Kier Starmer, the Leader of the Labout party, was interviewed face-to-face on the Andrew Marr show this weekend. This was one of the first big face-to-face interviews Starmer has done in the last few weeks after COVID lockdown rules. Previous interviews were typically carried out online, at a distance.Continue reading “Starmer Holding the Floor”
Interviewers usually ask questions and interviewees usually gives answers, right? Well in the ‘strange’ world of political interviews these rights and roles sometimes need to be explicitly stated.Continue reading “Occasional questions and comprehensive answers”
One of the more amusing exchanges was Biden counting to three but skipping two. Trump was quick to pull him up on this.Continue reading “First Presidential Debate (2020)”
The first US presidential debate last night was a pretty torrid affair with frequent interruptions and negotiations for the floor between the candidates and the host. Here is a short transcription and analysis of a specific stretch of discourse.Continue reading “First Presidential Debate (2020)”
Ever thought there might be something missing from our understanding of the universe? Ever thought there may be some extra dimension curled up, hidden away right in front of us? What if language was that dimension, a fifth dimension in the fabric of the universe which unfurls itself whenever we think, speak or write? Continue reading “It’s language, stupid!”
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.Continue reading “Three words and 0.7 seconds: Not much time for a Minister”
The quote below of Andrew Neil on the GMB show, said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, claims that a virus ‘can’t read’. Most people would agree with that I think.Continue reading “Viruses can’t read”
Amidst all the doom and gloom of Coronavirus, sometimes thanking your Business correspondent is just too much as Jackie Long found out on Channel 4 news recently.
In spoken discourse, we can usually predict when our conversational partner is about to finish a turn by listening to their intonation. This is not always successful, however, as demonstrated by the following clip in which a TV host assumes that the reporter has finished his lines when in fact he has more to say.
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.
Only £10 on Amazon (paperback) / £2.99 (eBook)
Lord Lilley being interviewed by Emily Maitlis on BBC Newsnight. I like how the interviewee sets his own agenda and tries to control the floor in line 08 and then in 14.
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.
Political interviewers like to pretend that they are are asking genuine questions to their political guests. But sometimes it is revealed all too clearly that their questions are really designed to try and steer the guest towards a particular answer.
Politicians often get accused of not answering questions but sometimes they fight back as Andy McDonald did on Friday.
Michael Gove, Conservative MP, serves up some curious hand gestures while speaking including teacup gestures and steeple Vulcans. Here are some of the more interesting examples from his interview on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday.
John Bercow retired from the post of The Speaker in the House of Commons. Here are some of his best bits from this website.
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.
Fight for control of the floor can sometimes produce odd utterances out of the mouths of the interlocutors. Here is Boris Johnson and Nick Robinson spluttering syllables like bird wings flapping in the air as they fight for the turn in an interview on Radio 4 Today programme.
The eyes play an important part in human communication. They can signal an intention to communicate and sometimes act to facilitate turn transition. In this example here, we see Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, using his eyes to hold the floor during an interview on Sunday.
John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, likes to pick up on members who ‘chunter from a sedentary position’ – a slightly politer, and perhaps archaic, way of saying ‘shut up and stop muttering’.Continue reading “Chuntering from a sedentary position”
Certain words in the House of Commons are normally taboo but sometimes it is possible to get away with using them by quoting someone and asking for ‘leave’ from The Speaker.
Political commentators and journalists all have their own idiosyncratic styles when interviewing politicians. Emily Maitlis, the BBC Newsnight commentator, often shows exasperation and incredulity in her voice through sweeping intonation falls and facial expressions. Here is a brief analysis to show how she uses linguistic features to signal this attitude.
Editor: The BBC’s Question Time programme on Thursday nights seems to court controversy these days as we hold it to ever more stringent impartiality standards. In this blog, Elena Ioannidou dissects the discourse that this programme produces from a CA perspective. The blog is split into two parts. Part two is here.
Editor: This is part 2 of the blog on the BBC Question Time programme. Part 1 is here.
Negotiating the floor can take on epic proportions at times with your interlocutor when you both want to get something out. In the following two examples, David Davis and John Humphrys almost end up rapping together as they fight for the floor with each other!
What is the best way to guarantee nobody ever interrupts you during a debate?
Theresa May seems to have developed many ways of saying ‘no’ without actually meaning it. In her interview with Andrew Marr at the weekend, she frequently used reduced articulations of the word (e.g. ‘n-’) to preface her responses to Marr’s questions.
