Not answering the question, with YouTube

How not to give a straight answer to a straight question, with Michael Howard, John McEnroe and Dubya.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Straight talking and shooting from the hip are supposedly prized in the worlds of business and politics. Unless of course someone is asking you a question which you don’t want to answer, in which case obscuration and plausible deniability are the order of the day. In the week in which ex News of the World editor Andy Coulson hasn’t quite answered some rather tough questions about what he did or didn’t know, we offer you some of the choicest examples of failing to answer the question. Watch and learn.

In one of Newsnight’s most celebrated clashes Jeremy Paxman went mano a mano with Michael Howard over the latter’s refusal to answer his question not once but a dozen times. As Paxman said, ‘It’s a simple yes or no question’; Howard didn’t quite see it that way. The nation (or at least the AB1 part of it) sided with Paxo, but  Some years later, Paxman would have Boris Johnson refuse to answer another question 12 times.

John McEnroe tried a more direct route and don’t forget that obscenity inflation means that calling an umpire a ‘jerk’ back in the early 80s is roughly equivalent to calling someone something a great deal worse today. Not that we really knew what a jerk was here in Blighty anyway until after McEnroe popularised the expression.

Finally, George ‘Dubya’ Bush demonstrates that you can always brush off an unwanted question with a gee-shucks folksy approach even if it does leave the audience wondering if a first year student is better qualified to lead the free world than you are.

Have a great weekend.


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