I need to start this article with an apology. In Edition One of this series I referred to a number of government issues, all accumulating towards a fairly straightforward condemnation of the state of things as they are. And yet I made one significant mistake. By choosing to repeat the moniker of one particular incident, that being the VAT surcharge proposed for certain hot goods sold on and off our high streets, I became complicit in my own pet hatred of a brand of political and media language that we can all do without. I dare not actually repeat the name in question but we’ll just say it stems from an infamous chapter in American history during which one Richard M. Nixon was obliged to resign from the most powerful office on Earth due to his direct involvement in the attempted cover-up of the break-in of DNC headquarters by subordinates ostensibly trying to uncover evidence of illicit funding to the DNC by Cuban authorities. Snappy.
The Watergate scandal, named after the Watergate hotel and office complex, went beyond this incident however and eventually Nixon implicated himself through recordings he had covertly made of private conversations with various individuals subsequent to this attempted cover-up. This was an astonishing episode in the narrative of US politics that had profound implications for the relationship between citizenry and government as well as the question of executive authority. Its importance cannot be understated.
And yet in the ensuing decades we have grown all too fond of the suffix “gate” attached to any and every scandal from the trivial to the somewhat serious. The aforementioned incident involving, amongst other products, a delicacy of the Cornwall region, was perhaps the final straw for me and despite my indiscretion I had sworn never again to exaggerate such pure banality as a Conservative case of mean policy diarrhoea with such a connection to a definitively seminal event. Even if that was what everyone else was calling it.
No, the use of the “gate” term has certainly now run its course, and likely did some time ago. It is idiotic to use such a term when in fact all this does is dilute the understanding of future generations of a time when the leader of the free world engaged in corruption and criminal activities that appeared more along the lines of an implausible Hollywood script, than the true precedent for the benchmark of genuine political scandal. I never felt more provincial than when newscaster after journalist after opposition member, with regards to what I will now rename Osborne’s Pasty Nightmare, regurgitated the term with that often apparent twinkle of self-satisfaction for having dared to be so terribly bloody clever. Oh, the scorn…
Having said this I could now take an elegant tangent back to what was the planned substance of this article, that being a disdainful look at the Labour party. But actually no amount of elegance could adequately achieve the seamless transition I dreamt of and so I find myself hijacked again by a propensity for distraction. I would rather stick to the issue of language in and around politics and my perception of that itself having been hijacked by the effete gaggle of politicians we are these days served by.
I have certainly mentioned in other articles that part of my enjoyment of the political process in a few nations is the theatre of it. This is partly symptomatic of my understood position of glib observer and commentator, but even though politics should be the serious business of making people’s lives better, it is simply true that there is an obnoxious element of PR and marketing. Stemming from this is the majority of that theatrical aspect, which I usually revel in. Sadly, the fun stops with a resounding thud when I’m forced to listen to the politician who, when grappling with profundity and neutrality all at once, in a struggle akin to grasping a lubricated fish, manages to say absolutely nothing. It is bewildering.
We could probably name the usual language of politicians a language entirely unto itself, and indeed, no longer do our esteemed MPs speak English, I hereby call them users of the unwanted dialect of unremitting twattery. Before you accuse me of being rather overly agitated by this impairment of communication, I should defend myself.
God help me but these are actually important individuals, involved in the important undertaking of running the country. I believe that in a democracy the people should be engaged, and speaking as an avid follower of these issues, nothing turns me off more than this dire situation. It does not surprise me in the slightest that direct democratic participation in the UK has steadily declined since 1997 when professional politicians began to outnumber the politicians of conscience (dare I suggest such a thing exists) and this language became prevalent. What ever happened to the statesman who with eloquence and frankness could deliver a message and actively engage the people with it? I am not imagining this was once a real thing as despite Tony Blair’s era bringing this foul culture into play, he was a supreme communicator. As is Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton for that matter, when either are in form.
It now seems the rare exception that a politician speaks in their fashion, although it so desperately shouldn’t be. Vince Cable is often hailed for undressed language, and it’s perhaps his greatest bit of political currency given his occasional habit of proposing curious initiatives. Incidentally, this opens the door to the question of the substance of policy itself. Maybe I am being too hard on the poor folks over in Westminster, as perhaps if they had even the nucleus of a good idea to run with they wouldn’t have to veil needless tripe with a barrage of meaningless qualifiers and exhaustively researched catchwords and phrases that tested well in sample groups. Perhaps if for once a policy could speak for itself we could entirely forgo the mildly sordid and intrusive experience of an MPs ramblings.
We should be so lucky. I realise again as I draw this piece to a close that I’m not achieving the higher goal of discussing such a diamond-in-the-rough as logical policy but then I can find praise for myself in this. Clearly lacking a decent idea at present I say that in distinction to the majority of our lamentable public servants I did not therefore choose to enter politics.
I honestly did want to spend some time with this piece discussing the Labour opposition. And in light of Nick Clegg’s recent surge of heinously transparent policy shifts away from the Tory side of things I think it would be just about reasonable to discuss him a little further. Despite the… Lib Dem thing. But I’m exhausted with rage now and should the House of Commons not collapse in on itself overnight, I’ll have wandered down that way and repeatedly smashed my ailing, frustrated head against its increasingly redundant walls for nothing.
Until next time. Although to corroborate this article and pre-empt the next, please watch this delightful clip featuring Steve Bell offering his commentary on the current Lib Dem conference. Ask no questions as to why I loathe them thereafter.