Prime Minister’s questions (PMQs) got a ‘whooo!’ of surprise today when Jeremy Corbyn was speaking at the dispatch box.
One way to put a politician on the spot is to ask them how many people have been affected by their policy. Three times seems to be the optimum number of times to ask according to the Andrew Marr’s rulebook as he interviewed Theresa May on Sunday.
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.
Standing up and speaking in public is not just a one-way affair from speaker to audience. The reaction of the audience to what is said can be just as important and defining as the speaker’s words themselves.
Conversation can sometimes be like a game of poker, raising and doubling stakes, as the Andrew Marr Show demonstrated on Sunday.
An interesting slip of the tongue by Theresa May at Prime Minister’s question time occurred on Wednesday and suggested that perhaps we had voted for rather more than we thought during the EU referendum in 2016!
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.
Richard Madeley knows when to shut down an interview. On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he abruptly brought his interview with Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, to an end when Williamson refused to answer his question after four strikes.
Prime Minister’s question time (PMQs) is known for lengthy questions and answers from Prime Ministers and backbenchers so it was interesting to observe a brief bit of brevity from the Prime Minister in two of her answers on Wednesday.
Interviewers don’t always get what they ask for but when they do, it can often cause difficulties for the interview.
Lawyers sometimes say that you should never ask a witness a question during trial to which you don’t the answer to. The same principles usually operates in Prime Minister’s questions in the House of Commons where the question and answer session is really one of “statement” followed by “statement” (even though the statements are dressed up as questions and answers).
Claire Perry, Conservative MP, seemed to enjoy asking questions on the Daily Politics today, so much so that Andrew Neil feared she was angling for his job.
Interviewers are always looking for ways to hurry their interviewees along, so finishing off their ideas seems to be a nice way to do this with the added advantage that you get the floor back. Why wait for the slow speaker to finish when you can do the job in half the time!
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.
Andrew Neil was on fine form as he returned to hosting the Daily Politics on BBC1 on Wednesday. After chewing up Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, he turned his attention to Steve Baker, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Wycombe.
In general, only one person can hold the floor in a conversation. When a debate is taking place, there are often periods where negotiation of the floor occurs. The current speaker will use rhetorical devices to try and maintain the floor while other participants in the debate will interrupt and overlap in an attempt to gain the floor.
Is it “trite journalism” to ask the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer what the country pays on its national debt? Should the shadow chancellor have these figures to hand, or can he rely on an iPad or advisor to tell him? John McDonnell doesn’t seem to think so.
The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, suggested that ‘there are no unemployed people’ in Britain when he was interviewed on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday:
TV presenters in a political interview have the privilege of asking the questions, but what do you do when your interviewee refuses to answer outright and brushes up against the Cooperative Principle? This is what Kay Burley, Sky News presenter, was confronted with when she interviewed General Jack Keane, a retired 4-star US general on Monday.
By Jonathan Maxey, Coventry University
Repairs, when initiated or performed by a conversational other, are often a reliable indicator of power within spoken discourse. However, additional social areas may also be underscored by this phenomenon. For example, the establishing or highlighting of a rapport.Continue reading “Rephrasing /repair”
Pausing briefly while speaking is a natural part of delivery. We pause for several reason. The most obvious one is to take breath so we can carry on speaking. Some pauses occur before content words or complex clauses suggesting that the cognitive planning processes can delay the output of the words. It has also been suggested that we pause more when we have to make choices in what words and expressions we select to say. So giving ones opinion would include more pause time on average than reporting factual ideas.
For a brief moment, the world thought that Donald Trump had renamed the United Nations when he called them the Unated Nations during his speech to the General Assembly. This slip of the tongue occurred due to ‘anticipation’ which is when a segment downstream takes the place of a segment upstream. In this case the /i/ vowel in ‘United’ was replaced /a/ vowel of ‘Nations’ to produce ‘Unated’. See line 05 below:
The word ‘twat’ has a checkered history in the English language. Originally coined to mean ‘female genitalia’, although famously misued by Robert Browning in his poem ‘Pippa Passes’ (1841), it has recently been used to refer to an ‘obnoxious or stupid person’. However, its use in British discourse, especially on national radio, is still questionable as the following transcript highlights.
