the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Tag: sophistry

Bored of emotional bingo? Try David Cameron’s political version…

Emotional bingo is a game you’ve been playing for all of your life. No matter if you didn’t know you were playing it (which means you were being played!) ever since you’ve been in relationships, the game has been afoot! Allow me to set out the basic rules for you.

Basically, any expression of sincerity by a partner toward you must first be examined for possible alternative meanings. It follows, therefore, if you are the one uttering these statements, you might have intended the alternative meaning, but were quite happy for it to remain undetected. Let me give some examples (which I may or may not have used!) Anytime a person with whom you are in a relationship with begins a sentence with ANY of the following: “Nothing means more to me than you…” “You won’t believe how much you mean to me…” “I value what we’ve got…” smell a rat. Similarly, when after an argument they say, “You didn’t deserve to be treated like that…” Or my own personal favourite, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

By now, you’re thinking of the times that a partner has said any of the above to you and you’re thinking, ‘What could possibly be wrong with any of them!’ But exercises in sophistry they are. When someone says, ”Nothing means more to me than you…” the uninitiated thinks of a compliment, whereas through the prism of emotional bingo you should be thinking zero, the absence of anything means more to them than you. Equally, when someone says, “You won’t believe how much you mean to me.”, you again think ‘What a lovely sentiment!’ As opposed to thinking it could mean a little or a lot. Equally when apologising after an argument, when the partner says, “You didn’t deserve to be treated like that.”, viewed through the prism of emotional bingo they might mean that they treated you too well and had they thought about it they would have treated you much worse. “Value what we’ve got”? Could be a lot. Or a little.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” means you’re sorry for the way they’re feeling, not the cause of why they’re feeling that way. But they hear “I’m sorry” and are satisfied. Repetition of this is immensely rewarding, as, in fact, you’re not sorry at all! Let it be my gift to you for reading this blog.” Your welcome! Use it with happy abandon!

The point is the words when skillfully employed can be used to mean anything. As a master in sophistry, cunningly dissembling for my own ends, I can recognize it in others.
Which leads me neatly on to David Cameron who bored with emotional bingo is now playing political bingo!
In a speech at the Relationships Alliance Summit, held at the Royal College of GP’s in August this year, on putting families at the centre of domestic policy-making, David Cameron said “For me, nothing matters more than family.” which sounds fair enough until one examines it through the prism of emotional bingo. And we know – or should now – what someone could mean, when they say “Nothing matters more than…” He followed these fine words with the following.

“So I think it’s absolutely right that government should do everything possible to help support and strengthen family life in Britain today. And doing that means asking ourselves some key questions. First, how can we help families come together? How can we help people to make a lasting commitment to each other? And how we can support that commitment for all couples? Second, how can we help families stay together? How can we help families financially?” Mmmm. Tricky one that. How would one engineer the levers of government to help families financially? I know! Put a cap on the amount of Housing Benefit a family can claim – reasonable enough if you don’t live in a high rent area – and couple that with a financial penalty for bedrooms not in use.

And than this, “I said previously that I wanted to introduce a family test into government. Now that test is being formalised as part of the impact assessment for all domestic policies. Put simply that means every single domestic policy that government comes up with will be examined for its impact on the family.” Sounds great, gets positive media and doesn’t say they’ll make the impact assessments publically available or modify any policies that are having a demonstrably adverse effect. Genius political bingo!
‘But hang on!’, you protest ‘You can’t accuse someone based on the flimsy pretext of what they might do. It flies in the face of natural justice, the rule of law and most importantly of all, it isn’t English!” A good point well made.

So, in response to that, we have David Cameron this time giving a speech in May 2010, at the Department of Energy and Climate Change where he said, “I want us to be the greenest government ever – a very simple ambition and one that I’m absolutely committed to achieving.”
A simple statement of intent indeed, especially when viewed through the prism of political bingo. Someone may well want many things, I myself want – well let’s not go there shall we – but whether or not they have the drive or the sheer force of personality to cajole less determined souls to achieve their stated goal is another matter. By the same token, one may be “absolutely committed” to something but whether that commitment translates into tangible outcomes pursuant to that goal is questionable. One that thankfully we can answer by looking at this governments record on the environment. (And only a cynic would dare to accuse the Prime Minister of sacrificing beliefs he was “absolutely committed to achieving” upon the altar of economic opportunism, using the dagger of political expediency.)

Just six months after the Prime Minister stating his wish that, “I want us to be the greenest government ever.” it was announced in the House of Lords that government wanted to sell of all, yes ALL state owned forest in the country. That includes all Royal forests, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, state owned ancient woodlands, campsites…everything. Jim Paice, giving evidence to a House of Lords select committee stated, “Part of our policy is clearly established. We wish to proceed with very substantial disposal of public forest estate, which could go to the extent of all of it.” Which is 635,00 acres, and to put that in perspective Greater London has an area of 391,000 acres. Mind you, one shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that Conservative Prime Minister is overseeing a sale of assets that were once held in public trust – he’s merely carrying on Mrs. Thatcher’s policy. After all, the railways, the coal, gas, water, electricity and telecommunication industry have, as we know, all flourished, providing better and innovative services at a much lower cost to consumer thanks to being sold off to the highest bidder. A partial list of how sincere Cameron’s “absolute commitment” is, can be found here.

