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Playing the Man, Not the Ball: Personalisation in Political Discourse

Waddle, Maurice (2018) Playing the Man, Not the Ball: Personalisation in Political Discourse. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

'Playing the man, not the ball' in its literal sense relates to a sporting encounter, typically where an individual directs physical aggression towards an opponent rather than the expected and legitimate practice of playing the ball. In the area of political discourse, it is used metaphorically for verbal exchanges which have a personal focus rather than sticking to a topical agenda. It is a form of political communication which can attract media attention, particularly when it is impolite or insulting. It can be derided by members of the public (e.g., see Allen et al., 2014), although some claim it is key to maintaining public interest in politics (e.g., Gimson, 2012). This research project is an investigation into this form of discourse – labelled 'personalisation' – within politics in the United Kingdom. Analyses are based in two high profile settings for political discussion: broadcast interviews and Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). The aims of the interview studies include assessing the forms personalisation can take, its prevalence in mainstream politics, and its function and effectiveness. It becomes apparent that personalised responses to interviewers’ questions by leading politicians take many forms and can be used as a control measure when faced with troublesome questions. Findings indicate a shortfall in existing literature on equivocation. The studies of PMQs are focused on disrespectful exchanges between Prime Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition across a 37-year period. Those findings reveal changes across time in the use of personally aggressive language, and how relative politeness can emerge during certain policy debates. Theoretical explanations for the significant differences are discussed. Significant differences between leading figures in their conduct during the exchanges also becomes evident. Indeed, some party leaders are shown to be prominent in their personally antagonistic behaviour, despite having made pledges to the contrary.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Psychology (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.766585
Depositing User: Dr Maurice Waddle
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2019 14:18
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2020 13:07
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22456

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