When participating in a conversation, eye gaze can be an important part of the communication process. Our eyes signal the channel of communication: who we are talking to. But it is not always possible to control this, as Diane Abbot found out in an interview recently with ITV news.
Politicians are often accused of talking too much and avoiding questions so it is refreshing to see and hear a politician give very short and direct responses to questions during an interview.
Jessica Bott continues her series on ‘equivocation’:
When a politician is equivocating there are multiple ways they can avoid answering a question. Often a politician will have a preferred way to equivocate and avoid using some of Bull’s categories. In the Battle for Number 10 and The ITV Leader’s Debates there were three categories which were not used by the politicians, these were state or imply the question has already been answered, apologises, and literalism. However, Bull 2003 has given examples of these from Thatcher and Kinnock’s interviews. Continue reading “Bull’s Typology of Equivocation (part 2)”
Jessica Bott continues her series on ‘equivocation’:
When a politician is equivocating there are multiple ways they can avoid answering a question. In Bull and Mayer’s study of Thatcher and Kinnock interviews in 1993 they categorised these into eleven super-ordinate categories, that can be divided even further into thirty subordinate categories. Continue reading “Bull’s Typology of Equivocation (part 1)”
Emily Maitlis interviewed the Prime Minister, Theresa May, on Newsnight last night regarding the Grenfell Tower fire disaster. The Prime Minister had been criticised for not talking to the residents of the area when she had visited the site during the day. After the recent election campaign, when she was criticised for being aloof and distant from the electorate, some may say she has missed an important opportunity to show that she is capable of engaging with the public and taking criticism. Continue reading “Detachment”
When discussing equivocation it is worth first considering the concepts of face-management and self-presentation. Face management originated with Erving Goffman who described it as “an image of self-delineated in terms of approved social attributes” (Goffman 1967:5). This concept has been adapted by Brown and Levinson to include two sides of face, positive and negative.
By Jessica Bott, Coventry University:
With the second instalment of The Battle for Number 10 airing, and the upcoming General Election, it is interesting to look back on the 2015 general election and the first Battle for Number 10 featuring David Cameron and Ed Miliband. In this interview, both Cameron and Miliband faced audience questions and an interview with Jeremy Paxman. When examining the interview for equivocation, it became clear that Paxman has a particular interview technique when dealing with equivocation.
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.
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.Continue reading “Bollocks!”
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 Diane Abbott has just found out after her “car-crash” performance on LBC radio this morning with interviewer Nick Ferrari.Continue reading “Abbott’s shaky abacus”
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.Continue reading “The significance of hesitations”
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.
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.
Can a politician cue their own ‘revealing ah’? Theresa May appeared to do this at Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday in the House.
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.Continue reading “Equivocation & hesitation”
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.
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
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.
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
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.Continue reading “Dodging questions”
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”
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?
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.
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.
Quote of the week
“Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a titanic success of it.”
Boris Johnson, 2nd November 2016
A slip of the tongue from Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs.
We have been tracking the use of the slogan ‘Brexit means Brexit’ at neutralfooting. At Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday we learnt a little more about its use though the Prime Minister who originally coined this soundbite.
Politeness in the House of Commons takes on many forms but is often exhibited through off-record, negative and positive politeness. Here is an excellent example of how the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, avoids direct face-threatening language as he attempts to chide a noisy and boisterous MP (MacNeill) and remind him that chewing gum is not allowed in the chamber.
Quote of the week
“You know what some people call them? The nasty party.”
Theresa May, 5th October 2016
Slips of the tongue can be embarrassing for the speaker at the best of times but often provide light relief for the audience. So it was with the Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew Davies, who was speaking at the Conservative party conference yesterday. Davies meant to say “we will make Brexit a success” but instead said “breakfast”.Continue reading “Brexit means breakfast!”
Quote of the week
“The problem was that while those in my party were relaxing many of those “filthy rich” were not paying the taxes they should have been.”
Who said this on 15th September 2016?
Holding the floor in the House of Commons during PMQs is not easy. With noise, shouting and barracking from members of the chamber, it can be quite easy for the current speaker at the dispatch box to become ruffled. This could potentially lead to a loss of face and sometimes the floor if The Speaker decides to intervene. Continue reading “Strategies for holding the floor”
Just as the new football season gets underway with the same old tricks and moves, so the new political seasons kicks off this week. Andrew Neil (Daily Politics interviewer) went up against David Gauke (Conservative MP) in the first penalty shoot-out of the season. As MPs do, Gauke brought his ‘equivocation gloves’ to the studio to defend against the interviewer’s penalty kicks. Continue reading “Equivocation – the first penalty shoot-out of the season”
In face-to-face communication, the eyes (and eye gaze) are the most powerful part of the body we have. John McDonnell illustrated this on Sunday when he directly turned to the camera during an interview on the Andrew Marr show (BBC). The change in gaze from interviewer to viewer (and then back) provided a powerful shift from the traditional interview format to one addressing the television viewer.
