Should politics programmes deal in politics only? That was one of the questions posed on the official first day back for the Sunday shows.

Some of us – tip of the hat to colleagues in print, digital and radio – have not been away for the summer. Those who managed a break came back without fanfare. Television, being the glamour end of the media business, does like to make a fuss.

There were some housekeeping changes to go with the new term. Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday is now Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, with Ridge moving to a Monday to Thursday show, Politics Hub, at 7pm. Plus, Phillips’ show now has a panel of commentators, just like BBC1’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, and a longer running time.

Otherwise, we are in for more of the same. But is that what viewers want?

Perhaps not, according to a story in the Sunday Times comparing Kuenssberg’s viewing figures to those of her predecessor, Andrew Marr.

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While The Andrew Marr Show averaged 1.9 million viewers a week, Kuenssberg had an initial 1.5 million, now fallen to 1.2 million. The BBC said that total would increase once iPlayer and mobile/tablet viewings were added.

With an eye to boosting weekend ratings, Kuenssberg is now fronting a new podcast, Newscast, with Radio 4 Broadcasting House colleague, Paddy O’Connell.

Like its predecessor, The Andrew Marr Show, Kuenssberg’s programme likes to feature the arts. The first show of the new run, for example, had the actor Timothy Spall talking about his new film, Bolan’s Shoes, and music from cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. A winning mix, just right for Sunday, or a guddle?

In an interview to publicise the new run, Trevor Phillips told Press Gazette that on Sky “the priority of the politics shows is politics”.

He added: “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.”

That sounded like a reference to Kuenssberg’s BBC1 programme, and to Channel 4’s The Andrew Neil Show, which was put on pause in July as part of budget cuts. Neil’s programme had Labour’s Ed Balls and former Chancellor George Osborne as a double act, complete with "fun" quiz.

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As it turned out, Phillips’ show did take a wider view of politics and was the better for it. He interviewed Andrew Morton, who has a new documentary out next year on the Diana tapes, and Jonathan Aitken, disgraced Cabinet minister from the Thatcher years turned priest.

A clip from 1995 showed Aitken launching his infamous campaign against what he called “the cancer of bent and twisted journalism.” Two years later he lost a libel action against The Guardian and Granada, and was jailed for 18 months for perjury.

Phillips wondered why the minister had sued and brought about his own downfall.

“Pride and vaingloriousness,” said Aitken.

Later, Rachel Johnson (sister of Boris) and a guest on Phillips’ panel, was so impressed by Aitken’s candour she thought it would be “very good if all MPs spent some time in prison”.

Touring the studios for the UK government was the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, who promised that the money was there to fix crumbling schools in England though he did not know how much was needed. He was followed by the shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson with a similar lack of detail about how much a Labour government would spend.

On BBC1 Scotland’s The Sunday Show, Neil Gray, Wellbeing Economy Secretary, said many checks had been done and there was “no immediate risk” to those using school buildings.

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Joining Rachel Johnson on Sky News were Alastair Campbell and Craig Oliver, former spin doctors to Tony Blair and David Cameron respectively. Kuenssberg’s panel had Piers Morgan of TalkTV, food writer and environment campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Dame Helen de Souza, the children’s commissioner for England.

Kuenssberg’s was the better value if it was a shouting match you were after, with Morgan and Fearnley-Whittingstall arguing over the Just Stop Oil protests.

Morgan was asked if he still denied phone hacking after his name came up several times in Prince Harry’s current legal action against the press. “Absolutely,” said the former Mirror editor. “I’ve never hacked a phone and never told anyone to hack a phone.”

BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, with only a tiny glass table to perch around, could not run to a panel. Bigger boat required at Pacific Quay, please.