One of the things politicians are always accused of is not answering questions. – Did you threaten to overrule him?
– I did not overrule Derek Lewis – Did you threaten to overrule him? I took advice on what I could or could not do… – Did you threaten to overrule him, Mr. Howard?
– and I acted scrupulously in accordance with… This kind of thing is really annoying, and it makes politicians look untrustworthy and slimy So why do they do it? ( ♫ ♫ ♫ ) Politicians all suffer from chronic job insecurity If they say anything stupid, they could be unemployed within hours… or days. That’s why, if they’re being interviewed on TV, on the radio in a newspaper or in the street one of the dangerousest things they could do is answer a question. Let me show you what could go wrong if you give a straight answer in an interview: The answer is £5,136.45 Yes, but according to this piece of paper the figures are actually closer to £10,746,986.92 Yes, but in a previous interview you said a different figure, which was £4,988,702.11 So, do you mean by that answer you just gave that you want to cut lots of jobs? Well, no… I mean… er… You mean you’re in favour of waste? *heavy breathing* That’s why politicians are scared to commit to anything. Being rumbled will make them look hypocritical, or worse – incompetent. So, if you’re a politician, how do you get through an interview without putting your foot in it? Hi, I’m Peter Botting, and I actually exist! Do you want to survive the next election? Are you positively petrified of being powerfully pummelled in a partisan political probing? I can make you bullet proof! 1. Don’t like the question? Change it to a different question. Well, I think what we should be asking is… 2. Use vague, yet committal vocabulary Look, let me be clear interviewer’s name, Robust plan. 3. Imply that the interviewer is too stupid to understand the real answer Well, that’s a really complicated question, and we don’t have all day, so let me try and explain it simply. 4. Change the subject and talk about something dreadful your opponents have done Let me just change the subject and talk about something dreadful our opponents have done And finally, 5. Give an answer that’s so confusing, nobody knows if you’ve said anything at all. Well I’m glad you’ve raised that question, interviewer’s name So, let me be clear, this is an issue that we’re very concerned about and it’s about time that we stopped dithering, got around the negotiating table got it sorted, got this right, stopped getting it wrong And made sure this issue doesn’t get raised again, at least not during the course of our government without asking permission first Erm, look… It’s important we have a robust response… and here’s the thing… The argument, James, I’m putting, is this… That’s not kind of the issue. The issue is… if we sort of stand back and look at the big picture… So stop making sense and save your skin. Call today! It’s a real pity that this man and several more like him exists slash exist But the reason that he and his clients are so successful is because these tricks keep them out of trouble, demonstrably. Just look at this graph. We have to face the fact that in a media increasingly driven by soundbites where everything you say lasts forever, politicians are never going to give straight answers. Their job security matters more than their job being done effectively So, what’s the solution? There isn’t one. It’s naive to assume that we’re owed a solution to this awful, worsening, inherently unsolvable problem. That’s it. Bye.