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academic commentary on political discourse

Andrew Neil interviews Theresa May

Andrew Neil interviewed the Prime Minister, Theresa May, on Monday. Neil held back from his typical ‘bull-dog’ style attack that is a regular feature of his Daily and Sunday Politics programmes. Politicians often leave with visible ‘bite marks’ from these programmes after a mauling from Neil who is known for his adversarial style of interviewing on single issues with frequent interruptions.

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Bollocks!

Using profanity during a political interview is usually a ‘no-no’ for politicians, especially during a general election when you are trying to put yourself forward as a potential foreign secretary, as Emily Thornberry was on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

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Quote of the Week

“Can I suggest this, don’t interview yourself.”

Jack Dromey, 10th May 2017 (to Andrew Neil on Daily Politics).

Abbott’s shaky abacus

Numbers and costings are notoriously difficult themes during election time when the pressure to rattle off the top of the head a list of figures without so much as a “hesitation, deviation or repetition” is applied to hapless politicians who happen to find themselves on the nation’s airwaves. The cost for getting this “wrong” can be quite serious as Dianne Abbott has just found out after her “car-crash” performance on LBC radio this morning with interviewer Nick Ferrari.

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The significance of hestitations

Hesitation in delivery is a normal part of spoken discourse, especially in stressful speaking situations, and is normally discarded by listeners. In the House of Commons however, just before a demanding election campaign and when a manifesto is being prepared, even a small stumble over one’s words can be taken by those listening to be significant.

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Quote of the Week

“They are strong against the weak, and weak against the strong.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 26th April 2017

1.3 seconds is a long time

Pausing in a political interview can be taken the wrong way and have consequences for the ensuing discourse. Here is Emily Thornberry (ET) pausing for 1.3 seconds (line 05) during a TV interview on Channel 4 news with Jon Snow (JS). 1.3 seconds might not seem like a long time but in the context of this discussion it is seized on by the interviewer as ‘hesitation’, or a sign perhaps that the question is troublesome for the Labour politician and her party.

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The story is bigger than the words

Political flashpoints often arise and are sustained when participants in the story refuse to listen to what has actually been said by someone. This seems to be the case of Ken Livingstone who has recently been suspended from the Labour due in part to comments he made linking Hitler and Zionism.

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Cueing your own ‘revealing ah’

Can a politician cue their own ‘revealing ah’? Theresa May appeared to do this at Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday in the House.

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Equivocation & hesitation

There is a good example here of a politician being put in a tight corner on spending by the interviewer and having to equivocate. In the second part the pressure to equivocate is revealed in the increased hesitation in the speech of the politician.

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Pantomime time for the Revealing ‘ah’

Here is a nice example of the revealing ‘ah’ by backbench MPs in support of Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs. A revealing ‘ah’ is a comment made by a few members of the chamber in order to back up and support some revealing fact that the current speaker is delivering. The comment is purposively mocking in order to  add emphasis to the face-threatening nature of the revelation.

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Quote of the week

“So I’m looking at two states and one state. And I like the one that both parties like.”

Donald Trump, 16th February, 2017

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No-no-no Chorus

A no-no-no chorus in the House of Commons is an echoing by Members of the chamber of the current speakers words in order to reinforce the points and create impact. An example of this was given in Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday when the Prime Minister, Theresa May, was listing a set of items in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s questions.

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Quote of the week

“This is just a little pit stop. This is not a period this is a comma.”

Barack Obama, 20th January 2017

Dodging questions

The weekend seemed to be the time for dodging questions for politicians up and down the politician spectrum. Theresa May was dodging questions on a nuclear missile test. Jeremy Corbyn was dodging questions on whether he would use whips in the Brexit vote. And Donald Trump’s advisor was dodging questions on the size of the inaugural crowds.

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Top stories of the year

Here are the top five stories of 2016 from neutralfooting for you to open in the run up to Christmas.  Continue reading “Top stories of the year”

What colour is Brexit?

If Brexit were a colour, what colour would it be? Are you dreaming of a ‘white’ Brexit meaning we get everything we hoped for? Or is your Brexit ‘black’ meaning we get out of Europe as quickly as possible with no strings attached? Maybe you are looking for something in between – a ‘grey’ Brexit – presumably with 50 shades?

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Brexit is bacon and eggs!

Andrew Davies seems to have infected others with his ‘Brexit is breakfast’ slip of the tongue. Here is Andrew Neil, the BBC presenter, producing a similar slip of the tongue on the Daily Politics programme while interviewing Gavin Barwell.

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Down, down, down!

Jeremy Corbyn was met with a ‘down-down-down’ chorus from his own backbenchers at Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday. They were not calling for him to step down however! On the contrary, they were showing their support for their leader as he went up against Prime Minister Theresa May.

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Gove: “It was a mistake”

MPs sometimes have to eat humble pie and admit that they have made a mistake. In an earlier blog, I showed how Michael Gove MP used all his political rhetoric to make a historic U-turn on running for the Conservative leadership after David Cameron had stepped down. After coming third in the election for leader and some weeks later, he came up against Sky’s Adam Boulton who obviously took great pleasure in grilling him on his leadership failure.

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