In an effort to attract hearts and minds, words matter.
I’m confident I’m not alone in feeling deep dismay at the debasement of dialogue among politicians, blithely following the crude degradation of our language by ever-increasing sections of the fourth estate. My great fear is this trend finds its way into the nation’s court rooms – perhaps soon to be practised by judiciary and advocate alike? Please no!
I was particularly struck by the depths we’ve plunged, when contrasting the final session in the Commons before prorogation, with a statement by the then PM Gordon Brown sending condolences to his opposite number, Mr Cameron on the death of his son. Brown even cancelled PMQs as a mark of respect. Yet, merely a decade on, The Guardian saw fit to dismissively describe Cameron’s bereavement as “privileged pain”. While an outcry rightly ensued, leading to the column’s withdrawal and an apology, the fact that one of our few remaining national newspapers saw fit to publish a leader so lacking in common decency or empathy, is nonetheless disturbing.
Social media may be the greatest driver of another trend – that of waning political rhetoric, as attention spans shorten amidst a fight for attention and influence. Of course politicians crave time in the spotlight, believing it assists their vote-winning potential. But forgive me for fearing that the days are gone of true erudition emanating from the green benches, no matter which side of the divide, such is the rancour over Brexit. Shouting “dictator”, “flying flamingo”, “liar” or “thug” across the floor (wholly un-parliamentary), does little to endear constituents to their MPs, let alone garner respect for their work. Ministerial use of “some might say” to sow seeds of disquiet among the populace to discredit judicial decisions is as appalling as some of the insults on twitter coming from MPs themselves!
Among this cacophony and onslaught on my sensitive ears, perhaps silencing parliament for a while was not such a bad thing!
If there’s one institution that must surely still be prevailed upon to uphold public standards – not only in word but also in deed – please, please let it be our justice system, of whom many of us moderates remain resolutely proud.