Gordon Brown's announcement on Woman's Hour that he intends to "keep going" even if he loses the election has, not surprisingly, prompted commentators like Iain Dale to hark back to an interview in the 1987 general election when Mrs Thatcher is alleged to have said that she intended to go "on and on and on".
I say 'alleged to have said', because she never actually said it: what she actually said was "I hope to go on and on" - which, as you'll see, became a headline on BBC Television News:
Thatcher's snake gives Kinnock a ladder
This is not, of course, the only example of a famous quotation being expanded (or contracted) into a three part list - one of the most famous contractions being Churchill's "blood, sweat, toil and tears", which is most frequently quoted as "blood, sweat and tears."
If Thatcher's "on and on" was a nice example of how interviews are the snakes in the game of snakes and ladders (by generating negative headlines for the interviewee), Neil Kinnock was quick to use it to jump on a ladder in a speech (ladder because speeches are more likely to work in the speaker's favour). In this case, he contrasted two repetitive lists of three:
Thatcher adopts 'on and on and on'
By the time the Conservatives came to launch their 1987 election manifesto, 'on and on and on' had been so widely publicised in the media that even Mrs Thatcher felt able to use the revised 3 part phrase in a slightly different and light-hearted context:
MORE ON THE 'SNAKES & LADDERS THEORY OF POLITICAL COMMUNICATION:
- Do interviews ever deliver anything but bad news for politicians and boredom for audiences?
- Political speeches can still make a big difference - like changing the date of an election
- Will the 2010 general election be the first one to leave us speechless?
- Oratory and the sound of music
AND ON WHY THREE: