"I think it would be quite hard to get back in, I have to say, but let's move on..."
"This is what, the Andrew Marr analysis? Is that an individual expression or is that the expression of the BBC?"
"No, it's not, I've got no views on this, nor does the BBC. I was simply reflecting on what Mr Barroso told us."
"Well you just said what your opinion was."
* * *
"I have to say I think it's far too warm in this room."
"Do you want me to turn the heating down, Andrew? Is that the wish of the BBC as well?"
"Sorry? What? Oh, I see what you mean. You probably thought I said "I think it's far too warm", yeah? But what I actually said was "Eye thinks it's far too warm". I was referring to the opinion of my friend Neena here. "Eye" is my pet name for her, because the name Neena means "beautiful eyes" in Hindi. Please don't worry about it, mate, it's an easy mistake to make!"
* * *
"I have to say I think Ker-plunk is vastly superior to tedious board games of the Stratego ilk."
"Is that your view, Andrew, or the BBC's view?"
"Do you seriously think I and my BBC colleagues have nothing better to do with our time than play Ker-plunk and assess its relative merits as compared to Stratego? Away and stop being so daft. Quite clearly I was using 'I think' in the biblical sense, which roughly approximates to 'meh'."
* * *
"I have to say I think the TMO was entirely wrong to disallow France's last-minute try against Ireland on Saturday."
"Is that your opinion, Andrew, or is it the opinion of the BBC?"
"Opinion? It's not a question of 'opinions'. Information in the form of pixels travelled from a television screen to my visual cortex, whereupon it was instantaneously translated by my brain into a subjective perception that Pascal Papé's pass was probably not forward. I had no control whatever over that process, and nor did the BBC."
* * *
"I have to say I think you look utterly sensational in that blue dress, Imogen."
"Aw, thanks, Andrew."
"For pity's sake, woman! Did you HONESTLY think I was expressing an opinion there? I am but a mere vessel for my genes, which for reasons known only to themselves seem to have an irrational preference for the colour blue. Take it up with evolution, or with whichever intelligent designer you believe in!"
* * *
Marr has form on this, of course. A few months ago, he quizzed Alex Salmond on the possibility of a televised referendum debate with Alistair Darling. Salmond gave his usual reply that he would be quite happy to debate with Darling or with others, but that a debate with Cameron should take place first. Marr ended the interview by saying something like : "I have to say that sounds like a 'No', but we'll leave it there." So the authority of the BBC presenter was used to instruct viewers that plain English did not mean what it appeared to mean, and that a conditional 'Yes' was in fact a 'No'. That example was probably even worse than yesterday's, because Salmond wasn't even permitted a right to reply.
I'm not a regular watcher of the Marr show, so I don't know whether he regularly pulls this stunt on politicians of all persuasions or if he saves it for the SNP only, but either way it just ain't on.
Still, he's probably done us a favour. By necessity, the online BBC article on the controversy contains an official response from the SNP, which quite reasonably states that no complaint will be made as Salmond was able to reply at the time, but that the BBC nevertheless have questions to answer about their overall coverage of the referendum campaign in the light of recent academic research. There's a touch of poetic justice in this - if the broadcasters hadn't attempted to throw a smothering blanket of silence over the University of the West Scotland study when it was initially released, it probably wouldn't have become as well-known as it now is. Professor John Robertson is well on his way to becoming a minor celebrity.