and got a well deserved come uppance. It should happen more often. In the last few years we've been subjected to reverse deference - with interviewees expected to submit to outright harrassment. It's time the Today crew were treated to a dose of their own medicine. The obese egos of Humphrys and Naughtie need to be put on a severe diet.
As just another listener I thought the interviewee had taken the right tack; the questions were bad, repetitive, long winded and loaded, it seemed fair to be able to point this out and he was clearly not in the position of having to put up with that.
Good luck to him and about time someone answered back.
I'm with the bloated plutocrat from SKB on this one. Surely taking on the Bird Flu pandemic threat is more important that a past controversy over Seroxat
Interesting demonstration of the immense power of the multi-nationals. Garnier could quite easily tell Naughtie where to get off - but the reverse was not true.
It's possible that GSK's image may have been dented, but that'll make no difference at all to its sales. Since when has GSK had to fight for its brand and corporate image? No pharmaceutical ever has. The only thing which will affect GSK and its peers is massive and global litigation.
I'm not entirely sure who came out of it worse to be honest: Naughtie is unbearable at the best of times and didn't treat Mr Garnier with the level of respect you might expect for someone who's been invited to do an interview... having said that Mr Garnier might want to book some more appointments with his media training consultant as he wasn't all that great either.
It was one of those awful 'today' interviews which by the end you're really not sure what it's purpose was.
Why do you mad buggers all listen to Today? I gave it up 15 years ago and am all the better for it.
Garnier was brilliant. Put Naughtie firmly in his place. He rfused to dance a jig for the ill informed parrot. Well done JP. Will buy some GSK.
No Iain, I disagree on this one. The interview showed once again a pompous BBC interviewer who can't be bothered to get properly briefed. JP answered the questions he was asked and quite properly became somewhat irritated when the great man continued to ask the same question.
If Humphreys had bothered to get himself briefed he would have known to ask a different and more pertinent question
I think submariner above is spot on.
Naughtie adopted an approach that he would have used on a defensive politician probing for the answer he wanted, but Garnier snapped back with the sort of response he might have given a subordinate "I have already answered this question 3 times".
It didn't make for great radio. Better briefing may have had little effect, but some coaching in what to expect from each other might have improved the interview.
Titty tantrum time - He couldn't stand the heat... so walked out!
On speaking of the MHRA investigation into his company he said:
"They [MHRA] have concluded, by the way, that the company [GSK] didn't do anything wrong"
Excuse me Monsieur Garnier but didn't the MHRA find that your company failed to show that Seroxat was effective in treating major depressive disorder in children?
Didn't they also find that Paxil [Seroxat] Trial 377, was conducted and this also failed to show that Seroxat was effective?
Didn't they find that your company made no amendment to the SPC on the basis of these data?
And what of the internal documents Monsieur Garnier?
Didn't it state... “it would be commercially unacceptable to include a statement that efficacy had not been demonstrated, as this would undermine the profile of paroxetine”?
Yet you go on national radio and say:
"They [MHRA] have concluded, by the way, that the company [GSK] didn't do anything wrong"
You're an absolute legend Monsieur Garnier. Even when your company has been proved to have held back data because it would undermine the profile of the product, you still claim that your company has done nothing wrong!
I have to admit I roared with laughter when I heard Garnier claim his company had been vindicated by the MHRA.
I practically pissed myself laughing when he walked out of the studio when the questioning about Seroxat got too tough for him. At least Glaxo spokesperson, Alistair Benbow, keeps his cool with deluded answers he may or may not have gave in the past!
The point where Garnier threw his dummy out of the pram is better than an episode of Monty Python.
Reporter: On the trials that were done in the 1990's, it's clear that it was on 2003 that the MHRA were shown an analysis of the trials. Have they now seen and can everyone now see that which was withheld in those years and can you say (and I know you are moving on, there is going to be a new head of the company) that in future such information will be available to the those who have to take really quite important decisions about what should be available to the public and what shouldn't?
Garnier: Well, I can't answer such a vague question. I mean this case has been discussed and studied at lengths by the authorities. They are satisfied with their enquiry, their enquiry had a positive conclusion for the company [GSK] ...ERR I think you know you cannot talk about things that complicated in two minutes on an interview but as far as the desire to be transparent, I think our record speaks for itself.
Reporter: So, can you say John Paul Garnier...
Garnier: It's not Jean Paul... it Jean Pierre
Reporter: Sorry. Jean Pierre...
Garnier: Can we move on, I... I have to..
Reporter: This is the last question...
Garnier: I have to tell you that if we are going to talk about [muted laugh] this subject [Seroxat] for ever and ever....
Reporter: No, it's one last question. John Pierre Garnier, let me ask you simply this. When you leave the company do you believe that you are going to leave the company behind you which will.... er let's put it like this, be honest, so that that information which is released, which is asked for that bears....
Garnier: Okay, I'm not interested in answering this question ,we have dealt with this subject. Thank you very much for taking the time to hear about pandemic and I wish you the best. Goodbye.
Reporter: And you. Goodbye.
It's pure comedy genius isn't it?
Here we have the CEO of a pharmaceutical company who firstly denies that his company did anything wrong, then secondly claims that his company's record in their desire to be transparent (and I quote) "speaks for itself"
I guess it probably does because you certainly don't Jean Paul (Ahem) sorry Pierre.
The edited version of the interview can be heard here:
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