By Paul Arnold
Most politicians love to speak, yet they hardly ever say anything. According to a comprehensive survey that I’ve just invented, the current UK election campaign has produced more meaningless babble than any other. Because of the deceptive potential of political language we need to keep our wits about us as those who seek to lead mask the truth or try to make it more palatable. Often, they take cover under a litany of go-to stock phrases that support the party message. So, I’ve dusted off my political speak translator to look at what politicians say and what they really mean.
“What I’m hearing from hardworking families and real people up and down the country” – what my focus groups are telling me.
“We must focus on the issue at hand” – and, err not the one you keep pressing me about, which is what people really want to know and I can’t answer because I haven’t the foggiest.
“Let me answer that very directly”- those few words have just bought me some time to think up a way of throwing you off the scent.
“With all due respect to my opponent” – don’t listen to that idiot.
“I want to be frank with you” – really, does anyone believe me when I say this?
“The real question is…” – the one you’ve just asked me, but I didn’t prepare for it. However, I did do my homework on a completely unrelated point and so I’ll say something about that instead.
“We have the opportunity to reassess and change our relationship with the rest of Europe”- to one of suspicion, loathing and resentment instead of peaceful coexistence and cooperation.
“With the greatest respect sir/madam” – I don’t care a fig about you or your opinions.
“We trust the British people to make the right decision” – we wouldn’t trust them to open a tin of sardines that was already open. Look what they did when we asked them to vote on our relationship with Europe.
“Well, if we recruit the 10,000 policemen and women over the four-year period, we believe it will be around £300,000” – I haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about. What day of the week is it?
“We have successfully created new jobs” – well, I have just employed a new gardener.
“We care passionately about our environmental footprint and the state we leave the planet to the next generation” – after we’ve slashed our way through woods and forests we’re going to allow fracking of the entire countryside. That’s where the real moolah is.
“That’s an interesting question Ted/Marjorie/Steve” – my spin doctors are going to be so pleased I used first names when talking to members of the public. It appears like I am one of them and genuinely interested in what they have to say. I’ve even been working on my earnest expression.
“What I said was meant as a joke” – I’m in the crapper now for saying that. A recent example of this was Tory MP and candidate for re-election in Wells in Somerset, James Heappey. He told a schoolgirl to “f**k off back to Scotland” after she said she supported Scottish independence. When the schoolgirl complained he wrote a letter to apologise and told a newspaper that the comment was intended as a joke. Ah, so we have a comedian. What a hoot it must’ve been to hear a politician so bereft of argument to drop the ‘f’ bomb when talking to a child.
“There will be no hiding places for terrorists” – I am going to use every scare tactic in the book to make people more afraid. Then I will take advantage of their fear to grab more power at the expense of personal liberty.
“The country needs strong leadership” – I’ve always rather fancied seeing myself in Number 10.
“I am on the side of the hardworking British family” – but I’m not going to break into a sweat for them. I’m really on the side of whichever organisation writes the biggest cheques for my party and who can assure me of a lucrative board membership or consultancy once the political career goes pear shaped.
“Unemployment is at record low levels” – because those who earn a pittance on zero-hours contracts and have similar working conditions to developing world sweat shops are classed as employed. Don’t you just love playing with statistics?
“We are all in this together” – ha ha ha ha. Don’t be so ridiculous.