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Compassion, Poverty, Rights, NHS, Social Justice, Society, Welfare, Workers, The Poor, Underdog. Anything familiar about these nine words? They are always associated — powerfully and positively — with the political Left. What about these ones? Austerity, Brussels, Cuts, Hard-nosed, Economy, Privatisation, Sovereignty, Traditional, Tax Cuts, The Rich. They are always associated — powerfully and negatively — with the political Right. The political language associated with conservatism is often technocratic, complicated, seemingly mean-spirited and frequently out of time with the spirit of the age.

The reason why the Left so often succeed politically is because they have appropriated language people relate to, feel a warmth towards and understand. They have owned the language of compassion in the same way Neil Armstrong made sure that the United States “owned” the moon by planting an American flag on its surface in 1969. This ownership has not come by accident but by relentless repetition, in every statement, in every speech, and in every article of left-wing politicians.

During the recent general election, Jeremy Corbyn was initially derided for using the soundbite “For the Many not the Few” in his campaign, which had been  successfully used by Tony Blair in 1997. The reality was it was quite a brilliant slogan. In six words, it reflected the current public mood of discontent. It summed up what people thought the Labour Party was all about. It repeated the Left’s central message through the ages and was a huge contrast to the Tories’ “Strong and Stable” which said nothing and explained little. 

Why does all this matter? The Left’s understanding of the politics of language has given them huge advantages. When Labour people make contact with  voters, they immediately have a head start. While the voters may question or even disagree with Labour policies, at least they think that their hearts are in the right place.

By contrast, when  Conservatives engage, the voters are thinking very different things — at best confused about what the party stands for, at worst perceiving Tories as being for austerity and the better-off. Even if those voters do decide to vote for us, it will be through their heads and not their hearts — a reason why so many young people have turned their backs on Conservatism.

One can argue about the injustice of all this — which won’t make much difference — or Conservatives can try and do something about it.

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Lawrence James
September 10th, 2017
10:09 AM
How about the Tories choosing the words 'decency', 'tolerance' and 'humanity' and the phrase 'fair play'with which to woo voters ? But first they would have to embrace these qualities.

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