Issue 185 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published April 1995 Copyright Socialist Review

Stack on the back

Mind the language

'One can only conclude that in Toryspeak employment means: sacking, having the power to sack, or denying basic workplace rights'

This month I would like to examine the oft overlooked art of Toryspeak. This is a language that is unique because although it sounds just like another language (English), the words used actually mean something different altogether.

Let us start with the example of the word 'efficiency'. According to the dictionary this means 'competent, capable, producing desired result'.

Now the Tories in general, and Virginia Bottomley in particular, have long been assuring as that this was what their health policies were all about. As wards closed, casualty units shut down and doctors and nurses were laid off or kept on low pay, in came hordes of managers and 'efficiency' experts.

These were not narrow old medicos. They had been at the cutting edge of the business world.

So efficient has all this been that in the past month a man with a serious head injury was flown 200 miles from Kent to Leeds for emergency treatment. Eighteen other major hospitals lay in between the two, at least 11 of which were contacted but had no beds.

All those efficient ward and A & E closures ultimately lead to the death of the unfortunate patient.

Following this, a young girl has been refused a bone marrow transplant by some mathematical whizzkid who has worked on an equation that says: 20 percent or less chance of living divided by cost of treatment (75,000) = no operation and certain death.

This equation does not of course apply if the patient is willing or able to go private, in which case the sum looks something like this: Chances of survival--irrelevant + 75,000 = a hugely worthwhile operation which should be carried out as quickly as possible.

So that in Toryspeak the word efficiency where applied to the NHS means 'incompetent, incapable, and producing the most undesired result possible'.

The second word I would like to look at is the word 'ease'. Not a word that instantly jumps out at you, I know. So let's give it a context. How about this: 'How to ease racial tension.' Now in English in this context the word, means to 'relax, slacken, or become less severe'.

Yet strangely enough, an article under the aforementioned title appeared in the Independent recently written by that famous easer of racial tension Winston Churchill.

The young Winston started off by complaining about a growth in racial attacks and then asked the question, 'Why? What has gone wrong? Have we become less tolerant?'

Winston does not think so. What he does think though is that a major change has taken place in British society which has led to this growth.

'What has changed--and changed dramatically', writes Winston, 'is the size of the ethnic minority population'.

The rest of the article is a meandering rant about illegal immigrants, bogus asylum seekers and so on. He ends with a cry for a tough crackdown on immigration.

Any racist thug or neanderthal Nazi would take great succour from this nasty piece of jaundiced journalism. So one can only presume that in Toryspeak the word ease means 'to heighten, tighten and make more severe'.

The third word I'd like to look at is the word employment', as in the phrase 'Department of Employment'. Again, according to the English dictionary, 'employment' means 'employing or being employed, regular occupation or business'.

So that would seem fairly straightforward. The Department of Employment is there to ensure that as many people as possible have a regular occupation. Ah, if only life was that simple. It seems; an internal memo was sent to all managers within the DoE concerning their own staff. It made it clear that no temporary member of staff should be employed for more than 51 weeks lest they become entitled to such essentials of job security as maternity leave, redundancy pay or safeguards against dismissal.

Here in Portillo-land it becomes clear that getting rid of people regardless of experience, expertise or performance is much more important than employing them.

One can only conclude therefore that in Toryspeak employment means, 'sacking, having the power to sack, or denying basic workplace rights'.

Now this strange language of Toryspeak appears to be catching on beyond the narrow confines of the Tory Party itself. Take the football fans who proved such wonderful advertisements for English patriotism in Dublin not long ago. The most vociferous chant they kept repeating all night was, 'No surrender to the IRA.'

Strangely enough though, when they ended up in court, one after another begged the judge not to put them in an Irish prison because there would be... IRA men in there! One even broke down in tears, pleading with the judge not to let him anywhere near IRA prisoners.

Now I would have thought that anyone determined not to surrender to the IRA would like to meet some of its members and tell them face to face of their heroic intentions. Alas it appears it was all Toryspeak because once they got within even the possibility of any vague sight of an IRA man the slogan changed from, 'No surrender to the IRA,' to, we surrender to the IRA'.

Which just goes to show how Toryspeak can lead to very dangerous confusions in the mouths of the uninitiated.
Pat Stack


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