Just when I thought the weekend had passed without too evasion, I realised I had not listened to the Andrew Marr show – he really is very good at putting politicians in a position where they have to deploy every verbal trick.
This time it was the turn of Chancellor George Osborne and his shadow Ed Balls. Both were pretty evasive on the detail of economic policy. Perhaps Osborne was on the weakest ground when pressed on the 2 per cent defence spending target – the mantra seems to be to focus on what spending is rather than what it will be.
And when confronted with the suggestion that a future Tory government might have to make colossal overall spending cuts, he evaded by saying “we have to make difficult decisions.”
In fairness Balls was equally evasive. Always distrust a politician who says as he did: “We have set out very clearly…” You only use the word “clearly” when you mean to deceive.
I was though much more entertained by Marr’s questioning about possible coalitions. Balls and Osborne were much happier talking about the other party’s coalition plans than their own. Both used the standard defence “we are fighting for a majority” to evade any discussion of coalition.
When pressed about a possible deal with UKIP, Osborne failed to rule out it. He responded with “we have a simple argument in this election…” , “even engaging with him (Farage) is giving him credibility”, and “I don’t think he is a credible participant in this election.”
Osborne’s refusal to answer the question was matched by Balls, who when asked by Marr about doing a deal with the SNP, refused to rule it out. “We have no plans, no desire, no need to have a deal with the SNP.”, “Ed Miliband said it is nonsense – it is not part of our plans”, “I am not going to get involved in speculation about post-election deals.” , and “it is not part of our plans. It is nonsense.”
Speculation about post-election deals is of course mug’s game as no-one knows the election arithmetic. But, if you speculate about what your opponents might do, it is hardly surprising that they do the same.
The result is inevitably mass evasion which makes both parties look deceitful.