Maybe we should review all the misleading and disingenuous language used by our political masters, the Conservative party, over the last 12 years? While they’ve been busy dismantling the welfare state but managing to find money for their rich friends. We make a start with Woke – a term enthusiastically adopted by the right-wing media and trolls on Twitter, synonymous in their minds with ‘liberal-snowflake-lefty’.
‘Woke’ actually originated with the African-American community in the 1930s and was used to mean ‘awake to the racism suffered by the black community’. More recently it was used by the progressive left to mean compassionate and aware in a cultural or political sense. Anathema, of course, to right-wing Conservatives who would much rather we were ignorant and unaware.
Woke is also a term much beloved of our Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, who scatters it liberally throughout her speeches and extended it in an extraordinary rant in Parliament to “Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati” in an attempt to deflect attention from the multiple failures at the Home Office. (See also ‘Florida – where woke goes to die’).
Also in our initial Top 10 are …
‘Brexit benefits’ and ‘Brexit dividend‘: Now much less in use as evidence of Brexit damage mounts. While a few fervent believers like Jacob Rees-Mogg claim the future looks bright, some of his more pragmatic colleagues beg to differ. They are keeping quiet or even breaking ranks. Former minister George Eustice admitted that the vaunted Brexit benefit of the Australian trade deal was, on the contrary, a disastrous hit to British farmers. While more recently, the Japan trade deal promoted by Liz Truss actually resulted in a drop in trade.
‘The Will of the People‘: A slender four per cent margin of those who voted (actually 3.78%) chose Brexit in the 2016 referendum. But this is cited as justification for the hardest possible version of Brexit, details of which were never put to the electorate. The effects have been numerous (see The Davis Downside Dossier, published by our sister publication Yorkshire Bylines). Conservatives now tend to be highly selective in their use of the term – ignoring it when it comes to overwhelming polling evidence that most of the public urgently wants a general election.
‘Oven ready deal’: A deal ready for the oven. This, according to Boris Johnson, was a fair summary of the Northern Ireland Protocol Deal he signed with the EU in December 2019 … and then almost immediately refuted. If the oven was an incinerator and what we were putting into the ‘oven’ was the Good Friday Agreement, our access to the EU single market and our international reputation, then perhaps his claim was accurate. But of course he didn’t mean that. He just wanted a toasty-warm three-word slogan to help him win the general election.
‘Global Britain’: A reference to our desperation to trade with anyone who will do business with us – given our self-inflicted inability to trade freely and easily with our nearest neighbours and most important allies. Now we have to try to negotiate trade deals with countries on the other side of the world (don’t mention the environmental cost) who, if they are as canny as the Australians, rub their hands with glee when they see us coming.
‘Let me be clear…’: much in use by Conservative and other politicians in media interviews when they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. It helps to buy time and to introduce a load of following waffle. Johnson was a master of this art, as he himself admitted. He said: “My brilliant new strategy is to make so many gaffes that no one knows which one to concentrate on.”
‘We are committed to…’: An immensely useful phrase for ministers to lead off with when (insincerely) declaring their commitment to almost anything of importance that their department has failed to deliver or pay any attention to. Often used in statements issued to the media when the politician in question has made themselves unavailable for interview.
‘Northern Powerhouse’: Ok, so we’ve known for a long time that Britain has a North-South divide. As a Northerner living in the South I see it with my own eyes. I believe George Osborne started the Northern Powerhouse lie and guess what? Nothing ever happened with it. Precious little new cash, no significant investment.
‘Economic migrant’: The mislabelling of people who fear for their lives and wish to give their children a better home. Designed to undermine sympathy and support for people who are in desperate need of help. They are in fact mostly granted refugee status when seeking asylum: 81 per cent according to the government’s own figures.
‘World beating’: A fantastic phrase where a senior member of government will either promise to deliver something that is better than anywhere else on the planet OR will make up a statistic about something they did being better than everywhere else. This is beyond lying; it is simply utter bollocks.
With many thanks to Philip Priestley @publicpriestley and others on Twitter who started the thread on which this list is based.
Do you have a favourite phrase …
… widely used by Conservative politicians? Email us [email protected] and we’ll add it to our next list of ‘What Do They Really Mean?’