Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Careless words

Johann Lamont - gaffe-prone
You've probably heard it said that good courtroom lawyers never ask a question unless they know the answer they're going to get. Likewise, politicians need to be aware of how the form of words that they use is going to be turned back on them by their political opponents. In her speech at the launch of her party’s local election campaign Lamont gave her political opponents the gift of a large stick when she acknowledged that the SNP would increase its number of councillors. Naturally, her political opponents took the offered sticke and proceeded to beat her with it.

It would be good to think that Lamont was regretting her blunder.  One might hope that a lesson had been learned and that she would be more circumspect in future. But the suspicion is that she will refuse to acknowledge that the form of words she used were ill-judged and instead resort to blaming others for twisting those words. Doubtless her words have been twisted. But that was to be expected when they came with a big label saying, "Twist me!".

And being circumspect does not mean being bland, far less keeping silent. The English language is a rich resource. With a little effort one can always find a form of words that will convey the desired message without offering up an open goal to those you might reasonably expect to be looking for just such an opportunity.

I simply don't understand why politicians with access to the kind of resources that Ed Miliband's Scottish underling must surely enjoy can nonetheless make such mistakes. Let's bear in mind that this was a prepared speech. All that was required was for somebody to read her script critically. To play Devil's advocate for a moment.

It seems that this was just too much trouble. Which speaks of a profound contempt for the electorate. Or it tells us that she wasn't even speaking to the electorate but preaching to the choir. Which, when you think about it, is also seriously disrespectful to the people she was supposed to be addressing - the voters.

I'm not picking on Lamont here. Hers is merely the example of presentational incompetence that we happen to be discussing on this occasion. All parties are guilty. Although I suspect even Poor Old Cockers at The Torygraph would allow that the SNP are less gaffe-prone than the others. Respect for the people partly explains their success.

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