‘I’m genuinely unclear’

I’ve written about Liz Truss’s speaking style and how it often comes across as ‘plodding’ and ‘monotonous‘. This is due in part to the way she divides her speech up into short tone units often with odd divisions.

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Gaps in thinking?

Liz Truss is known for he slow careful delivery but sometimes it seems like it might be politically more expedient to just hurry things along a bit. Here are two excruciatingly long pauses in an interview with BBC Stoke. At 3.6 and 4.0 seconds, these pauses may seem like nothing but in the context of a political interview for the PM who has been missing for four days they sound like massive gaps in her thinking.

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Liz Truss’ Speaking Rate

Tomorrow (Monday) we learn who will be the next British Prime Minister. The bookies have Liz Truss as odds on favourite over her rival, Rishi Sunak. Both candidates appeared on the BBC’s new flagship programme ‘Sunday with Laura Kuennsberg’ this morning. One thing that seemed obvious was the speaking speeds of the two candidates. Truss seems to be quite slow and deliberate whereas Sunak is quite fast and loquacious.

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Quote of the week

It’s quite literally government in hindsight.

Keir Starmer, PMQs, 7th October 2020

Three words and 0.7 seconds: Not much time for a Minister

A lot was made on Twitter of Helen Whatley’s appearance on Sky TV this morning. The claim by some distractors was that Whatley was saying that the government could blame scientists for mistakes made in the COVID-19 policy.

Within ten seconds of listening to the discourse, however, it was clear to me that this is not what she meant to say. (And I believe that most people could easily reach this conclusion.) Face-to-face discourse goes pretty fast and Whatley misspoke for three words and 0.7 seconds! Not much time for the Minister but plenty of time for her opponents.

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Get Brexit done!

It is the day after the General Election in Britain and Boris Johnson, the newly re-elected Prime Minister of the country, is standing on the steps of Downing Street delivering his address to the nation. Within 30 seconds of starting his speech, that oft-repeated phrase ‘Get Brexit done’ has tripped from his lips. This well-trodden phrase, that was at the heart of the Tory election strategy, is now a permanent feature of the Prime Minister’s  discourse.

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“Can I explain why?” “No explain how.”

Andrew Neil interviewed Jeremy Corbyn on BBC television tonight. Neil is a forensic interviewer who usually pins his interviewees down to exact words and syllables. But Corbyn is know for his own brand of stubbornness, and there was one wonderful moment when the two negotiated the terms of a question like children in the school yard fighting over whether to play tag or hide and seek.

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Quote of the week

“The prime minister said he would die and yet he lives! Who does he think he is? The people of this country expect him to be dead, and he has the temerity to come here today, both living and breathing.”

@MorganPlain, Twitter, 29th October 2019


Eye fluttering

Politicians use all means to try and grab and hold the floor during interviews including non-verbal means. Nigel Farage has developed an interesting technique where he flutters his eyes for a few seconds, almost bringing them to a close, in an attempt to shut out the interviewer and hold the floor.

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Quote of the week

“HS2, we’re probably too pregnant to pull out.”

Tracy Brabin, 23rd May 2019 (BBC QT)


Quote of the week

“If you now try to hold us in against our will you will be facing perfidious Albion on speed.”

Mark Francois, 10th April 2019


Quote of the week

Reporter: How long is a long extension, please?

Juncker: Until the very end.

Jean Claude Juncker, 21st March 2019


Quote of the week

“I believe that all fish should be in the sea.”

Benjamin Zephaniah, BBC Question Time, 29th November 2018


Slip of the Tongue

Slips of the tongue that involve word substitution always seem to get the biggest laughs. Here Jeremy Hunt, the new Foreign Secretary, mistakenly refers to his wife as Japanese when she is in fact Chinese. The humour in this slip was obvious to the audience of Chinese dignitaries during a visit by Hunt to Beijing to discuss post-Brexit trade talks.

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a/the Single Market

It seems strange that two of the smallest and most commonest words in the English dictionary could cause confusion between interviewer and interviewee but that is what ‘a’ and ‘the’ seemed to do on Sunday when Andrew Marr interviewed James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on the BBC.

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Closing an interview

In day-to-day conversation, closing a conversation requires both participants to clear the floor. That is, each has to offer the floor to the other and only when neither has anything more to contribute can the conversation close. If you have ever tried to get off the phone from a friend who doesn’t want to finish the conversation, you know how difficult this can be sometimes.

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