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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 13:24 GMT
Wreckers: On the rocks
wreckers n 1. a. Persons who deliberately cause a shipwreck, to plunder cargo or who illegally collect cargo washed ashore. b. Persons involved in the destruction of a structure or institution.

Alternatively 2. Politic. Choice term of abuse for an ideological opponent.

USAGE: "Our strategy is to build up the public services. Theirs is to knock them down. Reformers versus wreckers." Prime Minister Tony Blair, Labour Party spring conference, Cardiff, 03/02/02.

DISPUTED: "We are not the wreckers." Bill Morris, head of the Transport and General Workers Union.

ORIGIN: Cornwall's rocky, exposed coast has long been a hazard to shipping. Folklore maintains that locals often benefited from maritime mishaps, something illustrated by the proverb: "'Tis a bad wind that blows no good to Cornwall."

POLITICAL ORIGIN: "Wreckers" were the favourite target of Stalin's purges. He accused them of scuppering his Five-Year Plan, with the help of deviationists, opportunists, Trotskyites, reactionaries, imperialists and intellectuals.

Wreckers were tried without lawyers, appeals, clemency or much time between sentencing and the carrying out of the "supreme measure of punishment".

POPULARISED: Gus Hall, the late presidential hopeful for the Communist Party of the United States, dubbed both Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his Russian successor Boris Yeltsin "wreckers" for their part in dismantling the USSR.

RESTORED USAGE: the grounding of the freighter Kodima off Whitsand Bay has offered Cornish "beachcombers" something of a renaissance.

"Open to Wreckers," says a nearby pub offering refreshment to those looting the Kodima's washed up cargo of timber.

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