The Linguistics of Leftism

The Left: you can always count on them in a crisis. Nary a week passes without some form of meticulously asinine assertion that a government phrase is in poor taste; utterly reprehensible; or an affront to basic human rights (depending on the looniness of the Lefty in question). They do tend, however, to forget to say anything of note regarding the crises on hand - the Tories and their shameful lexicon are clearly far more worthy of their attention.

Other than the erroneous thinking behind a lot of their claims - I’m sorry, but ‘swarm’ is a perfectly reasonable term, and doesn’t ‘dehumanise’ anyone - the problem is that they are massive hypocrites. By continuously lambasting the Conservatives for their choice of language, they open the door to fair criticism of their own particular choices. In the same week as David Cameron’s ‘swarmgate,’ we had Len McCluskey popping up in The Mirror to unleash his unique brand of trite animosity at ‘vampire’ Sajid Javid. Of course no one in Labour would dare cross Red Len, so his frankly bizarre attempt at insulting the Business Secretary went unmentioned by the likes of Harriet Harman. Andy Burnham managed to do what he does best: criticising the Tories for something, while doing the exact same thing himself:

That is classic Burnham. An adept moral contortionist, he is happy to utilise whatever ethical code he feels best suits his current purposes. It is rare, however, to see such a blatant example of hypocrisy in a single tweet, with a chastising of the PM for using a ‘dog-whistle’ phrase, before immediately blowing one of his own, calibrated to a perfect Bullingdon pitch in order to incite maximum Lefty vitriol.

That example is just one of many, all with a common theme. The language of Leftist hate is rooted in an imagined class war. They pick apart Conservative speeches, desperately scrabbling for a word or phrase which they can misconstrue for their own purposes: to infer condescension, dehumanisation, or any other negative attribute that further purports the ‘us vs them’ dialogue. Despite this obsession with Tory language, they seemingly take little umbrage with those in their own ranks who (intentionally) use hateful speech. 

It must be a source of great rancour, then, that the Tories tend not to engage when the Lefties go off on one of their linguistic rants - they’re too busy running the country to get dragged into student union calibre bickering. Perhaps it’s that lack of confrontation that has led to Labour’s worrying new trend of internal squabbles over vocabulary. For a party that gears its soundbites to ooze with ‘unity,’ there are disturbing levels of infighting between the centre Left and the more partisan areas of the party. In recent weeks we have had the CWU’s Dave Ward likening Blairites to a ‘virus,’ and a particularly caustic reaction to John McTernan (quite reasonably) designating those MPs who put Corbyn on the ballot - with no intention of voting for him - as ‘morons.’

This is Labour’s problem, both internal and external: their default setting is ‘outrage first, think second.’ The classic politician is seen as shrewd and calculating, especially when trying to wrest power away from their foe. With its current predisposition for nitpicking and taking affront at every opportunity, there is clearly no calculation going on in the minds of Labour - there’s barely mental arithmetic. To focus on the minutiae of language is petty to start with, and to blurt out emotional retorts is rank amateurism, but to do so when there are serious matters afoot that merit your attention and opinion, well that’s symptomatic of a party with a whole lot more to worry about than just picking a leader. Labour need to pull themselves together and start engaging with the real issues the government faces, or else they can write off the next five years of opposition and their chances for 2020 with it.