Don't bother to read their lips

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The Independent Online
HERE is a statement reported in this paper yesterday. Can you see what is odd about it?

'Most of what Mr Heseltine says is, quite frankly, untrue.'

That's right. It's a blunt statement, which no politician could ever make. It is, in fact, a quote from a professor at Newcastle University, and if everyone spoke their minds in this way, we would know where we were.

However, politicians do most of the talking, so we don't know where we are. They use a sort of coded language, which enables them to transmit messages to each other, while the rest of us haven't the faintest idea what they really mean.

That's why, after Prime Minister's Question Time or Newsnight, nobody is ever any the wiser. Except the politicians. And not always them. So I have devised a brief glossary of political phrases that may help get you through the next few days.

The issue is quite clear We have all decided what we are going to say on this one

The Prime Minister is quite categorical about this The PM is too sensible to go on record publicly as saying this, so I have been chosen as the fall guy

We are keeping a careful eye on the situation If we close our eyes tightly and do nothing, perhaps the big bad wolf will go away

I have always maintained that . . . I have luckily found a stray quote from a speech I made three years ago which makes it seem that I have never changed my mind on the issue

We are keeping all our options open The Cabinet, at present, cannot agree about anything

We are reconsidering our options We cannot even remember what the options are

We will take the appropriate action We will adopt the course of action forced on us

We will, of course, take public response into account We were taken aback by the strength of public disapproval of our actions

This is not a political decision This is a desperate attempt to placate our backbenchers, our supporters and those in the Cabinet who have not been consulted about anything recently

I want to explain our policy to the nation We drew lots in Cabinet for who would have to go on TV and draw the flak, and make an idiot of himself, and I lost

We have to be realistic If I tell you once more that the recession is clearly coming to an end, I will probably be lynched

We are monitoring the situation carefully We have some very scary information to hand which we cannot possibly reveal until it is too late for anyone to pin the blame on us

If you had done your sums as carefully as we have If you had laundered and massaged the statistics as roguishly as we have, you would be able to destroy my arguments as easily as if they were a barrel of rotten apples

We intend to do what is right for the country We foolishly spent billions of pounds trying to prop up the pound and now we are being forced to borrow to pay it all back

This is all in accordance with our evolving energy policy Although we do not have an energy policy, and never have had, and although countries that do have an energy policy, such as France, are streets ahead of us when it comes to nuclear power, etc, etc, we find that not having any energy policy does at least give us greater flexibility when it comes to ducking the issue, fudging the argument, etc, etc

This is all in accordance with our evolving transport policy

Whereas the French have already sorted things out at their end of the Channel tunnel, we doubt if we will even have a railway line of any sort to meet the tunnel this end when it opens, though I am hopeful that we shall have added another lane to the Folkestone bypass

We shall have to consider our position very carefully We may have to do a complete U-turn

He will have to consider his position very carefully This time next week he may have a quite different job

I will have to consider my position very carefully If I had any sense of honour at all, I would be spending a lot more time with my family in the very near future, but luckily I have no such sense of honour

There is no going back This is too big a mistake for us to own up to

You cannot buck market forces We have rigged market forces in accordance with what we want to do and we can't rerig them now

We are keeping a very close watch on the way things are

going We are watching ourselves slide towards the top of the waterfall with a certain grim fascination