6 June 2009

Gordon Brown’s honesty about the death of New Labour

The Prime Minister’s press conference yesterday has aroused much media comment about the gap between his declaration of paternally derived honesty and the apparent lack of it in his denial that he’d ever intended to sack the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  

But one thing that did come across as much more honest than perhaps even he realises, was his further confirmation that he has abandoned the language of New Labour. 

Five years ago, when Brown and his cronies were briefing away about getting rid of Tony Blair, I wrote a piece (HERE) suggesting they were mistaken, and included the line ‘Blair and Brown were co-architects of New Labour, even though Brown now seems obsessed with deleting the phrase from his vocabulary.'

Nor was it just the phrase ‘New Labour’ that Brown stopped using all those years ago. Another is the phrase ‘public investment’

Shortly after Tony Blair’s second election victory, I met one of his closest aides at a conference.  As a student of language and communication, I had been intrigued by the way in which he and everyone else in the party had, since the birth of ‘New Labour’, only talked about ‘public investment’, ‘investment’ in health, education, social services, etc.,  but never mentioned the once more usual term ‘public expenditure’.

So I asked him if this preference for the word ‘investment’ was a deliberate ploy because it sounded more respectable and less worrying than words like ‘spending’ and ‘expenditure’ – to which he replied “Of course it is”. 

But under Gordan Brown this key term in the original language of ‘New Labour’ has disappeared as completely as the phrase ‘New Labour’ itself. 

As you can see in the following extracts from Mr Brown’s press conference yesterday, he is as relaxed in talking about public ‘expenditure’ as he is in boasting about it as an unquestionable virtue. 

On this, at least, his performance arguably displayed a refreshing degree of honesty .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I'll leave the more complex language issue with you professionals as my brain has an in-built defence mechanism and shuts itself off when the lunatic begins to speak.

His statements always start with a brief subject matter message and dilutes into his usual fare:

"...global economic crisis...politics has been hurt...Labour government building hospitals...Labour Government building schools...can't be a do nothing party...challenges of the future...fair society...the many not the few..."

Journalists have obviously lost respect and patience. Whereas before when he didn't answer questions properly they would tut and accept it, now they're freely asking secondary or repeated questions. He was obviously frustrated with this yeaterday and when Nick Robinson immediately asked a second question Brown forced a grin, but towards the end he was rolling his eyes almost in disbelief and banging the rostrum with increasing frustration.

Slightly off topic, but it makes me cringe when people inside and outside of the party refer to this government as Labour - it isn't Labour, it's NEW Labour. Labour effectively ceased to exist as a party representing the labour work force when they dropped Clause Four and started to alienate the trade unions. I'm sure there must be some false-advertising law that could be used.

I feel better for that. Many thanks, Max! :)