Going through a tricky phrase

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The Independent Online
Have you noticed that news and currents affairs programmes are now so sophisticated that all interviews are exactly the same? In other words, they are all boring no-score draws? It stands to reason, really. When you have a professional interviewer tackling a professional spokesman or politician, no one is going to give away a goal.

So, to while away the tedium of these otherwise useless encounters, I have devised a new game to play during Today or Newsnight or wherever interviewer is pitted against apologist. All you have to do is take the following list in hand and tick a phrase every time you hear it used by the person being interviewed. The more phrases you tick you better you score.

"We have always welcomed criticism."

"We have nothing to be afraid of in the way of criticism."

"We have nothing to hide."

"There are always improvements to be made."

"Yes, I think we have got to be more focused in this area."

"Yes, I think we have got to be more responsive."

"Mistakes have been made. Of course they have."

"But mistakes have always been made. It is not the fault of the system. It is down to human nature."

"I couldn't possibly comment on an individual case."

"I haven't had a chance to read the report yet, so I couldn't possibly make a comment on that."

"What I would like to know is, who leaked the document to the Guardian in the first place? That is what we should be asking ourselves."

"There will always be problems of adjustment when you are instituting change, but the benefits will be very real when the throughput is on stream."

"We have always been customer-led."

"We have always been customer-driven."

"It is all a matter of interpretation."

"Ah, but that applies only to reported crime."

"That is very selective quoting from a leaked document."

"That is very selective quoting from a leaked discussion document."

"That is very selective quoting from a leaked discussion document which I have not yet had a chance to see."

"That is very selective quoting from a leaked discussion document which I have not yet had a chance to see in this morning's Guardian."

"I would like to comment on that, but as you know it is still sub judice."

"If there is any truth in what you are saying, then the proper course of action is to hold an inquiry."

"I think it would be quite improper of me to comment on that while the inquiry is still taking place."

"As you know, the inquiry is due to report very soon, and that will be the correct time to respond to your questions."

"I feel sure you will understand when I say that I have not yet had time to digest what the report says."

"I have now had time to digest what the report says and I agree with it when it says that it is too late now to apportion blame."

"We must learn from our mistakes."

"We must all learn from our mistakes."

"It is time to put old differences aside and forge a common strategy."

"Far be it from me to make a party political point, but ..."

"I couldn't agree with you more. All I would say is this ..."

"Ah, yes, but you are concentrating on one small area."

"The report was at pains to point out that the overall picture is healthy."

"The year you quote happened to be an unfortunate and quite atypical one."

"We are not complacent."

"We have never been complacent."

"Things look very different on the shop floor, I can tell you."

"No, I don't accept that."

"That is not a picture I recognise."

"Oh, come on - if Michael Howard refuses to admit responsibility for anything, you surely don't expect me to do so?"

Get the idea?

You get a point for every line you hear and tick.

You get five points every time you hear the same line twice.

You get 100 points every time you get to the end of an interview.

You get 1,000 points every time you listen right to the end of an interview and the cliches come so thick and fast that you still have no idea what it was about - crime, education, child abuse, lorry pollution, soccer violence or whatever.

Good luck!

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