Partial, because since that list was compiled, his “absolute commitment” has become even more apparent! Let us hope that his “absolute commitment” doesn’t extend to his marriage. Extreme efficiency savings that would be, combining emotional and political bingo!

Some years ago, a relationship I was in was ending. Of course she wanted to know if I ever loved her. To which I replied ‘Hang on, I’d have to check my diary.” I was reminded of this a couple of months ago and in retrospect perhaps bellowing with laughter so much so that detritus emanated from my nose wasn’t the wisest of moves. A frown and resigned “I knew you’d find that funny.” followed. Of course I found it funny! To say that on the hop without any warning was a stroke of genius. (In case you’re worried about me divulging such information the person concerned knows I’m going to include the above and gives a full approval.)

I did tell you that I wasn’t a nice person, not ever having aspired to being a biscuit!

Next time…anything you say here is confidential…..up to a point….

On how Oscar Wilde politics may destroy humanity…….


I’ve always found politics fascinating. Not the theatrical pantomime of Prime Minister’s Questions – where ironically, answers are few and far between -, but actual politics.

Quite why there persists in people’s minds the idea that politics is complicated baffles me, as politics isn’t complicated at all. One is meant to think that it is, and that suits the main political parties just fine and dandy. Political parties claim to want voter engagement but actually they fear an informed electorate. Largely because, just as Dorothy discovers in ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, the electorate will realize when they pull back the curtain that the wizard is not a wizard at all, but in fact an ordinary man, and they will react with anger that for so long the truth has been hidden from them.

In a later entry, I promise to outline my theory that anyone who understands how a family operates – the dynamics and tensions that are at play, the ever shifting balance of powers between the parents and the children and the temporary alliances built on need – can understand politics. Anything that is so complicated that at its most basic level it cannot be explained to anyone with an I.Q. larger than the radius of their kneecap, suggests that the fault lies with the person attempting to simplify the complicated. I promise I will outline my theory in another post, but now is not the time.

Instead, I want to draw your attention to Caroline Lucas M.P., who – it seems to me at any rate – is congenitally incapable of uttering anything less than common sense. Given that it is said that the thing about common sense is it isn’t very common, this is a rare quality indeed, rarer still in a politician. It matters not if you agree with what she says or not, but she says it in easily comprehensible English and not in the sophistry laden nonsense that politicians normally speak.

Here is but one example;

On Wednesday 18th June 2014, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee was hearing evidence regarding the National Pollinator Strategy. Sounds boring, but is of the utmost concern to any right thinking person. Pollinator is another word for bees and other insects that pollinate a third of all plants on the planet. Einstein once prophetically remarked that “Mankind couldn’t survive the honeybee’s disappearance for more than five years”. This will take you to a far more reasoned and coherent explanation as to why you should care. If you don’t already, that is.

Giving evidence to the committee and refuting the possibility that any research funded by the very companies that stood to lose if the research proved conclusively that there was a link between certain pesticides and dwindling pollinator numbers, was Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Officer at the Department of the Environment, Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who said

“That’s a very relevant point, but just because they’re paying for the studies and leading the studies doesn’t mean to say that the studies are invalid” Then Dr. Julian Little, from pesticide maker Bayer told the committee that,“Yes, we are putting the money up for it but it’s being done by independent scientists, they’re sorting out the protocols, they’re working with both DEFRA and EFSA (European Food Standards Authority) to ensure those protocols are relevant.”

Naturally, I was shouting in my head at the radio – the quite excellent ‘Today in Parliament’ on Radio Four – “Has no one heard of the saying ‘He who pays the piper names the tune’’’ when just in time Caroline Lucas restored some much needed sanity to proceedings, when she said,

“In such a contested area, having properly independent peer reviewed research, rather than research that could be seen from the outside as if it would be in the interest of the person paying for it, surely that is a compelling reason to look again at the degree to which the strategy depends on research being carried out by private companies”

But proving, not for the first, and certainly by no means for the last time, that this government has taken Oscar Wilde’s quote that, “A cynic is a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.” as part of its decision making process, Boyd then said, to my utter astonishment “The question is just whether we can afford from a public perspective, to fund these types of studies and I go back to what I said earlier on, that these types of studies are very large scale and the bigger they get, the more expensive they get”

Words fail. What could possibly be more important? In what universe is a tax cut to the top earners from 50p to 45p, more important than funding research into declining pollinator numbers? What good is a tax cut when there’s a chance that in the very near future there won’t be enough food to feed everyone? About as much use as a porcelain golf ball. A tax cut, moreover which, depending on whom you believe, will cost the Exchequer between a £100 million or £3 billion, sufficient methinks, to pay for the research. But hey, I could be wrong.

But we can’t afford this research? Didn’t one David Cameron, the former honorary president of The Oxfordshire Beekeepers Association, giving evidence to the same committee not so long ago, say,”If we don’t look after our bee populations, very, very serious consequences will follow.” After that performance in front of the committee, No.10 felt compelled to issue the following statement, clarifying his position “The prime minister is a strong advocate of beekeeping in his constituency and as he said in the house, it’s important we look after our bee population.” Only a skeptic would draw one’s attention to the careful wording of that statement, especially “ a strong advocate of beekeeping in his constituency” which carefully avoiding saying anything that might suggest advocacy for beekeeping beyond his constituency.

Step forward, then Caroline Lucas, who retorted to Boyd, “It just worries me greatly if alarm bells aren’t ringing throughout government because we can’t afford to do the research we need to do to see if we’re at great risk.”