A common concept in analysis of British politics is the idea that the parties have moved to "the centre ground" and there has been a "hallowing out of ideology". This is, presumably, in comparison to the polarisation of the early 80s and Thatcher/Foot. However, a backlash to this simple analysis is the critique that actually the polarised Thatcher/Foot era was the unusual period in British politics. So what is the defining thing in contemporary British politics?
Well, I'm going to argue that what defines the current political era is "Safe Speak", that is where politicians are so scared of saying controversial, that they raise anodyne hopes and state "the bleeding obvious".
We are coming up to Manifesto season, so I'm going to spend this article discussing the kind of vapid and pointless things we can expect:
1. "We will put Britain first" (well, I'd kind of assumed you were going to Britain first. Who else are you going to put first? Canada? Czech Republic?)
2. "We want a fair society" (yes, well, it would be a bit weird to say you wanted an unfair society)
3. "We want a strong economy" (again, stating the bleeding obvious)
4. "We will govern to promote a cost-effective health care system" (yes, well, I'm reassured that you're political aim is NOT a cost-Ineffective health system)
5. "We will make democracy work for the people" (well, who else are you going to make democracy work for?)
6. "We will promote a society that is just and based on the rule of Law" (yeah, I'm glad that you're not seeking injustice).
You can probably come up with a lot of other equally hopelessly vacuous phrases. These are just are few of the anodyne things I am expecting to hear a lot of in the next few months. The problem with such phrases is that they are pure gloss, and avoid saying anything. They are "Safe Speak". The point of each of the 6 above goals of the politicians is that they are impossible to disagree with. It makes you agree with the person speaking, because it would be weird to desire the opposite. But it is precisely the universality of the appeal of such phrases that makes them, ultimately, pointless and vapid. They go without saying, because they can be assumed.