Leslie, Hammond, spending and defence

When I started doing these blogs last monts, I highlighted the way in which politicians and business leaders abuse language to dodge answering questions. https://deceivingus.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/how-they-abuse-language/

I almost thought when I woke up to hear Chris Leslie, the shadow secretary to the Treasury that he was trying to establish a record by including every possible evasion technique in less than five minutes –  and added a few more I had not thought of.

Asked reasonably enough by John Humphries about the implictions for Labour’s economic policy of a coalition with the SNP, we got the full range of evasion…. “What a total distraction..”  “The thing that  we have to focus on, the thing that we absolutely have to focus on…” “What we are determined to do…” “That is what people want to be focused on in this election…”

And that all came in his first answer – not the use of the helpful whats that I have focused on and the deflection away from the actual question.

By question two he brushed coalition aside saying to Humphries: “You have to ask this question” and trying to move the subject on “We have only one thing in mind…” He goes on to refocus the question “What this isnt about…”

The comes the question “What will you do about…” and the answer comes from the text book of spin evasion “What we WANT to do about…”

It all proved too much for Humphries who asked in exasperation for “some sort of commitment to something.”

Leslie was only following the party line which was to insist that no-one was talking about the subject when everyone was.. The previous day Caroline Flint had defected the issue by saying “Let me say this…”

I am grateful to Patrick Kidd of The Times for saving me the trouble of listening to picking up other evasions on this subject – Harriet Harman said: “That’s not a sensible question” on Sky and Sadiq Khan said on Pienaar’s Politics that it was “a jiujitsu move by Lynton Crosby when he’s under attack for advising the Prime Minister for bottling out of the debates.”

However, I think that alll Labour’s dodging the question about an SNP coalition pales into insignificance when set alongside Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond’s responses to questions on whether a Tory government would keep defence spending at 2 per cent of GDP.

Hammond has form when it comes to evasion – he described government cuts as “an envelope of resources on a downward trajectory;” But on the Andrew Marr show, he ducked and weaved, trying to put a positive spin on defence spending without committing to anything.

Pressed on the 2 per cent figure, he responded: “We are spending 2 per cent of GDP”, “We are the second largest defence spender”, “We led the charge to make this committment” for Nato countries.”

He continued by saying he could not predict what was in the defence review or the Tory manifesto.

Mr Kidd said in The Times that the politicians were using “creative evasion” I think he is being rather too generous – though I am deeply grateful to Mr Leslie and Mr Hammond for adding to my stock of evasive aswers.


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