In any pitch the Q & A session can influence the decision as much as the formal presentation. This past week of televised inquisition has had the media, the politicians and the police in the dock and under the cosh. They all came well prepared,, and for the most part well coached, so what are the lessons to be drawn?
Team Murdoch demonstrated the values of teamwork and staging, cleverly orchestrating four elements. The massed consiglieri in close support, conveyed corporate commitment. Be assured we take this session very seriously. (Shareholders please note.). The master stroke was having Wendi, quite apart from her fortuitous hitwoman strike, as an unmissable and intense presence,
Rupert and James needed each other. Individually they would have been over exposed. Rupert’s ‘amnesia’, actual or assumed, would have worn thin and his powerful use of the long pause, that disconcerted the committee, would have lost its impact. The aging Godfather stayed strong. Son James, however, was no Michael Corleoni. His over-prepared answers, and overly polite corporate speak, grated.
By contrast Rebekah Brooks appeared solo, apart from a discrete off-camera lawyer, with empty chairs signalling she was on her own. Rather less flame than usual, she cut a somewhat forlorn and fatigued figure so the sympathy vote for ‘plucky’ Rebecca was in operation, among the male inquisitors anyway, from the start.
The way she handled the questions was an object lesson. With composure, she listened attentively and respectfully to the questioner and gave a real, not pre-packaged, response. Her calm assertion and thoughtful approach deflected hostility and her intelligent use of ‘appropriate’ words was impressive.
Although fighting lost battles, both our then senior policemen performed admirably under fire. Unlike the Murdochs and Broooks, who were all induging in the infamous “not on my watch defence”, both gave clear unambiguous answers. Sir Paul Stephenson in his emphatic and forthright manner, John Yates with a quieter steely assurance. You felt the country had been in safe hands.
Answering 136 questions in a couple of hours called for a bravura performance, especially after being on the back foot previously. For him the way he answered was always going to be more important than the substance. He just had to be seen to be in charge and on the front foot, a leader. His sheer energy and attack achieved this, just.
He may however regret picking up from Rebekah the ‘appropriate’ sound bite. For her it worked. For him it hasn’t.