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The Art of Saying Nothing

When I was a newspaper reporter, I wanted answers. It was a matter of professional pride to get them. But I met my match in the mid-1980s in the shape of the then Liberal Party leader David Steel. There was some controversy within the party over the policy on nuclear weapons. Someone slipped me Steel’s cellphone number and I gave him a call. I grilled him for 10 to 15 minutes to find out what the party policy was. He was a busy man and that was all the time I had. I thought I’d pinned him down to a firm statement of policy. I was satisfied. Then I looked carefully at my notes. It became apparent that he’d chosen his words very carefully. I had heard what I wanted to hear. He hadn’t actually said what I thought he was saying. He had said precisely nothing. I was torn between admiration and frustration. I’d been bested by an old pro. I tried the cellphone number again. But this time there was no answer.


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