Following last week's tornado, the council have come in for some criticism for not doing enough to support the local residents. To be fair, I'm not sure that this is well-founded, but people certainly feel hard done by, so after a hard afternoon sitting at a table being abused by local residents (at least while the press were around), Mike tipped up in the Midlands Today studio to be interviewed on live regional TV.
I've often wondered why Midlands Today doesn't cover more of local authority business and now I understand their reasoning. If Whitless has ever done any media training, he's forgotten everything he was taught - but then most bosses assume that they have an innate ability to connect with the media, a belief only shattered when they see their on-camera performances. One of the first rules about being interviewed on TV is that you talk to the interviewer, not the camera (although it is fine to talk to the camera if the interview is down-the-line rather than face-to-face). Normally, this is made easier because the interviewer has the camera just beside them, but this studio setting made that impossible.
Aside from the distinctly unflattering side-on shots of a middle-aged councillor slumped on the BBC sofa, Mike started off talking directly into the camera, his eyes fixed on his imaginary audience, which was more than a little disturbing. His hair needed taming, as did his eyes, which soon began flickering between the hypnotic red light on the camera and the far more attractive sight of Suzanne Virdee a few feet to his left. This swivel-eyed loon effect made him look more like a scared, cornered animal than the political leader of one of Britain's great cities. Think of a rabbit caught in your headlights and you get the idea - only without the cuteness, obviously. And you wouldn't want Whitless living in your back garden in a hutch.
Judging by some of his words, his script was written by John Prescott. Here he responds to a question about criticism from government and other councils:
'Well, we don't know who said that. What we do know is that, er, I don't know how these people can make a criticism anyway. Our emergency plan has been put into operation four times in the month of July. In fact we've been praised, we've gained plaudits for what we've done and so I don't know who those people are, so if you want to tell me which particular person from which particular council did it, however, I think first of all it's not very professional and secondly it's not very accurate.'[Edit: Link now superceded],You just don't get to see the full, eyeball-rolling, head twitching effect on the small screen, so I've done a quick screen grab to give you a better idea:
The children retreated into the garden rather than see any more of that funny man on the TV.
Rumours that the tornado was created by the turbulence from Mike's Rover racing machine have been denied.