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”
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Conversation can sometimes be like a game of poker, raising and doubling stakes, as the Andrew Marr Show demonstrated on Sunday.
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.
Interviewers don’t always get what they ask for but when they do, it can often cause difficulties for the interview.
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.
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.
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.
Continue reading “Quote of the Week”
“When did you realise you had got it wrong on the biggest question of our times in politics?”Jeremy Paxman, 29th May 2017
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.Continue reading “Equivocation & hesitation”
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”
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.Continue reading “Tetchiness from Corbyn”
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”
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”
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”
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!”
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader candidate, raised an interesting question of what is tabloid journalism’ while being interviewing by Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News recently. The comment reaches to the heart of political interviewing: who has the right to set questions and what constitutes appropriate answers?
Corbyn is asked by Guru-Murthy (Int) why he had called Hamas and Hezbollah ‘friends’ in a recent speech.
Int: why did you call Hamas and Hezbollah your friends?