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Saturday, December 18, 2004

The language of spin

If you read the Labour Party's response to Adam Price here, you may spot the use of a phrase that is becoming common currency amongst Labour politicians. I noticed that during Peter Hain's contributions to the Assembly's debate on the Queen's speech that he referred several times to the benefits that government policy will be bringing to "hard-working families".

This phrase works on so many levels. It creates an image that people want to identify with, specifically Labour's target groups in middle England, but also the working class voters who have traditionally supported Labour through thick and thin. It is also an exclusive phrase, deliberately allowing people to distinguish themselves from an imagined underclass of scroungers, asylum seekers, criminals and yobs. In that sense Labour is using it to position themselves as a party who are on the side of everything that is decent, honest and industrious and against those who, for one reason or another, do not contribute to society. It is very subtle and quite insidious.

It is a legitimate political position for a party to take though far from an honest one. Labour are using this rhetoric to avoid scrutiny of their policies and actions regarding those people who, for some reason or another, are not able to become "hard-working families". They are able to use the phrase, for example, to escape having to talk about the demonisation of those on disabled living allowance, to surreptiously legitimise those who express concerns about asylum and to silently endorse those voices of dissent on the payment of benefits to the unemployed, whilst relying on those marginalised people to vote them back into office.

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