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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
Jeremy Paxman, 29th May 2017
“When did you realise you had got it wrong on the biggest question of our times in politics?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”