Beware the Aphorism
n aphorism is 'a short, detatched, pithy sentence, containing a maxim or wise precept'. Politicians like them because they make good soundbites for TV and radio. However they can come home to roost: recently Hazel Blears used what is quite a clever aphorism: 'You tube if you want to' - a reference to Gordon Brown's ill-advised appearance in a You-Tube video, and based on Margaret Thatcher's famous line 'You turn if you want to - the lady's not for turning' (10 October 1980).
I rather suspect that, enamoured of the remark's cleverness, Ms. Blears didn't stop to consider the consequences: she spent the following week denying that she was not supporting the Prime Minister, nor involved in a plot to oust him.
Other clever remarks have come back to haunt the perpetrator. On 19 November 1967, having (probably wisely) devalued the pound, then Prime Minister Harold Wilson stated: 'It does not mean that the pound here in Britain, in your pocket or purse or in your bank, has been devalued.' 'The pound in your pocket' was hurled at him many times thereafter.
On 15 October 1981, in a speech to the Conservative party, Norman Tebbit stated: 'I grew up in the 30s with an unemployed father. He didn't riot; he got on his bike and looked for work and he kept looking 'til he found it.' 'On your bike' promptly went into the language to mean 'unemployed' - usually as a result of Conservative policies - 'A price worth paying', as Norman Lamont later tactlessly put it (16 May 1991).
One of the most famous of these was Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's alleged assertion 'You've never had it so good' - repeatedly used by others as a demonstration of his complacency, though what he actually said was 'Let's be frank about it, some of our people have never had it so good' (20 July 1957, and meaning, I suppose, members of the Conservative party, who he was addressing at the time).
Clement Attlee (Prime Minister 1945-1951), however, had little time for reporters or soundbites: this exchange (which I can't date but have seen the film of) took place on his return from (I think) a conference abroad: at the airport he was approached by a film crew and a breathless reporter:
Reporter: Mr. Attlee, is there anything you'd like to tell us about the conference?
Mr. Attlee: No.
Posted: Thu - May 14, 2009 at 08:42 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM