The next time you hear a politician prevaricate, obfuscate or simply ignore a question on the Today programme, pause a moment before hurling your radio at the wall, and ask yourself why apparently intelligent men and women resort to such painfully obvious tactics.
Last night I conducted a live “Conversation With John Humphrys” for an audience of 400 at a charity event in Salisbury and I was intrigued by John’s take on MPs’ bluster. From the days of Alistair Campbell, if not before, MPs have relied on meticulous training to hone the art of evasion and get them through a Humphrys inquisition.
Though clearly frustrated by having to deal with it on a daily basis, John nevertheless points out that there is a reason behind such obstructive tactics.
Their wilful behaviour may not simply be a desire to avoid embarrassment live on air. They are also desperate to avoid the ridicule of fellow MPs or, worse, an urgent invitation to the office of the Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition. On returning to the House of Commons after an appearance on Today, the verdict of their colleagues that “you got away with that, old boy” may be all they want to hear.
It’s a depressing thought that these guardians of democracy may be more concerned with avoiding criticism from the fellow members of their Westminster club, than shedding light on an issue of importance to the rest of us. And it’s a thought which is even more likely to cause us to choke on our toast and marmalade.