Soapbox 2: our difficult second election blog

Soap box

During the election campaign, we’re sharing the best and the worst of political communication. There’ll be no party bias here. We promise to praise everyone and spare no one, despite what we secretly think.

Today on the Soapbox……. David Cameron does lots of interviews, and Leanne Wood launches the Plaid Cymru manifesto. Strap yourselves in.

Day two in Metaphor Corner (still not literally)

An especially surreal day for the imaginatively minded amongst us:


“I make no apology for putting Labour on the table”


David Cameron – man of immense, cannibalistic appetite and superhuman strength.


“Trident is a £100 billion white elephant”


Because Leanne Wood knows that elephants are expensive to feed and truly, truly awful at launching nuclear weapons.


“I think we’re seeing the lid lifted on the way establishment politics is done in this country” 


And what’s in there Patrick O’Flynn? WHAT’S IN THERE? IS IT NICE? CAN I EAT IT?

How to make £12bn of cuts sound alright, actually

 “The government needs to save £1 out of every £100 the government spends for the next two years.”

David Cameron knows that when you give figures a tangible, everyday context, they suddenly sound more reasonable. It’s because we can all relate. We know how far £1 goes, in real terms. We understand how £1 relates to £100, and let’s be honest, it doesn’t feel like that much. When was the last time you turned down someone who wanted borrow a quid? What Dave forgets to tell us is how often they’ll be spending that £100 and saving that quid. Clever sausage.

You’re either for us or against us

Politicians love throwing down a dividing line. Like this one:

“Ours is a civic nationalism that does not distinguish between creed or origin or religion, only between those who want to see Wales an international success story, and those who want to hold us back.”

Leanne Wood wants you to know that if you don’t support Plaid, you want to hold Wales back. Gah, who even are you, you big anti-Welsh traitor!? It’s an uncompromising trick – and dare we say it – a slightly infantile one. It risks leaving nuanced thinkers cold. But it’s not uncommon. Rhetorically, it’s similar to when Barack Obama said Osama Bin Laden’s death at the hands of US forces ‘should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity’. So if you didn’t welcome it, you didn’t believe in peace and human dignity. Obviously. And by implication, you wouldn’t be allowed to sit with Obama at lunchtime, or go out to play with him.

More parallel structure

We’re back on the linguistic seesaw of parallel structure today. Creak-groan-creak-groan:

“David Cameron’s got a real problem because he’s promised £10,000 of tax cuts and he can’t tell us where the money’s going to come from. He’s promised £12 billion of welfare cuts, but can’t tell us where he’s going to cut. He knows he’s got deep cuts in public spending and he can’t tell us what that means for police and defence so he’s lashing out.”

Great play from Ed Balls. But he can’t tell us why he hasn’t extended the parallel structure right through to word level, and started all three sentences in the same way – with ‘he knows’. Structurally, Ed could even have chucked a pair of short sentences in and matched his first idea to his last idea, for maximum gravitas. A bit like this:

 “David Cameron’s got a real problem. He knows he’s promised £10,000 of tax cuts, and he can’t tell us where the money’s going to come from. He knows he’s promised £12 billion of welfare cuts, and he can’t tell us where he’s going to cut. He knows he’s got deep cuts in public spending, and he can’t tell us what that means for police and defence. David Cameron is lashing out.”

That’s a rhetorical three within a rhetorical three, supported by a bookend of double-Daves. Kapow!

“There are lots of ways to protest about David Cameron, but there’s only one way to replace him.”

In terms of structure, this is back-of-the-net perfect. In terms of meaning, this is absolutely stating the obvious. We like it anyway, Jim Murphy.

More from the Quietroom Soapbox tomorrow….