"Fings, ain't wot they used to be" went the song and the title of a 1960 musical. It was all about Cocknees. But I digress, and this is only the first sentence. To go "on message", I am saying that I believe the era of Political Spin, and the Politics of Spin is an anachronism which should be a memory.
In 1997, Labour sailed to victory on the back of a campaign, designed and directed by the Prince of Darkness himself, Peter Mandelson. We all got to know the word "Spin" and phrases like "on message". It was a triumph of will. It was a consummate demonstration of the power of media control - the triumph of irrational messages over stark reality.
We wrinklies often complain about modernity, but the particular strand of it, the era of Spin, must surely have run its course. We all know what they are doing! There is a concept in Lit Crit called "defamiliarisation". It is a literary device which relies upon the reader being taken by surprise, for dramatic or rhetorical effect. The author takes a well known subject or idea and presents it in such a way as to suggest that the reader views the subject or idea in a fresh way. It is about altering perception and about artifice.
And so we are back to Spin. Spin was a sort of inversion of the literary device. The idea of spin was to create alternative perceptions, based upon a strategy of manipulation. As the creator of "defamiliarisation" wrote:
"The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known" (Viktor Shklovsky)
We are no longer taken by surprise, accordingly, when Gordon Brown "invests" rather than "spends" or Gordon is "getting on with the job" or he ends "Boom and Bust"we cannot take him seriously. If he admits anything at all, it is always couched in his own para language, which to you and me, is...lying. Gordon's is the party of "investment" and the Tories are the party of "cuts" One might say that Labour Spin is about changing perception about words, unless of course, they relate to the opposition.
And this is where we draw away from the baroque analogy; defamiliarisation is dependent upon interpretive communities - those who generally speaking, have the same perception about words and concepts. If I were to describe a woman's breasts as "Bristols" it relies upon a bit of common knowledge and a passing awareness of Cockney rhyming slang.It may have once shocked and surprised and added a certain tawdry frisson, but now, the synonym is barely registered, it is so common.
And so to my point. Today, we hear that Lord Malloch Brown has been letting slip that we do not have enough helicopters. This is not something the Labour spin machine wanted us to hear. And so they first tried to suggest that the article in the Telegraph "misrepresented", Lord Malloch Brown's words. Then, the Telegraph printed the transcript of the interview, showing, beyond doubt, that the cat was out of the bag. Then, insiders at Number Ten tried to suggest that the minister concerned was "out of the loop" and not in a position to make such statements. These phrases necessarily subvert the language in which they are couched, usually stretching the meanings of words to breaking point.
Later today, we shall discover that Labour has lost the safe seat of Norwwich North. The Spin machine has gone into overdrive, suggesting that anything less than a Tory majority of 10,000 will be a humiliating defeat for David Cameron. The BBC has suggested that unless Labour meltsdown into third place, the same spin applies. This, after losing yet another by-election under the un-elected Brown.
Really guys. It may have worked for you in 1997, but we are all older and wiser. In the iterim, stark reality has intervened. People are struggling with massive challenges in their personal lives, such as job loss and debt. The novelty of spin - its power of deception and manipulation has faded with our familiarity with it. So much so, that cynicism about politicians is now at an all time high.
We know you came to power on Spin and Lies. We know it is all YOU know. But now, after record levels of unemployment, the biggest financial meltdown in centuries, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the failure to clean up Parliament, Peter, fings aint wot they used to be. We are on to you, and it wont work anymore.