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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Election 2005: Cliché watch
Hattie Jacques
Hattie Jacques has a lot to answer for...
However hard they try to speak like the rest of us, politicians on all sides can't seem to avoid using the same set of stock phrases and jargon.

Here is our fun guide to 2005's most over-used campaign clichés:

Black hole - Sounds scary doesn't it? Imagine having one in your public finances...

Bottom up - A useful argument clincher, if you are having trouble explaining how your policy differs from that of a rival. It's simple, your policy is "bottom up" - as opposed to Top down

Doorstep, the - A quasi mythical land where subjects mysteriously "come up" - unless they are subjects that might cause embarrassment to your party ("Well it's not coming up on the doorstep, Jeremy...").

Hard-working families - Probably the most over-used phrase of the 2005 election. It's the lazy families we feel sorry for...

Investment - Formerly known as "public spending", this is now "pouring in".

Matron - Not since Hattie Jacques' heyday have we heard so much about Matron - and it is precisely that "Carry On, Nurse" image of the formidable matriarch bearing down on an unsuspecting hospital ward that the politicians want you to think of when they use this word.

Metropolitan elite - This group has gradually replaced the "chattering classes" as hate figures of politicians who wish to strike a populist note.

Process - Journalists are meant to be obsessed with this. Some of them even have degrees in "processology". It means anything that is not policy - or anything that Real People are not interested in (such as personalities, sleaze, spin etc...)

Real people - People who live "out there" in the "real world". Politicians at election time are obsessed with meeting this exotic species, even though it always seems to be surrounded by camera crews and reporters.

Top down - The biggest sin in modern politics is to have a policy that is "top down" - power must be seen to be in local people's hands.

Timing - As in "you have to question the timing of this announcement".

Turnout - It's a turnout election. That's what everyone is saying. Is there any other kind?

Westminster - Sometimes it's a bubble, sometimes its a village. For politicians at election time it is always a Bad Thing. Real People don't live there.


Your comments

My least favourite is "postcode lottery". I've never won - do I have to buy a ticket?
Adam, Dundee, UK

I think 'Realistically Speaking' must be 'there or thereabouts.'
Mike Parks, Leeds, England

The phrase that really turns me off is "I'd like to make this perfectly clear." They all use it and it seldom is.
Arthur Pickford, Liverpool

The sums don't add up - the lazy retort to the taxation, spending and saving plans of any other party. Instead of giving an accurate mathematical analysis of why the sums don't add up, the retort is used as proof in itself. Despite being the debating equivalent of shouting "Oh no it isn't!", it is used frequently by politicians; some of whom are supposed to be the country's finest lawyers and economists.
Oliver Wright, Cambs, UK

Forgotten Majority, The - Usually found "playing by the rules", often ignored by politicians who have to spend their time dealing with those troublesome minorities.
Rhys Hewer, Birmingham, UK

I dislike the phrase "in real terms". For example: Politician "Yes, there are more people on the dole since we took office, but IN REAL TERMS, there is actually no one out of work at all!"
Simon Young, Warwick

"The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer" and calling Tony Blair "Bush's poodle" get over it!
Beeg, Aberdeen

Hey, let's have an inquiry into all this. We like inquiries. So much that we've even had an inquiry into inquiries!
James, Nottingham, UK

Surely one of the most overused and irritating clichés is when in response to a new tax/spending initiative by one of the parties, the opposition in unison say without fail "their figures just don't add up".
Tony Smith, Solihull

"Working people". The dreaded word "class" is omitted from this phrase by politicians in an attempt not to appear patronising, and as a result ends up being even more so.
Andy Briggs, Caldes de Malavella, Spain

The cliché most over used is: "We aim to...." As soon as you here a politico say we "aim to reduce...(unemployment / waiting lists etc)" then you know straight away jack is going to be done apart from lip service.
Marc Ollosson, Sheringham, Norfolk

My least favourite political cliché is "In real terms" ... Usually used to describe how more money is being spent on something despite there being no obvious improvements to be seen.
Phil, Liverpool

What about "I want to make it ABSOLUTELY clear"?
Gerry Orchard, Surrey

One expression which is particularly silly is 'Going Forward'.
Peter W Mount, Stockport Greater Manchester

Remember "Back to Basics"? And what on earth is "Middle England"? Do they mean "middle class"? If so, why don't they say it?
Ralph Lane, Southampton, England

"Let the sunshine of hope dispel the rainclouds of despair" - Michael Howard.
Adam Kessler, London

"At the end of the day." Everything seems to happen at the end of the day maybe politicians should start looking forward instead of back!
Stephen, Linköping, Sweden

Trickle down effect. Time to move on. Considered opinion.
Christopher Miles, Waihi, New Zealand

Election clichés: 'Back to basics'. Used by politicians to make us forget their failed policies and take us back to an mythical age when everything was better.
Mohaimin, Dubai, UAE

