Ridge, who has hosted Sophy Ridge on Sunday since January 2017, is launching a new show called Politics Hub that will air on Mondays to Thursdays at 7pm.
Meanwhile Phillips, who has previously stood in on the Sunday show during Ridge’s maternity leave, is taking on that slot full-time.
Sophy Ridge: ‘I see myself as a bit of a hack’
Ridge said that whereas her Sunday show could be “quite formal” in tone, the idea with Politics Hub was “you might have had dinner, the kids might be asleep [and] you’re having a glass of wine.
“You want the news and you want these serious political interviews and you want the data journalism and interrogation. But I think you also have a bit of space for, over the hour, a bit of a smile and something a bit lighter as well.”
The caveat: “You won’t see me dress up though. That’s my one rule. I’m not going to be getting in a costume or anything like that.”
Asked how her programme would differ from the Sunday show, Ridge said: “I’m interested in the daily machinations of Westminster and the gossip and the latest story that’s blowing up on social media.
“I think Trevor takes a bit more of a stand back – ‘this is my intellectual assessment’, and the threads that’s running through society… I see myself as a bit of a hack, basically.”
Trevor Phillips: Other politics shows ‘evidently don’t think politics is very interesting’
Phillips said his aim for Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips was “to be a good companion to the viewer”.
He told Press Gazette that “Sky is making quite a big investment in politics”, but emphasised “the priority of the politics shows is politics.
“And that sounds banal and obvious, but if you look at what other networks are doing, what you’ll notice is that many of their politics shows evidently don’t think politics is very interesting. So they absolutely have to lace everything with varieties of entertainment, so on and so forth.”
Phillips said that Ridge “will be doing the day to day – really keeping on top of the waves and the weather on the surface, which is really important. I’ll have the opportunity in 90 minutes to go deeper, to chart the currents below the surface.”
He cited the story around the Bibby Stockholm, the government’s barge to house asylum seekers, as the sort of story his Sunday programme would contextualise.
“Is the policing effort going to be the way to deal with this problem? And in the longer term, what is its real political effect? And what are people really objecting to – do they object to foreigners, or do they object to competition?”
Ridge and Phillips on the state of British political journalism
Asked for his views on the state of British political journalism, Phillips said: “There’s a lot of it. A lot of quantity.”
He praised “the spirit and the culture at Sky”, explaining: “I think what Sky has, [which] I don’t see in the same quantities anywhere else, is the fundamental quality of great journalism, which is curiosity…
“Elsewhere I think that the journalism comes to the viewer or the listener or the reader with a pre-formed idea of what’s taking place, and the data, the evidence, the facts are selected in order to reinforce what the reporter, or the programme, or in many cases the newspaper already thinks. And I think that’s pretty unhealthy.”
Sky, he thought, “is way less infected with that lack of curiosity than anywhere else I can see”.
Ridge was more positive about the industry: “I think that we come in for a bit of a bashing a lot of the time, but I think we do not a bad job, actually… I think that it’s in a good, healthy shape. I think that, for me, it’s all about access. The more access the better.”
She acknowledged that “often you can see conspiracy theories about influence and stuff like that” in criticism of political journalism – some of which presumably centres on the process of getting access to politicians.
But she said: “I’ve always been somebody who’s taken quite a robust approach to Number 10 and to Labour, but I think that if [politicians] see you as someone who’s fair, then that’s okay.”
She recalled an incident on her Sunday show, ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration, when “I said the word pussy to Theresa May. They were very unhappy about it at the time. They actually pulled some guests from us for a while, which obviously is not what you want when you’re just launching a political interview programme.”
But Ridge said she did feel that political journalism has a problem with echo chambers – both dividing the left from the right and London from the rest of the country.
“It’s something that I’ve been really aware of over the last five, ten years almost working in Westminster. And I think that it has perhaps got slightly worse?”
She said it was important both “to make sure that we are reflecting voices from across the country” and to choose stories that were relevant outside the capital.
“I think that in Westminster, we spend too long talking about stories that affect Westminster journalists and politicians – so we spend more time talking about mansion taxes and mortgages rather than rent, for example, or benefits… I think we should just make sure that we check our own prejudices.”
The first guests for Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips will be Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Tony Blair’s director of communications Alastair Campbell, David Cameron’s director of communications Craig Oliver and broadcaster (and Boris Johnson’s sister) Rachel Johnson.
Asked about his dream guests, Phillips’ immediate answer was Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, who he felt would have the most insight of anyone into both the macro and microeconomic trends.
“Let me be absolutely clear in my pronunciation here,” Phillips said. “He is the biggest banker in the world.”
Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge will air on Mondays to Thursdays between 7pm and 8pm on Sky News starting on Monday 4 September.
Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips will air on Sunday mornings between 8.30am and 10am on Sky News from 3 September.
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