The Language of Politics – UK Election 2015

Around election time, the language of our politicians changes. We all know how much they use spin and photo opportunities to sway us to vote for them, but I’ve noticed that certain words get used more than at any other time during a Parliament.

“Vote For Real Change”: It’s not simply about showing you are the better option than the party in government at present, it has become necessary to show how it is rotten to the core. We don’t need to merely elect the other party into power, but overhaul the system. The Tories used it in 2010 and Labour have used it a little in the run-up to this election. However, the real bandwagon jumpers here have been the outliers and we saw The Green party, UKIP, Plaed Cymru and SNP all use the vote-for-us-vote-for-change rhetoric at the leaders debates of the last few months. The stock phrase along this line for those parties has been “Reforming the Westminster System”.

“Pledge”: Notice how in their manifestos and publicity in the run up to this election that no party is promising more money for the NHS, or promising to cut the tax burden? Nope, they pledge – that’s because a “promise” cannot be broken and breaking a promise to many people stops just short of being a criminal act. A pledge though, is not a promise – in proper use it is more than a promise yet in political speak it has been used in recent year to indicate a loose, vague promise to put it at the top of the agenda, not to actually do something about it. Pledges broken by the coalition since 2010 include “We’ll be The Greenest Government Ever” and not to raise tuition fees.

“Commitment”: If a pledge should not really be taken seriously because it can be easily broken, then this is the other end of the scale. When the government goes ahead with something – and regardless of the popularity of the move – it is not a promise, it is a commitment which is a guarantee that the issue will be followed through to the end come hell or high water.

“Hard Working Families”: It’s everywhere and I think it’s something they have all hijacked from the media. It gets used so much that it has become almost meaningless. What does it actually mean? A family these days is not the nuclear unit it used to be in the 1950s and in using this phrase in the way that they use it, it comes across as hearkening back to those days. Hard working families can be gay couples without children, it can be childless heterosexual couples or it can be unmarried parents, single parents and a host of others. There are also people who cannot work due to ill health or who cannot get jobs. They are not hard-working because they cannot work or cannot get work.

“Downsizing”: It’s a nasty example of business speak and we all know that it means: redundancy and resource cutting almost the point of fending for yourself. It implies small cuts and an efficiency drive, but more often than not it means big, critical cuts. Politicians have taken it up as the stock word for reducing public service expenditure. Library budgets were not “cut”, they were “downsized”.

“Under the last government”: Or as it is presently used by the Con-Lib coalition “because of the deficit that we inherited” is used to imply that problems now are almost entirely the fault of the previous government and the Parliamentary decisions that were made by them or their partners in enacting legislation, committing to budget cuts etc. It’s buck-passing, pure and simple.

“Our Party Believes”: Go back and watch clips from the leaders debates, if not the entire discussion, because what you will see is a distinct lack of “I think”, “I believe”, “I am…”, “I am not…”, except perhaps from the personality cult that is Nigel Farage’s UKIP. This is because it is a guaranteed vote winner for outliers such as UKIP who have nothing to lose and everything to gain from using it. The opposite is true of the major parties. Putting their own neck on the line in an age of towing it can be disastrous for the party on the whole and no one person is bigger than the party. So they play it safe and state party policy instead of telling us what they really think.


3 thoughts on “The Language of Politics – UK Election 2015

  1. tominalbion

    Anyone but Milibrain haha. The “hard working” families cliche that gets trotted out ad nauseum really annoys me as it implies that people who live alone don’t work hard!

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