Advice on how to survive a Parliamentary grilling

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The Independent Online

Bamboozle the committee with new evidence, learn how to blink like a human and make sure to shed a few tears – The Independent’s panel of experts have invaluable advice for Rebekah Brooks and the Murdoch father and son if they want to emerge from Tuesday’s Parliamentary grilling with their reputations enhanced.

Dee Cannon, a leading acting coach who has worked with Jon Voigt and Courtney Love, said: “Vulnerability is the key. They have to come across as open and soft, to show humility, shock at what has gone on and an acceptance of blame.”

Ms Cannon, former senior acting coach at Rada, said: “James (Murdoch) doesn’t blink and that’s very off-putting. It gives the appearance of being robotic and overly intense. No-one will perceive you as being vulnerable if you don’t blink. They must avoid anything that comes across as being snippy, over-confident or arrogant.”

Rebekah could shed a tear when the Milly Dowler allegations are aired. “It can become emotional and moistened eyes are ok as long as she doesn’t cross the line in to weeping.”

Like actors, the trio must work out an “objective” for the scene. “They need to know what the goal is. In this case it is exoneration. That comes from being soft and showing you are connected as a person to your own feelings.”

Ms Cannon advises the witnesses to take deep breath inhalations, in order to deliver oxygen to the brain, in a private room before the hearing starts.

To help relieve visible facial stress, the witnesses should scrunch up their faces (think Les Dawson) and release after a few seconds, Ms Cannon said.

Max Clifford, the PR guru, said the witnesses should catch their inquisitors off-guard: “I would advise them to come armed with new evidence that they can use to convince people who are extremely doubtful that they are telling the truth,” he said.

“Rebekah has been leading this investigation for the past two years .They know where the bodies are buried and have all the information.”

The Murdoch clan could muddy the waters. “They need to make the point that there are vested interests here,” Clifford said. “The wider media is out to destroy the competition. They need to make sure the inquiry spreads to other tabloid papers.”

“This is a platform for them to defend themselves vigorously. I encouraged Rebekah to do this years ago. I left a message for her to say how sorry I am (after she resigned). If she wants more advice before Tuesday, she knows where I am.”

“Rebekah’s got to nail the Milly Dowler allegation. That is the most important one. She told me there is now way she knew about any of these investigations whatsoever and I believe her.”

“The best they can hope for is that the British people believe that they had no knowledge or involvement in any shape or form in those activities.”

Alastair Sava, a communications psychology expert at the Leadership Agency, said: “Sit up straight. If they don’t sit straight, then they’re not straight; they’re crooked. The body is a picture, and if you look uncomfortable or unreceptive then people will read into that.”

The witnesses should employ a “good make-up artist” to mask any sweating and make constant eye contact. Mr Sava said: “They should make use of silence; this will indicate sincere reflection and a measured, non-panicked response.”

He concluded: “An optimistic mindset is important, it feeds behaviour and communication; if Brooks and the Murdochs think that they have done something wrong, then they will appear guilty. People often criminalise themselves by acting overly defensive, thus invoking suspicion amongst the audience.”

However despite the expectations of fireworks next Tuesday, Mark Stephens, the leading media lawyer, predicted a “slow, tedious and painful” hearing.

He said: “It could be a damp squib. They will bring a retinue of lawyers and refuse to answer anything that might compromise ongoing investigations.”

Just being obstructive won’t be enough though. Mr Stephens said: “It needs care and you need a co-ordinated strategy. If you selectively answer some questions but not others it could point to the area where you are guilty.”

“There are sanctions for lying to Parliament. Not giving honest answers could lead them not to be regarded as fit and proper persons to hold a television licence.

“The flaw in the system is that MPs are not forensically trained like barristers to cross-examine the eye-teeth out of people.”