Archive for October, 2011

As a student of politics you hear on a daily basis about political disengagement and how people don’t trust or like politicians. ‘Why we hate politics’ is the title of one of the core books used in my university course! The list of explanations is endless and while I can’t claim to know why people actually hate politics, in recent weeks I’ve noticed something that seriously irritates me about political discourse – metaphors!

In school I learned that metaphors are a good thing: they convey feeling and emotion in poems. But when I noticed them cropping up in political speeches I can’t say that I was moved. A serious offender is David Cameron. He’s by no means the only politician to use metaphors. I’m picking on him because of his frequency of use but most importantly because he’s been on TV a lot lately.

Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference in October was full of these gems:

“But if we put in the effort, correct those mistakes, confront those vested interests and take on the failed ideas of the past, then I know we can turn this ship around.”

“The new economy we’re building: it’s like building a house. The most important part is the part you can’t see – the foundations that make it stable.”

“We can choose to be a country that’s back on its feet and striding forward.”

“No, Britain never had the biggest population, the largest land mass, the richest resources, but we had the spirit. Remember: it’s not the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

While most of the speech had some good points about the size of the challenge ahead and the issues facing Britain today, I couldn’t help cringe at the use of these platitudes which made all the sensible things a little less convincing. I guess the point of using these metaphors is to spice up the discourse, be more approachable and interactive. To me however they seem a bit patronising, and I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. I shouldn’t think Conservative MPs especially would need metaphorical decoding of what is going on in Britain today…but there you have it!

In his recent speech to the House of Commons on the vote regarding a referendum on membership of the EU, the metaphors where again present:

“When your neighbour’s house is on fire, your first impulse should be to help them to put out the flames, not least to stop the flames reaching your own house.”

I think what David’s trying to say here is that the EU is going down down down…and if Britain doesn’t help out it will go down down down as well. But I might be wrong…can I have another clue please?


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