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  • Alastair Cavendish

Unparliamentary Language

Angela Rayner walked into a bar at the Labour Party Conference and confidently announced: “All Tories are scum.” A group in the corner instantly stood up, knocking over their pints in the process, and furiously demanded: “How dare you say such a thing?”

“What’s it to you?” Rayner asked. “Are you Tories?”

“No,” responded the outraged drinkers. “We’re scum.”

Fortunately for Rayner, she had some choice specimens from the Opposition front bench on hand to demonstrate that, while most Tories may be scum, by no means all scum are Tories. The scum, suitably mollified, resumed their seats and returned to their discussion of the most effective way to form a noxious film over the surface of a liquid.

This incident occurred two months after the servant tasked with bringing Boris Johnson his early morning cup of tea, a functionary picturesquely known as the Dawn Butler, let slip that her employer had lied to the House of Commons and the Country “over and over again.” The Speaker of the House, a man whose booming voice echoes through the House like sounding brass or a clanging cymbal, and with about as much effect, became incensed at a Member saying something so obviously true, and ejected the Dawn Butler from the chamber in an arcane and ancient ceremony, possibly involving a cannon.

It is not pleasant to be governed by liars and scum, but to object to the words without addressing the reality is to confuse the firefighter and the fire. Far more damaging, and less remarked, are the insulting tone and language the government has, for some time, adopted towards the governed. The most egregious example is clearly “lockdown”, a word which conveys the message: “you are a criminal”. For the millionth time, lockdown is not a public health measure, it is a method of quelling a riot within a prison. If you happen not to be a rioting prisoner, you should never have been, or told you were being “locked down”. The act is an injury, and the word an insult.

A related term is the infamous “test to release”. Not being a convict or a kraken, I have never been released. The implication of the phrase is that one is a dangerous creature (“Smithers, release the hounds!”), which has hitherto been locked up, or locked down, for the good of society. You may have thought that you were a unique personality, or even a spirit animated by a spark of divine fire, but you were wrong. You are a seething mass of deadly pathogens, toxic to the touch until you can prove otherwise.

The deluge of propaganda unleashed on the public over the last eighteen months has quite literally added insult to injury; forcing taxpayers to fund their own humiliation. You paid for that hectoring voice asking if you could look into the eyes of an actor and assure him that you are not responsible for the debilitating illness he is pretending to have. Cabinet ministers may well pay handsomely to the dominatrices who abuse and insult them, but they should be informed that not everyone shares this particular perversion.

Most people would prefer not to be insulted, but the political class has nothing to offer except a plethora of impudent unpleasantries. Readers of the Daily Fail are asking for trouble, but even they do not deserve to be confronted, as they were the weekend before last, by the simian gibbering of Matt Hancock, who has apparently decided that five minutes of silence is sufficient penance for betraying his country as well as the unfortunate Mrs. Hancock. The spectacle of this shrieking rat-boy attempting to capture the moral high ground must have caused enough nausea across the nation to place the NHS in the direst of peril. It is insulting enough to be lectured by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, but to find a public figure who has less moral authority than Matt Hancock would involve an exhumation order for the corpse of Jimmy Savile.

I could not care less if politicians choose to insult each other, but they clearly need to be instructed that they must not be impertinent to their employers. If Sir Lindsay Hoyle were to remind his unruly charges from time to time of the courtesy due to those who sent them to the House then he might, perhaps, cease to bear such a striking resemblance to a chocolate teapot or an origami fireguard.

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