Jeremy Corbyn got a little ‘tetchy’ in his interview with Jackie Long on Channel 4 news yesterday. Corbyn seems to have these moments when being interviewed on national TV particularly when he is running for a leadership contest. Here he is sparring with Krishnan Guru-Murthy in 2015 when he was first running for the Labour leadership.Continue reading “Tetchiness from Corbyn”
Quote of the week
“Remain means remain”
Angus Robertson, 20th July 2016
Theresa May delivered her first Prime Minister’s questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon and came through the event relatively unscathed with a touch of “Thatcher” to her performance as some commentators noted.
Her former boss, David Cameron, developed a competent, confident and charismatic approach to PMQs. May scored well in two of these areas but lacked the charisma of her former boss. Continue reading “PMQs watch: Theresa May’s first outing – a touch of Thatcher perhaps?”
Theresa May, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will perform her first Prime Minister’s questions (PMQs) on Wednesday in the House of Commons. PMQs is known to be a testing ground for new Prime Minister’s and leaders – their performance at PMQs can often be a sign of the quality and leadership potential as perceived by the media and the public.
Theresa May has a lot to live up to since the previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, was considered to be a master of PMQs. Prime Minister’s need to know their brief but also strike the right tone between competence, confidence and charisma. It will be interesting to see how she performs. Continue reading “May’s first PMQs”
Quote of the week
“I was the future once.”
David Cameron, PMQs, July 2016
Politicians are not noted for their stand-up comedy routines, but there was plenty of good humour at David Cameron’s last Prime Minister’s questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Many of the jokes were scripted and some fell a little flat as members struggled with their delivery. However the sense of occasions and the fact that it was the politicians delivering the jokes, at their own expense in some cases, meant that there were some genuinely funny moments worthy of Mock the Week or Have I Got News For You. Continue reading “PMQs Watch: Humour at Cameron’s last PMQs”
David Cameron will take part in his last PMQs as Prime Minister on Wednesday. Cameron has been at the dispatch box answering questions most Wednesday afternoons since he became PM in 2010, although he spent several years asking questions as Leader of the Opposition before that. Continue reading “Five telling moments from David Cameron at PMQs”
Most politicians are quite adept at side-stepping difficult questions so it was a surprise to hear Conservative MP Damian Green get somewhat tongue-tied when asked to reveal something about Teresa May on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme.Continue reading “Damian Green’s odd hesitation pattern”
We all have to make U-turns in our lives sometimes: reversing our car when we realise we’ve gone down the wrong road; changing our opinion on some topic; wearing something we swore we would never wear.
For politicians, making a U-turn is potentially face-threatening so getting the language right to explain the U-turn to the public is paramount. It seems that these days anything that has been said in the past can be overturned provided the explanation ignores what has been said and looks only forward. Continue reading “The language of U-turns”
Turn change can often be signalled via body language. Here Hilary Benn gives the turn back to Andrew Marr through a raise of the eyebrows and a slight forward movement of the head (09). The rising intonation on Benn’s tone unit (08) suggests that he was not finished with his comments but he yielded the floor to the interviewer (Marr) who had indicated his desire to take the turn in 06 with a brief attempt to interrupt.Continue reading “Turn transition with the eyebrows”
A few weeks ago I reported on a slip of the tongue by David Cameron in the House of Commons. Here is another slip, this time by Conservative MP, Andrea Leadsom, during the EU referendum debate.Continue reading “Slips of the Tongue – “Child free tax care””
Slips of the tongue can be embarrassing for anyone speaking in public, but when the slip occurs twice in quick succession, one has to ask whether the speaker subconsciously really wanted to say something different. David Cameron (DC) was outlining during PMQs the tough steps the government had taken against ‘unscrupulous employers’ under his premiership when he mistook the word ‘employees’ for ‘employers’ – a reasonable mistake to make you might think. Continue reading “Slip squared!”