Monday, 19 January 2009

But what's the answer?

The Guardian's Peter Preston blames the media for the tendency of politicians to avoid answering the questions they are actually asked. He cites that examples of ministers Shriti Vadera and Margaret Beckett, both lambasted for saying that there might be some small reasons for optimism.

As Preston points out, both made highly qualified comments, which the media took massively out of context. Vadera answered a very leading question and more or less discounted the proposition that there was much to shout about. Had she gone any further in saying that there was no cause for optimism, she would have been badly talking the economy down.

Preston bemoans the effect of all this:
Yet, can a politician afford to venture such thoughts in even the most hesitant, deeply nuanced way? Obviously not. Let's snarl at Shriti and bang on about Beckett. Let's play the accustomed game of constant evasion and brain-dead assertion. Let's put any hint of complexity or modest intelligence into cold storage. This is politics after all, not life.

Are we going to hell in a handcart, minister? With the greatest respect, Jeremy, I think I'll get Lord Mandelson to not answer that ...

I remember seeing Mandelson on Newsnight declining to answer a difficult question by pretending that he couldn't hear it.

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