Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Signifying nothing

"Through active employment and training programmes, restructuring the financial sector, strengthening the national infrastructure and providing responsible investment, my government will foster growth and employment."

I love this line from the Queen's Speech. I've seen it in print but haven't actually heard the speech - it's so hard to imagine the Queen uttering such managerial New Labour gobbledegook. Clearly there's no attempt to match language to the person delivering it, as nobody can possibly believe Her Majesty is in the habit of using phrases like 'restructuring the financial sector' or 'foster growth and employment'.

It is such banal, empty and convoluted language, yet we've become used to it. We don't notice the total absence of meaning. New Labour politicians are in love with the discourse of vigorous action: 'active', 'foster', we'll restructure this and strengthen that. They must at all times give the impression that they are really doing things, even if most people are baffled by what they are in fact doing.

When making empty promises this vagueness is of course deliberate. Politicians can be held accountable for specific promises, but woolly talk of 'restructuring the financial sector' is far easier to opt out of. The vocabulary is sophisitcated, so they sound like reliable experts who we can trust to get on with running our world, and relentlessly positive.

But at the same time its distance from everyday speech reflects how alientated most people are from Westminster politics. And I can't help thinking it further feeds that alientation.

EXTRA: Channel 4 News has produced a clever gimmicky thing revealing how many times various words were used in the Queen's Speech. Click HERE.


  1. Imagine for a moment being the queen. Try to put yourself behind her eyes and view the world as she does.

    No, hang on, if you're planning now to do the masses a favour by killing yourself you're not REALLY putting yourself in the role of the queen. It's still YOU thinking the way YOU think.

    It's actually impossible for you to comprehend like the queen. You could never get inside her head and perceive the way she does.

    That's because Elizabeth II is the product of a life so profoundly alien to you and yours. Her ideas are more bizarre than the craziest dream that ever went through a sleeping Michael Jackson's head!

    Her majesty has never had to worry about paying the bills; she has never struggled to find a job; or needed to get blind drunk to forget herself and her worries.

    She has never had to consider stealing to survive; never hid behind the settee after hearing an ominous knock at the door; for christ's sake she has never had to answer a bloody door!!

    The queen is completely detached from the reality of every day working class life. And just like we cannot understand her perceptions, she can never understand what it's like to be one of us.

    And for that reason she should keep her big ruling class gob tightly shut!

  2. Gary, what a rant! I love challenging thoughts and you have said it. One question I pose to friends and foe alike is; 'If you were a queen of your country, what would your priorities to your be? Strangely enough, the answer is more or less the same even though with some people I probe them that direction; so here we go; 'If I was a queen of my country, my priority would be to ensure that the welfare of my people is ok.' The only problem with this is that to look after the welfare of another person one should know how that person lives. Those in royal blue can never perceive how it is like to be an ordinary human being. But the UK would not be the UK without the monarchy - God bless the Queen.

  3. Part of how the system keeps going is that its own ruling class is kept apart from everyone else and trained, from early years, to see themselves as superior and born to rule. I suppose the royal family is an extreme case of this. It is almost impossible for them to even start moving outside their own narrow worldview.