According to reports, one of the contenders for the Labour Party leadership, Andy Burnham, is giving a speech today in effect urging his party to get its act together.
This comes in the midst of a leadership election campaign that, according to one survey, has made the party more unelectable than ever.
Mr Burnham will apparently tell his audience that party members are “yearning for a different style of politics.”
“They are sick of politicians speaking in soundbites, sticking to the script and looking like they don’t believe a word they are saying.”
Well, he’s dead right there.
The way a vast number of politicians communicate is so divorced from how the public speak, they might as well be on Pluto.
The impression is that many politicians have been ‘over-trained’ – schooled by their advisers in churning out messages that do not drift one dot from an agreed form of wording and that leave the politician looking and sounding like a robot.
Here are three examples.
Any policy from any political party, in which the party in question wholeheartedly believes, is inevitably “the right thing to do”. Can’t politicians’ media geeks come up with an alternative to this ‘speak-your-weight machine’ language?
How about: “This is the course of action that will put this problem right” or “This is the policy the public wants” or “This will set the country back in the right direction”. Oh no! Language like that is far too ‘everyday’ – the policy wonks don’t use words like that.
Then there’s “hard-working families”. Can’t politicians vary this a bit? What about: “Parents who go out to work every day to ensure their children have a good start in life” or “Parents who work long hours, often putting in lots of overtime, for the sake of their family”.
Then, of course, there’s George Osborne’s oft-repeated attack on the last Labour government for “not repairing the roof while the sun was shining”. That was a pretty good choice of words to use – at least on the first few occasions. However, we’ve now been hearing this for over five years. It’s become very tired. Can’t someone think up something fresh?
Generally speaking, it’s people who retain their own personality who come across well in the media.
Boris Johnson is one example. He’s his own man. He speaks his own language.
Two other examples come from the world of cycling – Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. These are two guys who endear themselves to many members of the public because they are themselves and don’t ‘dress up’ their language.
Yes, occasionally they might drift from the strict party line, but they consequently come across as being far more genuine people.
In other words, more politicians need to form a ‘breakaway’ – peddling their policies to the public in language they understand – rather than all being stuck together within a linguistic ‘peloton’.
Terrible analogy, I agree.
I’m just wondering how today’s politicians would speak if they had to deliver the same speech as Sir Winston Churchill’s famous rousing oration in June 1940.
Sir Winston said:
We shall fight on the beaches,
We shall fight on the landing grounds,
We shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
We shall fight in the hills;
We shall never surrender.
Coastal zones will require hazard controls.
Aviation hubs will be included in a health and safety assessment.
Engagements will occur in both rural and urban settings
As well as in high elevation environments.
Conflict cessation will not be on the agenda going forward.
That would stir the nation!