7 January 2010

Mandelson gives two straight answers to two of Paxman's questions!

video

Only six months after posting a rare video clip in which a politician (Charles Clarke) gave a straight answer to an interviewer's question, I was amazed to see yet another example last night- twice in quick succession - of the same thing happening in Jeremy Paxman's interview with Lord Mandelson on Newsnight.

Interestingly, both Clarke and Mandelson were both answering questions about Gordon Brown - in marked contrast with Clarke's comments on Brown after the loss of the Norwich North by-election and the day when Mandelson's response to a similar question about Brown was to walk out of the interview altogether.

Evidence that a straight answer surprises interviewers?

Apart from being please to add another exception to my small collection of politicians actually answering questions, I was also struck by the delays before Paxman managed to come up with each of his next questions.

As you'll see, Mandelson's "Yes" came instantly after the end of the first question, but there was a gap of more than a second before Paxman asked his next one, to which Mandelson instantly came up with another straight answer - followed by a delay of about half a second before Paxman carried on.

These might seem slight pauses, but we know from research into conversation that silences as long as one fifth of a second are not only rare, but also tend to be noticed by other participants (and/or observers).

A blast from Mandelson's past?

This particular sequence reminded me of Brian Walden's interview with Nigel Lawson, just after the former chancellor had resigned from the Thatcher government in 1989.

When Lawson gave remarkably straight answers to the first few questions, Walden looked visibly perplexed and, perhaps for the only time, seemed to be struggling to keep the interview going long enough to fill the scheduled slot.

Before going into politics, Mandelson used to work for LWT as a producer on Walden's Weekend World programme - which is, perhaps, where he learned that even top interviewers can find straight answers to questions quite disconcerting.

RELATED POSTS:

· A Tory leader's three evasive answers to the same question

Gordon Brown's interview technique: the tip of a tedious iceberg

A prime minister who openly refused to answer an interviewer’s questions

Why it's so easy for politicians not to answer interviewers' questions - and what should be done about it

Why has Gordon Brown become a regular on the Today programme?

Interview techniques, politicians and how we judge them

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