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.
Slips of the tongue are a normal part of speech. It is very difficult for anyone to speak at length without stumbling over their words briefly. This is particularly true for television commentators as this Sky correspondent (Mark Stone) found out recently:
Political interviewing can be a frustrating affair when the politician being interviewed refuses to answer directly the questions put to them. John Humphrys, a BBC radio 4 presenter and interviewer, gave Chris Grayling, a Conservative MP, a grilling on the Today programme when he questioned him over recent remarks by Boris Johnson, one of Grayling’s colleagues. Johnson had recently compared the European Union to Adolf Hitler in their attempts to create a ‘super state’. Humphrys wanted to know whether Grayling agreed with this position or not. However, Grayling was not ready to give a direct answer and an interesting game of cat and mouse ensued which makes for a useful CA analysis. (The full transcript is given at the end.) Continue reading “Grayling’s grilling”
Jeremy Corbyn (JC) had to brave howls of laughter when he accused the Prime Minister of a ‘long answer’ at PMQs on Wednesday. Corbyn had previously provided a quite long question himself which the house had barely tolerated. When he accused the Prime Minister (PM) of being long-winded the Conservative benches immediately sensed the irony and burst into a chorus of laughter, putting Corbyn off his stride. Continue reading “PMQs Watch: Howls of laughter”
Most people would do their upmost to get a sitting in the House of Commons but on occasion some MPs are only too glad to relinquish it. Dennis Skinner, the MP for Bolsover, was happy to do so on Monday as he accuses David Cameron of being ‘dodgy’ over his financial dealings. Continue reading “How to get thrown out of the House of Commons”
The tone of the chamber in PMQs can change quite dramatically from an affiliative (cooperative) tone to an adversarial (competitive) tone depending on the topic. Affiliative discourse is not as common as adversarial discourse in the House, but an occasion such as a terrorist attack often calls for leaders to make statement to which the chamber are usually respectful. When the topic changes to more local, inter-party issues then members can change tone at the drop of a hat. Continue reading “Affiliative and Adversarial Discourse”
George Galloway was interviewed recently on the Daily Politics show (BBC) after his weekend surprise appearance on stage for the “Leave the EU” campaign. Galloway provides an interesting example of how politicians can often try and control the floor and line of questioning in interviews, a well-known equivocation technique. Continue reading “George Galloway”
Corbyn negotiates with the chamber
Jeremy Corbyn (JC) had to negotiate with the chamber again yesterday during Prime Minister’s Questions. When he rose to speak there was a great deal of barracking and he sarcastically remarked that is was nice to get such a warm welcome: Continue reading “PMQs Watch – Chuntering from a sedentary position”
Jeremy Corbyn made his first appearance on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday. Marr was clearly ready to ask him lots of conflictual questions and within the first few seconds of the start of the interview was interrupting his guest. The first interruption came about due to a slight pause by Corbyn’s in his speech to clear his throat. Microseconds can be important in high profile TV interviews and Marr clearly took the pause and the falling intonation as a sign that Corby had finished his turn. Continue reading “Wooooo, slow down Andy!”
You might think that passing on season’s greetings at Christmas time in the House of Commons would be a fairly enjoyable and risk-free thing to do. But David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn got themselves into twist as they came head to head in the last PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) before the Christmas break. Continue reading “The pain of giving Season’s Greetings in the House of Commons”
PMQs returned to our screens on Wednesday after a brief rest bite for the party conferences. David Cameron went up against Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour party, for the second time since Corbyn was elected. Corbyn again selected some questions from the public, a technique that has been dubbed ‘Corbyn’s crowdsourcing’, but followed these up with more specific points to try and pin Cameron down on certain issues.
One feature of Corbyn’s delivery that seems to have emerged is the ‘Corbyn stare’, a rather dismissive eye gaze at a certain section of unruly MPs in the chamber, usually accompanied by a prolonged pause in his delivery. As I have suggested before, long pauses in a speaker’s delivery are rare in the chamber because of the potential loss of face and a possible interruption by the Speaker of the House. MPs prefer to use repetition and false starts to hold the floor while dealing with unruly sections of the chamber. Continue reading “PMQs Watch – The Corbyn Stare”
PMQs was a relatively quiet affair on Wednesday apart for the outburst from “Jurassic Park” (aka Dennis Skinner). Harriet Harman asked a few questions on the issue of radicalisation and the aftermath of the Tunisian attacks before moving on to the issue of airport capacity. Continue reading “PMQs watch”
We presented the following presentation at the BESRES conference at Coventry University yesterday. The talk was well received and generated some useful discussion. Thank you to all who attended our talk and to the conference organisers for putting on the event.
Conference slides are here: BES Conference 2015 – slides
Here is the abstract for our upcoming conference presentation.
Representing Spoken Political Discourse in the Digital Era: Can accurate and faithful semantic representations be obtained from Hansard transcriptions of Prime Minister’s question time in the House of Commons? Continue reading “Abstract for upcoming conference”
Welcome to this blog site – “Neutral Footing”. Here you will find academic commentary on political discourse with particular reference to the Houses of Parliament.
To kick us off, here’s a short poem based on the words of the current speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow:
We’ve got to listen in order to hear
There’s far too much noise
And shouting I fear
We need to make progress
Please do shut up
If you cannot calm down
Then I say grow up!