“The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not…Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
- George Orwell, Politics and the English Language
“We can’t go on with an old-fashioned left-wing class war on aspiration from a government that has seen the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
- David Cameron, ‘We can’t go on like this‘, 2nd January 2010
“David Cameron’s first speech of the election year did not contain much new”, reported ConservativeHome, which is a friendly voice putting it rather kindly.
A man who, four years ago, earned a reputation as a good political communicator has now pretty much mastered the art of how to speak while saying nothing at all.
Do take three minutes out of your life to read the whole thing; marvel at that line spacing; and shudder at the thought that he explicitly promises more of the same every day for the next five months.
Well, we can’t go on like this, as the good man says. So Next Left has this weekend been inspired and provoked by Dave’s speech to demonstrate some social responsibility, and is launching a new award to identify the most profound pieces of political meaninglessness of this election year.
Let us call it, provisionally at least, ‘The Steve Hilton Award for Progressive Gobbledook’. (We may need a short name too – ‘the Hiltons’, ‘the Gobblies’ or something: better ideas very welcome).
The criteria are pretty straightforward. I am sure Progressive Conservatives will soon claim that we all share literary influences too. Since that did not sound yesterday like the speech of a man who found a copy of Orwell’s Politics and the English Language in his Christmas stocking, a short aide memoire of what we will be looking for may be helpful.
We’ll be watching out for both new confections and old favourites as potential ‘Gobbly’ nominees. Do please let us know about your favourite pieces of Cameronite meaninglessness too. But we might need some help from elsewhere around the political blogosphere if we are to construct a proper lexicon of Cameron meaninglessness: somebody must be able to work out what ‘government in the post-bureaucratic age’ is supposed to mean.
And, yes, I fully admit that New Labour often did great violence to the English language, particularly in its almost genocidal verblessness. Do, by all means, feel free to make the search for pre-election gobbledegook open to all of the talents in all of the parties. But I do feel that the strength of Dave’s new year opener suggests he will demonstrate a transcendent ability to enter as yet unimagined new realms of gobbledegook.
More examples of Cameron’s Gobledegook can be found in a longer version of this post on Next Left.