Avoiding the question

People had excellent specs in the 1980s

I’ll be updating occasionally until the new year, but meanwhile click on the link to use iPlayer to catch up with Jon Sopel’s 15-minute nugget from Radio 4, “Avoiding the Question“, about how politicians do everything they can to avoid giving a straight answer to a straight question.

I wish the spokespeople that I meet would not try to copy the politicians that they heard on the radio that morning. Please stop doing this, not least because you’re not very good at it. In my experience it goes like this:

Spokesperson: While this type of tittle-tattle may be of interest to a small group of journalists back in the real world what we should be talking about are the enormous strides that we have made this year in delivering a world-class inkjet printer cartridge replacement service under enormous and frankly unreasonable pressure from people like yourselves.

Me: So you’re not going to tell me your job title then?

Two reasons to listen: Dr Peter Bull, a psychologist from York University, has identified 35 different ways that politicians use to avoid answering a question. And Daniel Finkelstein recalls the story that Dr David Owen once fell asleep on TV. The interviewer asked what he thought of the point that Geoffrey Howe had just made. He woke up and said:

That’s not the real issue in this election.

changed the subject, and carried on. Now that’s a class act. Just please don’t copy it.

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