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Rhetorically speaking…
Speechwriters Blog on Speechwriting

Has Labour banned the word coalition?

It’s not just the meaning of a word that matters but the feelings it rouses. This is true of all language but particularly political language where most of the dialogue between politicians and the electorate takes place at an emotional and unconscious level.

I’ve blogged before about the connotations of the word ‘coalition’ and the reasons Labour should be worried about it’s ubiquity. For most of us, the word ‘coalition’ evokes images of Churchill, the war, and people pulling together in the national interest at a time of national crisis. This frame - unconsciously or not - suggests supporters of the government are patriots whilst critics are traitors. With such a clear dichotomy, I was surprised Labour spokespeople blindly accepted the word: by so doing they were elevating the government to Churchillian heights whilst reducing their own role to more like a conscientious objector.

Ed Miliband seems to have got wise to this. He’s got a grip, reclaiming the language and constructing a new frame. If recent interviews and speeches are anything to go by, he seems to have purged the word ‘coalition’ from the Labour lexicon and replaced it with ‘Conservative-led Government’.  He didn’t use the word ‘coalition’ once in his press conference the other day. In a speech this morning commenting on the Oldham East result, he used the phrase ‘Conservative-led Government’ three times in thirty seconds - with such careful delivery and emphasis as to suggest this is the bit we’re supposed to remember. Watch this clip from the BBC’s website.

This is a much better formulation. As well as removing those unhelpful WW2 connotations, he reminds disillusioned Lib Dems whose tune they’re dancing to these days.

Posted by Simon Lancaster on January 14th, 2011 :: Filed under Random
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One Response to “Has Labour banned the word coalition?”

  1. Hadleigh Roberts
    January 15th, 2011

    You’re quite right. Around the last Prime Minister’s Questions sessions of last year, a “secret” document was found that said that Labour should avoid using the word coalition.

    And, I might add, I said the same thing on my website… back in July 2010!

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