Speak to voters in English, Blair told

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair comes under fire today for confusing the voters by using ever more "elaborate and obscure" language. New Labour should start speaking the language of the people, says Joy Johnson, Labour's former campaigns and media chief, writes John Rentoul.

She was backed by the Plain English Campaign, which has written to all party leaders asking them to "ensure that election material is in plain, understandable English".

Her criticism was also backed by Kim Howells, Labour's trade spokesman, who said: "I sometimes listen to some of my colleagues and they're moulding one cliche into another and you don't know where the policy is. It's so deadly, it's embarrassing."

Ms Johnson attacks Mr Blair's "Young Country" and "British Dream" slogans, describing them as meaningless attempts to echo foreign political rhetoric, in an article in today's New Statesman. She says Labour is not going to abolish the monarchy, which would indeed make Britain a "young country", a phrase with "a distinctly Australian flavour".

She ridicules Mr Blair's fondness for the idea of "renewal", saying that for most people the word applies to insurance and television licences.

Ms Johnson also rakes up the row over Mr Blair's decision to demote Clare Short from transport to overseas aid spokeswoman: "It's ironic that one frontbencher who does speak in plain words - Clare Short - has been demoted for thinking the unthinkable without a licence."

She says New Labour should drop the "New", because everyone knows the party has changed, and adds: "In an age of mass media, New Labour's language should pass the Des Lynam television sports presentation test: can it generate excitement, unity and ambition and yet be capable of reacting to disappointment without despair?"