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Why can't politicians just answer the question?

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Why can't politicians just answer the question?


Ever wondered why we even bother listening to our politicians? Or why journalists even bother asking them questions? Every now and then we are treated to one of those magical little moments when our elected representatives forget the microphone is still on and we find out what they really think. Gordon Brown’s 'bigoted woman gaffe' just before he failed to get elected is a prime example.

But barring the odd mistake, all that politicians will say to journalists is what they want the public to hear. It doesn’t matter what the question is, the answer will always be the same. There was a classic example of this in the UK last week. A journalist asked Labour opposition party leader Ed Miliband six questions all vaguely relating to the government’s controversial budget cuts. Six different questions, six almost identical answers. The full interview is here, an edited and more cringe-inducing version is here. The journalist in question was so frustrated with the interview that he was compelled to write his thoughts on the matter on Twitter, where he bemoaned the “professional discourtesy” of the use of journalists as “recording devices” for politicians’ “scripted soundbites.” He admits that after the interview he couldn’t look Miliband in the eye.

The media is often part of this conspiracy of claptrap. Experienced British journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy explains on Channel4's website the way in which media and politicians are in cahoots to make their jobs easier: the reporter gets his soundbite, the politician delivers his message. Everyone is happy as long as the wider public – the voter – is oblivious to the trick.

The ‘Miliband Loop’ reminded me of another comic example of failing to answer the question: former UK Conservative Party leader Michael Howard once failed, despite being asked the same ‘yes or no’ question 12 times, to give a ‘yes or no’ answer.

It is only right that when politicians talk absolute dross, they should be exposed for it. Similarly, if politicians do talk straight they should be recognised and applauded. Thus I ask you to send examples of either political blah-blah-blah or moments of rare lucidness to or on our facebook page and the best examples will be posted online.

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