03 October 2019, The Tablet

Words have always hurt


Those who think the language of political discourse has sunk lower than it has ever been – particularly after last week’s heated exchanges in the House of Commons – need reminding of some recent history. In the 1945 election campaign, Winston Churchill accused his rival and former deputy, Clement Attlee, of planning to introduce “some form of Gestapo” into Britain if he won. That sounds bad enough in 2019, but this was when the Gestapo’s horrible deeds were very fresh in the public’s memory. Not long after, Aneurin Bevan declared that Conservatives were “lower than vermin” and that Toryism was nothing more than “organised spivery”. Attlee rebuked him, but many commentators thought these remarks could have cost Labour up to two million votes. All politicians need to heed the warning here.

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