My favourite cliché is ¿stealth taxes¿. It means the taxes placed into legislation that the opposition failed to notice when debating the Act.
Bill Potter, Telford, England

Public Opinion, or the British Public - this usually means the opinions of a small elite of journalists writing for the tabloid press.
Bill Wilcox, London, UK

'Up and down the country'. Why not throughout the nation? Used when a politician needs to appear statesmanlike and non-partisan.
Simon Ladd, Enfield, UK

"The two main parties", a phrase used by journalists who long for the 70's and can't be bothered covering the election properly.
Jen, Manchester, UK

I hate it when politicians talk about something being used to "frighten elderly people". Why should it be suggested that older people are more likely to be "frightened" by something than younger ones? There are many extremely tough and feisty pensioners around - how dare it be assumed that they are somehow pathetic and vulnerable!
Sally, London, UK

I shall scream if I hear one more politician or pundit refer to "Drawing a line". It's high time that we drew a line, and stopped using this silly phrase!
Daniel Nix, Derby.

"I think I've already answered that question" - meaning "I've already given a rather dodgy answer, please don't ask me that one again because I obviously prefer to avoid the whole topic." Also, "We need to get down to the REAL issues" - meaning "I don't want to talk about this difficult area, I want to talk about some simplistic truisms about motherhood and apple pie so you can't fail to approve of my party."
Theo Seller, Cromarty, UK

I hate the "matron" one.. Something the politicians have not thought about is the fact that nobody at any hospital is going to be paid pennies and ordered around by a Matron! Its just common sense.. People know how to do their jobs without a screaming Matron down your ear every five seconds.
Matt, Manchester, England

What about the word, "Choice". Politicians want me to have more choices, in education, health care etc. But what does it mean? In "real terms"? Does this mean that we will all play on a "level playing field", or is the "fact of the matter" simply that the "figures simply don't add up"!
Tim Lawes, Byske. Sweden

'you have to understand' used whenever they are asked a question that backs them into a corner
Sue, Ramsgate Kent

"At the Point of Need" ... is there any other point? What point is there and what may be the need? Is there any point? ...or can it simply be found on the end of that mythological syringe that has been stuck in the veins of the NHS for so long, pumping in nothing but hotair... instead of dealing with the points and delivering what people need.
Alex Clarke, Coventry UK

Spin = anyone you disagree with attempting to explain what they mean. Much loved by journalists who are too thick to understand or find the holes in the arguments.
Paul, Hereford, UK

"the vast majority of the British public...." Oh Yeah?! Prove it!!
Dave, Edinburgh

'I will answer your question Jeremy but firstly I think it's important to point out that we........."
Doug White, Bristol UK

When all other criticism fails and in full knowledge that they could have not done any better, the critics always fall back on "they should have acted sooner".
Steve Wells, Bracknell, Berkshire

It's time to move on.
Julian, Nantwich

"Groundswell of public opinion" - a self-fulfilling prophecy of tabloid-speak for "this is what we're telling you to think" and usually relates to fear of Blighty being overrun by johnny foreigner; the NHS running out of aspirin; a hooligan behind every lamppost; or terrorist cells in every wheelie-bin. "The politics of fear" is probably the least used, and most accurate, cliché around!
Kim, West Yorkshire

Mine would be: The "ordinary man in the street" or "ordinary men and women" - very patronising. Who are the people who are so different and not ordinary?
George Naylor, Hebden Bridge - W Yorks

Simon Young from Warwick - "In real terms" is in fact a legitimate macroeconomic term, indicating that a notional figure has been adjusted for inflation. Still, I'd like to suggest "Voting x will let y in by the back door".
David Green, Oxford

The other lot are fighting a dirty campaign.
Bob Doney, Camberley, England

Not really a cliché as such, but a re-spinned version of "their sums just don't add up" - this election it's all about "fully costed" policies... It also seems "political correctness" has now become a prime target, rating alongside "red tape" as something that, if successfully avoided, can produce substantial savings in any budget!
Chris Tod, Oxford

One campaign-friendly phrase is "We have no plans to...". This is used so that if a party decides to do what it did not plan to do, it can just claim to have changed its plan. Except that no-one is remotely impressed by the protestation...
Toby, Guildford, UK

I really hate the words "Who would you rather vote for? A party which... or a party that..." They seem to pop up at the end of every opinion you ever hear like some new punctuation mark.
Paul, Manchester

'Full inquiry' We have so many "Demands for a full inquiry" when a political catastrophe has been exposed that I am intrigued to how many 'Partial inquries' or 'I'll give my best 30 minutes inquiries' the tabloids may have missed.
Dan Greenwood, Helensburgh, Scotland

The phrase "hard-working family" is an excuse to ignore single people, childless couples, the retired, the sick and the unemployed.
Nicola, Bristol, UK





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