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Friday, July 3, 1998 Published at 02:20 GMT 03:20 UK

UK Politics

Blair's winning ways with words

Blair: phrases in Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Politicians have long been accused of using "popular" language to curry the nation's favours.

But Tony Blair seems to have attracted more criticisms than other prime ministers for the subjects he chooses to pronounce on.

Mr Blair's predecessor, John Major, joins the line of those who have criticised him for his "soundbite" politics.

He says that Mr Blair would rather cosy up to Richard and Judy on their sofas than face up to rigorous debate in the House of Commons.

But is the nation's political leader cynically trying to find the common touch ... or is he merely in tune with the everyday language, emotions and television viewing habits of the country?

'Free Deirdre'

In March, Mr Blair was happy to put his weight behind the campaign to free Deirdre Rachid, or "The Weatherfield One" as she became known after being imprisoned in soap opera Coronation Street.

He even said he would ask Home Secretary Jack Straw to look into the matter.

World Cup

But Mr Blair was not the only one to get wrapped up in Deirdre mania - The Times and most other sections of the British Press, found space to feature the wholly fictional case.

Real issues, not fiction, are what Mr Major wants Mr Blair to concentrate on.

But there's no more real issue of the day at the moment than the World Cup.

Mr Blair even invited reporters into the garden at 10 Downing Street to indicate his shared disappointment with the nation that England lost against Argentina.


Mr Blair found his feet with popular soundbites soon after his promotion to the premiership.

"The people's princess" was how he described Diana, Princess of Wales.

His tribute to Diana on the morning of her death was also listed and the soundbite played over and over again on British TV and radio.

It is this ability to turn a well-crafted phrase like "the people's princess" - which has now become part of our vocabulary - that has irked Mr Major.


"The people's princess" made it into the Oxford Quotations Dictionary along with other Blairite bon mots.

On winning the election he said: "We are not the masters. The people are the masters" - another winning entry for Mr Blair.

But Mr Major is not the only one to criticise Mr Blair for his soundbites.

Eric Anderson, the prime m,inister's former English teacher, commenting on Mr Blair's party slogan "New Labour, New Britain", said: "I did spend a lot of time making sure his sentences always had verbs. I'm sorry to see he's slipped in recent years."

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