Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Forget the 'Language of Politics'

One of my closest friends attended a meeting today to discuss Social Media and political engagement** - which, not surprisingly, got me thinking.

It seems to me that a large reason so many people are apathetic about politics is not policy - it's language. I took a look at the Conservative 'Blue Blog' and the Labour Party page - and what struck me was the similarities in the language, the use of vagueness, praising the party instead of the action. The language of politics has been sanitised and homogenised. Words stripped of their meanings and impact, serving more to bore and baffle than to enlighten, excite and engage.

In short - written by politicians. Here's an (extreme) example of how much political language has changed:

"We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. 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."
Prime Minister Winston Churchill, 1940

"Whatever disagreements there have been about our decision to go to war, there can be little disagreement about the unanimous UN position affirming the right of the Iraqi people freely to determine their own political future, calling upon "the International Community, particularly countries in the region and Iraq’s neighbours, to support the Iraqi people in their pursuit of peace, stability, security, democracy and prosperity".
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 2007

In my opinion, this is where politics of all colours is falling over. If you want to get people interested, the words of politicians need to enthuse. Get to the point. Make your point in clear, succinct and, most of all, exciting words.

The communications media that exist today allow politicians more freedom than ever to really, really communicate. By using social networks such as Twitter properly - in responding and thus creating a conversation, rather than simply broadcasting - political parties can bring a generation currently lost to them back to the fold.

So my message to politicians who wish to communicate is this. Communicate, and do it our way, not yours.

Make us interested in what you have to say, not by soundbite but by enthusiasm, clarity and energy. Throw out the sterile language of the House; instead, write to us and speak to us as if you mean it.

Many of us want more engagement in the political system. That engagement is up to you. Speak to us, talk with us, and bring us in.

**No, not THAT meeting.


Obnoxio The Clown said...

But if you say something clearly and explicitly, you create a hostage to fortune. I remember tearing a strip off John Redwood once, and he said to me "but you don't understand what happens when you share the proceeds of growth!"

And I thought, yes, exactly, because it's a mealy-mouthed politician's code for something else.

Things like "social justice" and "child poverty" all mean some other thing entirely so that politicians can claim that it's all just misinterpretation on our part.

Fuck them. Let's string them all up and start again.

Anonymous said...

I was about to suggest we take their speeches and rewrite them. But it might come down to emperor's clothes.

Let's do it the other way around. For each decision, let's write 3 pithy alternatives and put them to the vote?

Anonymous said...

That's because we have been emasculated by years of politically correct nonsense.

Every word uttered by politicians has to be in repeatable phrases or soundbites. Such has been the deliberate dumbing down of society that the plebs are no longer able to be enthused even if Winston himself came back from the dead.

The last member of parliament to display even a modicum of intelligence was Tony Benn. The rest are just drones powered by their PDAs.

Bob's Head Revisited said...

As my old teacher used to say, "Fewer words, more flow. That's the answer!"

Churchill understood about clarity in prose. Have you ever read his book called 'Great Contemporaries'? It's brilliant.

He hardly ever used a long word where a short one would do.

Voltaire once said, "If you want to be boring leave nothing out". The trouble is our modern, 'professional' politicians leave everything in, mostly to mask the fact that they are usually saying precisely nothing.