Miles Kington: Everyday language falls foul of Parliament

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The Independent Online

"Are you all right, old boy?" said the Major.

He was talking to the resident Welshman, who was sitting on a tall stool at the bar, fidgeting a lot and groaning slightly.

"Not really," said the Welshman. "I am considering my position carefully."

"You're going to resign?" said the Major. "I didn't even know you had a job."

The Welshman stared at him for a moment.

"That's the trouble with political jargon these days," he said. "Once a phrase has come to mean something parliamentary, you can't use it in its literal sense any more. The simple fact is, I really am considering my position. I am quite uncomfortable sitting on this stool. Tall bar stools always look so inviting before you sit down, but after a short while you find that whatever position you adopt the bloody thing sticks into your bottom and your legs start going numb with the effort of staying on. It's a very uncomfortable position. So I am considering it carefully. But apparently you can't say that any more without being thought to be resigning."

"Yes, you can," said the lady with the blue hairdo. "I was looking up a hotel in a brochure the other day, and it said it was quite attractive, considering its position."

"Ha, ha," said the Welshman.

"I was watching the England against Argentina match the other day," said the man with the dog, "and Steven Gerrard crossed the ball from the wing, and it was kicked away by the defence, and the commentator said, 'And Gerrard's cross is cleared by Ayala', and I thought, 'That's an unexpected end for a hitherto prosperous Buckinghamshire town'."

The Welshman said, "Ha, bloody ha," but everyone else laughed except the blue lady who said she didn't understand the joke.

"I'll explain it to you later, dear lady," said the Major.

"There are lots of other ordinary expressions which we can't use any more because of parliamentary use," said the Welshman. "We can't say we want to spend more time with our family. We can't ever say that we are monitoring the situation, because that now means 'we haven't the faintest idea what to do'. We can't say 'we are keeping all our options open', because that means ..."

"That also means 'We haven't the faintest idea what to do'," said the man with the dog. "They always mean that deep down. There are so many expressions meaning that they haven't the faintest idea what to do. Like ..."

"We are keeping the situation under review," said the Major.

"We will not relax our vigilance," said the man with the dog.

"We will show zero tolerance," said the blue lady.

"We will not take our eye off the ball," said someone else.

"Spot on!" said the Welshman. "And then, when they have done nothing for long enough, they pretend they have done something and say everyone must draw a line under things. It happened with Dr Kelly. It happened with the CAP and world debt relief. It happened with the railways ..."

"What happened with the railways ?"

"Nothing happened with the railways," said the Welshman. "That's the point."

"We must draw a line under things," said the Major.

"We must draw a line under things and move on," said the man with the dog.

"We must draw a line under things, and move on, and take things forward," said the blue lady. "And make a fresh start."

"Excellent!" said the Welshman. "What a brilliant Cabinet you would make, just like Blair's! All team talk and no teamwork."

But just then, while still trying to get comfortable on his lofty stool, he suddenly lost his footing and fell awkwardly to the floor. He lay there, surprised.

"Are you OK ?" we said.

"Of course," said the Welshman. "I was simply adopting a new tactical position in the light of recent events."

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