Letter: The language of ordinary folk

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Sir: Does the political career of Ross Perot signal the return to a vernacular style in modern politics? The discomfort he causes to mainstream politicians is a feature of the style in which he thinks and speaks, of attitudes expressed forcefully in his own idiom.

He uses a political language that his audiences fully comprehend, whether or not they agree with his views. This way of talking politics is not exempt from cliche, dogma and confusion; but it can transform the North American Free Trade Area proposal (2,000 pages of legalese) into a question that attracts public interest. Perot's approach belongs to an older American tradition and he is the only one exploiting it.

Recently we have seen the modern 'autocue' device being scorned by Labour's idiomatic John Prescott (with applause from Sir Robin Day). Apart from Mr Prescott, is there a contemporary frontline politician who knows how to use an authentic colloquial style to develop political ideas?

Set against this, we see the disowning of individual traits for reasons of television; and the rewarding of the vacuous. Mr Prescott himself was previously 'marginalised' by his party's image-makers for plain speaking.

Could the rising fortunes of this rehabilitated figure lead to the rejection of his party's modern jargon, a return to ideas that matter, and a common-language approach? I hope so, but I somehow doubt it.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW2

15 November